A Biblical Worldview: What Went Wrong?
David gave this talk at Woodside Church (Bedford) in 2010, as part of their "A Biblical Worldview" series. Click here to download it.
We're currently in a series on Biblical worldview, and will be looking at Genesis to establish a Biblical worldview on issues including:
- Blessings and Curses
- Marriage and Family
- Individual and Community
- Honour Guilt Shame Anxiety etc
Worldview is the deepest level of culture, it's our deepest beliefs about life. If you haven't already, do listen and catch up with the first part in the series, A Biblical Worldview: Culture & Worldview.
Several authors refer to the questions that worldviews answer.
- Who are we?
- Where are we?
- What is wrong?
- What is the solution?
Thus, for example, a Western, materialist worldview on these questions would be:
- We are purely physical beings, the product of an evolutionary process, started by random events.
- We are on an earth and universe which have no point of reference outside of themselves – i.e. No creator.
- Because of certain psychological processes we do not manage ourselves or our environment very well.
- We need to call upon our essential goodness and learn how to manage things better – various formulae can be put forward to help us do that in the realms e.g. of ecology, communism, capitalism, psychoanalysis and psychotherapy etc.
That said, worldview is essentially a narrative not a list of abstract propositions. Because worldview is a narrative, a story of our world, the Bible gives a different narrative in order to undermine wrong worldviews and give a Biblical worldview.
Today we will cover the story of “What went wrong” in the world. It's an alternative worldview to other stories in surrounding cultures, such as one where a man found a plant whereby he could avoid death. Unfortunately while he was swimming in a pool, a snake came along and swallowed the plant, so taking away the chance of immortality. In that story, there's no clear right and wrong, no choice and responsibility, just fate and circumstances why death comes etc.
God had created a man from the dust and breathed life into him to give him life. As we have seen before he also created woman out of man’s rib. On the one hand, he was like other animals – having breath of life from God, on the other hand he was different because man and woman together had been made in the image of God – intended to reflect what God is like into the world and with a different level of creativity and responsibility.
God had planted a garden for man and woman to live in. It had beautiful fruit trees to look at and to eat, water to refresh the ground, rivers, and jewels. A beautiful place. We learn it was the first temple. As we read the Bible, other temples were like a symbol of this garden with trees, water, jewels, flowers and God walking amongst His people, just like God walked in this garden. A temple, a garden, a beautiful place for us to enjoy what God has made and His presence. In the centre of the garden were 2 particular trees, the tree of life (living forever), immortality and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God said to the man you can enjoy every tree in the garden but don’t eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil because there are some things just for God to know and decide. Man only had to obey one negative command.
The snake was very crafty or shrewd (there's a key piece of wordplay in Hebrew on previous sentence). He came up to the woman “Did God really say” and he exaggerated, “you can’t eat of any of these trees?” In other words – what a harsh killjoy God. The woman replied – again exaggerating – “We can eat trees but we can’t eat of the tree in the centre or even touch it or we will die.” The snake said – you won’t die – God just realises you will be like Him, having knowledge like Him.
The woman looked again – the fruit was good to eat, beautiful to look at, and will give us wisdom – all our desires – beauty, consumption (have it) and be able to make our decisions. She ate it and gave it to her husband who was with her. Immediately shame came in – they were ashamed of themselves. Nakedness is a picture of shame, instead of innocence. Sowed fig leaves – they're big, but leave embarrassing gaps!
God came down as was usual – when cool. They hid – ashamed, guilty. God asked questions – where are you? The presence they used to enjoy now caused fear. Have you eaten of the tree? The Man blamed his wife.God asked her – woman blamed the snake – not my fault either.
God brought a curse on the snake:
- At war with the woman and her descendants.
- You will bruise his heel but he will crush your head.
