Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A story of sin's curse - Michael Pahl

I am reading Michael W. Pahl's The Beginning and the End (2011). This little book consists of some brief but brilliant studies on Genesis and Revelation, and it explores how we should live our lives in light of our origins and destiny.

The third chapter is entitled "A story of sin's curse". Here is an excerpt.

“The cost of this disregard for the divine will [Adam's disobedience] is spelled out in ways that would have made sense to ancient Israelites in an agriculture-based society built around close-knit family groups, with all the values such societies and groups hold dear. Shame in relationships – both among humans and between humans and God – is expressed in the images of nakedness (3:7, 10). Guilt in trespassing a divine command is portrayed in eating the fruit of a tree (3:11). Hostility within creation is described in terms of the relationship of a woman and a snake (3:15). Physical pain and suffering is presented in the image of a woman’s labor in childbirth and a man’s toil in the fields (3:16-17). Systemic human oppression is painted in the colors of a husband’s domination of his wife (3:16). A sense of futility in life and work – even creation itself cursed – is conveyed in the image of thorns and thistles in the land (3:17-19). And exclusion from life as God intended it – a summary of all that has been described – is represented in terms of banishment from the ideal garden God has made (3:22-24). All these effects of sin are portrayed in the story in ways that had maximum impact for the ancient Israelites, yet all of these things – shame, guilt, futility, hostility, exclusion, oppression, pain, suffering, and death – are the common experience of humanity in deviating from the divine design, disregarding the divine will.” (pages 38-39)

Pahl’s description of “death” is also useful: 

“This solemn warning of ‘death’ [in Gen 2:17] is fulfilled in the narrative in all the ways we have just highlighted: shame and guilt in relationships, futility in life and work, hostility in relationships, leading to oppression and exclusion, physical and psychological suffering and pain, and the cessation of bodily life. This ‘death,’ the cost of human sin, is thus not simply physical death but rather a comprehensive reality – a ‘deep death’ – affecting individual human beings, collective human societies, and even the rest of creation (see also proverbs 10:16; John 5:24; Romans 3:23; 5:12-21; 6:23; James 1:15; 1 John 3:14).” (page 39)

The effect of Adam's disobedience is multifaceted.

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