So, we come at last to the ur-text of Western Literature, the Bible itself. I’ve managed to cover an extremely broad range of books and shows in my chronological threads to this point. I’ve taken a look at The X-Files, the history of Middle Earth, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Batman and more (practically all those threads are on hiatus, me being a huge slacker). But this, I think, will be something different. My posting style has always been loose and unpretentious; will the Bible unfold for such a slapdash approach as mine? Should a central religious text really be talked about like this? We’ll find out. I’m also breaking new ground for myself. God knows (he he he I . . . uh, no pun intended) that people have felt strongly about the things I’ve previously written about, be it the Star Wars series or The X-Files or Batman. But is there anything on this planet that so many people feel so strongly about as the Bible? I’ll be writing about some very serious issues; whether you’re a Bible belt Bible thumper or an East Coast atheist, the issues surrounding religion, faith and belief are of central importance to you. The Bible is a book that purports to wrestle with the biggest questions of human existence: what are we? Who are we? Is there a God? What are we to God? What is our very purpose? What is life? So I find that I will be finding plenty to be incredibly serious about as well as to be, hopefully, witty and funny about. But even here we come to a central question: how should the Bible be read? And, more importantly, thought about? Should this thread be an attempt to parse things like historical accuracy, higher criticism, the dating of the books? Should this thread be an attempt to look at the basic teachings of the Bible and trace them through to our various religions today? Should it be a look at the aesthetic power and beauty of the language and the style? Is the Bible to be looked at here as a work of art or a foundational text of religion? I suppose, in the end, it has to be all of those things at once. Just as the book itself is intricately bound up in many aspects of modern existence, so we must look at it through as many lenses as possible at once. Now, we are here in a totally new kind of thread. It’s been labeled Amp because the Amp is my bailiwick, as it were. But this is the first huge project thread I’ve started since the move and so it is also the first since the Community forums shakeup. In short, the Amp, the Senate, the JCC and the Arena (though I rather doubt the Arena will bring a particularly unique posting style to this thread) all now live in much closer proximity than ever before, with great cross pollination between the different styles of threads. This obviously comes with some challenges and nowhere, I feel, will this be as evident as in a thread about the Bible. I definitely want anyone and everyone to post in this thread; no one will be turned away. I just want to note a few guidelines that I’ll be looking for. I will be making allowances for the looser, more flippant JCC style of posting. A joke is fine; humor is fine; let’s just not be terrifically mean. The Amp and the Senate seem to basically share a similar posting style; I’ve always felt that the style of the Senate is a bit more argumentative than the Amp and certainly less subjective and more data driven. Those things are fine, more or less. I only ask a couple of things of anyone who posts in this thread. Let’s respect everyone’s opinion, even if we disagree with it vociferously. Let’s keep personal attacks out of the thread. Also, and I kind of think this is the most important, let’s strive to keep the tone of our posts more exploratory and less argumentative. Debate is okay, but fundamentally I want this to be a thread about exploring each other’s perspectives and mindsets. To kind of clarify that, when you read someone else’s post, try to understand where they’re coming from, not look for flaws that you can pick apart. When you post yourself, try to make your position understood, not to convert others to your particular opinion. I think that’s clear enough. We’re all grown-ups and I don’t anticipate any problems here. Here’s both a thank you to someone who’s been a big help leading up to this and a sort of inspirational statement about our shared humanity. The wonderful banner above has been created by SuperWatto. He’s helped me out with banners before, mostly of the “using preexisting elements” variety. But when I approached him about this project, he said that he wanted to create the entire thing from scratch, purely his personal drawing. I’m blown away by the talent on display in the banners. I initially approached him for one banner for the entire project; he balked at this too, saying that he really wanted to do a totally different banner for each book in the Bible! Now that’s impressive and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with for all those different banners! That’s the “thank you” part. The inspirational part? Well, I’m a Middle American Christian; SuperWatto is a European Atheist. And we’re collaborating on a thread about the Bible. Does it get more awesome than that? It’s things like this kind of collaboration across philosophical worldviews