Review: Sin, Evil, Reality
Genesis Lesson #060
July 21, 2004
The big problem in the ancient world in philosophy was trying to explain change. Everything around us changes. On the one hand there is change and on the other hand there seems to be something that doesn't change, some sort of changeless substance that underlies everything. What they did in the development of Greek thought was that changeless, existing substance was identified as being. This is the idea of existence. There is something out there that exists, there is being itself. But what they had was this concept of being. They know something exists but didn't know what it was. You know that there is something there but if you don't know what it is in terms of its characteristics or its essence you can't say what it is. So what happened in the ancient world is that they developed all of these arguments for some sort of being out there, and they called it God. But they didn't have the characteristics of the Bible, the biblical God, so they couldn't identify this thing they got to as the God of the Bible. This is what everybody tries to do but it is a tremendous leap; you can't get there. So all they were getting to was something called being itself. Out of being itself this was identified as the highest good, as the most perfect being. They don't identify being as personal, it is just that which exists. It was "the most perfect being," and there were a number of other terms for it; and out of this came other beings: other existence came out of this. But they were all part and parcel of this one thing called being. That is why we use the term continuity of being. When you get back behind everything and push it back you ask what existed then, and what existed then. There had to be something that existed, and it was being. It is something that existed, but what is it? So there was all this argumentation to identify what it was and somehow within it there was change. Change brings in this idea of chaos. So you have being which is some kind of matter plus chaos. How does that differ from modern cosmogonies like the big bang theory? What do you have? Push it back far enough you have some little dense piece of matter or something that exists, and then you have a lot of chance. If you put enough chance and time into the whole equation you are going to come up with the universe, with various different life forms from amoeba to man, and it all happens because you start off with some existent chaos, and in the midst of change and enough chaos and chance you end up with something. So there is ultimately no difference in the ancient world and its mythologies, it is always part and parcel of pagan thought. It becomes the structure of all pagan thought.
The Bible says there is God, and then there is everything else. Everything else is not a part, it doesn't come out of the being of God; it is created out of nothing. We have to understand that. Part of the implication of this affects how we view man and how we view ultimate realities and absolutes, because if we have this concept of being then not only do beings come out of this but so do all concepts of values, laws, social systems, etc. In other words, if the diagram of a circle describes being itself, and everything comes out of that circle, then being itself generates its own values, its own authority, its own absolutes. This is why there is always some sort of tyranny of some minority in any kind of system like this: because the system itself is generating its own values and absolutes. That is what we have already looked at, this radical distinction between the creator and the creation which the Bible presents versus all pagan thought which blends it in some sort of scale one way or the other, whether it is a top to the bottom scale like in ancient and mediaeval thought, or whether it is from the bottom up like in modern Darwinism.
