Hiding Naked in the Garden

Serpent: “Did God really say, ‘You are not to eat from any tree in the garden?’”

Woman: “You are not to eat from it or touch it, or you will die.”

Serpent: “It is not true that you will surely die; because God knows that on the day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil [for yourselves].”

Ever wondered why philosophical ideas and humanistic social constructs such as Mikhail Gorbachev’s, ‘Perestroika’, to take one example, just don’t work out? If you read his book you will soon comprehend the good intentions he had for his people and that he is no idiot. Nevertheless, the true nature of humanity once again proved to be a spanner in the philosophical works. There are some very insightful books around that explore humanity and its inability to deny its self-serving nature. Who could forget studying George Orwell’s, ‘Animal Farm’, back in high school?

You would, I believe, struggle to find a more profound text capable of explaining the broken state of our world and the condition of humanity than in Genesis chapters 2 and 3. In the Garden, human beings first did what they have continued to do ever since. Creating God in their own image they continue to live in the delusion of their self-constructed truths.

Peter Vardy in his book, ‘Being Human’, suggests that postmodernism has led us to lose confidence in the very concept of truth, and as such its impact has been devastating. The Western world suffers from the perceived lack of meaning brought about by the so-called ‘death of God’. Humanism has become aligned with the idea that human beings result from a universe evolving through random events with no meaning. Could this lack of real purpose lie at the heart of many of modern society’s problems?

Putting the broken condition of the world aside, there is still an important truth that we as humans need to confront. God is God and We are not. There is no religious or philosophical construct within which we can work to save ourselves and become right with God. After all, we are all born with an innate desire for a bite of that forbidden fruit that leads to death as the story goes. Fortunately, Jesus reminds us in Luke’s Gospel that what’s impossible with man is possible with God. In other words, God has worked out a way to make things right.

John Stott in his book, ‘The Cross of Christ’, exposes the human heart well. He suggests, ‘We insist on paying for what we have done. We cannot stand the humiliation of acknowledging our bankruptcy and allowing somebody else to pay for us. The notion that this somebody else should be God himself is just too much to take. We would rather perish than repent, rather lose ourselves than humble ourselves.’

In the end we can’t hide from God. We can’t hide by clinging to so called ‘alternative truths’ that deny our humanity and God’s divinity. We, like Adam and Eve, cannot hide and avoid standing naked before God.

But thank God that we can be confident to stand naked before God with the knowledge that we are justified in Christ, and not ourselves.

The great theologian Martin Luther teaches that faith in God is passive, “in that we allow God alone to work in us and we ourselves, with all our powers, do not do anything.” “Faith is a divine work within us that changes us and brings us to a new birth from God and kills the old Adam; He makes of us a completely different human being in the heart, mood, mind, and in all powers.”

So take heart in the truth that humanity’s saviour is not humanity. We can now live in God’s Grace, fully confident to stand naked before God and no longer hide in the Garden.

8 thoughts on “Hiding Naked in the Garden

  1. Hi Ben.

    Great post. Nice looking blog.

    Further to our discussion last night, I wish to respond to this paragraph from your blog:

    ” The great theologian Martin Luther teaches that faith in God is passive, “in that we allow God alone to work in us and we ourselves, with all our powers, do not do anything.” “Faith is a divine work within us that changes us and brings us to a new birth from God and kills the old Adam; He makes of us a completely different human being in the heart, mood, mind, and in all powers.” ”

    Here are some genuine questions that your post has me asking:

    How does this square with the concept you shared with me – namely that everyone’s “elect” in Christ and that salvation is freely available to all? If sufficient atonement has been made for sin, and everyone’s “elect”, AND if Luther’s quote here is right, then why isn’t everyone saved?

    Put another way, if our election is a “divine work”, and God’s work of faith in our hearts is (as you quote) a “divine work”, why doesn’t God do the same divine work in every heart?

    What does it mean to call faith a “divine work” and yet insist that God (in some sense) has ‘elected’ everyone? If election isn’t from specifically limited to certain individuals in God’s mind, why would God only do his “divine work” in some and not others?

