Who Do You Blame For The Fall?

…so the reason is first the fall, and then free will… why we live in a broken world…

I bit my tongue. First, because it may have been an unintended slip. Second, because it wasn’t the main point of the conversation and I didn’t want to go off on a tangent. Third, and if I’m honest, most pressing, I prefer to avoid conflict. It’s a bit nonsensical sometimes, like on this occasion, when a minor disagreement or correction would hardly lead to world war three, but there it is – I know I need to work on my assertiveness. But the statement gnawed away at me, and so I’ll take this opportunity discuss some of the thoughts I have on the subject.

The first point, which I hope is uncontroversial, is that free will came first. That’s just simple logic. If we didn’t have free will then more or less sixty four and a half books of the Bible would not have been written, and you would have looked at the title of this post and wondered “what fall?”

But that’s not how the world worked out, and so we’re left to contemplate the cause and effects of the fall. And this is where my problems start, because of statements like the following one, which is from the Wikipedia entry on “original sin” but reflects quite a broad understanding:

Original sin, also called ancestral sin, is a Christian belief of the state of sin in which humanity exists since the fall of man, stemming from Adam and Eve’s rebellion in Eden, namely the sin of disobedience in consuming the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The key phrase is “…stemming from Adam and Eve’s rebellion…” It’s just too easy for us to unthinkingly blame Adam and/or Eve for the fall, and hence for every aspect of this broken world. Genesis 3:16-19 seems to provide scriptural support for that view. But let’s be honest about this. If it wasn’t Adam and Eve in the Garden, if it was you, or me, or your favourite preacher or worship leader, whoever was there would have fallen. And if we’re overly generous to ourselves and believe that we would have been smart or strong enough to resist the serpent’s first temptation, we would have fallen for the second, or the third…

Because, lest we forget, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) And we should also remember that the blaming of Eve for the initial transgression has led to untold (and ridiculous) misogyny in the church and the wider world over the millennia.

No, we should not blame Adam, or Eve, but instead reflect on the fact that this is who we are: fallen, and falling, and as Christians we spend our lives trying to gradually fall less often and less far.

This is what I’ve thought for a long time, but I would always find myself troubled when I thought about Romans 5:12-21, where Adam and sin are juxtaposed with Christ and righteousness. I’ve now found peace in this passage, which I can try to explain to you here, but bear in mind that this – like much of Paul’s writing – is packed with meaning, and I’m only scratching at the surface for the purpose of this post. By the way, I’m looking at the NIV. Translations matter when it comes to examining individual words, but for now, until I become a scholar of Biblical Greek, I’ll trust that the NIV gives a fairly sound representation of Paul’s argument.

In verse 12, we are told “…sin entered the world through one man…” At first I thought this contradicted my understanding, until I focused on the word “through” – not “because of” but “through”. As I said above, sin would have inevitably entered the world, sooner rather than later, unless God had chosen to create robots rather than human beings. But no, by His grace we were given free will, and not only did that throw up options of obedience or disobedience, it also made possible all those other wonderful gifts, like surprise, and joy, and love. And yes, the other things too, but they have their place. As one of my favourite sayings goes, “Lands that know only sunshine and no rain become deserts. Life too is like that.”

As I said, there’s plenty to get our teeth into throughout this passage, but I’ll skip ahead to verse 19, where a potential theological hurdle is expressed very clearly. “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

I have convinced myself that because sin only came “through” the disobedience of Adam, we can’t blame him for our own sin, it’s just a consequence of how we were created. But then how do I reconcile this with righteousness coming “through” the obedience of Jesus Christ? Doesn’t that suggest that we can’t praise or thank Jesus for righteousness? If it didn’t come through Him then would it have come anyway as another consequence of creation?

No, because the man that righteousness came “through” was the “fully human” Jesus, but it came “by” the grace of the “fully divine” Jesus. See verse 15, as well as Hebrews 2:14-18 and Colossians 1:15-20.

So who do you blame for the fall? Who should you blame? The devil, in the form of the serpent? Loathe as I am to let him off the hook, he was also permitted to act as he did, just as he was in the book of Job. So if you want to point the finger somewhere, you might look at versus such as John 1:3 and Isaiah 45:7, and point towards God.  In fact, personally, I think the question of who or what to blame is the wrong one. I think the purpose of Genesis 3, one of its purposes at least, is to hold a mirror up to ourselves and remind us of many things: who we are, what freedom means and what are its consequences, Who sustains and covers us, who deceives us. It’s a deep, rich picture of where we belong in God’s universe, and a reminder of Who we belong to – a humbling and beautiful picture.