As we went through the first chapter we looked at the fact that God created the universe and everything was good. Even though there has been an angelic creation and an angelic fall, when the restoration is finished everything is according to plan. It is a perfect creation, and God has excluded the angelic sin from its invasion into this new restored creation because it is a test sight to demonstrate to the angels the depravity of sin and what sin can do. When God created the angels initially He gave them volition. They had personal responsibility just as He gives man personal responsibility. Then Satan fell, as described in Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14, where there is the example of Satan's five "I wills" expressing his arrogance and rebellion against God. He wants to be like God. We infer from a number of different passages of Scripture that God judged the angels—Matthew 25:41, the lake of fire has already been prepared for the devil and his angels. Why aren't they there? Obviously the execution of their sentence has been postponed. So we can infer from Scripture that God apparently is teaching something. We can say that Satan challenged God's verdict but the basis for the verdict was probably along the lines of, How can a loving God sentence His creatures to such a horrible condemnation as eternity in the lake of fire? We still hear that today. The question isn't so much how can God punish His creatures, but how can He punish His creatures with such a serious eternal condemnation. What God is showing Satan is that any act of disobedience by the creature, no matter how innocuous it may be, has unforeseen circumstances, bringing about such incredible consequences of suffering and misery and horror, that the punishment of eternal condemnation in the lake of fire is mild compared to what that creature causes. So what we see is a test case. God restores perfect environment to the planet, places Adam and Eve on the planet, and gives them a test. He provides everything for them. God's grace is sufficient and He puts them in the garden, and the test has to do with a tree. Every tree of the garden you may freely eat. Notice the adverb freely. This is the grace of God. God is giving them everything, He is not somebody sitting up there telling people what they can't do and trying to spoil all their fun and keeping them from having a good time. God gives Adam everything, but He makes one prohibition: eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There are all kinds of sins that people blow out of proportion, but this isn't anything like that. This is simply eating a piece of fruit. In the instant that Adam ate from the tree he died spiritually. It caused separation from God who is the source of life. Real life is in God. Without that relationship man is cut off and other things are going to happen, including physical death, but now there is the introduction of suffering and sorrow and misery and struggle, and the earth is cursed. What going is showing is that this act of disobedience on the part of the creature is like throwing meteor in the middle of the ocean. It sets off tidal waves of destruction. It is not just some little innocuous act. The sin that you and I commit, that we justify and say it is no big deal, sets off tidal waves of destruction in our own soul—problems that we don't even foresee and in some cases don't even connect in our own lives. That is what God is demonstrating, that there is no such thing as an innocuous sin, no such thing as an act of disobedience or independence on the part of the creature that is simply innocuous and really doesn't matter. These things have incredible consequences.
So the second major event in Genesis is the fall, and the fall explains how evil enters into creation, why things are the way they are. We must understand the fall and the sin nature if we are going to be able to properly and adequately deal with any situation in life, because every situation we face in life is marred by sin. In most situations we deal with in life we are going to deal with people who are marred by a sin nature. They are corrupt individuals, no matter how nice or how sweet they are, now matter whether they are believer or unbeliever, they still have the sin nature. People are still going to yield to their sin natures, maybe frequently, and it is going to set off all kinds of fireworks and problems. The only way we can deal with that is to understand where it comes from and the fact that we live in a fallen world. What we see in the first two chapters of Genesis is that as we deal with the doctrines related to God, man, and nature, how things were originally created and then what they became after the fall, we see that this becomes central to every area of human involvement. You can't name anything in life that isn't touched by these events.
We have to look at man before the fall, and will break it down into four areas: Man in relation to God, the spiritual dimension; man in relationship to himself, the psychological dimension; man in relationship to other human beings, the social dimension; man in relationship to nature, the ecological dimension.
When we look at man before the fall we see that man is in the image of God, Genesis 1:26, 27. That has certain implications. It has an implication in terms of man's mission, his purpose: he is created to represent God to creation; he is to rule over creation because God set him there. Man as part of creation is set over creation to rule creation, so this clearly indicates that there is a hierarchy but it is within creation and does not include God. Ethically this means that man is created with perfect righteousness. It is untested righteousness. Man is under authority of God. Even in perfect environment we see that there is authority and a recognition of authority, and there is even authority in the structure of the Trinity. Authority relationships have nothing to do with equality. Spiritually man has perfect rapport with God, he is in perfect relationship with God and there is no hindrance to that relationship, and he is learning. He is not created with all-knowledge, he has finite knowledge and God is teaching him. He is learning under God's authority and in the framework of divine revelation. Adam could have learned many things about the trees in the garden of Eden through empiricism and rationalism but he could never have learned that if he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would die. He had to learn that through God's revelation. So man can only function because of his limited knowledge as a creature on the basis of submission to divine revelation.
