[Revised from the Archives.]
The Garden of Eden story doesn’t have a point.
Like all true stories, the point is the story itself. We can get more than one meaning out of it. We can even get meanings that look contradictory. The mind can gnaw on it.
I went to the temple once not long after reading Perelandra, C.S. Lewis’ take on the Garden of Eden story. Through me, through Adam, through Christ, a 17th century Saxon named Christoph H. came into God’s presence. And I got to thinking about our mortal situation and the Garden of Eden.
Perelandra’s view is that Eve held Adam hostage: break the commandments or you can’t be with me. That view can be found in the temple too if you look for it. But if you’re looking for it, what you’ll most notice is that God is the real hostage.
We are here, having the experience we want, indulging in our sins, squandering the gifts we’re given. And He does what He can to adapt truth and righteousness to Adam’s circumstances (our circumstances) and to Adam’s willingness (our willingness) to receive it. Make marvelous and sacred things stupid and little for our sakes, we say, so we can understand them, and He does.
And every time we sin, we are in effect demanding that the Son come out into our filth and the power of the fiend, or else God can’t be with us. And the Son comes. If you want my feet clean, God, you’ll wash them. He washes them. Dear father, we prodigals write, if you want to see me again you had better come live like a wretch with me in the middle of the pigs. And He does come. He comes to where we are, no matter how demeaning. We think so little of it. We are sickening creatures.
I have a hard time getting exercised about Theodicy–questions about why God lets bad things and tsunamis happen to us. Partly its because I never really believed that Mormonism, which is truth, was really all that clean, airy, liberal of a faith. Holiness is often as C.S. Lewis described in Till We Have Faces: dank and bloody. But mostly its because I don’t think mankind has much grounds to stand on in our complaints.
I seem to see us conversing with Christ: drink a little from this cup, we say. It’s bitter to the taste, true, but we’re leaving and you’ll drink it if you want us back. Drink it, and watch over us while we “find ourselves” and have adventures and learn things and feel fulfilled. I know that cup, he says. It is bitter indeed, and if I drink it I must drink it to the bottom. See this? we say. It’s the world’s smallest violin. We’re leaving, we say. You can drink the cup or be left a lone man in heaven. And he does drink the cup, with all its sins, your sins and mine, that have been brewing and burning these many years.
Original post and comments here.