December 13, 2010

Jonesing for Eden

This week, we conclude our examination of the first dispensation.  I will be the first to admit that this series went on a LOT longer than I had originally planned – not only because I had to take a break from posting for a couple of months, but also in the number of posts in the series.  I had initially planned to do only do 3 to 4 posts on the first dispensation.  As of this week’s post, I’m up to 14!

The reason for the extra time is that as I was writing each post, I kept realizing that there were more and more fundamental aspects of the Eden narrative that needed extrapolation in order for readers to gain a fuller understanding of all that occurred during this dispensation, and the wide raging implications of Original sin.

The key to understanding it all

The purpose of this blog is to help the reader gain a better understanding of Christian philosophy, and as I was writing about the first dispensation, it became abundantly clear to me that it is not possible to understand Christianity without a thorough understanding of what happened in Eden and ALL the ramifications therein.

The bottom line is that if you don’t fully understand this fundamental and foundational information, you will not accurately understand God, the Bible, Jesus, or Christianity.  And without this understanding, you may be in danger of allowing false/comparative information to be put in the gaps of what you don’t understand.  This is the kind of thinking that results in contradictions, frustration, unbelief, and religion.

However, if you do gain an understanding of what Eden was, and what we lost when man fell, not only will you better understand God and His purpose, you will unlock the key to what is perhaps the primary motivation of all of our thoughts and actions.  The purpose of this post is to help give you that understanding.

“Man-made” natural disasters

As we saw in the last post, when Adam and Eve committed Original Sin, it not only resulted in their own deaths, but the death of their “kingdom” as well.  All of creation began to die.

Everything in the natural world was in harmony and order before Original Sin and the judgment.  There were no bear maulings, earthquakes, hurricanes, disease, or Reality TV.  But when the order that God established in creation was violated, chaos entered into existence and began to grow exponentially.

People blame God for natural disasters, going so far as calling them “Acts of God” and disparaging God’s character or existence when they occur. But they are not God’s fault.  They are part of the just judgment that Adam brought upon himself.  Adam intentionally gave up his rulership over nature.  Thus God does not, and cannot arbitrary cause OR stop natural disasters without violating justice.  He can only (justly) do so in response to justice (this is a complex subject that deserves its own post).

The term “Acts of God” should be removed from insurance policies and replaced with “Results of Adam”.

Why aren’t we happy?

The first man and woman; the ultimate, unblemished expression of human perfection, were “optimized” for their existence in paradise.  As their descendants, our bodies and minds are also engineered for Eden.  Our bodies were designed to live forever.  Our minds have the capability to commune with the divine.  We were supposed to be the rulers of the world.  Creation was supposed to obey us.  The world was supposed to work for us.  We were supposed to live in perfect harmony.  We were supposed to be happy.

But we are not happy.  Our lives are not a perfect harmony, and the world is far from a paradise.  We are deposed monarchs, but we still have royal desires.  We fundamentally know that we are supposed to live in perfection, and nothing less than paradise will satisfy us.  In the depths of our souls, we expect to live in perfection.  But we don’t.  We suffer from Adam’s frustration.  And in our perpetual dissatisfaction we ask, “what’s the point?”

We all want to go back to Eden.  We desire that return to harmonious perfection with the same pervasive, all-encompassing, and unrepentant longing with which a drug addicts longs for his next fix.  This desire is the root of all our behavior.

Elusive paradise

If recapturing Eden is possible, we essentially have two choices in trying to achieve it: we can either choose God’s way or we can try to do it ourselves.

Without God, man’s only choice is to try to create paradise on earth.  What are all the various sociopolitical, utopian aspirations of men (imperialism, socialism, capitalism, communism, feminism, theocracies, etc.) other than the desire to create a harmonious social structure on earth?

And if this earth is all we have, then is it any wonder that people are willing to kill, die, lie, corrupt and destroy for the sake of their particular utopian goals?  If this earth is all there is, then the ends ultimately justify the means.

This desire for a God-less Eden is not just expressed in grandiose social schemes; it hits us in our most personal lives as well.  Our expectation and desire for harmonious perfection (and our frustration in never achieving it) affects the way we manage our careers, our homes, our families, and our finances.

It’s the reason many grow to despise the spouses that they once thought were “perfect” for them.  It’s why some parents drive their kids to reach a perfection they themselves were not able to achieve.  It’s why we drive ourselves to get better jobs, more money, or a more attractive spouse.  It’s why people are driven to lie, cheat, scheme, and betray to amass power.  Its because of the idea that if we just had “a little more” or if we could just make things “a little better” we would finally reach perfection.

Eden is the most addictive drug

When I compared our desire for Eden to that of a drug addict, I wasn’t just being metaphorical.  ALL of our addictions are rooted in our desire for paradise.  What is an addiction, (be it to a substance, or activity), other than a desire to capture, however briefly, an ecstasy, a beauty, an existential happiness that we cannot grasp in our reality?  Our desire for Eden is so strong that we will endure the destructive long-term consequences of addiction for a brief connection to a false transcendence.

Even if you don’t believe in the Bible, the record of human history should provide abundant proof that man cannot create paradise on his own.  Unfortunately the comparative thinking that accompanies Godlessness causes the brain damage that keeps those trying to create utopias from seeing their error.

So what is God’s solution to this problem?  God’s way is the meaning of life – Heaven.  To quote C.S. Lewis, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

God’s way does not involve trying to force-fit perfection into an imperfect world filled with imperfect people.  God’s desire is to redeem those of us who are willing, into new bodies with new spirits. The dispensations are a part of this process.

Once we are redeemed, all of creation will be redeemed as well.  In fact, the Bible says that creation is “jonesing” for Eden just like we are.  Creation longs for our redemption so that it can be redeemed.

Our desire for Eden shapes our lives.  How we choose to pursue that desire will shape our eternity

In the first dispensation, God addressed the question:  “if man was completely innocent, with no knowledge of good and evil, would he choose God on his own?”  The answer was “no”, and the result was death.  If the lack of knowledge did not cause man to choose God, what would happen if man were given an abundance of knowledge?  Does knowledge alone lead to God?  We’ll examine those questions next time when we begin our look at the second dispensation.

Related Podcast:

Longing for Eden The Key To Our Desires

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