Liberal Christianity without Creation?

iBrian

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So far as I understand it, one of the most key tenets of Christianity is that the story of the Garden of Eden must be literally true. After all, without Original Sin, there is no reason for Jesus to die and the crucifixion becomes meaningless.

Firstly, have I misunderstood this?

Secondly, if I haven't misunderstood this, then how do Liberal Christians - who don't accept the Garden of Eden account as literal - qualify rejection of a literal Garden of Eden with the meaning of the crucifixion event of the Gospels?
 
It is my understanding that most Jews don't litterally read the creation story.

Probably more Christians do than Jews, however, I'd say most Christians, including most scholars, and most of those in the upper echelons of churches do not read the creation story litterally.

Christianity is evolving, much as it always has. Whether we are talking the Catholic Church or any other branch...most are growing in the depth and understandings of the teachings of Jesus and in taking the information off of the page and into our lives.
 
I would agree with Wil.

The Biblical creation conveys a metaphysical reality, if not a physical actuality. I believe Jewish and Christian scholars have long accepted that the story conveys a truth which in other forms would be inaccesible to the average person.

Thomas
 
/nods

I don't think belief in the Garden of Eden being literal is that fundamental to Christianity. Jesus, God's very word, made a point of using parable and metaphor to get his point across, why should the rest of God's word be any different, especially when they are trying to explain in the inexplicable?

Part of the reason why I stand by the Bible as authoritative is the number of levels that each of it's stories (even the non-factual or unpleasant ones) have. In my view, not only does the Garden of Eden articulate the distance between man and God, but it also shows us why God didn't make the world perfect in the first place/ why it is not perfect anymore or at least why we do not percieve it to be perfect. By our very nature, we seek out problems to overcome, things to judge and evaluate, and even if we didn't have the gift of knowledge of good and evil (and so remove our rose-tinted glasses) we would get our mits on it anyway.

I hasten to add it's not a case of us "spoiling" creation, no more than children getting muddy or babies chewing on things is their being badly behaved. It's just what we do, and it is the reason why the world is the way it is. God wanted us the way we are :cool:
 
I said:
So far as I understand it, one of the most key tenets of Christianity is that the story of the Garden of Eden must be literally true. After all, without Original Sin, there is no reason for Jesus to die and the crucifixion becomes meaningless.

Firstly, have I misunderstood this?

Secondly, if I haven't misunderstood this, then how do Liberal Christians - who don't accept the Garden of Eden account as literal - qualify rejection of a literal Garden of Eden with the meaning of the crucifixion event of the Gospels?

No, you understand correctly. According to law, we have sinned, were born into sin, and will die in sin, unless we turn to the creator to fix our inequity.

I know where my estemed colleages are going with this thread, however, I believe they are mistaken.

As far as liberal concepts, well I can't answer for them. I think they are mistaken on this issue. I like to think I am more liberal in certain matters, but on the issue of original sin, I see no way out, but for the love of Christ.

With out that love, we are dead, we just don't know it yet. Again, these are my thoughts, not that I'm right or have all the answers.

v/r

Q
 
Quahom1 said:
No, you understand correctly. According to law, we have sinned, were born into sin, and will die in sin, unless we turn to the creator to fix our inequity.

I agree with this, but I don't think the Garden of Eden is how it happened. Why can't it be a metaphor?
 
I love the comment I got from the one of our Jewish brethren on the subject of the apple...it went something like this

A parent tells his children...I've given you all these toys to play with..play with any of them you like...but whatever you do, don't push that big red button on the wall.

He indicated it was a sin to disobey but they also believed that the creation story required them to do it, to become human, to enter the earthly world.

It seems to me without such an event, we wouldn't be able to discuss it even..as none of us would exist, only Adam and Eve in the Garden...so the story goes.

And I do so agree with Q, he is quite liberal in many senses...these definitions just aren't one size fits all...glad their is room on this planet and in this forum for us all.
 
I can't believe you really mean "literally" Brian. Not you. The Genesis myth is so wonderfully rich.

