The Garden of Eden: A New Beginning, Not Sinning

The Garden of Eden: A New Beginning, Not Sinning August 24, 2019
Photo by Dominik Bednarz on Unsplash

An ancient story is retold in Dr. Alexander Shaia’s stunning anthropological and psychological stripping-down of the four gospels; Heart and Mind: The Four-Gospel Journey for Radical Transformation. Dr. Shaia offers a new image through the depictions of the Gospels. It is while the readers are willing to “rest in John’s garden” that he introduces a new lens of perception for the original story of Adam and Eve. A masterful and insightful unveiling that truly transforms the purview of the Path that leads us closer to Truth.

Genesis described that Adam and Eve’s life in the Garden of Eden was blissful and completely carefree. Yet that untroubled state could not last. The pair’s innocent delight had been coupled with a grant of self-will. An irresistible inner longing called them to exercise the free choice they had been given. Assisted by the intervention of a snake (the ancient symbol of transformation and rebirth), they chose to try to become more connected with God—more “like gods”—and ate the fruit of knowledge.

When they ate, their carefree life vanished and they in effect began the process of growing up. Their decision gained them a more mature relationship with God, but it also had hard consequences. The heaviest price that God exacted for their temerity was ejection from the garden. Paradise, their child-like world of beauty and abundance, was lost forever. (211)

Adam and Eve did not sin in the Garden of Eden, they opened their eyes. They grew up.

It’s not Sinning, It’s a New Beginning

Like a young adult leaving the home for the first time, leaving the shelter and protections that the parents provide; Adam and Eve wrestled with living with a full frontal exposure to all that is possible.

As children, our parents operate as our filters for the bigger truth. Information is shared with us at differing cognitive levels. So as we develop, we are capable of taking in more information and registering it as part of our existence. In most cases, none of us are prepared for the adult world and that reality hits us hard. It almost reveals itself as a new Truth.

This revelation all but forces the bursting of a new seed inside that begins to grow. For this growth to flourish, it needs space. In order to obtain the space necessary for this growth to continue to flourish, we need to move away from the protections against the elements.

In order for each of us to grow, we must leave all that we know, all that protects us and keeps us safe, and move outward into our own gardens and weather the elements, the cruel nature of the world, and wrestle with suffering.

Adam and Eve entered into a new season of growth. God didn’t fling them out of the Garden with animosity and contempt. God had to let them discover the world for themselves. God did what parents around the world do every day; God let go of his children so that they could grow on their own terms with their own choices. Parents alike know, just as God knew, that love includes freedom. God is love, and love is not controlling.

Just like we, as parents, tell our children specifically not to do many things, they do it anyway. Don’t we know they will do that which we do not want them to do, just as soon as the words leave our mouths? It’s a natural compulsion. We do what we are told not to. Paul wrote of this in his letter to the Romans.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good…For I have the desire to do what it good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not to do—this I keep on doing… (Romans 7:15-19, NIV)

Do we do the things we should not do so that we can learn for ourselves, outside the shelters and confines of the protection our parents have over us? Aren’t we such stubborn creatures that we will justify any and every reason to find out for ourselves what happens when we touch our tongue to a 9-volt battery?

It was not sin that compelled Eve and Adam to eat the forbidden fruit, it was desire. Desire cannot be sin, for desire is the one phenomenon that propels us toward transformation—we have to yearn for it. We have to feel an insufferable amount of pining after something so that it convicts us to reach for it. We cannot do this without desire. It’s necessary. God desired communion with another, and God commanded a woman desire her husband (and a man to desire his wife). Desire cannot be sin.

What the parents of the Garden were after—what they desired—was a stronger connection that could only be reached by seeking it out for themselves instead of having it given to them without asking for it. Our parents provide for us; that’s just what they do. It’s a kind of love that comes from a sense of obligation. Parental love is almost instinctual but it’s also predatory in some aspects.

In order for a parent to transform their love from obligation and control, we must let our children go brave the big, bad world without our hand to hold. Otherwise, we handicap our children and only act as a component of their crippling instead of their resilience.

Really, in order for us to demonstrate how much we trust them, love them, and believe in them, we must let our children go their own way and discover what love is and how it works. It can’t just be so readily handed to them. They must discover for themselves why it’s OK to feel so naked around another and feel no shame.

The way I see it, Adam and Eve knew they were naked and they felt no shame. But they did not understand why they felt that way. They knew God loved them, but they did not understand how far that love extended.

