Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Between Eden and Sodom
Between Eden and Sodom
Faith is believing, wanting and trusting that Jesus Christ is more powerful and more real than any other structure of power
What are the rival structures of power, the powers and principalities?
The root of these rival power structures is the human desire to be self-sufficient. When humans want to “be like God, knowing good and evil,” they inevitably create distorted structures of power which prove to be incompatible with God’s perfect knowledge of good and evil. The book of Genesis presents two rival proto-types as exemplars of the contrast between perfect faith and perfect disobedience. The Garden of Eden is originated by God and his vision of its beauty and perfection. For Adam and Eve to till the ground and work the garden they had to have perfect faith in God’s vision of the Garden. The Garden was first envisioned by God then created with materials that originated with God. The humans who tended to the crops and animals in the Garden of Eden were in perfect communication with God and his vision. The result of this perfect synchronization between God and human beings was a garden that contained the fruit of eternal life.
Sodom, on the other hand was created and crafted out of the vision of human beings. It was built with bricks fashioned by human beings. The mores and practices of the people were based upon the vision and understanding of human beings. These visions and understandings probably were not that different from those who built the Tower of Babel. They wanted to make a name for themselves. Sodom, like all cities was to be a center of power, where human customs, human buildings, human tools and human laws held domain over nature, God’s creation. When God’s angels arrived at the city the entire male populace conspired to rape them, arguing to Lot that the laws and customs of their city gave them the right to do so. The result of this complete alienation between God’s understanding of good and the human understanding of good is the deadly firestorm that obliterates the city.
Gethsemane is a garden surrounded by a city of impressive buildings. One can argue that Jesus is hiding in the Gethsemane in the same or similar manner to the way in which Adam and Eve hid amidst the trees from God and the angels sheltered in Lot’s house from the population of Sodom. Extending this line of thinking one can argue that Jerusalem’s destruction in 70AD is the delayed firestorm, resulting from a population choosing to assault God. Yet, Gethsemane is not just Sodom it is also Eden, the place where God’s will is done. On entering Gethsemane, Jesus becomes “deeply distressed and troubled, saying, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” He comes to the point where the impending reality is unavoidable. The people for which he has spent his life teaching, preaching and performing miracles are about to arrest him, condemn him, torture hi, kill him and send him to hell. In human terms his life is meaningless. The ministry he built is about to be shattered. The leaders of his people are going to condemn him as an evil magician who led many astray. His life and his sacrifice will end with no tangible benefit to anyone.
“Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Facing death, the death resulting from Adam and Eve’s contempt for God’s will and eating the forbidden fruit, Jesus pleads for relief, but submits to God’s will, countering Adam and Eve’s contempt of God’s will. Gethsemane synchronizes Eden and Sodom in that it is the place where God’s will for Jesus to die on the cross coincides with the human will for Jesus to die on the cross. For the first time since the fall God’s will and the human will are united on the narrow issue of Jesus’s death. This unity creates the fruit of eternal life, at least in Jesus Christ. When death, which was created by Adam and Eve’s disobedience, tries to swallow Jesus Christ in hell it finds that it lacks the power to hold and destroy Jesus Christ. In fact, it finds that Jesus Christ’s presence in hell threatens to destroy the entire system and structure of death. Death is actually the articulation of complete contempt of God’s will and absolute separation from God and his will.
The denizens of hell gain access to God and the fruit of eternal life through Jesus Christ and acceptance of God’s perfect will in Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus Christ is expelled from hell. To death, Jesus is a virus that infects and disables all systems. Where the arrest, trial, torture and execution of Jesus Christ is the narrative of Sodom, the risen Jesus Christ is the narrative of Eden. In both narratives, the unity between the human will and God’s will is maintained in Jesus Christ.
How do the living gain access to God and the fruit of eternal life?
“The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe in the good news.”
1. “The time is fulfilled.” Original sin is an explosion that blasts human will and God’s on radically different trajectories. When Jesus says “the time is fulfilled, he is saying that the human will and God’s will are nearing a point of convergence, if not collision.
2. “The Kingdom of God has come near.” When Jesus says this he, is talking about a place where God’s perfect will is done. The proximity of such a place to intrinsically imperfect human beings creates tension and expectation.
3. “Repent!” Prior to Jesus Christ’s presence on earth, humans had only one way to respond to the call of God. That way involved using human devices like covenant, law, custom and institution to render the immense and uncontrollable power of God compatible with human society. When Jesus Christ, the fusion of God and human being, enters the human domain of the earth, human beings are presented with the opportunity of turning away from the human understanding of the good and toward the God’s vision and plan for their lives.
“Believe in the Good News!” For each moment that a human being lives, he or she must decide which reality is true and which reality is false. Humans tend to default toward the reality of Sodom, a place where human customs, human buildings, human tools and human laws held domain over nature, God’s creation. Yet many human beings feel a hunger for reality in which there is perfect synchronization between God and human beings. The good news, exemplified by Jesus Christ, is that such synchronization is possible. Believing in the good news means holding at the core of one’s being, heart, mind, and soul, the absolute conviction that God’s perfect will and a human’s perfect relationship with him is more real than anything made with human hands, endorsed by human society or enforced by human law.