God then pointed out life would become more difficult – always pain in childbirth but increased – bad relationships even between husband and wife. For Adam – work which was previously enjoyable is now tough – agriculture is hard. They are given clothes of skin – a sacrifice, a life of an animal taken – better than fig leaves. They are banned from the garden so that they would not live for ever in sin. Now a cherubim guarded the presence of God – not a dimply little child – a lion/man shaped angel with a flashing sword. It's separation from the presence of God.
THE TEACHING – WHAT WENT WRONG?
What is the Biblical worldview about what is wrong?
“In this, the first story of the Bible, Hebrew narrative Art is seen at its highest.” - Gordon Wenham
“And perhaps this is the greatest tribute that can be paid to the writer: he communicates to all – young and old, the educated and the unsophisticated. He describes God’s relations with men, not in the high-flown abstract theological jargon that needs special linguistic aptitudes and a long training to acquire, but in a simple vocabulary drawn from peasant life. Yet the ideas he puts so clearly in story form have theological ramifications that have stretched the minds of the greatest thinkers down the ages.”
- There is knowledge that's only appropriate to God – a theme throughout scripture
- “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” Deut 29:29
- “Who has understood the mind of the Lord, or instructed him as his counsellor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?” Isaiah 40:13-14
- Our happiness and blessing is in remaining in our place of obedience and dependence not in thinking we have wisdom to decide our own destiny apart from God.
- This sin was not sex, but pride and desire for autonomous decision making.
- It was the attitude seen in stark reality in the spiritual world (devil and demons) and in the physical world in dictators and cruel rulers. Hence symbolic language of “King of Tyre”:
“Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because you think you are wise, as wise as a god.” Eze 28:6
“Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz, and emerald, chrysolite onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of Gold; on the day you were created they were prepared.” Eze 28:12 ‑13
You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Through all your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendour. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.” Eze 28:15-17
- The snake represents Satan as explained later in scripture
“The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” (Rev 12:9).
- Conflict is introduced as a result of this wrongdoing (sin).
- Between man and his wife – blame and conflict.
- (Later) between brothers – another story!
- Between mankind and the snake – spiritual warfare, temptation, control, domination.
- Curse comes on the snake and the ground – not here on man and woman. All of creation affected – hence groaning.
All of the human race becomes affected. There is a solidarity about the human race. Adam’s sin involved us all. We all sinned in Adam. Adam not only this individual person but the head of the human race. It is not that I sin, therefore become a sinner. I sinned in Adam therefore as a sinner I will sin. It is not a very Western way of looking at things but it is a Biblical way. (E.g. don’t have to teach your children to do wrong). Children are “innocent” in the sense that they have not reached the age of responsibility (don’t know their right hand from their left) but they are still in Adam. Though we are in Adam, we are still responsible for our actions. This is a battle with Satan for the whole human race.
All are excluded from the presence of God – later temples etc had a division – the place where God lived was kept separate as in Eden Eternal life is not within our grasp.
However, there is hope of God putting it right. The “seed of the woman” – woman’s offspring is just a hint here. Because much clearer that the woman’s offspring would triumph in the conflict over what the snake represents. Fulfilled in Jesus – the offspring of woman and not man! Other hints come in the clothes of skin – started introducing the sacrifice system. Why all that detail in the Old Testament? It's looking forward to the lamb of God. Adam, like Satan before him, wanted to be like God. The world was put right, the curse broken, wrong forgiven by somebody who would do the opposite:
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!” Phil 2:5-8.
Defeat of the enemy's strategy is always in the opposite spirit. Pride can only be conquered by humility:
“Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.” Matt 5:5.
“This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When the LORD God made the earth and the heaven - and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground - the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2:4-9
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die’." Genesis 2:15–17
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?” The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?" The man said, "The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?” The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."
To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:1-24
- Adam’s original sin was to take control of his own destiny instead of depending on God, and living for God.
- Wrong ambition, coveting, materialism, self-centredness, controlling/domineering are all manifestations of this sin from which all other wrong actions proceed.