Don’t we all remember a time when we wanted to test that limit with our own parents, or perhaps with our partners, maybe even our friends? They say they love us and would love us no matter what we do, but sometimes we can’t help but push that proverbial red button.

The story of Genesis, as unveiled by Alexander Shaia, is not about sin, it’s about growing up. It’s about transforming. It’s about a seeking of a higher understanding. It’s not that a new Truth is revealed to us; it’s that an expansion of the Truth has been uncovered and we need to make sense of it.

Many of us search for that Truth through understanding another, a beloved; someone other than the ones who created us. Such is what we individually seek out in understanding our existence. We look to understand and make sense of our life by pairing up with another and understanding them, as well as how we relate to them. We seek out the signal of connection to God through the Other.

Sex Signal

And don’t most of us search for that signal in sex?

Genesis 1 tells us that God created male and female and blessed them and said to them:

“Be fruitful and increase in numbers; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:27, NIV)

“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:24-25, NIV)

So, herein lies an ultimate unfolding of the layers of protection we have been embraced with for the first half of our lives, the childhood years. We leave the comfort of our home, of our garden, and we move on to plant our own garden and create a new comfort in the embrace of another, in a far more revealing and inter-being kind of way.

We become one flesh with another and in that entanglement, we find a stronger connection to another, and even to God. But doing so requires a level of nakedness and shameless presentation that most of us are unaccustomed to. We haven’t experienced it since we were children, and it was in an entirely different environment.

It is when we begin entering into an understanding of the sensuality of existence that we enter the erotic zone. It is through eros, through its medium of desire, that we begin to understand the variety of urges and enticements that pull at us in every which way.

It’s curiosity that strengthens our connection, but the consequence of that is fear, risk, and the potentiality to be rejected. Such is why through our nakedness, which is natural, we come to understand shame—through fear.

Seduced by a snake, overwhelmed with a desire for a stronger connection to God, a deeper closeness; Adam and Even bit into the forbidden fruit. A bite of the truth is painful. Truth hurts. But it’s a necessary pain that must befall all of us in order to truly transform.

It is through the beginning of the path of this transformation that we seek out a way to strengthen that connection to God by a unity with our partner that exceeds any possible articulation.

At least, that’s what I interpret when I put together what Shaia unveils.

And he further demonstrates such a notion through a deeper exploration of the Gospel of John and the Wedding Feast at Cana. What Shaia reveals in Heart and Mind is a new understanding of what The Fall was really about: transformation, not sin.

On re-imagining John’s story of the wedding feast in Cana, Shaia communicates:

Although not obvious to us today, to the Ephesians a story about a wedding implicitly referenced Genesis. In the first century, weddings were always held outdoors in gardens and courtyards—never in public buildings. Therefore, the first words, “On the third day there was a wedding,” automatically meant “garden” which in turn recalled the story of Adam and Eve…

By using a wedding (and garden) metaphor, John wants to communicate to the Christians of Ephesus that through the power of Jesus the Christ paradise is regained. And he expands the story so that Adam and Eve become Everyman and Every woman and the account transforms into a vital and present experience.

In this account, it is Jesus and Mary, his Mother who exemplify the great promises of Genesis—a deep connection with God. However, John has made a significant switch. Instead of receiving punishment for wishing to become more closely connected as Adam and Eve did, at Cana they celebrate! (210-211)

Perhaps it is not that we should weep over the fall of man, but celebrate the new paths that are laid before us as we grow and evolve in our lives.

We are to celebrate the potentiality of becoming one flesh with another so that we can strengthen our signal and connection to God. We must leave the primary provider of our connection and reestablish our own accounts in our own names.

I remember when my oldest daughter left my cell phone plan to establish her own. It was her first step toward becoming responsible for herself. To demonstrate to me that she was growing up.

And when my daughter told me she was pregnant, as much as I had cautioned her about unprotected sex, I knew that I had to let go and trust that she would handle this. And when my daughter told me she would begin birth control after the birth of her child, I saw that she was taking steps to be more responsible and aware of her choices and the consequence of her choices.

And implicitly, my daughter, just as any of our children, demonstrate they are ready to embark on the path on their own, with no hands to hold, when they begin that second phase of their life where they are giving themselves to another in order to establish their own connection to God and something bigger than themselves.

Eventually, our children leave our homes, enter into their own homes, and seek out signals to connect. We all do this through the flesh, through entanglement with another. We do this by seeking out the realm of the erotic and learning how to transgress the extremes of eros. It is through eros that we can learn how the intensity of the love we feel for our partner can be duplicated in the love we have for others.

