So the quandry I posed to you people was this:
- Now, if all of you would put aside your well-catechized systematics for 10 minutes today, I want you to re-read Genesis 3 and tell us in 10,000 characters or less what the purpose or objective of Genesis 3 is.
Sorry all. You all did really fine things summarizing the narrative. Not one of you really went after why these events matter. Daniel, btw, came really, really close -- which is why he's a side-kick.
Look: in broad-brush form, Gen 3 opens with the serpent asking Eve about what God told her to do, Eve exaggerates God's command, and the serpent then tells her that God is afraid she will become like Him. So Eve eats the fruit because it seems like a good idea, and her husband takes the fruit because she handed it to him, and they both are immediately ashamed.
Now, think about this: while He isn't even really present in a stage-blocking of this scene, the main character of this exchange is God. What did God say? What did God mean? What does God intend? Can you be like God? The temptation of Eve and the fall of Adam is centered on who is God, both in the sense of identity, and in the sense of authority.
And as God then enters, stage left, He asks all the questions and then He hands down all the final answers. That is, Adam and Eve have done something and God does something greater. God doesn't ask, "So what should I do with you now? Let's figure out something equitable because I need a gardener, and you people sometimes do good work."
God hands down both judgment and mercy, and what He says -- that's what goes. The snake crawls on his belly, the woman has pain and a striving for her husband, and the man is cursed to toil rather than to have free dominion over the world. God says it, and there you go: it's done.
So then consider it with me: while it is true then that man is a fallen thing, and God promises to provide a savior, the purpose of Genesis 3 is to point out that God is fully in charge of the events. That is, while man can disobey God, God is still able to provide justice to disobedience, and what He says, goes.
This is important for many reasons, but one reason stands out way head-and-shoulders above the rest: the credibility of the Christian faith.
Some people will make this story out to be about whether or not a snake can talk. Some will make it out to be about anthropology in the genealogical or archeological sense. But this story is not about the scientific origins of mankind: it is about God reigning over the universe which He made out of nothing.
The story at the beginning of Genesis, frankly, is not told to be something like a court reporter's transcript of things -- and we can admit this without forfeiting our claims of inerrancy. What inerrancy does not mean is that Scripture can only be one kind of method of communication -- such as a transcript. You know: if Scripture can only be read as a transcript of events, it leaves a lot of stuff out. If it's a transcript, it seems to be a sort of excessively-edited transcript which in the end has omitted details we could have used.
So when we say that the purpose of Genesis 3 (for example) is to show that God is in charge of the universe, we can say that because Genesis 1 is about the fact that the universe itself relies on God for everything, top to bottom. That's why Genesis 1 is written the way it is, why Genesis 2 is written the way it is, and why these come before Genesis 3 -- why Genesis 3, clearly, doesn't lead off the narrative.
Now, in that, it's interesting that Genesis 3 doesn't rely in the least on how many days transpired in Genesis 1. So when we want to talk about how all this stuff began, and how we got to today from there, it seems a little, um, ignorant of our own story to try to beat people into submission over 7 literal days when the number of days is not the point of the story.
And before we go forward one more word, I have to also say this so that the whole internets doesn't implode: nobody who knows me thinks I deny a literal 7-day creation. Most people who know me are somewhat blinkered by my obstinance regarding what I consider the undeniable fact that God created the universe in 6 days, and on the 7th day, He rested. I believe it.
The problem is that the fight for such a thing doesn't really begin in Genesis. Genesis doesn't hand you a calendar and ask you to memorize it before it will tell you any more about God: it simply lists an ordinal creation (that is, a series of events), and reiterates creation as a network of cardinal relationships, and then goes on to make the point that God controls it all in spite of man's disobedience.
You don't have to believe that Gen 1-2 started on a Sunday and ended on a Saturday to get that Gen 1 is talking about the fact that God created all things, and placed man at the top of creation as His chief minister to creation.
And let me say this: you don't win any apologetic merit badges by demanding a 7-day creation when the point of that story has nothing to do with a calendar week. You in fact should take at least one demerit for doing so -- and you will, from those you are seeking to evangelize.
"yeah, but!" comes the response for many, if not all, of you loyal readers. "Yeah but what about the word 'day'? Don't we need to get very interested in how the word 'yom' is used in Genesis 1 so we can finally put to bed how old the universe is?"
Aha, says I. How old the universe is? Where in Genesis do we find the intent of the author to express how old the universe is?
You can sleep on that this weekend while I go about the business of tending to sick family and my poor bookstore. And since you're right now so calendar-obsessed, figure out which day is the Lord's day, and get with His people in His house this weekend so you can prove -- at least to yourself -- that the objective of Genesis 3 means something to you other than the means to win an argument.