Friday, April 5, 2013

What Happened in the Garden of Eden?

What happened in the Garden of Eden? Was the fall necessary or not?

There are really only two conclusions to consider regarding the Fall of Adam. Either God wanted it to happen or he didn't.   Was this the beginning of sin and evil or a means to introduce mortality?

The existence of evil and suffering in our world has been a paradox to theologians and believers in relation to God's goodness. To reconcile these apparent contradictions requires an understanding of what the war in heaven was about and the reason for the fall.

Job stated: What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? Job 2:10 Where did this opposition between good and evil begin?  What was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and why was it placed there?

Is our life here on earth an existence forced upon us, causing all to suffer to some degree, or is it a place of freedom where we experience the consequences of interacting free will and individual choice?   What does the garden story tell us about the plan of God the Father for his children?

The Garden of Eden was not the intended residence for God's children for all of eternity.  Orthodox theologians say that it was. How is it they concluded that our eternal paradise as it were would include a being such as Satan as a resident?  This is just one of the errors of philosophical reasoning of traditional theologians and Bible scholars.

From the book of Revelation, we learn that certain beings existed before the creation of the Earth.  It speaks of a war in heaven where a fallen angel and a third of the hosts (called angels or stars) were cast out. How is it that a war developed even the pre-mortal heaven where God resides? 

If a war was allowed to develop in that pre-mortal realm, then freedom must have existed among intelligent beings at that time. The Bible tells us that Jesus was foreordained from before the foundation of the world to be the Savior of the world. Did this war have something to do with his calling as the Son of God and the fact that good and evil were at odds with each other even then?

Did the beings of which Jesus was to be the Savior exist before their birth? How was it that Jesus was foreordained to save us unless Adam and Eve introduced a condition that necessitated salvation? They were the world's first Christians giving us mortal life and an opportunity to receive the gifts of mercy and grace that the Savior would bring.

Christians generally believe that Satan was an angel of high position in a pre-mortal realm. Other beings, referred to as angels existed there as well.  Satan was known as Lucifer, a son of the morning. The Bible tells us that in the war in heaven Satan was cast out by Michael and his angels.  How is it that there was a war in the presence of God?  It would seem that a very real sense of freedom and choice existed.  

Christian apologists and philosophers have erroneously concluded that God randomly created various types of beings such as angels and humans. Not having a correct theological understanding they have invented doctrines to support inaccurate opinions.   The only beings that have ever been created are sons and daughters of God.  

We are all spiritual offspring of our eternal parents.  The Eden story tells us that we are created in mortality in the image of God, male and female.  So it is also in the spirit. Jesus existed as a spirit being and his birth in mortality and our birth were necessary for our salvation. God is not a single parent.  Eve or woman was not a new invention or an afterthought in the Garden of Eden.  We all existed prior to our mortal birth with Jesus and our Heavenly Father.

Even though Satan was a spirit son of God, his position and character was nothing like that of Jesus Christ.   Jesus was the firstborn of the Father's children and developed his godly character before he ever came to earth. He was chosen and ordained to be our Savior and was a member of the eternal Godhead at that time.  

Satan was cast out for false aspirations and precepts.  He wanted to rob the Father's children of freedom by undermining agency.  He wanted the glory of the Father for a misguided effort to stop us from sinning in our mortal probation.  

Jesus, on the other the other hand would come to earth, obtain a physical body from a mortal mother and God the Father and live a perfect life.  He would offer redemption through faith in his name and could do so because of his perfection. He would overcome death and bring the resurrection to all mankind. He would also make it possible for all to conquer evil in overcoming Satan's temporary position of power as a fallen being. Satan would not obtain a physical body and eventually be banished to outer darkness.

As we go forward to the creation of the earth and its first inhabitants we see a setting where freedom again comes into account.  Initially it is very limited. Adam is given a commandment which both he and Eve understood. It is to not partake of a particular tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  It was in essence designated as a tree of death, which stood in in opposition to the Tree of Life.  They were told they could eat from all of the trees in the Garden except that one.
This was the limit of their freedom.  The term "Free Will", which is an independent opportunity to choose is a term often misunderstood in theology.  Free will requires two key things.  Choices and a place to act them out.  There must exist beings to act and something to be acted upon.  

There must also be opposition or selections that oppose each other with consequences pertaining to the choice. Earth is such a place.  It can only be the will of the person if they are eternal beings otherwise they are nothing but pawns of creation with both their existence and will being the result of their creator.

Adam and Eve did understand the possible outcome of their choice because it was explained to them by God. They were told that they would die if they partook of the one tree.  Conceivably they could have avoided it and lived forever in the garden.  What about us? 

Were we created out of nothingness, as mainstream theologians teach and placed in this environment of pain and suffering as an act of force because our first parents chose wrong? How could such actions be attributed to a loving God?

True justice would dictate that we have the same opportunity as they did to understand the consequences of our choices.  When were the consequences and the possibility of condemnation by our choices in mortality explained to us?  Unless our will and spirit existed prior to our earth life, they weren't.  They were explained to us and we did agree to them in the premortal time.