 

 

 

 

About Danielle Kingstrom
Danielle Kingstrom is a writer, podcaster, and leg-warmer aficionado. She is the host of "Recorded Conversations", a podcast dedicated to compassionately considering all perspectives while engaging in connected dialogues about societal issues. Current work includes an upcoming book, "Enfleshed: Making Monogamous Relationships Real". You can read more about the author here.
"I think we are in the twilight of the Twilight Zone! You go girl!"

Murder is a Right, According to ..."
"Maybe because your criticism lacks compassion and consideration? Have you considered a different approach that ..."

Beatitudes, Beggars, and Bezos: Are We ..."
"Nope... Not gonna play your game. Find someone else to insult and get attention from."

Beatitudes, Beggars, and Bezos: Are We ..."
"Absolutely. I am quite a devoted follower of the Galilean Chasid, Rabbi Yeshua, but I ..."

Beatitudes, Beggars, and Bezos: Are We ..."

Browse Our Archives



TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Evidence in the story indicates the tempting forbidden fruit is really the temptation of forbidden nonreproductive PLEASURE, offered by the talking snake. (A snake that talks?)

  • What evidence?
    And what is nonreproductive pleasure?

  • Iain Lovejoy

    The story as presented in the Bible is pretty clear that Adam and Eve were disobeying God and sinning when they took the fruit, and that doing do damaged their relationship with God. However, there is a very old Christian interpretation of the story that insists that Adam and Eve sinned through immaturity and naivety: they were always intended to eat the fruit, and their sin was rather in doing so against God’s will before they were ready and mature enough to take it.
    The Adam and Eve story tells us that we are vulnerable to sin and death because we have the knowledge of good and evil without having developed the maturity to then choose the good, and we are having to learn it the hard way.

  • I always giggle a little whenever anyone says “the bible is pretty clear”.
    Is it? Because if it is so clear, I have to wonder how on earth we have a separation of religions as well as the thousands of thousands of denominations? How is that all possible if the Bible is so clear?
    The one thing I have learned is that nothing is all that clear. Nothing is certain, and we cannot possible know all there is to know about an ineffable God.
    So, while you may want to reject the possibility that growth is what our Creator wants more than us considering ourselves as sinners, I will not. I will happily embrace a new understanding in which our nature is to grow, not sin.
    Thanks for your contribution, however. I appreciate your willingness to share your views.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Thank you for your not-at-all patronising response.
    No-one has to believe what is written in the Bible, and an awful lot of it is metaphor, allegory or parable and massively open to interpretation, and in places even apparently self contradictory.
    What it isn’t, however, is some sort of written version of a Rorschach ink-blot designed to mean anything that the reader wants to believe. It was written by people attempting to convey actual meaning in the words they carefully chose to do so, about things that were important to them to convey. If you think what they thought was wrong, and you think you know better, say so: don’t insult them and patronise them by pretending you are telling their story when you are in fact telling your own, different, one.
    I am presuming you indeed have read Genesis, so you are perfectly well aware that it is quite explicit in the story as written there that Adam and Eve were doing what they were told not to do, and punished for it. You may think this is a wrong telling of the story, and you might indeed be right, but that doesn’t mean you can pretend your version is the one the author, rightly or wrongly, actually wrote.
    Yes, there are many different religions: the book of Genesis, however, is primarily a Jewish text – though also adopted by Christians – not a Hindu, Sikh, Taoist or Buddhist one. That Hinduism’s
    or Sikhism’s or Taoism’s concepts of sin (in so far as they have one) may be different from that of Judaism and Christianity, and even if their concept of sin is a better one than Judaism’s or Christianity’s, doesn’t somehow mean that completely alien religious concepts can be read into a Jewish / Christian religious text because you like them better than the concepts the text actually contains. It is no more acceptable to do this than to tell Hindus, for example, that they are all wrong about the Bhagavad Gita, and it actually tells the story of Christ.

  • Cleanslate

    The traditional reading of the first three chapters of Genesis is read through the lens of the doctrine of original sin — as a willful act of rebellion. A reading closer to the truth of the matter would see the narrative of the “creation – in
    – the beginning” is really about an original blessing (Mathew Fox).

    Sin is more of pathology than a rebellion. Like all sickness the need is for healing and not punishment. Punishment only exacerbates the sickness of sin. This is why Jesus was known as a healer and not as an inflictor of punishment.
    He did not accuse the sinner, but rather was a true Judge (liberator) who came to free us from the slavery of sin.