    Genuine questions, brother.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

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    1. Thanks for your thought prevoking questions. As a person who is still wrestling with the different perspectives on predestination, I would be interested to hear from others who may be able to shed some light on the questions posed. The floor is now open.

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  2. Thanks Ben. I like what you have to say. Martin Luther was ‘super sensitive’ to anything that might be construed as we doing anything to ‘earn’ salvation… hence his emphasis in his Small Catechism that ‘I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him.’ He then continues… “But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and kept me in true faith.” So what is my involvement? I guess all I can do is reject what God has done – give God the ‘prideful finger’ so to speak.

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    1. But does God the Holy Spirit call only some through hearing the Gospel of Christ or is this true for all?
      At the beginning of the reformation Martin Luther also was drawn to quote the apostle Paul in
      Romans 1:16,17 “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
      If I respond to the message with my belief, have I not co-operated with God by believing which is what the above seems to imply. This would put me in the Semi-Pelagian camp and Luther I understand claimed to follow the Augustinian view that salvation is wholly to do with God’s grace. Mmmmmm.

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  3. Theologians have been debating these questions regarding election and predestination for at least 500 years and there are many well known theologians who fall into both the Semi Pelagian and Augustinian views. The former put the case that humans co-operate with God’s grace in coming to salvation and the latter that humans can do nothing of themselves and therefore salvation is of God acting alone in His grace (i.e. God’s freely given but totally undeserved good favour shown to sinful human beings.)
    The question about why God appears to choose/elect some and not others, implies overtones of unfairness or injustice on the part of God. Hence the popularity in our day of the Semi-Pelagian view where those who are not saved are not seen to be rejected by God so much as they have condemned themselves because they did not respond to the grace of God by receiving Christ into their lives (eg.Jn 1:12)
    However Augustinians would say that God is never unjust but is both just and merciful. God is not obligated to be merciful to anyone but chooses to show mercy out of His gracious nature. All humans being fallen deserve only God’s justice but God in His sovereignty and grace chooses to show mercy to some. (e.g.Rom 9:11-15).
    Comments welcome!

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  4. You write
    “If I respond to the message with my belief, have I not co-operated with God by believing which is what the above seems to imply. This would put me in the Semi-Pelagian camp and Luther I understand claimed to follow the Augustinian view that salvation is wholly to do with God’s grace. Mmmmmm.”
    That is the conundrum.
    In the year 2000, theologian John Koch, wrote a paper titled “Giving one’s life to Jesus: conversion theology and decision psychology”. If I remember correctly, he argued that conversion is ALL God’s work, however, sometimes people need to ‘feel’ that they have participated (I know this is an oversimplification of his point), so let them talk about ‘deciding’ for Jesus, and later, when they are more able to see God’s hand in their life, help them to see that it was God himself who enabled them to believe.
    Isn’t that logic of 1 Corinthians 12:3 “No one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit”.

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  5. Firstly, thanks everyone for participating in discussing aspects of this post. I just wanted to add some interesting thoughts from Leon Morris’ book, ‘The Cross in the New Testament’.
    Since the doctrine of predestination is so often rejected, misunderstood and opposed, it may be as well to add one or two points. One is that election is an act of divine love. The popular caricature of predestination sees it as a process wherein God sentences some men to damnation before they are born, without ever giving them a chance. This is not the teaching of the Bible. There election is a means of saving men, not of sentencing them. It proceeds from God’s love and His deep concern for men. The connection of predestination with love should never be overlooked.
    The second thing is that predestination is something that gives assurance. If we were dependent on our own effort for salvation, we would never know whether we had done enough.
    In reference to Romans 8:29 onwards, Leon Morris suggests that for us predestination is the answer to the question, “Are all things determined or not?” For Paul it is the answer to quite another question, “How much of our salvation is due to God?” Predestination is the assurance that all of our salvation, from the very beginning to the end, is of God. We ought never to think of it other than in relation to salvation.

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