Understanding God’s Love and the Sin that changed the World
ATTENTION: You are reading the introductory chapter in a blog to book series about Genesis (God in the Garden). If you are interested in learning when the book will be released or discussing anything said in these posts, please reach out through the contact page.
Who I am
First off, I am not a theologian or a scholar. I’m not the pastor of a large congregation or a well-known Christian author. I am not even that smart. In school, I was a below-average student. I don’t have any prestigious degrees. My most significant achievement was getting a BA in media studies. Which I would argue is worse than no degree at all. All it shows is that I was foolish enough to spend money on a degree in media studies. Does anyone even really know what that is? I have one, and I’m not even really sure.
I am just your ordinary everyday person. Over the past several years, I’ve operated a couple of small video production businesses and wrote some fiction for fun, but nothing incredibly successful. There is nothing extraordinary or unique about me. But the one thing I have going for me is God. He can use simple, ordinary, little people to do incredible things.
So, why am I writing this?
Because there is a fundamental misunderstanding about God in our world, I know about it because I believed it once. I grew up in a Christian home, but God was nothing more than a badge to me. As far back as I can remember, I struggled with Christianity’s precepts.
How could I worship a God that seemed so unfair? A God that cast into hell those that refused to believe in Jesus even if they were good people. I wanted to believe. I wanted to, but I could never get past this one hurdle. The idea that many of my friends at school would end up in hell simply because they didn’t believe a certain way was troubling.
How could I believe in something that seemed so unjust and unloving? How could I worship that? So, for most of my life, I went through the motions. I called myself a Christian because I grew up in a Christian home, but Jesus was never at the center of my life. It was never foundational. I wore my Christianity like a badge or treated it like I was in a special club, but it was never anything more than that. I didn’t have a personal relationship, and it didn’t affect my heart any different than those who never knew Jesus.
When I went off to college, I felt like someone caught in between two different worlds. At times my nonchristian friends would attack God and the authenticity of the Bible. They would ask how a loving God could do such terrible things (kill or curse people)?
I didn’t have real answers. I could see things from their perspective but simultaneously tried to defend God with what I learned in Sunday school (while butchering it). I was a fool trying to defend something I didn’t believe in, simply because I had Catholic guilt about it. My attempts to explain it were futile and probably did more harm than good. However, I still couldn’t allow myself to participate in their mockery of God. Not because I didn’t want to betray God, but because I couldn’t betray my family (more importantly, my deceased mom).
It was in this environment that framed my young adult life. Then in my mid 20’s, I somehow ended up marrying a born-again Christian. Just as I had done with my parents, I went through the motions. I said the right things and put on the show, going to church and everything.
I figured if I had done it for this long, I could do it until the day that I was dead. I could even pass on this imaginary God to our kids one day and leave them the same problem. It was the least I could do for my mom and my new wife. Yet, I struggled. I struggled with many things, as we all do throughout our lives. There was a darkness inside me that I couldn’t seem to escape.
It was in this that I recognized how broken I was. There was no way I could ever overcome the temptations and struggles that existed within me. I knew if I continued down the path I was on, there would be incredible pain ahead not only for me but for my wife and our marriage. I knew that it wouldn’t survive. I knew that eventually, I would do things that would hurt her and destroy our relationship. That whether she was able to forgive me and reconcile or not wouldn’t matter. I was too broken, flawed, and weak to change. It was impossible.
Then a miracle happened. Around that time, we started attending a new church. It was different than any church I had ever been to before. The pastor didn’t preach the same old messages that I had heard in my church or the churches my wife and I had gone to. He challenged me and spoke to the struggle I was going through. As he called people up to the front of the church to receive the Lord and accept him, I seriously thought about it. I understood God’s love in a new way after hearing those messages, but I stood there with my feet planted. I was afraid of what others might think. After all, as far as they knew, I always had Christ in my heart. If I was to go up to the altar now, would they think I was a hypocrite? Would they think I was a liar? I was, but I couldn’t bear for them to know that.
So, I came to Christ in the coward’s way. I didn’t do it publicly at first. It didn’t even happen that day. It was months later when I finally couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t take living with myself and who I was becoming. Seeing my weakness and brokenness and inability to change (knowing where I was headed), I got down on my knees in our little apartment bathroom. I repented, confessed Jesus as Lord, and asked God to change me (believing He would). What happened next couldn’t be explained any other way than by God. I never felt anything like it before, and I’ve never felt anything like it since.