that reaffirms my faith in humanity. It’s a pretty small thing, just a thread on the internet, but it still warms the heart. But now, on with the project. It should stand as obvious that I don’t feel even remotely up to this. But I think we’ll have fun, maybe have some serious discussions, maybe find out more about ourselves and each other and learn more about one of the greatest texts of literature ever created. Well, I suppose the thing to do now is get started. The rest of the complications, we’ll hash out as we go. Read along here. Select the links in the sidebar to look ahead by month, if you want to skip ahead of me or look at a particular section of the Bible. Clicking the date link for each day will bring up that day’s reading in the recommended order, so it’s incredibly easy to read along. Obviously, this plan is suited to a yearlong reading plan. I’m essentially ignoring the dates, of course. You can select from several different Biblical versions in the drop down menu near the top of the page. I, personally, will be using the King James Version. It’s my favorite translation for a variety of reasons, but more than any other, I simply find it the most beautiful and evocative of the translations. It comes from the time of Shakespeare; the English language was at a real peak during that time. I will be bringing up other translations on occasion and I encourage you to bring up other translations as well as we go. So, let’s get started with the first three chapters of Genesis and the beginning of it all: Creation! Creation & The Fall Genesis 1-3 Simplified Reading: N/A *In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. *And if you do not find that moving, perhaps you’re just not the kind of person who’s interested in spiritual pursuits. *The Revised Standard Version says it like this: “And the Spirit of God was moving on the face of the waters.” I find that incredibly beautiful too. *There’s that track from one of the Close Encounters soundtracks called Let There Be Light. Anyone remember that? It’s just this little forty-five second track of sort of weird atmospherics leading up to this massive ORCHESTRA HIT! I always think of that when I read this; darkness, formless void and then BANG the entire universe turns on, flooded with light. I mean, that’s just great. *So, Chapter 1 of Genesis details the process of creation in a classically repetitive form that anyone who has studied oral storytelling will be familiar with. *On the first day, God creates light and darkness, separating them into Day and Night. On the second day, He divides the waters in the firmament from those under the firmament, essentially creating ‘Heaven’ as the King James has it, or the sky. On the third day, he gathers the waters under the heavens together to create Seas and creates dry land, which He calls Earth. He also calls on the Earth to bring forth plants of all kinds. *On the fourth day, God creates the Sun and Moon and Stars, the ‘greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night.’ The fifth day sees the creation of fish and birds, essentially. On the sixth day, God creates all animals and also the first man and woman. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” *Then, to close chapter one, “God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” *I suppose it behooves me to talk at this point, briefly, about the incredibly heated debate currently raging in our society between the Intelligent Designers and the Evolutionists. This particular culture war has been a part of our society, essentially since Darwin first dropped the Origin of Species, if not since before that even. *On one side, we have those who believe that the theory of Evolution (and they always make sure to tell you that it’s a theory about fifty times) is an attempt by the humanistic scientific machine to write God out of human history and to essentially do away with religion and faith entire. On the other side, are those who believe in Evolution and are quick to dismiss the other side with a lot of rhetoric about how people who believe the Bible are essentially anachronisms clinging to an idiotic text. Thus, it’s seemed to me, the ‘debate’ tends to descend, fairly quickly, into a strange game of ‘how arrogant can you be?’ with each side attempting to come off as more superior and denigrate the other side. *Me? I don’t see that it’s . . . particularly relevant. *I believe in God. I am a Christian. I am not a trained scientist; I struggled in my science classes in college, but I would resist any characterization of myself as a scientific idiot. I understand the basic tenets of the scientific discipline and have, since college, read selectively in the science field, including works by Feynman, Stephen Gould and Walter Alvarez. I don’t intend to create the impression that I entirely understood everything in, for instance, Feynman’s Q.E.D. I stayed with him about three-fourths of the way through and then kind of got lost. But I’m getting lost again, I fear. *All this is to say that I give science the benefit of the doubt. I am not a science doubter, as some are. I don’t mistrust everything that comes out of the scientific world. It would be strange for me to do so, sitting here typing on a laptop by the glow