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My Soul Thirsts For God

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon — from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me — a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.

Psalm 42, NIVUK

What Has Jesus Ever Done For Us?

Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked — but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53, NKJV

4 Articles To Make You Think About Your Faith

It’s rarely a day goes by that I don’t find a link in my inbox to an article expounding a dramatic list that I need to be gravely concerned about if I have any interest in the future of the Christian faith in general, or my own in particular. Whether it’s “24 Reasons to Believe Hell Is a Reality,” “10 Counterfeit Christ Figures We Should Stop Worshiping,” or “5 Ways to Porn-Proof Your Mind and Marriage” you can be sure that someone has delved deeply into almost any subject you can imagine and summarised our proper response neatly into a reasoned list. If one of these subjects is a hot topic for you, then you may find such an article helpful, or validating. More often than not these days I will skim over them or ignore them completely – I don’t have time to devour all the information being fed to me every day.

But here are four articles that have cropped up recently that I thought were worth sharing because of the common theme they express – one that is very important to me – that we shouldn’t take everything we see, hear or read unthinkingly. We are all capable of misinterpreting God’s word, and so are the people who we turn to for teaching. I don’t agree with every word in the following articles, and if you read the comments at the bottom of the pages you’ll find individuals who vehemently disagree. Sometimes these critics are missing the author’s point and/or unwittingly proving it. The point, in each case, is basically that God has given you a mind and you should use it rather than blindly accepting things that on the surface may seem right and obvious, but underneath are not so clear-cut.

Thinking
http://www.freeimages.com/photographer/brainloc-32259

7 Quirky ‘Doctrines’ That Should Be Debunked (J. Lee Grady)

This article has the least resonance with the issues I’ve come across on my journey, but it’s a good introduction to the subject, nicely pointing out that the doctrines described are not really about faith but rather superstition.

5 Things I Wish Christians Would Admit About The Bible (John Pavlovitz)

A very thoughtful piece, perhaps best summed up by these lines:

The Bible is not God, the Bible is a library filled with words about God. We can discover and explore and find comfort there. We can gain wisdom, and grow in faith through it. We can seek the character of God, and the message of Christ, and the path we’re to walk in its pages.

We can even love the Bible, (I certainly do), but we should worship the God who inspired the Bible.

4 of the Most Misquoted Verses in the Bible (Brian Orme)

This should really have been titled “most misinterpreted” rather than “most misquoted.” You can quote the verse, full or partial, correctly from any translation of the Bible, and if you take it out of its proper context completely lose its true meaning. This is a particular bugbear of mine. I feel the tension rise inside me when I hear certain verses mis-used even by people for whom I have the most love and respect.

9 Unbiblical Statements Christians Believe (Shane Pruitt)

This article helpfully brings us full circle. It shows how not only do we misinterpret Bible verses, but we can even start believing unbiblical statements and turning them into the kind of doctrines that J. Lee Grady wrote about.

I hope these articles give you food for thought. I expect that if you’re anything like me you’ll find it quite easy to recognise some of the flaws they describe in writers and speakers you are familiar with. The real challenge is to recognise those same flaws in yourself (myself) and not be too proud admit them.

Much Dreaming and Many Words

I can’t say that I have a favourite Bible verse. There are many that I return to time and again, according to my mood and the season of my life. One of those is Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” It means a lot to me, particularly in my current season. But I didn’t want to talk about that today because it’s too well known and too obvious – I like to not be obvious! But the word “fear” struck me. I know the Bible has a lot to say about fear, so I looked for more examples and this verse leapt out:

Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.
(Ecclesiastes 5:7)

This is a verse I want to keep in my heart, for several reasons.

It comes at the end of a passage in which the writer is warning about making hasty vows to God. It’s very easy to make promises in the heat of the moment, at a time of desperation. But God knows whether you are able to keep that promise, and He won’t be impressed if you make one that you can’t follow through with. Why would you try to impress God anyway? Maybe you say something unwise in a public situation not to impress God, but (consciously or not) to impress other people. That’s just as foolish, or maybe more so.

Out of context there are other subtle variations of the message that appeal to me: why keep dreaming impossible, and meaningless, dreams? Make your aspirations realistic, so you can achieve them and actually do some good instead of just talking about doing something great.

I like to play with the phrase “many words are meaningless” as a warning not to babble on about things, just to keep to the point, and keep it short and simple. I’ve certainly sat through some sermons where this would apply! And I know I’m sometimes guilty of using six words where one will do!

