Thoughts on Genesis
Hello, friends. It’s been a minute - I’m writing now from the farm in Illinois. The work around the farm - maintaining equipment, seeing a different portion of modern industry more intimately, and working with the hands more, has and will continue to serve as more content for contemplation.
But in particular today, I wish to share some thoughts on Genesis - that great and most primal book. Thoughts spurred by the frank questions of farmers at our parish: why plant the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden at all?
It’s a good question, with roots that are absolutely entrenched in our modes of thinking these days.
Well, what is God trying to accomplish?
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
God is creating a family - God wants children, not slaves.
Now a lot of people stop here and say “oh, okay, so it’s just about free will,” or “it’s just a test, I see”. Maybe, but this is very lacking, and makes God out to be some weird arbitrary tyrant.
Now, we can only speculate what would have happened had the events of Genesis transpired differently. But, God’s original prohibition does not encompass the tree of life - it is only after the eating of the tree of knowledge that this becomes a prohibition. To me, it seems entirely reasonable that we were to know good and evil - eventually.
When we nurture infants, we do not start them off with steak and sauerkraut. We start them with milk. It takes a while to begin being able to handle, much less appreciate, complex and especially fermented foods.
When a child reaches for something dangerous to them, we prohibit them. Not forever, but until they have grown to be able to understand the thing. “Did the LORD God say you would surely die if you, little child, played with the knife? Surely not, adults use knives all the time…”
When we teach people how to do something, the least effective way is to give them a dense, long lecture about something. This is particularly ineffective to small children. Imagine being given a 4-hour lecture on saw theory - how to sharpen a saw, how to hold it, how to push it, what the proper metallurgy is, etc… without having ever touched one, much less seen one. We would have no appreciation for the saw. Even more to the point, we would have no appreciation for a power saw until we have used a hand saw.
The appreciation and the pedagogy has to be incarnational. Our Lord tells us: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” What is imporant is not mere intellectual understanding but the actual praxis, the actual doing, the actual eating.
We as a society are so formed by 12 years of compulsory classroom education, usually followed by another 4 (and often preceded by 1 or 2), that we forget that there is a reality beyond the artifice of the classroom: there are actual tools to grapple with, true food to eat, and actual rock with which to build upon.
God is always teaching in all times and places with all things, trying to make amends for our ancestor’s malformation.