    If you see the two bookends of the entire biblical narrative as being the Genesis account of creation in the beginning, and Paul’s vision of God becoming All in all (1 Cor.15.); we see that the original blessing of Genesis is not merely restored. The original blessing becomes a cosmic “sacrament” where God fully indwells the creation through the new birth of universal resurrection. This is a new Genesis (beginning) that brings creation – in – the — beginning to its completion (perfection). A new creation where the potential for genuine growth is unbounded and where the impossible (the death of death) is inevitable and the inevitable (sin and death) is impossible.

  • You don’t like the idea. I get it. Thanks for sharing.

  • So, a follow up:
    What is it that you fear would happen if somehow, people started all seeing that the Garden was about a beginning and not about sinning?
    Do you think if people have a different understanding of the Bible that something bad will happen? That the whole world will go to shit?
    I am always curious why people aren’t willing to consider a new perspective. It must ultimately have something to do with a fear. So, what are your fears?

  • Are you suggesting that the forbidden fruit it sex without conception of a child?

  • Iain Lovejoy

    You don’t actually know anything about my personal ideas about sin or people’s development or anything else.
    I have no difficulty with your “reimagining” an aspect of the Genesis story, and in fact agree in part that it includes the concept that God gives us the ability to exercise free choice, and that we need that because we need to become adults and develop as separate individuals. In my original post (if you had read past the first sentence) I was giving you another different perspective on the story from the early Christian church, that God intended Adam and Eve to eat the apple (as you yourself had said) and for similar reasons that your own article gave, albeit they had the view that part of the point of the story was also that Adam and Eve had in their naivety and impatience not waited until God thought them ready to do so, with the result that they were separated from, not brought closer to, God, as God had intended they would be when ready.
    The different perspective they (and I) had from yours was in engaging with the story as actually written and within the Christian and Jewish religious context in which it was composed. To pretend that the story is not also about explaining the existence of suffering, death and sin is to be wilfully blind to its contents and simply to completely misread it. You can use it as the basis for your own, sanitised, myth if you like but, as I have said, you have to accept you are not telling the same story, as you are completely editing out all the bits you don’t like and wish weren’t there.
    If you want to believe that there is no such thing as sin, suffering and death, that the world is as it should be, we are all happily on track as God intended us to be, bar a few bruised shins and scrapes as life lessons, and all is otherwise well with the world, then you have your views (although how you can be so utterly indifferent to other less cosseted and privileged people’s lives I don’t know) and I’m not going to be able to shift that. This is not though the story of Genesis, or the rest of the Bible, or that of Judaism or Christianity, whose stories you are appropriating and distorting. These stories are about explaining a world the authors could see had gone wrong, written where people felt abandoned by God in a suffering world where people weren’t close to him, and could not feel his comforting presence, and were and are intended to explain how.
    The whole theme of the Bible as a Jewish story, written as it was by a people kicked out of their homeland and temple and helpless in a foreign land with no apparent hope of return, is that God is despite appearances still in control, and still faithful, and that exile from Eden / Israel is not permanent, but a temporary punishment for sin, and that people can be reassured that when the harsh life lesson is learnt and people turn back to God will be reversed, they will be permitted to return. Your version of the story is that, no, everything is as it should be and will ever be, God always intended Adam and Eve would get kicked out and Eden / Israel is lost forever.
    The Christian development of the story is to universalise it, to see the whole of mankind as exiled from Eden by their having lost sight of God. Jesus is then added to the mix as being God coming to us and sacrificing himself for us to save us and bring us back to him, so that sin, suffering and death are defeated, and the whole earth is being restored to the Eden it was intended to be.
    What I fear from your version of the story is that there is no restoration to be had. You are reinterpreting the Bible to say that God sees nothing amiss, that everything’s AOK as far as he is concerned, all is on track, we are doing fine and nothing is going to rescue us because nothing is needed. In your story, Eden is lost forever, the shit in the world stays as it is forever, suffering, death and sin are as God intended and there is nothing he can or will do about it.

  • I am not sure how anything I wrote led to the potential proposition that there is no sin, nor any need for redemption.
    And in fact, if you read my other work, you will notice that I am very aware of suffering in the world. It’s what I have written about most in the last several weeks.
    While you may not have provided me with much substance to look at your background, other than these exchanges, my work speaks for itself. My previous pieces have provided enough information to demonstrate that all that you accuse me of not writing to, I have already written to.
    So, the same could be said in reciprocity: You know nothing of my personal ideas, yet I have actually provided many ideas through my written work- it seems that you just haven’t sought further.

