Week 2, Being Human
Chapter 2. Being Human
Genesis 2:4 - 25
From Brian McLaren’s commentary on this text (used with permission) found HERE.
Here, in contrasting the two creation narratives in Genesis, I try to make explicit the formational/ critical/literary approach to the Bible which this book follows.
If readers are interested in the value of multiple stories, they will enjoy the TED talk by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie called “The Danger of a Single Story” (http://www.ted.com/talks/ chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story).
I emphasize the goodness of creation because our industrial-extractive-consumerist economy has cheapened creation, desecrated its goodness, and reduced deep inherent value to cheap monetary value. Sadly, a distorted conventional form of Christian theology has provided theological justification for this cheapening.
The interpretation of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil draws from the work of James Alison (beginning with The Joy of Being Wrong), who in turn draws from the work of Rene Girard (beginning with Things Hidden). There are many other interpretations of this primal story too, but this interpretation resonates throughout the whole Bible, so it’s the one I chose to highlight.
Rather than critique the traditional language and doctrine of “the Fall” - a term found nowhere in the biblical text, I simply tell the story without that language. Of course, “the Fall” is so deeply embedded in many Christians’ minds that they will either assume I intended it, or be shocked and concerned that I didn’t state it explicitly. I hope many readers will be able to hear, feel, and receive the story in a fresh way, and that they will be convinced, as I have been, that this alternative approach is a better, fuller, fairer, wiser, and more fertile interpretation.
If readers feel it is important to use the term “Fall” in grappling with this text, I would still caution them against bringing with it the unhelpful assumptions I discussed in Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? and in A New Kind of Christianity.
The image of a hand reaching out to grasp the forbidden fruit in Genesis 2 is echoed in the story of the man’s withered hand being healed in Mark 3. Just as we live in the tension between two trees, the tree of aliveness and the tree of judging, we also live in the tension between the open hand and the clenched fist, the hand extended to accuse, steal, or wound and the hand outstretched to comfort, give, and serve. As I finished this chapter, I couldn’t stop thinking of Jesus’ nail-scarred hand and the man’s “withered hand” being restored in contrast to the grasping hand of greed, the clenched fist of hostility, the hand grasping a stone to hurl at another in judgment. I could imagine these images inspiring some creative artistic expressions in response to this chapter.