Most of you will know that I interpret “The Fall”, what led up to it, and what resulted from it quite differently from traditional Christianity.
I do not buy the story of perfect paradise, followed by a moral and ethical assessment we failed, resulting, therefore, in a struggle back to the previous state, trying to fend off utter destruction from within and without through sin.
But first things first.
Was Adam perfect? I think that, especially in the sense of the Bible, he was not. In the biblical context, perfect means mature, not flawless.
I believe that Adam, that humanity was in seamless union with God, but not aware of it as they were unconscious, at least in comparison to what we call human consciousness today.
Adam did not know that he was different, separate from God, nature, and even later his helper.
Science still cannot explain consciousness. How should they explain how we became conscious? But what if the Bible recounts a story of it happening? Maybe it even comes close to what truly happened in some deeply true archetypal ways. At least it parallels the processes a child lives through today to become self-aware and conscious.
A child develops color vision, learns to distinguish and recognize patterns, and starts naming things while learning language. All this helps, even allows for, but also builds on a necessary subdivision of reality into separate objects that can be categorized and recognized. Objects then can be assigned meaning.
This then allows us to see change happen and assign meaning to change through cause and effect. While we often are wrong about the causes of an effect, we start expecting certain effects and therefore plan and foresee the future. Memory, interpretation thereof, and application to present situations give us a certain handle on the future.
This leads to the ability and necessity to make decisions. The effects of those decisions can be positive or negative, which in turn helps us make better decisions and interpret cause and effect more accurately.
For a long time, we depended on others to make those decisions for us: circumstances, God, and other humans. Being unconscious, we just lived. But we grew to make our own decisions.
Is this a bad thing? No. When I look at it from a viewpoint of right and wrong, from an understanding of good and evil, the first decision with seemingly negative consequences is a bad thing, though. It could be seen as “The Fall”, the loss of innocence, the mother and source of all later problems. Which has more to do with my viewpoint than with reality.
Now, imagine we never learned to make decisions. We would either still be unconscious or mere string puppets in the hands of a puppet player.
Are you seeing your baby as being flawed, fallen, and lesser since it made its first conscious decision that went wrong? The first time it fell while learning to walk? The first time it did something after being told not to? The first time it listened to the wrong person?
I am sure that you are not. It’s normal. Children have to learn, and they do through trial and error with the encouragement, feedback, and guidance of their environment. We still do the same as adults, by the way. Just on another level. Hopefully.
Is then the state we reach after our first “unsuccess” a lower one that we have to struggle back and need to be redeemed from?
This is the normal journey of life.
Some of the reactions to our perceived falls or failures and the reactions of our environment become survival strategies and stubborn behavioral patterns we hold on to even when they are not useful any longer. Some behaviors fail to take into account the effects they have on others or future versions of ourselves. The words that come to mind are egoistic and short-sighted. I am sure there are many more.
Belief systems, even if very superstitious and naive, fairy tales, and bodies of law are examples of more or less elaborate collections of common wisdom to help us navigate the world, prevent unnecessary suffering, and help instill a greater ability to foresee consequences.
They also lead us to a place where we assign words like shame, guilt, sin, and punishment to behavior and start looking for the root cause of it all. Suddenly, the loving story of the toddler years of humanity becomes the recounting of the great fall with its need for a rescue plan.
Do we try to redeem our children from childhood? Or do we see childhood as an integral part of humanity we will eventually grow out of? Will we regret that we took so long to grow up? Would we prefer to erase that period from our memory, or at least be forgiven for what we did? Maybe in parts.
Does childhood consequently lead to death, and can we only grow up if somebody dies for us as a scapegoat and substitute?
When we see that period of our lives as a growth phase and not as living in sin, all these metaphors become ridiculous. But we so readily apply them to God’s plan for humanity and individuals because we cannot see “The Fall” and the subsequent story as a growth phase for humanity. We must be wrong and we must be set right.
This is the story behind every sacrificial system, including the Mosaic law and the traditional Christian doctrine. Yes, I call the traditional Christian doctrine a sacrificial system. It has one sacrifice that needs to be individually applied by everyone to be set right again with God and become a life-long living sacrifice.
But what if there is nothing wrong with us in the first place? What if we are just humans growing up with better and worse days, some more blatantly egoistic than others, some less short-sighted? What if our Father holds nothing against us because it’s about relationship and growth and not right or wrong?
