Common Thoughts 14a


In gotQuestions?Org we are given this popular explanation about Satan’s fall from Heaven:

“Why did Satan fall from heaven? Satan fell because of pride. He desired to be God, not to be a servant of God. Notice the many “I will…” statements in Isaiah 14:12-15. Ezekiel 28:12-15 describes Satan as an exceedingly beautiful angel. Satan was likely the highest of all angels, the anointed cherub, the most beautiful of all of God’s creations, but he was not content in his position. Instead, Satan desired to be God, to essentially “kick God off His throne” and take over the rule of the universe. Satan wanted to be God, and interestingly enough, that is essentially what Satan tempted Adam and Eve with in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-5). How did Satan fall from heaven? Actually, a fall is not an accurate description. It would be far more accurate to say God cast Satan out of heaven (Isaiah 14:15Ezekiel 28:16-17). Satan did not fall from heaven; rather, Satan was pushed.”

I’m going to speculate on this event because honestly we don’t have enough information to have any serious speculation. I can surmise that God created angels as special beings in his Kingdom  without any controversy. What they did pre-humans I don’t know. If you want a more detailed discussion on angels you can go to Jewish Encyclopedia and their treatment on angels.

God makes it clear that he abides no rebellion in his Kingdom so why didn’t he just destroy the rebellious angels? Don’t know. Since there was only one kingdom, and these rebellious angels couldn’t live there, God had to create a special place that itself would be under a dome. But, until then he sent Satan (and this is the name I will use) and the rebellious angels to earth. Bad for us.

Now here comes my reasoned speculation, but speculation is the operative word: The rebellion appears to have happened before the creation of humanity. God sent them to earth before man was created, probably before the chunk of rock version of earth before God shaped it into what we know, or was this the earth formed as we know it but waiting for man? Good question. Don’t know.

But the question is still begging; Why earth and not hades that God created for them and they will end up forever at the end? Why wait? Possibly this might be the answer: If angels, who are the closest thing to God, but not created in his image and won’t share with God duties God is involved in, and they rebelled, wouldn’t it be wise to test humanity to see if they will rebel like angels or not? After all, humanity will be like God in ways no other beings are. We see this test first in the injunction against eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. What we aren’t told in that Genesis story is how many times did Adam and Eve find themselves before this tree and didn’t eat. It could be decades, centuries, millennials.

What I don’t like to entertain, but feels right, God used Satan as our final test question. When the Serpent came to Adam and Eve they were already near the tree. And who wasn’t nearby? God. It’s easy to totally obey God when he is with us. What happens when he is not?

About those two trees in the Garden found in Genesis 2: 15-17, and about the injunction regarding the one and the consequence of disobeying God, Keil and Delitzche write in their Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol 1 some very good thoughts:

“As nature was created for man, it was his vocation not only to ennoble it b his work, to make it subservient to himself, but also to raise it into the sphere of the spirit and further its glorification. This applied not merely to the soil beyond the limits of paradise, but to the garden itself . . . and which was allotted to man, in order that by his care and culture he might make it into a transparent mirror of the glory of the Creator.—Here too the man was to commence his own spiritual development. . .  To this end God had planted two trees in the midst of the garden of Eden; the one to train his spirit through the exercise of obedience to the word of God, the other to transform his earthly nature intro the spiritual essence of eternal life. . . . The knowledge of good and evil was no mere experience of good and evil, but a moral element in that spiritual development, through which the man created in the image of God was to attain to the filling out of that nature.”

As Kiel and Delitzche write, the fruit on either tree isn’t magical fruit. The fruit on the Tree of Life doesn’t really give everlasting life nor is the fruit on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil poisonous physically killing you if you eat it. That makes them symbols of life and death; life being in the presence of God and death being separated from God. We’ll find this test coming up again in Job, though in a different way.

Back to Genesis 1:1. We read this: “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” That silver tonged devil used his charm to trick Eve and then Adam and they both fell for his words. Test given, test failed. The problem was, there were only two questions and how you answered them determined the rest of your life. Only one chance to get it right.

The classical text for original sin is found in Romans 5: 12: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” The easy theological answer is that Adam and Eve sinned and passed sin to their progeny who passed it on to us all. We sin because they sinned. Sin was now in their genes and was passed to us. It feels that way to me and I’m always complaining that I didn’t ask to come into this world, I certainly didn’t ask to come into it and be taken over by sin. It doesn’t seem fair. But it’s not really what this writer is saying, and philosophically we find a different reality. If I were Adam and you were Eve we’d both fail the same test in the same way. Why? Because Adam and Eve are us and we are them. The mold from which we come is the mold from which they came. I may not have asked to come into this world but being here I have rebelled and did exactly what Adam did. It isn’t their failure that did me in, it’s our collective failure that did us in. I can’t deflect and say to God, “It wasn’t me, it was Adam and Eve.” No, it was me. It isn’t that God made a flaw in creating us. As German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz would say, he made the best of all possible beings. It’s just that we aren’t God, never will be, and we have to learn this.

The story gets complicated from here. Rebellion, we know, comes with consequences: life will be hard in every aspect, and then you physically die. But for those who have accepted redemption that’s the good news. If we are simply material beings then that’s it, the gig is up. There does appear to be a soul (soul or spirit, whichever, it’s that immaterial immortal part of us that animates us and part of God’s image in us) that despite our physical self dying (returning back to dust) continues on. Something hard to grasp is that God knew we were going to rebel. How do we know this? Because he had a plan for our redemption already in place that began the moment Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Why would he have a plan for humanity when he didn’t have such plans for rebellious angels? Because we are as close to being God while not being God and this is what he wanted. But . . .

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6: 5-8 NKJV.)

Humanity was a hair’s breath away from being annihilated, the grand experiment over, and I wouldn’t now be writing these words and having these thoughts. We can thank Noah and his family who showed God that what he created could be what he intended for us to be. Thanks, Noah.

Okay, as I said, it’s complicated? How? Time and Satan and his followers who remain on earth complicate everything. Regarding time, exiting our bubble world only comes in death (unless you are Enoch and Elijah) or the end of the end times finally come. When is the end of times and the end of the end of times? Why are we thousands of years still here? That’s the frustrating question. What is God waiting for to complete his final redemption? I suppose I should be happy because his waiting allowed me to come into being.

Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians writes this: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

I’m going to upset some of my fellow Christians when I say that the book of Job is more a moral lesson than a full story about an actual person and events. As Hollywood would say, this is a story based on, not of. That there was a Job who is a basis for this teaching I don’t doubt. While Job gives us great moral truths, there are too many questions in its setup that brings it into question. This is what I’m focusing on now:

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satanalso came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?”

So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”

So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.” (Job 1: 6-12 NKJV.)

The Serpent in the Garden of Eden didn’t just administer the test, then leave, he stuck around because he had no other place to go. And being an antagonist to God he also became our antagonist. I know, sounds kind of mythological like those ancient Greek myths. So it ends up we do have to “fight against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age.”

I do plan to come back to this story because it’s important. But I walked down the path of God, angels, and us because this is our Reality. It gives us more reason to find a way into the “otherness” of God to survive this world, our experience of it, anyway. And led many, and this includes Martin Luther who in the end rejected it, to turn to monasticism.

So let me next look at one attempt to reach this kind of God in a period we call Monasticism.