Understanding the destructiveness of humankind

There is an interesting story in the Bible; that starts in the beginning. It’s a story of how an ancient race of people came to understand the world they lived in. Some take the story to be literally true and some take the story to be allegorical or mythical.

The ancient understanding of mythical doesn’t mean it’s a lie like a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. What it means is that the story in of its self conveys truth. And the truth that this story conveys is still relevant for us today.

The story is the creation story. It is the story of how a creative God created the heavens and the earth. And he saw what he created was good. It’s the story of this very creative God creating all life; plants, animals, birds and the fish of the sea. It’s also the story of how God created human beings. Male and female God created them. And God saw that they were good.

This story of God’s goodness tells of the relationship his creation had with each other and Himself. It tells the story of how human beings lived in harmony with each other. It tells the story how human beings lived in harmony with nature and all of creation. And it tells the story of how human beings lived in harmony with God. And God said this is good.

The humans were told though; you can eat of any plant / tree in the garden in which they worked, with the exception of one tree. It was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You see up till this time only goodness was known. Up till this time there was no knowledge of what evil was within this harmonious relationship between creation and God.

Until one day temptation came and overpowered humans with the desire to know evil. They ate of this tree of the knowledge of good and evil and in doing so they came to know evil. This evil brought about separation and destruction of the harmonious relationship between creation and God. And for the first time, humans hid away from God. They hid from him; for the raw nakedness of their life caused them shame.

God came to the garden to talk and walk with them as was His regular habit; yet they were nowhere to be found. He called out to them asking them if they had eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. To which they replied yes!

And in this story we see how quickly the destructiveness of this evil set in. The man blames God saying…it was the woman’s fault that you gave me. The woman blames the serpent by saying it was its fault for tempting me. And so we see within this very short story contained in 3 or 4 chapters that sin had brought destruction within the relationship they had with God, nature and themselves.

And it through this story an ancient race came to understand the sin nature that has plagued us since. For we do know goodness; and we like to experience what is good. We also know evil and though we don’t like it; it is within our midst. It works its way through, over and wells up within us.

It causes destruction and havoc within our relationships with each other and with nature. It also causes us to continue to hide from God. The opposite of evil is love. And this is what sin is; it is the opposite of love.

It is sin that causes us to love imperfectly. It causes us to love ourselves imperfectly. Causes us to do things that is self destructive; whether it is through thoughts, word or deed. And it causes us to do things that are destructive within the global community we live through thoughts, words and deeds.

Yet we live also in a quandary. For we also know good and so we yearn for goodness. We like to think we are good people. We like to think of the human race as being good. And indeed there is some measure of goodness that wells up within us, works over and through us. For our ancestors also ate of the tree of the knowledge of good.

And so we try to work for what is good for us. And in doing so fail to do what is good for others. And it is through this failure to do good for others we also fail to do good ourselves. We can’t help our thought patterns. We can’t help the words that we speak. And we can’t stop the way we act and react to others. And so sin continues to work its destructive nature over, through and within us, our relationships and within the global and local communities in which we live.

And because we also know goodness, our hearts make us think we are basically good people. Yet deep down if we are honest; we know we do indeed struggle with sin and our goodness is not pure. The way we love ourselves and others is not a pure love. And the way we relate to God is not a pure love for him also.

For God made us in his image. And because He made us in His image; all deserve to be treated with the dignity and respect this deserves. Yet we fail to do so; and we can’t help but do what we do in doing so. And because we fail to treat those God made in His image with the dignity and respect this deserves; we also fail to treat the rest of creation and nature with the dignity and respect this deserves. And finally we also fail to treat our creator whose image we are made in with the dignity and respect that He deserves.

So sin continues to work its destructiveness through, over and within the relational context, with self, others, nature and God. And we see the evidence of this destructiveness within our own lives, within the communities and the world in which we live. We see it through addictions, murders, wars, crime, lies, rape, greed and violence of every kind. We see this happening through destructive habits, destructive thoughts and words. And not only do we see this happening, we ourselves contribute towards this through our own thoughts, words, actions and reactions as well as being on the receiving end of this destructive force that continues its destructive course through our lives, relationships and local and global communities.