The theology of choice and freedom is not real if free will as it is called is instilled or infused in a creature at the time of their mortal birth or in the case of Adam and Eve, their creation.  This doctrine implies that God is currently creating many future people to an eternal damnation of which he knows they are headed.  Why even create them if they are headed to hell based on a will that he gave them and his knowledge of their actions?

The ability for a being to choose and its potential for evil cannot have a creation, otherwise it would be attributed to God as its cause. The will of any individual must pre-exist the creation of its potential to act. This is to say that eternal spiritual matter, be it light, truth or intelligence of some kind exists and is subject to the all powerful nature that God the Father has to give the ability to develop.

Classical theism does not accept the eternal existence of matter or intelligence in spite of the contradiction in theology that their doctrine of creation exhihilo produces. Because we are eternal beings, not created with no possibility of extinction,  mankind continues to come into existence as we exercise our own procreative powers.  Eternal spiritual beings are enjoined to a mortal tabernacle to form the soul of man.

Our existence in mortality and the choices made here bless us with the chance of progressing to a better state of existence by passing through this lesser state.  Christ said he came that we might have life more abundantly.  (John 10:10) 

This could not happen in a neutral state of existence, without freedom or without a prior existence of the spirit.  Christian Bible scholars and philosophers say that man is eternally limited to being inferior creatures.  They place limits on the saving grace of Christ.

The Garden Choice-To eat or not to eat

How long were Adam and Eve in the garden before partaking of the fruit?  It could have been millions of years or a few months. Either way they seemed to stay away from it until Satan was allowed to tempt them.  

The tree was in the middle of the garden, not in a remote orchard.  It was one tree having the knowledge of good and evil, not two trees, one of good and one of evil. It stood as the bitter fruit of death as opposed to the tree of life.  

Eating fruit doesn't necessarily do any of the things Satan tempted them with unless God chooses the consequence, which he did to make his purposes come to pass.  Adam and Eve's disobedience was not necessarily sin.  There was no evil in their act.  They invoked the consequence of the fall based on the word of God that they were given and brought sin and death for them and their posterity. 

Adam and Eve could not have sinned in choosing the fruit.  They knew no other law to establish sin.  There was no adultery, stealing, bearing false witness etc.  They had dominion over all things. 

The tree of death (good and evil) was an innocuous tree.  Not bad in itself, but was set as a rule or boundary by God.  The penalty for breaking the rule was mortality and death. Grave yes but they were taught that beforehand.  God chose the penalty to suit his purposes and that was to introduce them to mortality and the experience of learning by choice and consequence through freedom. 

By Adam listening to Eve after she partook, he did not sin.  He heard her confession and realized that he was not supposed to be alone. They had been married in Garden and he was to cleave unto her.  Adam had to partake to keep that commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. 

With the fall they were now capable of exercising faith in their Redeemer and the glorious eternal life he would deliver.  It would appear that Adam had pretty much decided not to eat the fruit on his own. 

God allowed Satan to hasten the process needed in order to begin the real salvation of Adam's and Eve's souls.  Their bodies wouldn't be perfected until they were resurrected. Their character would also be perfected through knowledge, choice, repentance, mercy and grace.  

Redemption would be wrought by faith in a redeemer, even the Son of God. Adam and Eve were the world's first Christians. God gave them laws applicable to mortality and they taught their children.

Orthodox theologians don't understand what happened in the garden. Their theology makes Jesus a contingency or back up plan. If they teach that man was to remain in the garden and the fall was a mistake, they deny the need for Jesus' atonement.  They fail to recognize that because Adam and Eve were subject to a future fall, their bodies were in fact corruptible even though immortal at the time.

Satan induced what Adam and Eve resisted on their own.  God knew his evil intent and used it against him. Jesus was the only plan for salvation all along, from before the foundation of the world. 

The reason the garden setting existed was so that the sorrow of mortality and death was chosen voluntarily by Adam and Eve, though induced by a tempter.  It was not forced upon them by God. The two choices before them were the limit of their freedom at the time.  Their choice brought Jesus Christ to the earth and salvation to the children of the Eternal Father.

If the Garden was to be the eternal home of man we would have forgone the wonders of the kingdom of God and his heavens. Remember Satan also came and went from the garden.  Would the kingdom of God include a devil roaming in and out of it?  The purpose of the eternal plan is to overcome evil and banish it to its own end, not to put up with it.

The purpose of mortality was to know good and evil.  The Gods, Jesus and the Father, did not say after they partook: Look man has become like Satan.  They said behold the man has become as one of us (plural), to know the difference between good and evil.  

Our purpose here on earth is to see if we will overcome evil by our own choice and choose to follow Jesus. The war in heaven continues here and now over freedom and choice.  

We are given power over Satan and his hosts through faith in Christ.  He will be overcome and cast to his final prison in the end.   
It will be done in the same manner as the pre-earth war. "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony". Revelation 12:11

Perspective on Evil, Suffering and Injustice in the World- How Moral Agency, Free Will and Christianity Integrate

One of the perplexing questions about life that philosophers, theologians and thinking people, in general, have considered in all ages, ha...