of electric lights. I have no trouble admitting that scientists and innovators in the technical world are far more brilliant than I am. I don’t fully understand how my computer works; I mean, I have the basics, but how on earth anyone ever figured it out without a computer in the first place baffles me. *That said, I’m not entirely credulous either. Science proves itself wrong all the time; sometimes, it seems that all a generation of scientists does is prove the previous generation entirely lame-brained. It is not hard for me to believe that future scientists will look on us as being somewhat backwards and ill-informed about the way the world works, just as we look on some previous generations. *It doesn’t matter to me if evolution is the truth or not. It may be or it may not. My faith is not threatened by the implication that mankind came about through evolution. If mankind did, in fact, come about this way, then it was at the impetus of God; this is my faith. If, tomorrow, the scientific establishment throws evolution out the window and comes up with something totally new, that won’t bother me either. I give science the benefit of the doubt; the people who came up with evolution are/were smarter than I am; they’re most likely right. At least, I don’t consider myself to be in any situation to come up with something better off the top of my head. But if they happen to be wrong, doesn’t bother me. If they are right, doesn’t bother me. All I know is that, however this universe and mankind came into being, God was at the back of it. I don’t see why it is necessary for me to spend time and energy trying to disprove evolution, when I can simply accept it and believe what I’ve just said. *I think, quite frankly, that if a lot of Christians would get off their hobby horse and, as I have done, simply make a conditional acceptance of evolution, it would be one of the greatest image rehabilitations that the Christian faith has ever seen. *If evolution in some way kicked the props out from under Christianity, then I would find a way to stand against it, I suppose, and respect those who are doing the same. But the fact is that it doesn’t. Evolutionary theory and text has nothing to say about whether or not Jesus was the Christ; and that, last I knew, was the only thing that was necessary to be called a Christian. *That is a gross oversimplification, of course. But you see, I hope, what I’m driving at. Why is it a threat to Christianity for scientists to talk about how the universe began? All they are arguing about, from my perspective, is the method God used to bring humanity into existence. In other words, in my opinion, it behooves Christians to get a clue and back off of the evolution debate; it’s pretty well irrelevant to our faith and by standing against it in such a generally misinformed fashion as people do, they only make Christians look like idiots. *Well thought out, scientific critiques of evolution are fine; a natural part of any scientific process. If evolution eventually succumbs to new information or scientific critiques, so be it. But, let’s face it, most of the critiques of evolution right now are not well thought out and scientific. *Now at this point, you probably have a question. That question is “Geez, Rogue, for how long is this post going to be anyway cause it’s like nearly four pages already and you’re not even a third of the way through the day’s reading?” *I’m going to ignore that question and pretend you asked this one: “But, Rogue, if you’re a Christian, aren’t you supposed to believe that the Bible is God’s infallible Word and free from error? And, as a follow up/corollary to that question, if you do indeed believe this, then doesn’t evolution kick the props out from under Christianity?” *Great question, I’m so glad you asked it. And it’s well thought out follow up/corollary. *I’m going to answer it by quoting from a very learned and interesting fellow . . . myself. *No, seriously, this question came up during one of my Senate posting jags a few years back and I still think that I said it better there than I’ve ever been able to say it since. So, I’m going to repost what I said then. I’ll reformat (by adding little asterisks in front of each paragraph). *As a devout Christian, I believe that the Bible is True, in the highest sense of that word, but what some people fail to understand is that a work of art can be True without being entirely factual. Whether the stories in the book of Genesis happened exactly as they are recorded (I happen to believe that they probably happened more or less as they are recorded) they have something deeply True to say about human nature and life as a human being. Whether, for one example, Jacob and Esau fell out as the Genesis account says that they did, whether that story is entirely factual or not, one can hardly find a more 'true' account of sibling/parental relationship. *As to the debate over literal interpretation versus figurative interpretation, I think the Bible is fairly clear, as any great book is, about what is intended to be literal and what is to be figurative. When the Bible tells us that God breathed into Adam's nostrils it is entirely obvious that we are not intended to picture a human figured God giving a dusty model