In terms of man's psychology man becomes a living soul [nephesh], Genesis 2:7. That really refers to the fact that man has two parts: the physical component which we call biological life, and an immaterial component made up of two elements, a soul and a human spirit. The soul has four elements: self-consciousness, which indicates that he has self-awareness and can understand his purpose and his orientation within the plan of God; mentality, so that he can learn to think, can understand God's plan, and he can generate thought on his own; volition, so that he is accountable and responsible for the decisions that he makes; conscience where he stores the absolute standards of God. The human spirit is something that interacts with these four elements of the soul so that they can all direct themselves towards God and man can have a relationship with God. When Adam eats the fruit he dies spiritually, he loses that human spirit so that man is left to operate on his own in terms of his soul. He is cut off from God, the source of life, and in terms of his self-consciousness, mentality and volition, he is out on his own without any input from God. We understand that man begins this way psychologically, and he is perfectly healthy psychologically. What has happened, of course, and what screws him up psychologically, is not that his parents dropped him on his head, not that he was abused when he was a child, not that he grew up in poverty; his problem is going to be sin, pure and simple. If we are not dealing with that as the problem then we are just dealing with symptoms and are never going to be able to ultimately resolve whatever the situation is.
Socially, God establishes two divine institutions—actually three, but one is potential. He has volition established clearly, that is the test of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In volition the authority is God. He is accountable to God for all of his decisions and this is established before the fall, before there is any corruption in history. The second divine institution is marriage, designed to be between one man and one woman. It is not a marriage if they are of the same sex. This is established before the fall. Then potentially family is established because they are told in Genesis 1:28 to be fruitful and multiply. So part of the command to exercise dominion over the planet is to have children and produce generations so that those generations would be able to carry out this dominion mandate. This is man socially, and there is a perfect harmony and rapport there between Adam and the woman. These divine institutions are designed for the harmony and perpetuation of the human race to enable them to fulfill that divine purpose that God gave them.
In the ecological issue there is no disharmony with creation. Man is the lord over creation, the one who is naming and categorizing all of the animals. The animals are there for man's benefit and for his purpose.
Then we have the fall, and it is important to understand what takes place in the fall because in the very core of the fall there are two issues. One is an issue of authority and the second relates to it, and that is an issue of knowledge, what we will call epistemology [how you know what you know]. Notice what God says in Genesis 2:17, "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Now look at Genesis 3:1, "Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" Is that what God said? Notice how he twisted it. So the first thing we see is that the serpent is going to come along and he is challenging the authority of God—Has God said?—and he is challenging it by reinterpreting and putting his own spin on what God said. God said they may freely eat, and the way the serpent expresses it is, You can't eat of every tree. He spins it negatively. The woman answers: "And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die." God never mentioned touching it, so she is not accurately interpreting what God said. This gets to a problem of knowledge. She is already interpreting what God said, she is not listening to God. This is why it is so important for believers to be in Bible class more often than we have time to have Bible class. We need to know the Word—precisely what God says. The serpent then challenges that interpretation and says: "You won't die." God interpreted reality; the creature comes along and wants to reinterpret reality. At this point the serpent is telling them not to live in the realm of reality but to live in the basis of your wishes, whims, and reconstruction of reality; don't live on the basis of how God defines reality. But the Scripture is clear that as creator God has the right to determine the nature of things. He tells us the nature of things and the way things really are. Most people, especially in a fallen world the way things are now, don't want to face things the way they really are; it is much more comfortable to live in some sort of dream world that people really aren't bad and that people don't want to go to war and that there aren't people out there who want to kill us and destroy us, and that there aren't religious fanatics out there who want to destroy western civilization. It is more comfortable to create some sort of fairy world, live in that fairy world, and think that somehow we can define marriage the want to define marriage, culture the way we want to define culture. And these are people who are psychotic. Remember the difference in the definition of neurotic and psychotic? Someone is neurotic when they are creating a dream world; they are psychotic when they move in! That defines every liberal as basically someone who is psychotic because they are creating a fairy palace in rebellion against God, and they have moved in. They want to create political leaders and political structures that fit their psychotic view of reality. They are divorced from reality about as far as they can get. Unless that is stopped they are going to try to force the rest of us into their psycho-palace and it is all going to come crashing down. But that happens in every civilization; it is the cycle of civilization. It is the devil's lie that man can create his own reality and he can live on the basis of that reality, that he can be his own god.
