Monday, April 10, 2017

Adam, Pt. 4, Sin

Man is a recent arrival. That is what the Bible declares and what anthropology indicates. Now, I suppose some consider that a bold if not erroneous statement. Hasn't man been around for - what? - at least 150,000 years if not close to a million years? Isn't that what anthropologist have been telling us?

   Yes. That is what we find in our text books and on the pages of National Geographic. But anthropologist define man differently than the Bible. If we use the Bible's definition, most anthropologists, I think, would agree that the evidence for modern man, that is man who is fully Homo sapiens sapiens and God-aware, points to a time between 12,000 and 14,000 years ago when such men show up in the archaeological record.

   The earliest evidence for such God-aware men is the astounding recent find of Gobekli Tepe in southern Turkey.  (Incidentally Gobekli Tepe is within a very few miles from the place the biblical origin-of-man story of Adam and Eve was located.) Gobekli Tepe is a temple, and though we cannot decipher all the clues to what God or gods were worshiped there, it seems clear that it was designed for spiritual purposes.

   The complex, which is about 20 acres in extent was built by Neolithic men thousands of years before agriculture was developed or animals domesticated - which also incidentally occurred in the same region - and before pottery was made or metal tools created. Gobekli Tepe is the first footprint of modern God-aware men in history. With the massive effort that was required to construct this site and the cooperation required among it builders, it marks the beginning of civilization. The surprise? It was, contrary to what all the text books and experts have said up to the find of Gobekli Tepe, religion that sparked the beginning of civilization not agriculture. Smithsonian

   Man as defined by his DNA, of course, has been around a bit longer. The current theory based on DNA and archaeological finds is that man originated in Africa and began migrating from there 60,000 years ago.The map here displays the migration routes according to National Geographic.

   Several different Homo species have been identified as scientists probed those migrations including Homo neanderthalensis who was identified as living in Europe between 200,000 and 30,000 years ago, and Homo floresiensis in Indonesia. By approximately 30,000 years ago, only early modern man remained.

   What evidence do we have of our early ancestors? One astounding discovery in recent years has been the art  produced by those ancestors in France and Spain. In one region alone, the Lascaux Cave, 2000 painting were discovered. Art experts were amazed by the vividness, realism and liveliness of the images. But the paintings were almost entirely of animals. Where were the humans?

   There were no human figures, yet there were depictions of humans. They were the hand stencils seen here. These stencils have been dated to about 32,000 years ago.

   Since these were discovered, hand stencils have been discovered in  Indonesia, along with images of animals as in France and Spain. These have been recently dated to about 35,000 years ago. As the author, Jo Marchant, writes, "They smash our most common ideas about the origins of art and force us to embrace a far richer picture of how and where our species first awoke."
  Smithsonian Were the hands stencils evidence that man was becoming conscious?

   Notable by their absence, however, in any of the many location where paleolithic cave art has been found are any clear indications of a sense of the spiritual or of religion - until Gobekli Tepe. 

   These vignettes of the lives of our ancestors on the walls of the caves and on the monuments of Gobekli Tepe provide a picture of the development of art and of self-awareness but also provide bookends for the period of time in which modern man as a God-aware man appeared. The period of time between the cave art and Gobekli Tepe is, of course, immense. But these finds in the caves of France and the hills of Turkey provides a range.

   The scientists studying Gobekli Tepe give us a little more help. They guess that the technologies required to build Gobekli Tepe might have taken several thousand years to develop. (Remember, the builders were nomadic Stone Age hunter-gatherers.) With that estimate, we can push back the time of man's appearance to the end of the last ice age in about 14,000 B.C. There and at that time something happened that changed everything for man. There man became fully man as we know him today. He was self-aware and God-aware, body, soul, and spirit.

   That date is very close to the date most Bible scholars would give for creation of Adam. At this point in time and at that location, biblical history and anthropology converge.

   But the cave art and the rock art found in distant places like Africa tell us that something else happened to man. The cave art tells us that man was at home in his world in the paleolithic. The images are almost all of animals, and the images are light and fresh and full of life. Even the animals that might be threatening, such as bulls and bears, are not drawn that way. The horses that dominate the images of the French caves run wild and free. Even the hand stencils give the impression of hands in celebration. They are pictures of Eden.