of Adam CPR. I find the debate over poetic interpretations of the Scriptures a little silly; if the Bible was divinely inspired, as I believe it was and as many great works of art have been to a greater or lesser degree, surely God has the requisite talent to speak in poetic terms and expect us to understand that. Some Christians seem to believe, however, that if the Bible is divinely inspired, that this then means that it must be entirely factual and entirely literal. *In fact, if the Bible is divinely inspired, then it may be more or less factual, given that God is intending the Bible to stand, not as a work of history, but as a work of teaching and philosophy; behind every 'story' in the Bible, there is something God intends us to learn; this is more important to Him, I think, than that the story be entirely historically accurate. Compare to the parables of Christ; no one argues that these parables are factually true, that there was a literal prodigal son, for example. Every theologian I know accepts their nature as stories intended to teach; the same could very easily be more or less true of the histories of the Old Testament, though again I personally believe that the histories of the Old Testament at least have their roots in fact. *This is essentially the respect that I give to all ancient histories, from Tacitus to Josephus to Xenophon and everybody in between. They are doubtless not particularly accurate and contain misinformation. However, I conditionally accept them as being “mostly” accurate, which is to say that the events recorded in these histories probably happened and probably happened in something approximating the manner in which they are recorded. It seems the only way to treat these ancient histories, unless one wants to just throw them all out entirely. So, this is how I treat the Bible. *I realize that for people who do not believe in a divine inspiration for the Bible, these arguments are a little strange and maybe even insular, but as an educated Christian, it is incumbent on me, I feel, to express what I feel and think about things like textual criticism of the Scriptures. I think the same sentiments exist regarding the idea of other sources, like the Enuma Elish or the Epic of Gilgamesh or the hymns of Akhenaten, inspiring portions of the Bible. That the Bible could have taken some form, or in some cases, almost exact turns of phrase from other ancient artworks in no way intrudes on the idea that it is divinely inspired; as any great author incorporates ideas and inspiration from other sources, so, I feel, could the inspiring spirit of God. *The bottom line, for me at least, is that I feel that textual criticism isn't a threat to my faith; other Christians feel different and I wish sometimes I could get them to understand the things I've talked about in this post. Whether you believe in the authorship of the Bible as springing from God or not, I think it's completely obvious that the Bible as it stands today is intended as a work of philosophy first and history second; that I believe it is God breathed (to use a Scriptural turn of phrase) makes this even more obvious to me and more important to remember as I read the Scriptures. As long as the Scriptures remain saying something true and insightful about human nature and our troubled relationship with the divine, I don't particularly care about the odd historical (or scientific) inaccuracy, for the simple reason that the Bible isn't intended primarily as a book of history or of science. The Bible says the Earth is God's footstool; scientifically, literally, historically, I don't think He rests His feet on us when He kicks back of an evening to relax. I've gone on at some length, but I think you see where I'm going here, I think, and how what I've said relates to the Creation narrative. *In other words, the evolutionary narrative doesn’t really cohere with the narrative as found in Genesis 1. So what? I find it hard to believe that God intended Genesis 1 to be an in-depth look at the inner workings of creation. The point of the chapter is that God created everything there is from nothing. God doesn’t explicate His method; doubtless because it would have been, and remains to this day probably, entirely incomprehensible to the vast majority of people who would have read the book. *There was a guy in the Senate, and I could call his name, but I won’t, who was forever harping on why God hadn’t slipped easter eggs (no pun intended) into the Bible. Like, for instance, why hadn’t Jesus, just as an aside, you understand, noted that there would one day be a fish called a perch, so that we, reading the Bible now when there is a fish called a perch, would be more inspired to believe that Jesus was God. *I’m serious. He actually used the perch example. Literally. *I suppose he would say that, if God really inspired the Bible, then he would have inspired the author of Genesis to write the proper scientific, evolutionary process in Genesis 1. My response is “Seriously?” That’s so not the point. *Would God even have been able to make a human of that time period understand evolution? I doubt it. And wouldn’t it have just raised countless pointless arguments about the Genesis account over the millennia, until someone figured