The problem of sin within human nature, and the way it has corrupted humanity since the dawn of humankind is something which has always intrigued me. While I appreciate the truth of the creation story in the Biblical book of Genesis, I think it is easy in reading the story as literal fact to misunderstand the true origins of sin. A truth I feel we can take from the Genesis creation story is the fact that sin is the act of going our own way, and choosing our own will, not the way of God, of Love. Clearly, this is what Adam and Eve did when they ate from the Tree of Knowledge. They willingly and knowingly chose to disobey God’s will, and this “original sin” has been passed on to every human being ever since.
I believe the creation story in the book of Genesis is a true story. I do not however, believe it is a factually correct story. Our society has misunderstood the meanings of fact versus truth. They are not the same thing. Fact is something which can be demonstrated and proven with tests, experiments, and research, while truth cannot be confirmed or denied with the same methods of verification. A true story need not be factually correct to convey truth, and nor is truth necessarily conveyed within a factually correct story. I do not believe in fact, there was one man, Adam, created by God from dust who was given forbidden fruit to eat from Eve, who was tempted by a serpent to disobey God. I believe it is a true story which uses beautiful imagery to convey its truth. Even if the story is not factually correct, it’s power and truth is not lessened, as some would believe. It tells a tale symbolically expressing the origin of sin.
Choice is the essence of what makes sin possible. No animal on Earth but the human animal has a concept of choice. It is a unique feature of humanity resulting from our relatively higher level of intelligence which allows us to measure change, create time. I call this the “intelligence of measurement.” It is my belief, as the Genesis creation story illustrates that once upon a time, humankind was just like the animals, not having any concept of morality, and living on pure instinct. During that time, when we lived on pure instinct, like the animals, we lived in Eden, a symbolic place representing a state of perfect balance and bliss, not knowing time, nor any conflict between flesh and spirit. In a sense, the Biblical story of Adam and Eve demonstrates the cliché that ignorance is bliss.
Genesis tells a beautifully symbolic, true story, but it is a story which implies we originated in the same state as modern humans are today. And while I do not believe we evolved from “apes,” I do believe we evolved from a being with a lesser degree of intelligence, which could not measure change, nor create time… a being who had no intelligence of measurement. That was our state before the “fall,” during our time in “Eden,” before intelligence of measurement came into being for humanity. And while the “fall,” or evolving into a being with the intelligence of measurement can be viewed as a negative thing, it can also be seen as part of God’s plan, or Love’s natural movement to create a being capable of choosing Him, of choosing Love – a capability no other being but the human being has. Relationships we choose are more valuable than those we are made to be involved in by another. This is the best and most truthful purpose I can think of for why God, Love, enabled us to evolve into beings capable of choosing Love, God. In that, we are most blessed to have the ability to come into an amazing awareness and awakening to Love and to God’s wonder and power. At the same time, it can be a burden because we have to fight our human nature to go our own way. What we must realize, and what took me my entire life to realize is that no limited, human effort on my part was ever going to bring me to my best Self, with God working through me. Only God can do that, and we must pray every day for this since it is beyond our human abilities. Sheer human “will power” will never get it done. It is for God to transform us into the best realization of our True Selves. Our task is therefore, not to “do anything,” but rather let God work through us by getting out of His way, and following Love’s purpose and will for our lives instead of “making our own life” and going our own way – the value our society worships.
It is my belief we eventually, over time, evolved into a being with a brain capable of measuring change, creating time, and this was when the “apple was eaten,” when our eyes were opened, and we had the ability to choose against Love, against God’s will. From Genesis 3:6-7, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” It is interesting to note how kids in the past would give apples to teachers, as the apple has always been considered the fruit of knowledge, the same fruit symbolically “eaten” by Adam and Eve. Unlike humans, animals cannot choose against God’s will. They have no choice. They always act in accordance with God’s will because they do not, ironically enough, have the level of intelligence to choose against God’s will. Only human beings can choose either for or against God. Only humanity can therefore sin, which is ultimately what separates us from the animals.
Although we as human beings may not think of ourselves as “animals,” we are in a sense, still animals with instincts. Even though we evolved into a creature who could measure change, create time, we did not lose our animal instincts while acquiring this additional knowledge. Animals live a relatively simple life compared to human beings because they have only one thing – instinct, without our level of knowledge, with no internal, spiritual conflict with sin as humanity does. We have two things – intelligence of measurement and instincts. This is why we constantly struggle between the flesh and the soul, and in my estimation, this fact strongly suggests if not almost “proves” we evolved from an animal who did not have a sense of morality – who could not measure change, create time. Evolution would easily and logically explain why we struggle between instinct; from our initial selfish animal nature, and choosing the higher purpose of selfless Love, resulting from our intelligence of measurement, the nature we acquired during evolution, allowing us to have awareness of our Godly, spiritual nature.