But I can’t help smiling most at the blunt conclusion “Therefore fear God.” At the end of the day, whatever we think, whatever we say, and indeed whatever we do, it’s not about us, it’s about God, and that’s where our focus should be throughout the good, the bad and the ugly days.

So in very simple terms, the verse is telling us: “Say what you mean, mean what you say, keep your feet on the ground, and put God first.” That’s wisdom to hold on to every day.

Selah

Selah — a term of uncertain meaning found in the Hebrew text of the Psalms and Habakkuk carried over untranslated into some English versions (Merriam-Webster)

Uncertain meaning, but scholars have studied the word and come to some conclusions. The most commonly accepted definitions are to measure or weigh (from ‘calah’) or to pause (from ‘salah’). I like the way the Amplified Bible puts these meanings together, and comments after each rendition of Selah

“Pause, and calmly think about that.”

What I’ve done below is to gather the 74 verses which contain the word, and presented them in isolation for you to read, and then to pause, and calmly think about them.

I do not recommend that you try to do this with all the verses in one session! You might want to take one or two at a time, either sequentially from 1 to 74, or perhaps just picking a random number and focusing on that verse.

I want to make a few more observations.

First, while most of the verses are uplifting in the way they describe God’s wonderful attributes, some have a more melancholy feel. For example, the fourth, Psalm 4:2 – How long, O you sons of men, will you turn my glory to shame? How long will you love worthlessness and seek falsehood? We don’t always like to dwell on verses like these, but we should do so anyway, because they help us recognise our weaknesses, or our challenges, or our enemies.

Second, I’ve done something here that I really don’t like doing, and which I will criticise others for doing, and that is to present these verses completely out of context. I’m not even using them to support an argument or opinion. They are simply there, in black and white, and I pray that God will speak to you through them. But if they don’t seem complete in themselves, I urge you to click the link and then expand the passage to view the whole psalm or chapter.

Finally, you may notice occasional repetition. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I tend to think if God repeats Himself, He probably has a very good reason for doing so. Pause, and calmly think about that!