out that it was right? And what would the point of it be? God isn’t writing a scientific textbook, is He? The mechanics of His creation of the cosmos was beside the redemptive point He was trying to make. Does this make sense or am I being . . . what’s the word . . . am I reaching? Rationalizing? I don’t think so. *Anyway, far too much of this. Let’s leave it at that. The establishment of scientific or historical errors in the Biblical text cannot remove the Truth of it. Ergo, the evolutionary narrative does not destroy the Genesis account or prove that the entire Bible is thus founded on a bed of lies and inaccuracies and should be rejected by all right thinking people. The end. *You may, of course, disagree. *Anyway, chapter 2 begins with God establishing the weekend: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day.” *The rest of chapter two is taken up with establishing some geography for the Garden of Eden, which is probably not of any great interest, and then with flashing back to the creation of Man & Woman in order to give some more details. *So, God creates Adam and ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.’ God sets Adam in the garden of Eden and tells him to have his run of the place, save for the Tree of Life, in the midst of the garden. *Then, God realizes that man needs a companion cause, seriously, the dog? Not cutting it, if you know what I mean. *So, then God performs surgery on Adam; he knocks him out, takes one of his ribs out and, out of that rib, fashions the first woman. *Seriously, can you picture Adam’s reaction? I mean, a woman still gets a pretty great reaction out of me and I’ve seen more than one or two. Picture this guy seeing the first woman. *Then chapter two closes with a passage I find oddly romantic: “And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” *I dunno, after the feminists and the post-modernists and the misogynists got done with all this, it all seemed kind of messy and loaded. But I just find it kind of . . . I dunno . . . is it sweet to anybody else? *The detail about them being naked and not ashamed is taken by many commentators to refer to a pre-sin state of innocence. I see in it something even more beautiful; a state of true intimacy between a man and a woman, a state of being absolutely unashamed with each other. *Awwwwwwwww! *Like all good things, however, it is not to last. Let’s move on to chapter three. Finally, a villain! *So, the serpent appears and tells Eve that God is basically being kind of stupid with these rules about the Tree of Life and is just trying to jack all the good fruit for Himself and so she should really just eat the fruit. *I should point out here that nowhere in Scripture does it actually say that the fruit was an apple. That’s just a traditional thing. I’m not sure who started it, but it’s certainly been established as part of the story by now. *So, the casting of the snake here as a villain. This is . . . strange, isn’t it? The commentators say that Satan somehow took either the form of a snake or else took control of a snake and used it to speak to Eve. But this isn’t really anywhere in the text. I mean, the verse actually says that the serpent was ‘more subtle than any beast of the field,’ thus seeming to indicate . . . what? That the snake had . . . higher moral intelligence? A soul? Something that elevated it. I dunno. I go with the commentators, I suppose. Whatever. *Now, the casting of the serpent here in the role of the villain is incredibly on point. Because who among us doesn’t get a chill at all things slithery. I’m fascinated by humanity’s fraught relationship with the snake kingdom. *I mean, there are those whom snakes do not send screaming in terror, but those who sort of actively love snakes . . . are fairly rare among us humans. Why is this? Some snakes are certainly ugly; the strange arrow head of some of the snakes found in the Southwestern US are certainly striking and somewhat grotesque. *Some other snakes, however, are aesthetically quite beautiful. Later, in Proverbs, the author will bring up a snake in a positive context, as something too ‘wonderful’ I think he says, for him to understand, specifically, the ‘way of a serpent upon a rock,’ or the way that a snake moves across the ground. And he’s right; you see a snake slithering across the ground and . . . it’s kind of gorgeous in a way. *A snake swimming is even more aesthetically beautiful, but if I see that I really am beating it to the door, screaming. *Why do we find them so frightening? I hang out at the reptile house a lot at the zoo, testing my fear response. I like to get right up to the glass and, if possible, lock eyes with them. Consider them as they move, try to see what they’re thinking, feeling . . . and I am never anything less than amazed and puzzled by the black terror response that wells up in me. *It’s as though humanity shared some sort of deep, dark history with the snake; as though in our very deepest part, we collectively, sub-consciously recall a moment of absolute evil linked with the snake . . . as if . . . *You see what I mean about how perfect this is? *And this isn’t just Biblical. Snakes are villains all over the place, from the Epic of Gilgamesh, considered by some to be the