   That is not the impression we get from the images at Gobekli Tepe. Put the cave art and the sculptures of Gobekli Tepe side by side and the contrast is stark. Nature and the men who made these images are in disharmony. The images of Gobekli Tepe are threatening, even demonic.

   What happened? In the years between the cave art of France and Gobeklit Tepe, what happened? It is here where can turn to the Bible's story of the origin of man. What happened was sin.

   The story in the Bible is as vivid as the art. Man originated in Eden. There nature was in harmony with man and man with nature. There were plants for food and an environment that was pleasing.
Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. (Genesis 2:8,9)
   A page later, man is cast out of the garden and nature is unfriendly and uncooperative.
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)
   It is what happened in between that tells the story: Adam and Eve made a choice.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.(Genesis 3:6,7)
   Man chose not to avail himself of the life that was offered in the Tree of Life but rather to turn away from God's offer. He chose to make it on his own. The result was Gobekli Tepe. That is our story.

    As fascinating as Gobekli Tepe is and as impressive as it is from the point of view of technology (that technology is described in the Bible in Genesis 4) it is an ugly and oppressive place. Perhaps that is why it was intentionally buried several thousands of years after it was first erected. 

   Gobekli Tepe is our story. It is the history of man and is seen in the religion of Gobekli Tepe, in the civilizations that followed and the religions that they created, and in the world today.

   It is Adam's story. Adam did not fall from perfection or from grace. Grace was what God offered, yes. But Adam did not take what was offered. He made a choice. Like the two roads Jesus spoke of many millennia later, Adam chose what seemed like the best way. He chose to find knowledge and what was good and evil apart from God. But it led to destruction, not only for Adam, for us all. 

   How so? Even if there was a literal, historical Adam, he was but one man.  There were Homo sapiens running all over the place not only in the upper fringes of the Fertile Crescent but everywhere, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia. How can we even think that there was a first man or that his choice became ours?

(If there was not an Adam and if this story is purely made up, it qualifies as the most probing and perceptive story ever told by man. But it is very hard for anyone familiar with the literature of the ancient world to believe it fiction, allegory, yes, fiction, no.) 

    The answer is found in Romans chapter five.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12)
   It is a simple statement with no explanation. None is needed. The truth is self-evident: we all miss the mark. We sin. And because of sin, death reigned or continued to reign - for eternal life was a promise but not a possession of man.  If he was to enjoy life, Adam would have had to have eaten from the Tree of Life, and he had not. (Romans 5:14)

(We can understand that the trees are allegorical. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil represents the choice to do life on our own without God, in fact, in contrast to the Tree of Life which represents dependence on God, it represents the rejection of God.)  

  This moment in  Eden was the moment when man, a specific man Adam, had the opportunity to decide. But Adam was still only one man. What of all the others?

   Romans tells us that "the many died by the trespass of the one man" (Romans 5:15). That means that every man who had come to God-awareness and was fully man was included in the one literal Adam's sin. Neither sin nor the guilt for sin are passed on via DNA; it was not by bloodline. It became the debt of every man in the same way that every citizen assumes the debt of his nation, even if they did not personally incur the debt.

   That is the same way that grace is passed on to us through Jesus Christ. We did not earn that grace; he did by taking our place and dying for us. But we benefit from that grace when we are joined to him by faith:

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!  Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.  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." (Romans 5:17-19)
   The result of Adam's sin was condemnation for all, BUT THE RESULT OF OBEDIENCE OF THE ONE MAN JESUS benefits all people everywhere through all time. The condition was that each man avail himself of the gift of grace by assuming the gift of righteousness by identifying himself as a member of Jesus' kingdom by making him  king and by trusting in him in faith.

   There is one more question. That is how is it that man is also universally a sinner by nature? The answer is found in the origin of man and his three-part nature. Homo sapiens were, before the infusion of spirit by God, flesh and psyche (soul.) His default choices were the appetites and drives of flesh and psyche. Those are naturally opposed to the rule of God or to moral responsibility to God and to others above self.