    As to the rest…it’s all accusation and it’s unnecessary accusation . More so than that, is misunderstanding. You have only insisted that the ideas that have already been presented are the only ones worthy of considering and that any new ideas may compromise or contradict old ideas.
    Such is not the case and I have never once in my work suggested that whatever I interpret should be taken as Word.
    Goodness. Let down your guard, suspend your deductive senses, and prepare space for the possibility that you don’t know all there is to know about how one should or could interpret the Bible.

  • God’s first commandment to Adam and Eve was to be fruitful and multiply IN THE GARDEN. But they failed to obey until AFTER the eviction from Eden, whether the story is viewed literally or allegorically. Instead, they committed a double disobedience–they not only ate from the forbidden tree, but did not eat from the allowed tree, which would have provided them with an equal amount of allowed pleasure, while being fruitful and multiplying as they were commanded to do, at least according to the evidence presented at http://www.thefirstscandal.blogspot.com.

  • For me, that just seems like clever manipulation of reading the Bible that aims to support the ideology that one should not have sex before marriage nor have sex unless it is to reproduce . That’s just not legitimate for me.

  • The ideology that one should not have sex before marriage nor have sex unless it is to reproduce is what the evidence in the story presents, and was the traditional world view on sex until the 20th century. Counterevidence to the exegesis?

  • Traditional doesn’t mean correct or even relevant.
    These ideas were presented during an era of no technology whatsoever. We no longer have to be concerned with too many offspring, nor STDs (so long as we are using protection), and we know that marriage is an institution that was created to protect property more so than it was to establish any kind of sacred bond between two consenting adults. (See: Esther Perel’s “Mating in Captivity”, Merlin Stone’s “When God Was a Woman”, Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex”, Lillian Rubin’s “Erotic Wars”, John D’Emilio and Estelle Freedman’s “Intimate Matters”, Vern Bullough’s “Science in the Bedroom, and the Bible’s “Song of Songs”. )

    We have evolved passed the fears of unwanted or too many, pregnancies, ritualistic practices of sacrificing the semen for fear that it drains our energy, and even passed the ideas that God would condemn us to an eternal hell if we have premarital sex.

    It’s time to say buh-bye to the purity culture that has only soiled our society and damaged generations of people, particularly women. God is a god of change, and it is time to change the way we think about what God wants for us. Purity and holiness no longer comes as a result from abstaining from sex. It’s beyond physical. Purity is spiritual as is the erotic.

  • Cleanslate

    “God is a god of change, and it is time to change the way we think about what God wants for us.”
    That God is a God of change is profoundly true. Classic christian, theistic, dogma insists that God is immutable (unchanging). This notion has lead to oppressive religious power structures. The name, YHWH, that God gave to Moses is a verb, not a proper noun, specifically an imperfect verb denoting a dynamic ongoing event/process. YHWH is not the static I Am, but the Becoming One: YHWH ( to become) God, not Lord God.

    Why is this significant, because it is consistent with the definitive self-revelation of God as Jesus Christ. The incarnation is a radical change in or becoming of God. Only a God who can undergo the change that allows him to become what is needed by us and creation can be the God who is love. Love will do whatever it takes to provide what the loved one needs. In the case of God, becoming a crucified man: become Emmanuel, God with us, even experiencing “godforsakenness” and death itself. A God who will never forsake us or condemn us.

    In light of such a God, purity is about being able to love unconditionally and holiness is empathic connection with all living beings.

  • mkmangold

    Very good, Danielle. I read your post then reread the relevant Bible verses and then some. The first thing they did after banishment was make love! Maybe it was a sympathy screw but then again, maybe it was celebratory.

    The second thing I noticed is that sinning isn’t even mentioned.

  • Thank you.
    Yes. Weird, right? Sinning is never mentioned.

  • John

    Your points are well noted. It is quite possible to understand author intent without bringing up the whole “everything can be mis or reinterpreted” line. Author intent remains The primary and best interpretive model for any document. Without a reasoned way to read and grasp the meaning of ancient documents, we would know absolutely nothing about history. Biblical interpretation methodology of progressives is a glaring weakness that many are starting to recognize. After all, without authorial intent, how do we know the meaning of their progressive writings and interpretation either? Perhaps I could reinterpret their reinterpretation into something equally valid, because you know, who knows what they really meant.