On The Incarnation (2:7) The Unnamed Desire

Yet, true though this is, it is not the whole matter. As we have already noted, it was unthinkable that God, the Father of Truth, should go back upon His word regarding death in order to ensure our continued existence. He could not falsify Himself; what, then, was God to do? Was He to demand repentance from men for their transgression? You might say that that was worthy of God, and argue further that, as through the Transgression they became subject to corruption, so through repentance they might return to incorruption again. But repentance would not guard the Divine consistency, for, if death did not hold dominion over men, God would still remain untrue. Nor does repentance recall men from what is according to their nature; all that it does is to make them cease from sinning.

Adam and Eve hide, deep in the rainforests of Eden. The world is now a frightening place. Every noise, every change in the wind, and every shift in the atmosphere carries a sense of foreboding. They have hidden themselves from each other and whatever other dangers may be lurking. Suddenly, and with no warning save that which was given explicitly by God, the beautiful delights of Eden have become sinister and numinous. There is a feeling of terror rising up inside of them. So this is how things are, in the real world. We were fools to believe in the illusion of Eden. “All things in their right place and all for our joy!” Ha! So we thought in our innocence and naivety. We know better now. All things are no more in order than we are, and the illusion of order and delight were all to keep us enslaved. Now we know that God is a strange being that knows more than we do and uses His secrets to trap us. Eden was a cage anyway.

On and on their thoughts may have spun. Their nature was changing and they began to form their thought patterns around the serpent’s lies. This lone act of defiance sparked in them thoughts of fear and sorrow. Those who are disenchanted usually console themselves by making themselves believe that they are somehow more advanced and can see through all illusions. Life may be pure misery, they tell themselves, but at least I know what things are really like. This is the nature of the serpent’s lie – it spreads out within us in a million different directions and changes our natures from childlike wonder to jaded and cynical.

Athanasius asks if it would have simply been enough for God to simply demand a change of heart from humanity. Why not just command them to “repent”? Because we are unable to repent. The serpent’s venom has seeped so deeply into each of our hearts, the bite is fatal. Our thoughts poison our spirits which weakens our bodies. We fear God and do not trust Him. Our religion (even, sadly much that calls itself Christianity) is mostly about appeasing an angry judge and brutal taskmaster. Our loving companion in the garden has been slandered by the serpent and we run from Him. He must now REVEAL Himself and DO something that will make it possible to change our hearts and redeem us from the nightmare. Our actions are not the problem; the hearts from which our actions stem: THEY are the problem.

Had it been a case of a trespass only, and not of a subsequent corruption, repentance would have been well enough; but when once transgression had begun men came under the power of the corruption proper to their nature and were bereft of the grace which belonged to them as creatures in the Image of God. No, repentance could not meet the case. What—or rather Who was it that was needed for such grace and such recall as we required? Who, save the Word of God Himself, Who also in the beginning had made all things out of nothing? His part it was, and His alone, both to bring again the corruptible to incorruption and to maintain for the Father His consistency of character with all. For He alone, being Word of the Father and above all, was in consequence both able to recreate all, and worthy to suffer on behalf of all and to be an ambassador for all with the Father.

The “subsequent corruption” is the main issue. When we fell, our hearts and minds began to lie to themselves. We made believe that the act of eating forbidden fruit was “liberating” and “brave.” We consigned ourselves to an existence of silent fear and angst. We let ourselves become isolated from the source of life and our hearts began to die within us. We carry with us that deep longing for reconciliation with God but do not know where it comes from. There is a deep sorrow in every human that longs for a return to Eden but we do not have the words to express it. There are times we may glimpse Paradise in our earthly lives and reach out to touch it, only to find it disappears. Moments of bittersweet joy and yearning that come at the least expected times. What is this deep memory of something we cannot name? Eden. In this present age of human-created chaos, the dream of Eden is alive and well, yet we never seem to be able to realize it. It is beyond our power to return; something must be done FOR us.

About our self-inflicted exile from the garden, Frederick Buechner writes, “To say that God drove Adam and Eve out of Eden is apparently a euphemism for saying that Adam and Eve like the rest of us made a break for it as soon as God happened to look the other way. If God really wanted to get rid of us, the chances are he wouldn’t have kept hounding us every step of the way ever since.” And it is important to remember who came looking for who. God sought Adam and Eve out, punished them, but then gave them a promise. That promise was that one day a man would be born of the woman (God is careful to single out the woman) and He would crush the head of the serpent.

And out they went, Eden closed behind them – but not closed forever. Their hope was in the future, toward One who would win the battle they lost. Until then, they were to hold on to the promise. This was the only promise strong enough: that the Word Himself would come to save them and all of us who recognize Him and believe the promise.

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~ by shardsofeternity on December 18, 2011.

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