And so it’s plain to see that whether the creation and fall story within the Genesis account is literal or mythical; the story is still relevant and truthful and gives us much insight in understanding of the destructiveness within our own lives, our families and within the global community in which we live.

 

About Craig Benno

I'm an average aussie guy who has lived perhaps a not so average life.
This entry was posted in Old Testament, pastoring, Personal identity, Theology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Understanding the destructiveness of humankind

  1. tildeb says:

    The truth – a transforming personal experience – that lies within the great myths are both self-directing yet guided. The purpose of a myth is meant to be an enlightening experience through seeing ourselves in its symbols that reveals in a life-affirming way what it means to be human and how to live a fully authentic life in the face of so much adversity, pain, suffering, and death. To aid us in this heroic journey of how to live well in spite of life’s many difficulties we need signposts we intuitively recognize within the myth – symbols – to navigate through them successfully in order to experience the myth’s meaning and thus transform ourselves and our understanding of how to live a meaningful and worthwhile life.

    The creations myths of Genesis are a good example. If we read them and come away with an experience of enlightenment of what it means to be human – a basic human truth – then we have succeeded in our reading and we transform ourselves with the help of this myth. We gain wisdom.

    The creation myths of Genesis have been hijacked by a very specific and I think decidedly negative and abasing religious reading that makes us less – not more – human, a flawed and broken, guilty and shameful creature fearful of our own curious nature and afraid of retribution for exercising it. We suffer because we are bad. We suffer because we are sinful. We suffer because an ancient forefather exercised his nature and made us into the mewling and pitiful criminals of thought crimes.

    I think the reading of this myth has been perverted to serve a single goal of excusing Jesus’ suffering and death on our behalf even though the myth predates Jesus by millennia and so we must suffer for our curious nature that leads us into sin. To avoid suffering for eternity, we must give ourselves over to this rather capricious creative agency through believing in the divinity of Jesus. How life-affirming is that? Do I feel enlightened? No. I feel manipulated into thinking that there’s something wrong with me and, like any good North Korean, must now appeal and debase myself to the Dear Leader asking forgiveness for my terrible thought crimes.

    Why more religious people fail to appreciate the intervening generations of humans who were lived and died after hearing this myth and before Jesus’ arrival and subsequent enlightenment and path to salvation is a puzzlement hardly allayed by blanket assertions and assumptions that because god is good, these folk will have lived in died in spiritual ignorance and so be exempt from god’s righteous punishment. How quaint a rationalization is that? It sure isn’t from the myth itself but a handy overlay. As for the divine oversight, we are supposed to simply ignore it as temporary accounting error easily fixed by He Who Must Be Obeyed.

    The religious reading ignores the signposts, ignores the symbols and treats them with the disdain of theatrical metaphor and literary license rather than delve into why these and not other symbols were selected and thus avoid having to explain why they are central to the meaning of the myth. In its place, the religious reading spoon-feeds a particular meaning to us and thus negates the personal experience of a transformative life-affirming enlightenment that comes from a better reading of it. This a net loss of an opportunity to gain wisdom, just another in along line of sacrifices on the alter of religious belief. I don’t think it’s worth it. I think such a perverted reading presented as god’s truth is actually psychologically harmful.

    • Craig Benno says:

      Tildeb;

      I have said that the creation story was ancient story that may or may not be literal. There are many more pointers within the story of the Hebrew people which point to Jesus. And then there is the Historical being of Jesus in whom no historian denies something huge happened.

      I prefer to align myself with C. S. Lewis; who was perhaps one of the worlds greatest thinkers; and so he set out to disprove Christianity once and for all. In his pursuit to do so; he found that in the question of Christ there were only 3 ways one could think of him.

      1) He was a lunatic
      2.) He was a liar.
      3.) He was who he said he was.

      But what ever you say of Christ; do not call him just a great moral man; for he has not given us that option to do so. And so he become a Christian himself.

      I will come to the story of Christ at another point in time; at this moment the thrust of my post is about the sinfulness of humanity. Are you saying that humanity is not suffering because of sin?

      • tildeb says:

        Although I think we suffer because that is the nature of life itself, how we cope with it matters. What the world needs is a lot less assigning of blame to ‘sin’ and a lot more of mitigating solutions through good reasons.

  2. Pingback: So what if my faith is a crutch….perhaps you need one too? | Trinitarian Dance

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