   It is not that man became by nature sinful. It is that man (Adam) chose his appetites above his duty to God. The result was separation between man and God, and that is exactly what the Adam and Eve story graphically depicts. And that resulted in death.

   This death was not, as we often assume too quickly, physical death. Physical death is the natural condition of all living things. The death spoken of in Genesis 2 was  separation from God and eternal life that was offered by God, depicted in the Tree of Life. And Adam and Eve experienced that death in the very day that they made the choice to reject God in favor of their appetites, just as they were warned.  Physical death was not the result of sin; spiritual death was.

   The physical death that is described in Genesis 3 is the condition of the natural man:
By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.

   The sin of Adam affected mankind deeply but not hopelessly. Adam had a second chance. We see that in God's clothing Adam and Eve in skins of animals symbolic of forgiveness. All men everywhere and throughout all time have a second chance. Each one of us may turn to God in dependence upon his grace.



Neil said...

You're right, Don: with humans came gods. Doesn't that tell you something? Not that your favorite God put an awareness of himself in his new creation, but that humans were the first creatures to develop sufficient intelligence to start looking for and creating meaning for themselves. They got it wrong, of course, in thinking that it had anything to do with invisible super-beings, and we're still suffering from that mistake today. But you can bet that when we've obliterated ourselves, surviving life-forms will continue to live, as they did for billions of years before us, without any cognizance of the supernatural. Why? Because humans invented the supernatural, the gods and all the convoluted mumbo-jumbo that goes with them. When we go, it will go too.

Don Camp said...

Or humans turned away from the God they knew. Yes. They got it wrong, and we can see how dysfunctional it became at Gobekli Tepe. In history every time men create gods they get it messed up. But God did not give up on us. There was a remnant, Seth's family. Through them the God who made us speaks to us and offers a return to Him.

Neil said...

'Every time humans create gods they get it messed up.' At last, we agree! Yes, when they created YHWH and all the other supernatural beings that go with him, they sure did mess up! Wait - you're not saying YHWH is different from all those other made up gods, are you? You're not saying out of the thousands of gods humans have invented, yours just happens to be the only one that's real? How do you reach this conclusion, Don? How can you tell? And please don't say you know because of his 'word' or your own subjective experience. The followers of all these other manufactured gods could say precisely the same thing.

Don Camp said...

In the end, it will be a matter of the last God standing. Shall we wait and see?

But, Neil, how do you know it isn't Yahweh who is the true and living God? God does provide a means of knowing. Read Isaiah. Find out. If you are really interested.

Neil said...

Been there, done that, Don. I'm an ex-Christian. But I note you don't answer my question - what evidence is there that your God is the only real one? How do you know he's not just another human invention like all the others?

There'll be no Gods standing 'in the end', which is why everything Christianity promises - resurrection, judgement, the Kingdom of God, Heaven etc - is always in a future that moves inexorably ahead of us all the time. Christianity: always winter but never Christmas, promises with no delivery.

Don Camp said...

Nice "The Lion,the Witch, and the Wardrobe allusion. One of my favorites. But you do know the end of that story, right?

I did not answer because it is better to find out for yourself. As a teacher I know that it is far better to help a student understand how to solve the problem than for me to give him the answer. Read Isaiah.

Neil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neil said...

You do not answer, Don, because you have no answer. There is nothing that distinguishes your pet god from all the others human beings have created throughout the millennia.

I certainly do know the end of LWW. I also know it is a story, another made-up tale by, yes, a fellow human being. What do they teach you in school these days?

Speaking of which, despite what you imply, I am not your student nor you my teacher. As I said last time, I know the Bible well from my previous life when I was one of the deluded myself. Isaiah does not, despite what you choose to believe, prophesy Jesus. It's true Matthew tries to shoe-horn some parts of the Jewish scriptures into his gospel to make it look as if the older text presages the newer, but he does this extremely badly ('virgin' instead of 'young woman', colt and ass etc).

So c'mon, Don, at least try to answer the question - no more fudging allowed - what evidence is there that your God is the only real one out of all those there's ever been?

Don Camp said...

Answer: Israel.

Neil said...

You've got me convinced.