"Like those who have received a contaminated blood transfusion, we have inherited Adam's guilt and corruption...which means as well as being capable of incredible artistic, intellectual and cultural accomplishments, we are also capable, due to the fall, of unbelievable cruelty and harm". Michael Horton - Rebels without a Cause.
Theology these days can often appear like the ocean on a lengthy crossing in an old sailing ship - you're constantly scanning the horizon for a smudge that may offer the hope of somewhere solid to drop anchor and plant your feet. That's why C S Lewis' sage advice about making proper use of the map (the scriptures) is vital - you're certainly not going to make land if you don't, and getting to a point where we're substituting the real for illusion is a terrible situation.
That is what troubles me about some aspects of contemporary (often termed 'post' evangelical) teaching. Are certain ideas leading us to safe harbour, or leaving us adrift?
I'm certainly not against thinking hard or asking questions - it's key to encourage genuine growth to get ourselves and others to test what we believe and why - but some of the answers reached at present are, well, worrying.
To provide an example, in his popular books, 'Velvet Elvis' and 'Sex God', Rob Bell makes some statements about the issue of creation and the fall of humanity:
"God has left the world unfinished. And with every action, we are continuing the ongoing creation of the world" (SG Page 64). This connects in measure to a statement on the page before this - "in the creation poem that begins the bible...the movement of creation is away from chaos toward greater harmony".
"Is the greatest truth about Adam and Eve and the fruit that it happened or it happens...we have all taken of the fruit" (VE Page 58).
Now, I want to say here that I understand what the writer is seeking to aim for in these and other passages. Rob Bell's 'shake the tree' approach to how we relate to what God is seeking to say to us is most certainly of value, and we do indeed need to be examining ourselves in that light, but there is, equally, a need to see the historical connection to these truths.
We live at a time when its popular to dismiss the early chapters of Genesis as outdated myth, and of no bearing upon us, but that is a grave error.
Over the last few weeks, I have been re-reading Dr David Rohl's astonishing and controversial work, 'Legend - The Genesis of Civilisation'. Whilst approaching the subject entirely from a scholastic perspective (and therefore reaching some conclusions concerning God and theology I would reject), he is convinced that the book of Genesis is essentially a genuine historical record - that the Patriarchs were real men, and that Adam, Eve and Eden were entirely real. The archaeological material he produces to support this view, from a range of ancient cultures, is astonishing, and certainly grants a case to be made that the record of Genesis is no mere myth.
It's with this in mind that I think we need to be careful about how we approach and discuss the Biblical material concerning Creation, Eden and the Fall.
There was a 'completeness' to God's work on the 7th day.
There was a place where we once openly communed with our Creator.
There was a moment when we became exiled as a race from that paradise.
It's because of these realities, that God is now at work in Redemption.