My Faith—A Philosopher’s Look At Christianity, 20

People? What People?

What is Truth? Who were the people Cain fled to and where did they come from? The traditional belief of the Jews and Christians is that Adam and Eve were the first people God created and every person after that came from them. Why do we believe this? Because this is where the Bible story begins. To keep it this simple saves us from all those unanswerable questions that are haunting. If you don’t ask you don’t have to worry.

The story of Cain is filled with nothing but dilemma made so because we are given no context to the stories of men until Abraham. We have Adam and Eve in the Garden, then outside the Garden where we learn of two children, Cain and Abel. Cain was a farmer—where did that come from?—and Abel a herder—again where did that come from? Then Cain murders his brother, Abel and God personally comes to him with the penalty for that behavior. It’s interesting to note that Adam and Eve were not cursed after their rebellion—only the serpent was cursed—but to Adam he said, “Cursed is the ground because of you.” I suppose it’s as good as being cursed. Cain, while not himself cursed, God said to him, “Now you are under a curse . . .” This curse is worse than for his father’s sin as “When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops to you [rather than just be hard work]. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” When God said to Cain he would forever be a wanderer it was clear to Cain that he was being driven out of where his parents were making their life. He left to live in the land of Nod that simply means beyond where Adam and Eve live, not a specific place. Then we learn Cain made love to his wife and where in the world did he find a wife? If you accept that Adam and Eve are the progenitors of every person then this wife had to be a daughter of them and a sister to Cain. Not at all farfetched because every new child had to come in the beginning from brothers and sisters until at some point the children would be cousins growing more distant over time. What other choice do you have?

God puts a mark on Cain, I guess like in olden days they put an “A” on you for adultery, and Cain feared that anyone seeing this mark would know his sin and they would kill him, because why? If there were people in this non-defined land of Nod how would they know what that mark would mean? I’m asking tons of questions because they are begging to be asked because 99.9% of this story is left out. I’ve been thinking he went to Nod and found a wife, but the story doesn’t say that, only that he “knew” his wife, meaning they had sex and a baby, his wife possibly his sister. Well who are the people who would see Cain’s mark and threaten him? Were they people already in Nod or Cain’s coming descendants? That, of course, would take time but we aren’t given any time references. We believe Adam to have lived well over 900 years, a time clue that comes from Genesis 5:4: “The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters.” That’s enough time for a whole lot of people, enough people and time not to know where the family originally came from. So it is possible that those Cain fears will be family, not strangers, not people totally independent from the tribe of Adam and Eve.

Okay, let’s go back to the Garden of Eden. We have a description of what that looked like. In the parallel story of Genesis, the revisited and expanded explanation found in Genesis 2:4 we read: “Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.” What was the rest of the earth like? Still raw, unformed, being formed? I’ve asked but no one wants to answer how long Adam and Eve were in the Garden. Young earthers want to believe it to be a short time but there isn’t a timeline so we don’t really know. For me, I’m supposing it was a very long time. Then could they have had children while there? Sure. So why didn’t they? Good question. Another of my suppositions is that the whole purpose of the Garden experience is that mankind needed testing to prove the image of God inside humanity. The final test didn’t come until the Serpent and the tree story so children couldn’t happen until that outcome. Otherwise, each child would have had to be tested also.

Okay, we have an earth with a garden with all that was in it and we don’t know what was outside the garden because until mankind was kicked out of the Garden, or successfully passed the text, it didn’t matter. Now, another complication to our understanding is that Adam and Eve and everyone after them we see as fully formed rational human beings, not primitive like Cro-Magnon man whom scientists believe to be the first homo sapiens.

Creationism believes Genesis 1 – 3 is history, not a metaphor. For them it’s not an outline, as I believe, but all the content is filled in for us in those chapters. Now I believe God created the cosmos, earth, and everything in it by “intelligent design”, the logos. But I do not believe in a magician God who spoke and poof everything came into being as we know it fully formed. I believe the greatest failure of creationists is that they see the Bible as all-defining history and not religion and they require religion to have all the answers to Reality and therefore science in all its different disciplines are wrapped up inside religion.

Genesis 1 – 3 contains some 2,000 words and only the first chapter, less than 800 words is about creation. How in the world can you imagine 800 words defines creation? What creationists do is make “all there is”—the cosmos—fit those few words and if from what we see we conclude differently then we are seeing wrong. Here is a condensed way Creationists see it:

“When the Bible speaks to an issue it is the supreme authority. Thus, what the Bible has to say about the age of the Earth carries great significance. The Bible never specifies a date for creation, but the creation accounts in Genesis provide some guidance. The genealogies and the length of the creation days play key roles in any biblical assessment of Earth’s age. The genealogies place a hard constraint that Adam and Eve appeared no more recently than 6,000 years ago. Since they contain gaps those genealogies cannot serve as timekeeping devices. However, it seems to stretch credulity to argue for anything much older than 100,000 years for Adam and Eve’s appearance on Earth.”