world’s oldest written story, all the way up to . . . well, some book or movie from just last year probably had a scare moment with a snake in it. Let’s face it: the snake = stark, horrible terror. *I remember at the zoo one time seeing a live presentation of a snake. It was a beautiful albino sucker and it didn’t even have the ugly head. The light bounced off it quite beautifully. But I was sitting there, not five feet from the presenter who was sort of cradling the snake and holding it . . . *And I will never forget this moment. The snake sort of wiggled around and the keeper kind of fumbled it and anyway, it about halfway dropped. That is to say that about half of its body swung down. It didn’t get anywhere near the ground and the keeper never let go of it. It wasn’t poisonous; it was actually very friendly and acclimated to being around people. And yet . . . *I will never forget the absolutely primal flight response that exploded in my stomach as that snake’s body swung down. It was, specifically, that motion of it, of the snake’s body falling. It literally began in my stomach and just burst up my throat in a black wave of terror. I didn’t run out, but I certainly wanted to. I didn’t scream. I think I laughed nervously. But I’ll never forget that moment when a tiny animal like that snake managed to touch the animal buried deep inside me. And people say you should follow your emotions. Good Lord, no. *Wow, more rambling. Anyway, all to say I’m fascinated with snakes and their status as villains in our culture. And with our sort of pure revulsion at them; it’s not learned, it seems birthed or something. Even as a child, I was terrified of snakes. Not all kids are, which complicates matters I guess, but it’s still odd. *So, the serpent gets Eve to eat of the tree by telling her that the fruit of it will make her like God and then she takes some fruit to Adam which he also eats. Then, when they hear God coming, they realize they’ve done wrong and they hide. God calls them to account for their disobedience and arrogance. *So, because of their sin, several bad things happen; it hurts to give birth; you have to work with the earth to get it to yield a crop now; there is ‘enmity’ between humans and snakes; and the snake now crawls on its belly. *It’s interesting, all the paintings of this story show the snake in the usual snakelike form. But in reality, until after the fall, a snake was apparently different in form than it is now. It must have had legs. Strange. Well, I saw a guy try to draw that once and it looked really stupid, so maybe the artists had the right idea in the first place. *Of course that was in one of those Chick tracks, so . . . not exactly Durer style talent or anything. But still, it didn’t look right. It was bipedal for one thing and stood upright and had arms. I would think it would be more monkey like or something with maybe a really long tail . . . I mean a snake is so long . . . or I guess you’d say it was ‘tall,’ at least if it was bipedal . . . I’d think it would maybe have like many legs like a centi-THIS ENTIRE DEBATE IS POINTLESS *So, God makes clothing of fur for Adam and Eve and drives them out of the Garden, setting an angel with a flaming sword to keep watch to make sure that no human ever returns to the Garden of Eden. *I heard a preacher say once that the Garden of Eden hovered in mid-air above the earth like a helicopter and that it’s still floating invisibly over Jerusalem. What, I wonder, was the point of the earth then? *I swear, you go to church most of your life, you hear the wackiest things. *So, many people feel that God is kind of a jerk here. That he sets Adam and Eve up to fail and then punishes them when they disobey. I think of it more in this way. Consider that it isn’t so much that God creates the earth and then the garden and then he creates the Tree of Life in order to give Adam and Eve a way to screw up. Consider that it is the nature of existence that we must have a way to screw up. In order for us to be fully and truly human, we must come with a failure mechanism. God has, by this time, already created a race of perfect beings to serve him: the angels and so . . . **waving hand madly* But, Rogue, isn’t it true that the Devil was, in fact, originally an angel and that he . . . *SHUT UP HOW LONG DO YOU WANT THIS TO BE WE’LL GET TO THAT LAAAATTTEEERRRR *But *ahem* yes. That’s true, at least by some interpretations of Scripture. Well, set that aside, then. It’s part of any creation of God’s that it is going to have the possibility of failure built in. *waving hand madly* But, Rogue, isn’t God ultimately perfect and so if he can’t create a perfect creation then isn’t he . . . *OH GOD YES THAT’S RIGHT HE’S PERFECT AND WE WILL BE TOO JUST I WAS GOING TO GET TO THAT LAT – *Is it too late to back out of doing this thread? *Seriously, take it from me here and we’ll get back to it later: mankind has to have the ability to fail built into it. If it did not, it would also not be able to achieve the great things it has achieved. Consider that in order to reach the heights, we must be capable of falling to the depths. This is a pretty simple idea, I think. *I mean, it’s a premise. You can reject it, if you want. But we are all capable of great