The Genesis of Tragedy

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Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

Genesis 3:9

Introduction

One of the fundamental differences between Christianity and other religions is the relationship between God and man. In Islam, you’re working to earn God’s favor. In Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious cults it’s what can man do to be right with God. In Christianity from the first man until now and always the central doctrine is God reaching out to man, not man reaching out to God. ‘But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8 NKJV)’.

The Fall of Man

We look into the Genesis story, specifically the fall of man. Everyone knows the story but allow me to revisit it and provide some analysis. We have Adam and Eve, and they are living in the Garden of Eden, Heaven on Earth. God gives the command to Adam they can eat from any tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, ‘And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).’ This begs the question, why does God make the tree in the first place? Is it to test them? Perhaps, ‘”If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).’

The Serpent

The serpent, then, comes onto the scene and he speaks to Eve asking her if it was true that they were not allowed to eat from any tree in the garden. Notice how it phrases the question, making the command more restrictive than it is actually. Eve responds to it saying, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die'” (Genesis 3:2-3). Notice another thing; the command was ‘not to eat it.’ She adds another element to the command, saying ‘to not even touch it.’ Perhaps Adam told her that, or maybe that’s how she came to understand it.

The serpent replies, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5). The best lies always have a hint of truth. The truth in the serpent’s response is when they eat from the tree they will indeed be like God knowing good and evil, the lie being ‘you will not surely die.’ Eve takes from the tree and eats then gives some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Their eyes were suddenly opened, and they realized they were naked.

The Knowledge of Good

A lot of emphasis is put on them knowing evil and that being the catalyst for their behavior moving forward. However, I challenge people to think perhaps the knowledge of good was even more damning. When we come to realize what is good, simultaneously, we realize how short we fall in comparison and subsequently measuring ourselves against what is evil to feed our pride. The knowledge of good becomes a burden, and we lash out against it claiming the standard to be unfair because it is unattainable therefore we will set our standard based on the knowledge of evil so we can pat ourselves on the back for clearing a bar only half a meter off the ground. It is here where we find Adam and Eve.

‘And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden’ (Genesis 3:8). Here we have the first tragedy, they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden, and they hide. Creation hiding from their Creator. A child hiding from their parents comes to mind, a severed relationship. 

‘Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”‘ (Genesis 3:9). A heartbreaking question. Here is where Christianity makes its distinction from other religious traditions. Adam and Eve have broken God’s single command, and instead of immediately judging them, He seeks them out, asking, “Where are you?”

Some ‘teachers’ of Christianity like to tell people when they’ve done something wrong; you must do something to make up for it. Pray more, tithe more, volunteer more, but that’s not the Gospel. There is no ‘making up’ for having done something wrong. The Christian is called to confess and repent, and one feeds into the other. There is no need to confess if you don’t think you should repent and there is no repentance without admitting your faults. This is true now and has been since Adam’s sin. When we sin God doesn’t sit there shaking His head disapprovingly, He seeks us out so that we may be brought back to Him.

Call to Repent

‘So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”‘ (Genesis 3:10-11) It’s interesting whenever God asks a question. Did He not know where Adam was? Does He not know if they ate from the tree? Of course, He knows, so what’s the point in asking? He wants Adam and Eve to confess so that they may repent and return to fellowship with Him. This is consistent with God’s character throughout the Scriptures, and often nowadays people understand God the same way Adam and Eve understood Him. A brute force that is weighing their good and bad deeds in order to determine whether someone is worthy of Him. Nothing is further from the truth. ‘What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?’ (Psalms 8:4)

Detail of the painting “God reprimanding Adam and Eve”, by F. Zampieri (1625)

‘Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate”‘ (Genesis 3:12). This is the next tragedy. Not only does Adam not repent he shifts the blame to everyone else but him. He blames his wife for giving him the fruit, and he blames God for giving her to him. This is what we do when we can’t admit our faults; we blame everyone else then ultimately blame God for ‘making us this way.’ We like to believe our good decisions are in line with our character and the bad choices we make involve externalities we have no control over. 

Hell of our own making

‘Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken’ (Genesis 3:22-23). Look at the rationale God makes when deciding to banish Adam from the garden. It’s not merely ‘he ate from the tree, and now we must banish him,’ He notes that if they eat from the tree of life, they will live forever. He calculates this consequence into His decision making. Now, what would be a just punishment for disobeying the Divine? Wouldn’t having to live with the shame of what you’ve done be appropriate? An eternal life living in disgrace, a hell. When God sends out Adam from the garden, it wasn’t an act of judgment, but an act of mercy.

Conclusion

In the Genesis story, we see the seeds of God’s longsuffering, patience, and mercy, along with love for His creation. In the same speech when He’s casting judgment on Adam and Eve He sneaks in the promise of Christ, “And I will put enmity Between [the serpent] and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall [crush] your head, And you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). God is everlasting and never-changing. From the first sin till the last sin He seeks repentance from His people. Christ says, “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).

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