Here is a condensed way evolutionists see it:

“Evolutionists realize that billions years of time is essential for particles-to-people evolution, although this book argues that while long ages are necessary for evolution, they are not sufficient. Therefore, since evolution can’t work without vast time spans, Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science presents what it claims is evidence for them. This includes the belief of modern evolutionary geologists that the earth is 4.543 billion years old. This is graphically illustrated in a chart on pages 36–37: man’s existence is in such a tiny segment at the end of a 5-billion-year time-line that it has to be diagrammatically magnified twice to show up.”

If you know me you know I am not a scientist in any of their forms, but I am intelligent enough to understand and ask questions and make assessments. In other words, while I reject out of hand creationism neither do I completely swallow a natural physical earth and everything in it having come through unconscious chance and time. While such scientists want us to accept this as settled science I do not accept it as settled science, not because of emotion but because of reason. I believe that all that came into being is by the hand of God, but that came through a process that does not deny intelligent design. Our definition of God makes it that everything he did must be through an instantaneous event and from nothing we get a complete something.

The Bible is not a history book, not a science textbook, not a psychology tome, it’s a religious writing to say only this: there is one God, no other; everything that came to be came from God; he created humanity in his image; humanity rebelled betraying his God-given nature; God had a plan of redemption and carried that out through Jesus, one day we will live and reign with him. Period. It touches on history, on science, on psychology but only tangentially. As to all this, we fill in that content and sometimes we understand correctly and sometimes we misunderstand.  

I’ve gone down this road for a reason and it is to put content to the subject of do you have to know the name of God or hear the name Jesus to be saved. I return to what I wrote above: John 14:6, which declares, “I [Christ] am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by Me,” and Acts 4:12, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name [Jesus Christ] under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Can they be both true and wholly misunderstood at the same time? It’s how I understood Christianity from my early years that the reason for missionary work is that we must go out to the (pagan) nations teaching them the name of Jesus so they can be saved. When Columbus sailed to what he believed was India but landed in the Americas on board ship were Christians whose goal was to teach them about Jesus and convert them (whoever was there) to Christianity so they could be saved. I believe that’s one of our missions as believers but the assumption that everyone “out there” doesn’t know God and only in that knowledge is “saved” will one day come in for a very great surprise.

I’m back to my original question, was no one outside that line of people in Genesis and those outside Israel “saved”, or redeemed to be with God forever? Did no one understand such religious truths without the specific language of the Jews and then Christians? Did redemption only begin with the death and resurrection of Jesus and all those before were out of luck, or did his death and resurrection cover those prior to him and was counted to them? I do have to ask, Why were there a people who knew nothing of God?

Go back to the story of Cain in Genesis 4. Assuming that there were not already people in the land of Nod, and I’ve pretty much debunked my former questioning that there might be people there, who are the descendants of Cain. If these people are descendants of Cain why don’t they know about the true God? I believe the answer can be found here: “Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth. . . So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.”

Let me get to a simple answer: because the relationship, knowing and presence of God that Adam and Eve had, that their children had, including Cain, and those men we read from Adam to Noah had, was not available to Cain’s children because of that loss of personal fellowship which naturally carried over to his children and with each successive generation any understanding would be lost even more, but the need was still there to know God so new beliefs were built to fill the void. I can’t help but ask why did God allow this to happen, that a whole line of people would not know him in a personal way and end up creating other gods to fill in answers? After going back and studying the Bible stories a pattern of thought appeared until one day that congealed into an understanding, not necessarily a happy understanding, but a truth that was obvious.

But first let me conclude my thoughts on being only saved if you know the name of Jesus. I’ve quoted this scripture many times and the section title given to it in the New International Version is “God’s Wrath Against Sinful Humanity” and Paul writes this in Romans 1:18-20: 

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

We’ve all heard the story of Jonah and the whale, how God wanted him to go to the city of Nineveh and God said to him, “Go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it; for its wickedness rises up before me.” Why did God care about them? Because they were his as much as the Jews were his, because as we read in Romans they had what they needed to understand God and accept him even though they didn’t know God’s name as the Jews did. Throughout the Old Testament we find God speaking to Pharaohs and other leaders not as pawns to be used in chastising the Jews but because they were also his people expected to acknowledge him, and some did, even not knowing His name. How much greater will be for these people when they hear the complete story and they can say, ah ha.