This is an eternal truth. Once we understand the difference between right and wrong - and we continue to do this as individuals and as a species - the carefree joy of ignorance is lost. But out of that loss we may gain wisdom. We can't have the wisdom without the loss of innocence.

Why did Christ die? We've had this one on the forum before. But to view the purpose of his existence merely as a sacrifice is surely a mistake.
 
I do not disregard the sacrifice; at times it is this aspect of Christ's passion that I find much meaning. But I think I more often contemplate the act of death and rising.

luna
 
It is only within the last few days that, in having a conversation with a friend, the clear visual imagery occurred to me as never it has before. I credit her brain, or her imagination, with the source of the imagery - thus with the inspiration for a short piece that I hope to write sometime soon. Having not yet written down the story, or allegory, I'd like to at least tell how it begins.

I cannot yet say what actually happens first, or at what precise moment Cosmogenesis becomes Anthropogenesis ... but relevant to the Garden of Eden, it will go something like this:
The Bright, Burning Flame looked to His Seven Brother-Suns, newly arisen from their long slumber, and said, "You whose Destiny it is to fill all of Space with your warmth and your light, Go Forth and from out of your bosom, produce a multitude of Sparks. For even as you yourselves were Created as Sparks, so in time you have become Suns, and so also do you aspire to burn with Greater Glory, as it is wont for all Suns to do, and Sparks before them.

And with this, each of the Seven Brother-Suns who were also Sons of the Most High, turned and went, and took His place on the Throne to which He had been appointed. Then, exactly as He had been instructed by the Most High, each Brother-Sun turned inward - to the Place of Greatest Stillness - and from within His Heart He produced a multitude of Sparks, and these - in their TOTALITY - were One DIVINITY.

Knowing EACH SPARK as One in its Essence with Him Who produced it, the Seven Kindred Brother-Suns each breathed forth that special blend and coloring of Divine Breath which produces the world system in accordance with His own Purpose, and Place, within the Plan and Purpose of the Most High. And knowing that His work was GOOD, and that the work of all His Brother-Suns was equally GOOD, each Brother-Sun then SENT FORTH His Sparks - that they might pass seven times through seven worlds, and come to know the Most High.

Into all Seven world systems did the Brother-Suns send forth Their Sparks, dividing them by the Plan of the Most High according to sound, and color, and a myriad subtleties of Purpose. Some Sparks were tasked with a lesser Mission and a shorter Journey, and these would return many times to the bosom of their particular Parent Sun before finally realizing their Purpose.

Other Sparks stayed longer, and their work called for a greater sacrifice, thus they reaped a greater benefit upon finally seeing again the Shining Countenance of their Father. Still, they went forth, again. The longest Journeys of all, however, required that the Spark of God take upon himself the most difficult task of all: Generation. This required the emulating of the Divine Creative process itself.

And so, the Divine Spark, though far evolved and already a Light among His Brethren - a Spark of the One Divine Flame, as differentiated through the Seven Brother-Suns - this SPARK became the Prodigal, and descended into the darkest depths of the very least of these Seven Heaven-born systems of worlds. For every Spark, and thus every Prodigal well-knew, that not one atom of substance was generated SAVE TO BE REDEEMED.

The Prodigal also knew, that ALL THAT GOES FORTH, no matter how low or how closed off from the One Divine Flame ... still burns at its Heart of hearts, WITH THE SAME PARENT FIRE. Yet as surely as every Prodigal knew that He was also a Spark of the Parent-Sun, one of the Seven younger Brethren of the One FLAME ... just as surely, so did He also FORGET. And in his forgetting, he did subject himself to the PLAN and the PURPOSE of His very Father Sun Who sent him forth. For THROUGH this forgetting came his very capacity to respond, and to learn, to grow, and finally to REMEMBER.