This may be best demonstrated in one of the laws of nature – to “kill or be killed.” This instinct is still very much a part of our survival instinct. Our “lashing out” at others, whether emotionally or physically is a reaction rooted in this survival instinct. Whenever we feel threatened, our animal nature wants to fight back. Contrast this with Jesus’ instruction for us to “turn the other cheek” and “return no evil for evil.” His words go against everything our animal instinct wants to do. The conflict is between the animal self and the God-self. The animal self wants to instinctually act out one thing, while God wants something completely the opposite from us. It seems God’s will, loving action is almost always against our instinctual, animal nature, which is still a very strong part of us. It is no wonder humanity is so conflicted, and why at times we want to rebel. This is the essence of sin. Sometimes we want to revert back to being pure, instinctual animals with no conflict of choice and no rules. But once the line is crossed over the barrier of the intelligence of measurement, we cannot return, as the way back to Eden, as depicted in Genesis, is symbolically “guarded,” as found in Genesis, 3:24, “…he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” We cannot go back. We cannot “return to paradise” as it were. At this point, the only way “back” is “through.”
I believe evolution and the Bible are not incompatible, but compatible, and require looking at the creation story in a less literal way. The evolution into a being that could measure change and create time was not a choice on our part, but what we do and what we did with that power to choose is of course, our choice. The evolution into this being was no more our choice than our being born with two arms and two legs. So, for me, the act of “eating the apple” was not disobedience, as the Bible implies, but happened over a very long period of time as we evolved into a being capable of making choices and measuring change, creating time. The disobedience was all about what we did with that choice, and what we continue to do with that choice – to choose either our will or God’s. the way of Love. Choosing against God’s will, against Love with that choice is true “original sin,” which has been passed down, much like a genetic flaw, from one generation to another ever since the dawn of humanity as we know it.
This unique state of humanity, the ability to choose, is in a sense both a wonderful miracle, and a horrifying reality. Our society worships the power to choose, yet rarely understands the incredible responsibility and at times, terrifying consequences of that power. We think we can “do what we want” as long as we do not “hurt anybody,” but I know from my own experience, I was hurting many without even knowing it, rationalizing and justifying my actions since I wasn’t stealing from anyone nor killing anyone. One need not take money from another to “steal” from them, nor take another’s physical life to “kill” them emotionally or otherwise. Jesus himself said that even anger was essentially as bad as murder, as sin is always preceded by our thoughts and intentions. When we look at the broad range of sin, and its amazing subtlety, it is easy to see we are all sinners in need of repentance, to turn back to Love.
I must say this is a fact I have not easily accepted. Growing up Catholic, I felt guilty for being labeled a “sinner,” and wondered why if sin was so hurtful to God, why He allowed us to be sinners at all. Had we remained like the animals, without the ability to sin, the entire human drama with all its wondrous beauty and horrific nightmares could have been avoided altogether. What I have come to understand, as I mentioned before, is the fact our ability to choose is the whole issue. The ability to choose God, Love necessarily opened the door to the drama of good versus evil. In my “darker nights of the soul,” when things are especially hard, I shake my head, and want to ask if it all this pain was worth it just to have the ability to voluntary choose Love. The fact of its existence shows it is no accident, and while we may not be able to ever fully understand or accept why things are as they are, we can find some peace with it, so that even without “understanding,” we may have peace in trusting God, Love. Giving up our need to “understand” in favor of trusting Him is again something which does not come naturally to us. Prayer on this is most necessary to bring us to this trust, this faith, which God obviously values tremendously. So we can see from the facts of life, God, Love values our choosing to have a relationship with Him, and putting our faith in Him that His ways, Love’s ways, are ultimately what is in our Eternal best interests.
A very good friend once told me our task is relatively simple – to choose God, or love Him, and have faith in God, or trust Him. God calls us to an abundant life of love and faith. A life without these things is no life at all. It is no accident the things which make for a true foundation in any relationship, whether with God or with others, is love and trust… love and faith. The realization and awareness of love and faith is something which would not have been possible had we lacked the ability to choose. This is ultimately why God created humanity – beings that had the ability to choose Him – to bear Witness to Him, to bear witness to the Truth… with love… and faith…