cruelties and great kindnesses, of great failures and great achievements. It seems to make some kind of sense to me that if you take away the curve, you have to take it from both ends. *So, then the Tree of Life isn’t a sort of delayed prank God puts to blow up in man’s face. It’s part of our nature. The nature of mankind is to be able to fail; otherwise, there would be no point to our success. So, the Tree has to be there. I mean, heck, if you want to get way out there, who’s to say a literal tree even existed? Mankind has always found plenty of ways to screw itself over with a lot less than a tree; mankind would manage to sin over a blade of grass, if they didn’t have a tree handy. I hope you get what I’m saying. *And as to the ‘punishment’ that God visits on Adam & Eve . . . consider the word ‘nature’ again and think that it might just be that it isn’t that God punishes sin with bad things, but that sin simply comes with consequences built in. It is part of the nature of sin, which I should define as giving in to our worst impulses, to come with built in hardships for us. *We all see these things every day. You want to do something, but your inner morality tells you that it’s not a good thing to do. You do it anyway, against your better judgment. You end up paying for it in self-loathing and self-recriminations. You castigate yourself for going against your own conscience. You’re in a cycle of guilt and anger. God isn’t punishing you for going against your inner conscience; your own inner conscience is resisting the way you contravened it. You continue on this path and eventually, you become a bad person. You hate the way you feel. God isn’t punishing you by making you feel this way; it’s a natural part of choosing to indulge your worst impulse. *You know, if you eat twelve cheeseburgers for every meal and rarely get out of bed, God isn’t punishing you when you balloon to thirteen hundred pounds and have to get crane lifted out of your own bedroom. That end was part of the deal you made with yourself. *The above progress relates to me in some areas as I’m sure it relates to you in some. I know whereof I speak. I was, for quite some time, more or less a rage addict. I could work myself into these towering, gruesome explosive angers, angers that would generally climax in some destructive act or act of self-harm. I understood that these base rages were not healthy, either mentally or physically; they were, in point of fact, turning me into a different person and into a less happy person. They were changing the chemistry of my body and of my brain; if indulged in for a long time, they would shorten my life appreciably and make what life I did have profoundly miserable and unhappy. Why did I persist in these rages then? I wish I knew. *I’m in a better place now, thank God. I still struggle with anger at times and with other selfish acts: pride, arrogance, fear, a cutting, cruel tongue. These are my struggles. And so I have come to understand that God does not want me to, for instance, stop being angry for some arbitrary reason; He wants me to stop being angry because being angry comes with serious consequences, consequences of misery and angst right now today. God did not punish me with these things when I was angry; they simply came with the anger. Any user of serious drugs can tell you the same thing; our petty sins are the spiritual equivalent of hard drugs. We crave them for the high, but they come with an unbelievable low built in. Anger gave me enough bad trips for me to want to kick it. That’s because anger, at least the misdirected, arrogant anger I was prone to, was and is a sin. *So, there you see it. I hope. God did not set us up to fail; it is an inescapable part of our nature to fail. God does not punish sin; the nature of sin is that it comes with negative consequences. *Well, anyway, three chapters of the Bible and my Word tells me that I’m at eleven pages here. That’s more than enough theology for today. I hope this thread is of interest. If you’re interested in more of my common-sense, pragmatic approach to heady theological concepts and my witty, cliff-note style highlighting of the Bible’s major themes and stories, let me know! *Okay, so one thing that I want to do is to use each Biblical reading as a way to kind of springboard into another great work of art. I have a funny feeling that this is going to be hard for some of these readings. But I’d like to challenge myself. *So, without further ado: Further Exploration – since we spent so much time this time around babbling about the Biblical story of creation and the scientific theories around creation, it seems a good time to recognize an eminently readable, always entertaining book about science. That would be Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, which, as the title indicates, starts from the very beginning. *Next time, we’ll move on through the next four chapters of Genesis. Cain & Abel usher in one of the Bible’s great motifs: warring siblings! Plus our first genealogy! A Biblical mystery I’ve never been able to figure out! The favorite Bible passage of UFO conspiracy theorists! And the beginning of the story of Noah & the Ark! I Might Go to Hell for This: A Chronological Journey through the Bible!