Thus did he begin to awaken, to recall his task, and to begin - conscious again somewhat of The WAY - the long Journey Home, to & through Knowing, to & through Community ... to once again, finally, be at ONE with His Father. And this, the appointed TASK and GLADLY, WILLINGLY-accepted Mission of every Prodigal, began to be fulfilled, one by one. And sent forth to help along the way were those fellow Brethren, the SPARKS, veritably Suns-in-the-making - Who had long-since finished the Journey still ahead of every Prodigal. And These were welcomed, and their Teachings applied, and much pain & unnecessary suffering avoided along the Way ...
The actual imagery, which I mentioned - was simply that of a person descending a staircase, as I do EVERY DAY in my house, after waking up. I mean, c'mon, BREAKFAST is down here! ;) There's coffee, there's food, the CAT needs feeding, there are things to DO. Yes, I could FALL down my steps if I was in a hurry, or missed proper footing. But I'd rather NOT. Still, if I do so, it's my error - and the error, likewise, will rest with the notion that God did not intend for us to come forth as we have done - and that we "fell." The only falling we did was to Fall into GENERATION, as Divinely instructed.

I do not suggest that our evolution might not occasionally get off track a bit, nor that corrective agents are not sent, employed, or in fact, hard at work (all around us, within & without) AS WE SPEAK/type. But the idea that God is some doddering old fool, who really tends to be forgetful and need a bunch of folks whispering in his ear to remind him how to run things ... :rolleyes: ... THIS idea - is hardly worthy, now is it? :p

The Deists did indeed believe in a kind of `clockmaker God,' who wound up His universe like a big clock, then left it to sort of - tick the millennia away, perhaps occasionally popping in just to wind the clock again. Oh yeah, and of course, there was that big correction that was required some 2000 years ago ... maybe a snapped mainspring or something.

Let me make a comparison. Ptolemy had a system, which explained quite effectively for hundreds of years the observable movement of the planets around Earth at the CENTER. It made reference to epicycles, whereby the various planets moved around in smaller circles as they orbited the earth. And then there were epicycles within epicycles, until finally, the whole thing really collapsed into absurdity, though folks like Copernicus tried to straighten it out, before finally introducing us (re-introducing, rather) to the heliocentric theory. And thus it was, and thus it is ...

How can there be such a thing as "Divine Forgetfulness?" ONLY if it was a part of the original PLAN to begin with. Anything else - is an insult to our intelligence, let alone to God's. :eek: Indeed, we have forgetten, as both instructed and as willingly accepted. How quickly we wake up - is up to us. And yes, it would seem there are many ways ... though unquestionably, not all are equally effective.

What's the safest and surest way? Why, I should imagine it would probably involve SPEAKING to, or with, those who have already come out of their slumber ahead of us. And THAT, to me, is what Christianity is all about, having everything to do with fellowship, with ministering to others, and also with learning to understand the teachings that have been provided precisely to assist us in Remembering.

Love and Light,

taijasi
 
Another way to summarize darn near everything I just said, allegory included, is through something a Teacher of mine used to say:
Argue for your limitations, and they're yours! ;)
That's not a statement of metaphysics, it's just human psychology, plain & simple. :)

cheers,

taijasi
 
Personally, I do not believe in the doctrine of original sin. I think the Genesis story carries much meaning, but I don't think it is meant to be taken literally, and certainly not as many people literally take it, starting with the idea that Adam and Eve were one guy and one gal (their names themselves indicate a deeper and broader meaning).

I do not think a newborn is born into sin. I do not think that sex, if ethically engaged in, results in sin. I actually think such doctrine is very damaging to people.

This does not negate in the least Christ's gift, His sacrifice- and, as Lunamoth pointed out, the importance of the rest of His life, teachings, death, and resurrection. But I think to see Christ as merely the sacrifice to atone for sin is problematic and misses the richness of His gift. His life itself was a gift if He was perfect and divine, for to be incarnated into a limited body, to struggle with temptation, to suffer even ordinary life would be a sacrifice in and of itself. His persecution and death was an extension of the gift He gave by choosing to be incarnated for our sake.