We know what happens. The man and the woman die spiritually, and then they have their first counseling session, Genesis 3:8. The Lord is going to say, "Where are you?" because He is emphasizing the fact that they are apart from God. That is the basic problem: they have divorced themselves from God and until they deal with that they cannot get anything else right. All they are doing is putting band aids on major problems. Until believers start getting right with doctrine and getting serious about the Word, and learning the Word and applying the Word, they are just fooling themselves. Adam's reply: "And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." That is man's basic problem spiritually, he is exposed and he is vulnerable and he can't solve the problem himself. They tried to solve the problem, they sewed fig leaves together, and that is all the human viewpoint gimmicks to try to make life work apart from God. The fig leaves that man creates are almost infinite in their variety. Until man realizes that these do not solve anything but only deaden the reality of his spiritual nakedness he will never get anywhere.
Genesis 3:14 is an outline of the curse which is an explanation of the consequences of sin. The penalty is a judicial penalty and it was activated the instant they ate of the fruit. There are consequences that flow from that new reality that ripple out like tidal waves from that central core explosion. God is going to explain these. They are going to impact nature. It impacts the serpent so that he is going to have a form change, but also all the other beasts of the field are also cursed. There is a change in man's spiritual relationship, his rapport with God is broken. He is spiritually dead, his ability to represent God and to rule over creation is now going to be hindered. So there is always going to be a sense of frustration in man because he is now living in an antagonistic environment. It will not be until the Son of Man returns at His second coming that man is going to be able to ultimately fulfill that dominion mandate. There are changes in man's social relationships. He now has a basic problem with authority that is inherent to his sin nature and will plague all of his relationships for all of his life. There is the psychological dimension in that man is now really screwed up psychologically because he has a soul but no human spirit. Because of that it will screw up everything he does. He is going to have a major problem, and just because he is regenerated doesn't mean the problem is solved. Remember, what caused the problem was a twofold problem: a breakdown in authority and a breakdown in knowledge. What happens as a result of sin is that the area of knowledge becomes really screwed up. By the time most of us are saved or get serious about our spiritual life our soul has sucked up so much garbage that the only solution is a major overhaul of the way we think. Most people don't know what the phrase "epistemological rehabilitation" really means. It is hard work. It means you have to overhaul your whole framework of thinking, your whole structure of thinking. It is a lifetime process, not just learning to think good things instead of bad things. It is to overhaul one's own structure of thought and to learn to think biblically instead of like a pagan. It is not easy.
Socially, we see that the divine institutions get all messed up. Marriage gets messed up because now there is an authority struggle between the woman and the husband. Instead of compatibility and rapport in the marriage there is now an authority struggle—which can, of course, be reversed through regeneration and doctrine. It also affects the family because most parents become so involved in work, in careers, in their own self-absorbed orientation that they don't have time to teach the kids to control their sin natures. Most of the parents haven't learned how to control their own sin natures.
Ecologically they have a problem because now there are problems in nature. The ground is cursed and there is going to be a struggle just to survive. The man is told that he is now going to have toil. He is going to eat by the sweat of his face and then he will die physically.
But there is hope, and that is that God solved the problem of evil. He is going to restrict it and He is going to judge it. This is the great message of hope, that it didn't end with the curse, it ends with God providing a new covering for man. There is a principle there is the coats of skins: the shedding of blood, which is a picture of Christ's death on the cross so that man can have redemption. So it is a message of hope. God can solve any problem but what has to happen is that there has to be an orientation to God, we don't orient God to us. We are the ones who have to orient ourselves back to God and this is done through thinking biblically.