I felt God’s light shine down on me. It penetrated every part of my being. It was painful. There was no place for the darkness that clouded my heart to hide. It fought against Him. It tried to hold on for several minutes but unable to stand the light, it finally fled. The person that remained on that bathroom floor wasn’t the same. He was changed forever, transformed by Christ. For the first time ever, he felt true peace.
To a non-Christian, that must sound insane. I know what it sounds like. It’s insane, but that’s what happened. I felt this overpowering force, this evil, this thing that I thought I could never control, was chased away by Jesus, and what was left was an unshakable peace. I felt the peace of the Lord rest on me. I was different. God forgave my sins, washed me clean, and made me new.
After that, it seemed unfair not to give God a chance. How could I believe those things about Him after what had happened to me? I started reading the Bible with new eyes. Not as someone with preconceptions but as someone trying to understand what God was telling us. Why did God seem cruel in one section of the Bible and loving in another? Why did some parts of it seem to contradict itself? Why was there so much confusion and completely different interpretations of the same passages?
Addressing The Big Lie
I’m not a scholar, but I’ve learned that God has and will reveal answers to us as we seek Him. There isn’t enough time to go over the whole Bible here, but I can address a small part of Genesis 1-3.
For everything that I once believed and for all the arguments my nonchristian friends had against Christ, I realized came from a critical misunderstanding of God’s love in the Bible. And that critical misunderstanding starts all the way back at the very beginning, in the Garden. My purpose for writing this is to address the fundamental misrepresentation some of us have of God and His intent, to show that His love is present even in Genesis. The God in the New and Old Testament are the same. He is not cruel, selfish, or threatened by us. He is unchanging, loving, and does not contradict himself.
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die. – Genesis 2:17
There are two main theories about the story of Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit. Which one you believe depends on if you come from a secular or a Judeo-Christian perspective.
Christians have built a case that the purpose of the tree of knowledge was for our free will. It’s only through God prohibiting us from eating the fruit that we have free will. Only when we have the choice to rebel against God can we indeed be free. The tree was there because it was essential to us having free will. God loves us so much that he gives us a choice, even though we may pick our selfish desires over His will. It’s what I’ll refer to as the Free Will Doctrine. To Christians, the trees’ purpose is prohibition (which gives us free will).
On the other side, secularists see the story of Genesis as a contradiction. They don’t see it as God giving us free will but as God setting us up to fail. They see it as God putting a loaded gun in the nursery and telling the children not to touch it. Even worse, with omniscience, God foresaw that the kids would get their little hands on that loaded gun. The overall picture that this paints of God is a sadistic one. This interpretation is not the loving God we know and see represented in the rest of the Bible.
A Different Lens
As I mentioned, my intent in this book is to counter the lies that God is sadistic, threatened by us, or irrational. To do this, I believe we need to view the story from a slightly different perspective. Usually, we look at the garden of Eden through the lens of prohibition. God’s prohibition means we have a choice, which equates to free will. Free will is essential, and even though Adam and Eve’s fall corrupted the world, God still used it to reconcile us (through Christ). While true, this emphasis can sometimes be a stumbling block for those that don’t understand God’s love. But what if there was another perspective? Could we possibly see a fuller picture of God’s love if we also looked at the Garden of Eden through another lens? The lens of preparation?
If so, how would that change how the world sees God? Can we show another picture of God’s love in it? Can we also recognize that His intent may be more layered than we will ever possibly know? Most importantly, can this be done without twisting Scripture or taking away from our understanding of God? Can we ask questions and look at the Garden in a different light as we measure it against His word, or are we walking on shaky ground by merely considering this? I intend to answer all of this as we push into the story. Before we get started, I recommend you read Genesis 1 – 3. If you don’t have a Bible, you can download the YouVersion app or get another Bible app on your phone.
- There is a critical misunderstanding of God’s love in Genesis.
- Christians view God’s prohibition of the tree of knowledge as necessary for us to have free will. That even in our sin, God was working to reconcile us (through Christ) from the beginning. This is true but makes it easy to see the story of Genesis as a contradiction. Skeptics often don’t see a loving God.
- If we also look at the garden through the lens of preparation, could we better address the skeptics’ arguments and show a fuller picture of God’s love?