As I understand it from my religious studies courses, there was no clear doctrine on original sin until Augustine. Many other Christian theologians had very different ideas on the matter, as well as the meaning of Christ. I simply side with those who opposed Augustine, namely Pelagius. Historically, Augustine had some issues (don't we all?) and I think these greatly impacted the very pessimistic way he viewed humanity and their capacity to be good, as well as his view of sex (a key temptation for him). In my own reading of the Bible, I've found that there is little that clearly supports a doctrine of original sin. In fact, it makes little sense in Judaism, at least as far as I can tell given the Jews with whom I've discussed the issue. It seems mostly a result of Augustine's interpretation of the scripture, which, like all of us, was influenced by his own struggles in life.

I do believe that we sin (make mistakes, both wilfully and not) and this distances us from God if we do not repent. I do believe that Christ bridged the gap between humanity and divinity, and leads our souls home to God. But I do not think we are born into sin; I believe we are born with free will and are born essentially good- in the image and likeness of God, with the divine light of God burning in our souls/hearts. It's through our subsequent actions that we mess it up, and hide the light, though we cannot ever fully extinguish it. Christ fans it to flame and transforms us, giving us the capacity to become more and more like Him over time.
 
I am very surprised by the things people say on this thread. I think in North America, esp. in the US, there are MANY Christians who believe in the literal creation of the world as described in Gen. 1. Otherwise we would hardly have the creationist crisis that is happening in the American educational system at the moment. They also believe that only through belief in the atonement of the shed blood of Christ can anyone be saved.

I think the idea of salvation through the shed blood of Christ exists even in situations where the Garden of Eden story is not taken literally. That is because it is obvious that there is a lot of evil or "ungood" in the world. And much of it can be traced to human failings. I understand that for many people this is all the evidence they need that humans are sinners. Uh, maybe I am getting the creationist controversy mixed up with the salvation issue. Both originate in the early chapters of Genesis and I tend to see them as all being part of the creation story.

Secondly, if I haven't misunderstood this, then how do Liberal Christians - who don't accept the Garden of Eden account as literal - qualify rejection of a literal Garden of Eden with the meaning of the crucifixion event of the Gospels?
Brain, I am not sure that I correctly understand your question here. I think you are asking how Christians find meaning in the atonement of the crucifixion if there is no original sin in the Garden of Eden to be atoned for.

1. I don't think liberal Christians necessarily see the crucifixion as an atonement. In the theology of the cross God meets the human in the cross. The crucifixion has meaning in that it shows us what kind of God we have--we have a God who comes to us humans in our neediness and messiness and engages us where we are at IN THE GUTTER if need be. Our God is not one whose primary concern is worship and honour, but one who will do what is needed to help us be all we can be. And if that means public disgrace and shame, so be it.

2. In contrast, it seems the Greek gods were primarily concerned with honour and dignity, like the Roman pater familias (man of the household). And not just any man with a family but a Roman Citizen. To be a Roman Citizen, one had to be male and hold a certain position in terms of ethnicity, culture, politics, and economics. It is not without reason that Paul was asked how he got to be a Roman citizen, and he answers that he was born free. Being born in Rome had little if anything to do with being a Roman citizen.

CONFESSION: All of this is very new for me. I just had a meeting with a prof where I found a "missing piece" that helps me make sense of things from this perspective. I'm not 100% sure that I've got it all straight, but I know this thinking is a lot closer to traditional Christian thought than anything I believed before going into that meeting. I'm talking about Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada, in case this is relevant.
 
I'm curious - surely if Jesus was sacrificed but there was no Garden of Eden "original sin" to atone for, then doesn't that very much reduce Jesus in standing as a religious and spiritual figure? A great man, rather than God incarnate?
 
I said:
I'm curious - surely if Jesus was sacrificed but there was no Garden of Eden "original sin" to atone for, then doesn't that very much reduce Jesus in standing as a religious and spiritual figure? A great man, rather than God incarnate?

Actually you have pointed out the most important thing about the Garden of Eden. Without original sin, Jesus' death would have been useless and a waste. There would have been no need for Him to come to earth and do as He did.

