Sunday, July 04, 2010

Image and Likeness - Installment Six

c. The consequences of sin

“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.” (Gen 3.7)

Before sinning, Adam and Eve had dwelt in the garden in a state of intimate communion with God and with each other. This state of communion manifested an openness that left no room for shame. “And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.” (Gen 2.25) Now, however, they had chosen against the Will of God and the likeness to God was irreparably diminished. The lie of their disobedience brought forth shame within them. It is in this light that their nakedness became intolerable. The physical nakedness that needed covering was itself symbolic of the spiritual nakedness of sin. Man shamefully seeks to avoid the consequences of his spiritual nakedness by covering over his physical nakedness. This physical nakedness has revealed the physical differences between the male and female. The complementariness of their creation as human beings has been lost in a focus on differences that result in shame.

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" And he said, "I heard the sound of thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” (Gen 3.8-10)

In the same way that Adam and Eve attempted to cover their nakedness from each other, they now hide from God. Man does not want God to see the sin he has committed and so attempts to hide from Him. “I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

The desire to hide the effect of sin from God reveals sin’s effect of warping man’s understanding of God. Intimacy with God has been lost through sin and now man conceives of God as dangerous, not to be trusted; Someone from whom he must hide. This is the closing off of that openness which formerly characterized human life. Man’s very personhood has been diminished in the rejection of that intimacy with God that was a constituent part of man’s very being. With the closing of this communion with God, all effective communion with others (exemplified here by Eve) is also demolished. The intellect, the conscience, the very core of man’s existence has been reduced to a focus on fear, isolation and shame.

The faltering admission of Adam, framed in his acknowledgement that he was naked, provokes not immediate death but the opportunity to repent. The serpent had mixed falsity with truth in the temptation in exclaiming, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3.4f) The particular truth that hid the lie was the claim “you will not die”, for the Evil One knew that the death of which God spoke when He said, “in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Gen 2.17) was not an instantaneous physical one, although physical death would also result from the sin. Nonetheless, a spiritual death has already taken place in the breaking of communion.

With the sin came the end of the intimate communion with God for which man was created. The effect of this new perverted life was the opening of a void in the very essence of man’s existence, the loss of that which gave his bodily life immortality and enlightened his soul. However, the image of God could not be totally lost in man; it could only be perverted. The Love of God, which as noted above is itself the very Essence of God’s Being, would still animate man, would continue to instill in him a desire for love and a propensity within himself to love.

But this propensity and longing would necessarily be corrupted by the absence within man of that intimacy with God that was its origin and defining source. The life of man, created to be immortal, both soul and body, ever growing and evolving into greater likeness to God, his creator, was now separated from God. Thus, physical as well as spiritual decay would set in.

Yet, this mortality was itself both a consequence of man’s sin and a gift from God. Death would prevent the continual degradation of man. The separation of man from God would not be allowed to continue unabated to eternity. Although the Evil One had succeeded in corrupting and halting the growth in the likeness of God within man, he was unable to fully extinguish the Image in which man was created. Death would put an end to the disfigurement of man’s soul – that corrupting rot that disfigures and demonizes humanity. It is also within the context of this slow fruition of the consequences of sin that the opportunity for repentance laid.

The process of repentance is offered to man in the form of a dialogue. As God is all knowing, He has no need to question Adam for His own benefit, rather God will question him to provide a chance for Adam to admit his sin and thus seek the reestablishment of that intimacy that had marked his existence heretofore.

Man has already betrayed his transgression by attempting to hide from God. This reveals the break in communion with God caused by eating of the fruit. It is impossible for anyone or anything to be hidden from God, who is all-knowing. Thus, God begins the dialogue by offering the man an opportunity to confess his transgression. “He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" (Gen 3.11) These questions serve two purposes.

The first question regarding nakedness confronts Adam with the reality of his shame in having chosen to separate himself from God. The intimate communion with God before the transgression covered him, as it were, with the Love of God that perceives all of creation as “good” (cf above). The human being, created in the image of God, enjoys an innate goodness and beauty that cannot be shameful in itself. Thus, ‘nakedness’ is a condition defined by separation, lack of intimacy, and the rightful perception of inferiority. That Adam recognizes his nakedness betrays his own awareness that he has separated himself from God and therefore no longer enjoys the intimacy that previously covered him.

The second question arises both as a consequence of the first and as the opportunity for the man to offer an honest recognition of the sin and express the contrition that could open the door to reunion. God confronts Adam with the fact that his nakedness could only become an issue of shame if he has “eaten of the tree”. Unless this is the case, man’s nakedness would not be a cause of shame. Therefore, confronted with this reality, God’s question concerning the tree of knowledge of good and evil is itself an invitation for Adam to confess his transgression. It is through confession that the man will accept the reality of his sin and thereby seek the forgiveness of God, the restoration to that state of communion lost in his decision to disobey. Again being united in the intimacy of his original creation and returned to the true path, man will begin again to grow in the likeness of God for which he was created.

Next Installment: The Consequences of Sin (continued)

1 comment:

Laura Berry said...

Very interesting!