Why then should there be a rescue plan? I gather, there would be many because, with our capabilities growing, our faults will have greater consequences. But those rescue plans are co-creative and not substitutionary.
It’s the devouring mother who rights all the wrongs of her children, and fixes all their errors. Her children do not grow up and become responsible people. They remain irresponsible, fragile, egoistic, and childish. Otherwise, she would lose her value and, in her eyes, reason for existence.
The loving father–and I am not referring to sexist role models but archetypes–wants to see his children grow up and will distribute responsibility within the rescue plan in age-appropriate ways. The moving father has his reason to be in his multiplication.
More than anything, he will be an example and model maturity for his children. Thus did Jesus when he walked the earth. He is an example of us living a mature life. Like us, fully human, fully divine.
But why then did Jesus die? There must be a reason for it! Well, does there?
What if there is no eternal reason for Jesus’ death that God’s plan hinges on? What if Jesus merely died because the people of his time could not bear seeing mature human behavior, being caught in their childish belief of fallenness and separation?
What if Jesus’ death was unnecessary? Well, it was not inevitable. To live a mature life we can recognize without becoming dependent on Jesus as a person, he had to leave Earth at some point the same way we do by dying. Did it have to be at the cross, though?
One could naively say that it had to be the cross for prophecy to be fulfilled. That is a strange understanding of prophecy, caught up in a linear understanding of time.
But now that Jesus died, we can apply interpretations to his death that can help us deal with personal situations, and God in his love will allow us to do so.
We can see Jesus’ death and resurrection as a pattern for our own lives, giving us hope and carrying us through.
We can use Jesus’ death to explain the end of the law. Jesus’ death is the pinnacle of all the horrific consequences of not obeying the law come true: God dying. Nothing can top this, and thus, obedience to the law becomes ridiculous. Whether I obey or not, the consequences are the same, the price has been paid. Sure, living from a place of wisdom will help us live a life with less suffering, but there will be no punishment. And this is true for all such systems, including traditional Christianity, Islam, Wokeism, Nationalism, Communism, Buddhism, you name it.
We can use Jesus’ death as a metaphor for modernity with its Nietzschian battle cry that “God is dead”. It gives us hope that the divine will be resurrected in a different form.
In math, there is a principle of sufficient and necessary. The difference is as follows: A sufficient condition guarantees the occurrence of an event if it is fulfilled. A necessary condition is more like a minimum requirement that must be fulfilled. However, it offers no certainty that the event will occur.
We often confuse the two. But even more than that, the mere existence of meaningful possible conditions does not prove either sufficiency or necessity. Just because an explanation of why Jesus died does make sense, is helpful to us, does seem to follow from the Bible, even helps us build a consistent reading of the text, and God does not seem to intervene, it does not have to be correct.
Let me put it another way: If Jesus’ death were a necessary condition for anything, that anything would be stronger than God, pressuring God to die with no alternative plan.
We could still argue that Jesus’ death is sufficient for salvation, but then, we have to argue that salvation is necessary. That again leads down the path of accepting “The Fall” as our moral and ethical failure instead of a step on our path to maturity allowing for morals and ethics to emerge in the first place as part of our consciousness.
Why then did the apostles talk this way? First, their audience was deeply entrenched in sacrificial systems and the easiest way to destroy their traditional image of God was the metaphor they knew: the scapegoat. And the apostles talked differently as well, we just tend to phase those verses out or interpret them within our still-living worldview of separation and dualism.
Genesis is foundational. We can change any of our doctrines, eliminate the greatest flaws, talk about substitution but not penal substitution, believe that we all get to heaven, and enhance the purpose of salvation from individual escapism to rescuing all of creation–insert your own pet doctrine. By not changing our interpretation of the creation story and “The Fall”, we will remain stuck in the traditional understanding of “The Fall” as a sufficient and necessary condition for the death of Jesus. It is also sufficient and necessary for our belief that we are separate from God. Pretty damn foundational.
But when we change our interpretation of the first three chapters of the Bible, this will change everything but the love the Father has for us. We can concentrate fully on our love relationship with the divine in all its expressions, be it the IT, higher than we can grasp or understand, the YOU, personable, as I see the divine in you, and the I, me as an expression of the divine. And we can grow.
Out beyond the ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field. I will meet you there. – Rumi