So, perhaps as I pointed out earlier in another thread, the Garden of Eden story is more or less litteral, just summerized. In other words there is more of the story that was left out, or just not important to add as the main theme is man's fall from grace.

v/r

Q
 
That's what I mean, Quahom - the Crucifixion and Resurrection surely require the Original Sin of the Garden of Eden?

So if a Liberal Christian point of view negates the literalism of the Garden of Eden, then aren't they also negating the literalism of the Crucifixion and Resurrection?

Simply exploring the topic. :)
 
"Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world..."

Is this not why one man [Jesus] came to release the world from sin and death?

And is this not why Jesus was called "the last Adam"?

If we can reduce the Eden event to a symbol or metaphor, can we not also do the same with the crucifixion and the resurrection, or even Jesus himself?

.


edit: oops, Brian got there before me.
 
I said:
That's what I mean, Quahom - the Crucifixion and Resurrection surely require the Original Sin of the Garden of Eden?

So if a Liberal Christian point of view negates the literalism of the Garden of Eden, then aren't they also negating the literalism of the Crucifixion and Resurrection?

Simply exploring the topic. :)
It depends on how a person understands or interprets the meaning and reason behind Jesus' execution and resurrection.

Plus, even if Genesis isn't meant to literally tell us what happened, it doesn't mean it doesn't truthfully tell us what happened. (Playing devil's advocate here.)

The symbolism in Genesis is amazing. Personally, I feel that to take the story completely literally impoverishes the message.

The tree of knowledge, the tree of life, the snake, the fruit, the garden ... the meaning of "Eve," the meaning of "Adam" ... This is a wisdom message.
 
AletheiaRivers said:
It depends on how a person understands or interprets the meaning and reason behind Jesus' execution and resurrection.

Plus, even if Genesis isn't meant to literally tell us what happened, it doesn't mean it doesn't truthfully tell us what happened. (Playing devil's advocate here.)

The symbolism in Genesis is amazing. Personally, I feel that to take the story completely literally impoverishes the message.

The tree of knowledge, the tree of life, the snake, the fruit, the garden ... the meaning of "Eve," the meaning of "Adam" ... This is a wisdom message.


What then is the criteria for determining which parts of scripture are to be taken as literal, and which parts of scripture are to be taken as metaphorical?

Symbolism could be interpreted into many other Bible stories which have traditionally been taken as literal since they were first written.

Conversely, symbolic/metaphorical aspects of scripture could be given a literal interpretation if a person feels the need to.

Since Adam and Jesus in scriptue are effectively portals for sin entering and exiting the world, should not the metaphorical interpretation of one be linked to a metaphorical interpretation of the other, and vice-versa?

.
 
I said:
That's what I mean, Quahom - the Crucifixion and Resurrection surely require the Original Sin of the Garden of Eden?

So if a Liberal Christian point of view negates the literalism of the Garden of Eden, then aren't they also negating the literalism of the Crucifixion and Resurrection?

Simply exploring the topic. :)

If the liberal Christian point of view is that There is no orginal sin, then it would mean by deduction that the death of Christ did not serve any purpose...certainly not the purpose of removing the stain of a sin that doesn't exist...

It would also logically conclude that nothing Jesus said about getting to the father but through Him, is true. Since there is no orginal sin, there is no need for an intercedent on Man's behalf. In short, we don't need Jesus at all...

Hence the liberal Christian's perspective would be (I suspect), Jesus is nice to have around, but not required.

Since we would be basically "good", we should have no problem meeting with the Father face to face. That is also an Islamic perspective. There is no original sin, so an intermediary is not required, and Jesus is defunct as a savior. In Islam, the term "messiah", is much different than the Christian view of messiah or "redeemer". Also, Jesus is important but not the "key" to God the Father.

However, the Bible is specific on the fact that God can not look upon sin, and that a sinful man is a dead man (and all that entails, inside and out). Our mantle is bleached white and pure because of the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, so God can now look upon a man, for his sins are washed clean from him. This can not be interpreted, it must be considered at face value, else there is no point in calling one's self Christian, liberal or otherwise.

my thoughts

v/r

Q
 
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