Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Incarnation, Election, and Fall Part II

We have seen how the search for a bigger Christ-centered picture in the Bible led many Federal Visionists to propound an Incarnation of Jesus Christ apart from sin, but let us now look at their exegetical reasons. I believe it is quite telling.

Paul Duggan puts forth his exegetical reasons for believing in an Incarnation without sin.
1. He says that Genesis 2:16 says all the trees of the Garden are for Adam, and thus the prohibition in verse 17 must either be a contradiction or an indication of the temporary nature of the prohibition. This defies the logic of grammar. When someone says, “You can have everything in the refrigerator, but the cheesecake” he is not contradicting himself, and it is not necessarily indicative of a temporary restraint on the cheesecake. This is a very forced proof at best.
2. He then tells us that knowledge of good and evil is something men should have, thus one can believe that they should get access to the tree. In fact, they need knowledge to be rulers. Which is related to his third point. . .
3. Knowledge of Good and Evil came by eating just as life came by eating the Tree of Life.
This is where I really want to pause and look at this exegesis once again. It is very revealing of the Federal Vision way of thinking about things. The act of eating gave both life and knowledge to Adam and Eve. They were magical fruit in a very real sense. One taste and things are imparted to you. It is not hard to see where their sacramentology comes from since by eating the Supper one receives the benefits of that ‘eatable grace.’

I deny that fruit of the Tree of Life or the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge imparted anything. I believe it is easily provable from the Bible. Genesis 3:2-3 shows us that Eve knew the difference between good and evil. She had knowledge of it because she resists the first temptation of Satan. She repeats the command of God not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. She knows she ought to listen to God, and not disobey. That is the basis of good and evil right there. Eve and Adam already knew good and evil. If they did not, then how can one blame them for not obeying? If they truly had no knowledge of good and evil, then their sin is lessened because they were ignorant. Instead, they knew full well what was right, and they still decided they would be like God and declare good and evil for themselves. Thus, the temptation of Satan to “be as gods, knowing good and evil.” It is not teaching them good and evil, it is a temptation to rebel against what God says is good in order to make their own good and their own evil. The Tree does not impart anything, but it stands for who will declare good and evil. Will it be God, or will it be man? The fruit is not magical.

James Jordan goes on to explain that the noticing that Adam and Eve were both naked and the subsequent fig leaves were because they had taken the knowledge before they were mature enough. They lacked the garments of a king. If they had waited God would have clothed them and then let them eat of the tree. Jordan argues that God has to admit that they are now full of the knowledge and they must be given the garments, so he makes the appropriate animal skin clothes. This of course robs Genesis 3:21 of its sacrificial imagery.
There is a better reading, in my opinion. That the viewing themselves as naked is not a result of fruit, but a result of their sin. The sin had immediate effects, such as guilt and shame. They wanted to hide themselves, not on the outside as much as they did on the inside. They for the first time were polluted. I believe this reading is backed up by the fact that in verse 8 they hide from God. Adam still claims to be naked in verse 10 even though he has a fig leaf outfit that seems to satisfy him in front of Eve for they did not hide from each other when they were naked, but covered themselves. It is when they hear God that they hide. Their nakedness is much more than physical, it is spiritual. God then sacrifices animals to prefigure Christ, and gives them those animals as clothing, and a reminder. This is supported by Cain and Abel sacrificing in the next chapter as if they already knew what was required.

Jordan’s fancy readings of Genesis are important in the Federal Vision system. First, it helps support an eatable grace mentality that will come back again in their sacramentology. Second, it avoids the idea of Adam failing the covenant of works, and makes it an issue of maturity. For them the prohibition on the Tree of Knowledge is not a covenantal obligation, but rather it is a maturity issue that will go away when Adam matures. Third, the downplaying of the sacrificial elements as pointing towards Christ aids their system. While they do not deny that Jesus paid for our sins on the cross, Christ is not here primarily to do that, it is something that is added to his job when Adam sinned. The incarnation itself is bigger and more important than atonement. Thus, the downplaying of atonement symbolism in the Genesis story.


delete said...

I agree about the magical fruit. I think the tree was just a tree, and the fruit was just fruit. The test, however, was real.

This is a great series. I don’t know much about the Federal Vision crowd, so this has been quite enlightening.


Andrew Duggan said...

Not that I would know or anything, but as it pertains to eating the fruit of the TotKoGaE, I don't think that from the point of view of a proponent of the F.V. that the sinfullness thereof is so much about disobedience. Might it rather be more about choosing the community of the serpent as opposed to choosing and retaining membership in the community of God?

Might they not see eating of the fruit of the TotKoGaE as the sacrament of that choice? As the fall was simply by a sacramental choice of community so salvation is really just the same, a sacramental choice of community.

I think you are quite right though, Adam and Eve had knowledge of good and evil. Knowledge of good they had empirically and really being righteous as created in the image of God who is good. They retained that as long as they obeyed. They had the knowledge of evil by virtue of God's prohibition of the eating the fruit of that one tree. What they lacked was a self realized empirical knowledge of evil, because they were righteous and good. Once they sinned they lost their empirical knowledge of good, but gained that knowledge of being evil in themselves.

In Adam we have sinned and fallen with him. We are evil and not righteous. Only by Jesus Christ are we transformed from being evil. By grace though faith in Jesus Christ we are justified by the imputation of his righteousness by his active obedience of the moral law, and his bearing our sins and paying for them in his death and washing us in his shed blood.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, and the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

He shall see the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53:11.

Lee said...

Thanks for the comments. I have been enjoying your blog as well. Keep up the good work.

Thanks for the thoughts. I hope to explore some of that in the next few weeks.