  1. Psalm 3:2
    Many are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.” Selah
  2. Psalm 3:4
    I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah
  3. Psalm 3:8
    Salvation belongs to the Lord. Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah
  4. Psalm 4:2
    How long, O you sons of men, Will you turn my glory to shame? How long will you love worthlessness And seek falsehood? Selah
  5. Psalm 4:4
    Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah
  6. Psalm 7:5
    Let the enemy pursue me and overtake me; Yes, let him trample my life to the earth, And lay my honor in the dust. Selah
  7. Psalm 9:16
    The Lord is known by the judgment He executes; The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Meditation. Selah
  8. Psalm 9:20
    Put them in fear, O Lord, That the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah
  9. Psalm 20:3
    May He remember all your offerings, And accept your burnt sacrifice. Selah
  10. Psalm 21:2
    You have given him his heart’s desire, And have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah
  11. Psalm 24:6
    This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Your face. Selah
  12. Psalm 24:10
    Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah
  13. Psalm 32:4
    For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah
  14. Psalm 32:5
    I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
  15. Psalm 32:7
    You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah
  16. Psalm 39:5
    Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah
  17. Psalm 39:11
    When with rebukes You correct man for iniquity, You make his beauty melt away like a moth; Surely every man is vapor. Selah
  18. Psalm 44:8
    In God we boast all day long, And praise Your name forever. Selah
  19. Psalm 46:3
    Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
  20. Psalm 46:7
    The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
  21. Psalm 46:11
    The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
  22. Psalm 47:4
    He will choose our inheritance for us, The excellence of Jacob whom He loves. Selah
  23. Psalm 48:8
    As we have heard, So we have seen In the city of the Lord of hosts, In the city of our God: God will establish it forever. Selah
  24. Psalm 49:13
    This is the way of those who are foolish, And of their posterity who approve their sayings. Selah
  25. Psalm 49:15
    But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, For He shall receive me. Selah
  26. Psalm 50:6
    Let the heavens declare His righteousness, For God Himself is Judge. Selah
  27. Psalm 52:3
    You love evil more than good, Lying rather than speaking righteousness. Selah
  28. Psalm 52:5
    God shall likewise destroy you forever; He shall take you away, and pluck you out of your dwelling place, And uproot you from the land of the living. Selah
  29. Psalm 54:3
    For strangers have risen up against me, And oppressors have sought after my life; They have not set God before them. Selah
  30. Psalm 55:7
    Indeed, I would wander far off, And remain in the wilderness. Selah
  31. Psalm 55:19
    God will hear, and afflict them, Even He who abides from of old. Selah Because they do not change, Therefore they do not fear God.
  32. Psalm 57:3
    He shall send from heaven and save me; He reproaches the one who would swallow me up. Selah God shall send forth His mercy and His truth.
  33. Psalm 57:6
    They have prepared a net for my steps; My soul is bowed down; They have dug a pit before me; Into the midst of it they themselves have fallen. Selah
  34. Psalm 59:5
    You therefore, O Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, Awake to punish all the nations; Do not be merciful to any wicked transgressors. Selah
  35. Psalm 59:13
    Consume them in wrath, consume them, That they may not be; And let them know that God rules in Jacob To the ends of the earth. Selah
  36. Psalm 60:4
    You have given a banner to those who fear You, That it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah
  37. Psalm 61:4
    I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah
  38. Psalm 62:4
    They only consult to cast him down from his high position; They delight in lies; They bless with their mouth, But they curse inwardly. Selah
  39. Psalm 62:8
    Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah
  40. Psalm 66:4
    All the earth shall worship You And sing praises to You; They shall sing praises to Your name. Selah
  41. Psalm 66:7
    He rules by His power forever; His eyes observe the nations; Do not let the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah
  42. Psalm 66:15
    I will offer You burnt sacrifices of fat animals, With the sweet aroma of rams; I will offer bulls with goats. Selah
  43. Psalm 67:1
    God be merciful to us and bless us, And cause His face to shine upon us, Selah
  44. Psalm 67:4
    Oh, let the nations be glad and sing for joy! For You shall judge the people righteously, And govern the nations on earth. Selah
  45. Psalm 68:7
    O God, when You went out before Your people, When You marched through the wilderness, Selah
  46. Psalm 68:19
    Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, The God of our salvation! Selah
  47. Psalm 68:32
    Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth; Oh, sing praises to the Lord, Selah
  48. Psalm 75:3
    The earth and all its inhabitants are dissolved; I set up its pillars firmly. Selah
  49. Psalm 76:3
    There He broke the arrows of the bow, The shield and sword of battle. Selah
  50. Psalm 76:9
    When God arose to judgment, To deliver all the oppressed of the earth. Selah
  51. Psalm 77:3
    I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah
  52. Psalm 77:9
    Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah
  53. Psalm 77:15
    You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
  54. Psalm 81:7
    You called in trouble, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah
  55. Psalm 82:2
    How long will you judge unjustly, And show partiality to the wicked? Selah
  56. Psalm 83:8
    Assyria also has joined with them; They have helped the children of Lot. Selah
  57. Psalm 84:4
    Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; They will still be praising You. Selah
  58. Psalm 84:8
    O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
  59. Psalm 85:2
    You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people; You have covered all their sin. Selah
  60. Psalm 87:3
    Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God! Selah
  61. Psalm 87:6
    The Lord will record, When He registers the peoples: “This one was born there.” Selah
  62. Psalm 88:7
    Your wrath lies heavy upon me, And You have afflicted me with all Your waves. Selah
  63. Psalm 88:10
    Will You work wonders for the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise You? Selah
  64. Psalm 89:4
    ‘Your seed I will establish forever, And build up your throne to all generations.’ Selah
  65. Psalm 89:37
    It shall be established forever like the moon, Even like the faithful witness in the sky. Selah
  66. Psalm 89:45
    The days of his youth You have shortened; You have covered him with shame. Selah
  67. Psalm 89:48
    What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave? Selah
  68. Psalm 140:3
    They sharpen their tongues like a serpent; The poison of asps is under their lips. Selah
  69. Psalm 140:5
    The proud have hidden a snare for me, and cords; They have spread a net by the wayside; They have set traps for me. Selah
  70. Psalm 140:8
    Do not grant, O Lord, the desires of the wicked; Do not further his wicked scheme, Lest they be exalted. Selah
  71. Psalm 143:6
    I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Selah
  72. Habakkuk 3:3
    God came from Teman, The Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah His glory covered the heavens, And the earth was full of His praise.
  73. Habakkuk 3:9
    Your bow was made quite ready; Oaths were sworn over Your arrows. Selah You divided the earth with rivers.
  74. Habakkuk 3:13
    You went forth for the salvation of Your people, For salvation with Your Anointed. You struck the head from the house of the wicked, By laying bare from foundation to neck. Selah