We have looked so far at man and woman in the original order of creation. It does not require much thought to realise that these truths do not feature in the attitudes and relationships between men and women today. Genesis Three records the entry of sin into the world and the changes that entered the world at that time and continue to impact us in the present. The next three concepts focus on these changes brought in by sin. These changes are of two kinds:
1] changes that automatically accompanied the disobedience of God’s command, and
2] changes that occurred by the judgement and decree of God.
CONCEPT THREE: DISOBEDIENCE, DEATH AND DIVISION
© Rosemary Bardsley 2005, 2015
In Genesis 2:17 God confronted humans with one prohibition. The existence of this prohibition is an essential companion of creation in the image of God. It distinguishes the human from:
 the inanimate creation, which functions in a mechanical manner,
 the animate creation, which functions by programmed instincts.
Created in God’s image, humans have the freedom to act by choice, within the realms of what is possible. This freedom included the freedom to obey and the freedom to disobey. Here in this command humans, created in a relationship of communion with God, were asked to live in the reality of that relationship by choice. To love and obey God by choice.
When we ask the question ‘Why did God create Adam with the ability to disobey, that is, to sin?’ we are in effect stating that we wish God had made us without the ability to choose, without the freedom to choose. We are wishing that he had made us either like the animals or like the inanimate creation: pre-programmed, predetermined. We would then have been less than human, less than the image of God.
God did not create us sinners. But in creating us free, unprogrammed, undetermined creatures he created us with the ability, the possibility, to sin. Nor did God create sin. But in giving the word of prohibition ‘but you must not eat ...’ God implied by this prohibition and exclusion that sin was possible. God did not create suffering. But by stating the consequences of sin – ‘you will surely die’ - he revealed that suffering was possible, and that it would happen, if we chose disobedience.
Let us note that sin had no independent existence or reality of its own: it existed only as a possibility dependent on our choosing to disobey the word of prohibition. Sin – our disobedience to the divine command, our refusal of the fundamental creature-Creator distinction and roles, our refusal to love God – is something to which God said ‘No.’ So also are all the flow-on effects of sin.
Genesis 3 records our rejection of the creature-Creator relationship that is taught in Genesis 1 and 2. In response to Satan’s deceptive suggestions the first humans exchanged
Obedience to God for disobedience.
Dependence on God for independence.
Submission to God’s word for rebellion against God’s word.
A God-centred life for a man-centred life.
Belief for unbelief.
Trusting God for trusting oneself.
The truth for a lie.
Life for death
The impact of this choice is catastrophic. The male/female tensions we experience today are the immediate and on-going consequence of this choice.
A. THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL [Genesis 2:17; 3:5]
God’s prohibition of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a prohibition with our well-being in mind. This is obvious from the stated consequence ‘you will surely die’. Satan, however, deceived Eve into thinking that God was withholding something good and desirable, that God’s prohibition stemmed from mean and selfish motives in God [3:5]. The tree itself was insignificant, God could have said ‘Don’t do this’ or ‘Don’t to that’ and what ever he prohibited would have been the focus of the ‘knowledge of good and evil’, for the ‘knowledge of good and the evil’ consisted in our rejection of his word. Disobedience to the word of God, rejection of the authority of God, catapulted Adam and Eve into an experiential knowledge of evil and of the distinction between good and evil. Having disobeyed the command, having refused to love God, attempting by their choice to exist independently of God and his Word, they now know by immediate experience what ‘evil’ is: it is, in essence, disconnection from God. This experiential knowledge of evil [of sin and suffering] has characterized human life and the relationship between men and women ever since.
B. DEATH AND DIVISION [Genesis 2.17; 3:7-13]
God warned in 2:17 that death would surely come on the heels of disobedience. In this ‘surely die’, as we will see below, all forms and levels of suffering are included.
B.1 Death and division within [Read Genesis 3:7]
Satan had promised ‘your eyes will be opened’ [3:5], and indeed they were. But not to a better perception. The ‘knowledge of good and evil’ he promised brought a destructive self-awareness within the individual that tortures and fractures people right up to the present. Our rejection of God and his command brought a death and a division within our own being. We are our own worst enemy. We consistently embrace self-destructive thought patterns. We live with a sense of self-rejection and a self-focused fear of rejection by others. Even in our pride there is a constant necessity to promote ourselves. We are riddled with psychological problems. And in this destructive self-awareness we are at peace neither with or about ourselves nor in our perception of others’ perceptions of us. This seriously impacts the way we see ourselves in relation to others, including others across the gender divide.
B. 2 Death and division in interpersonal relationships [3:7,12]
Accompanying this separation between each human being and his or her own being is a parallel separation between human beings. The relationship of peace and unity and mutual acceptance that characterized the relationship between Adam and Eve in 2:25 is shattered. Their now destructive self-awareness translates into a destructive awareness of, and vulnerability in the presence of, the other and the other’s opinion. Their inner shame and division has automatically created a division between them, separating them from each other. They now feel compelled to protect, defend, preserve, promote and justify themselves, even if it means further severance and disconnection from the other. Instead of peacefully fulfilling their God-given role of imaging him they now, having chosen life cut off from God, live cut off from each other, with the perceived necessity of presenting and preserving their own image.
In this isolation and severance we find between the man and the woman
Criticism of the other – often to divert attention or accusation away from self
Refusal to admit personal guilt and responsibility
Self-justification and self-promotion
Shame in the presence of the other
Efforts to cover-up or minimize wrong-doing
Pre-occupation with one’s own survival and reputation
Insensitivity to the feelings and reputation and responsibilities of the other
Although it is not mentioned in Genesis 3 we can legitimately conclude that the divisive, destructive attitudes expressed there inevitably generated fear between man and woman. This conclusion is validated by both history and experience. In modern terminology these expressions of this death of the interpersonal relationship, if persistent, are labelled in the category of psychological, emotional and verbal abuse.
A second factor in relation to fear, is that the above expressions of death and division both within the individual and in interpersonal relationships are generated by fear. This primary fear is the fear of loss of identity – and it is in fact a valid fear in man severed from God, for in rejecting God we have actually rejected our fundamental identity as his image-bearers and as his dependent creatures.
In this context of interpersonal separation man is threatened by woman, and woman is threatened by man.
B.3 Death and division between man and God [3:8-13]
In this point we come to most significant impact of our fall into sin: separation from God. It is this disconnection that automatically generates the other disconnections. We were created to live in relationship with God and dependence on God; we can only fulfil our God-given identity in face to face relationship with God. To try to live in independence from God, which we sought in our disobedience of the 2:17 command, is to try to live as humans severed from the very source and meaning of our existence as humans. It is to reach for an impossibility.
The life lived by every human being since Genesis 3 is not human life. The caution of 2:17 ‘you will surely die’ tells us that this ‘life’ in which we survive as humans beyond our choice to separate from God, is actually ‘death’. [See Ephesians 2:1,5; Colossians 2:13].
This fact of our existence as ‘death’ is verified by the gospel promises that in union with Christ we gain ‘life’ or ‘eternal life’, and by the gospel statements about regeneration or being ‘born again’, at which we will look in a later concept.
The choices made in Genesis 3:1-6 separated humans from God: they constitute a rejection of God and his word, a turning away from a dependent, trusting, face-to-face relationship with God. In this rebellion man and woman become severed from their source, their sustenance, their purpose/goal and their identity as human. The resultant isolation, exposure, disorientation and alienation are expressions of this ‘death’.
Alone, cast adrift by his own choice, we who were made for relationship with God and with each other, now, as well as the inner and relational severances noted above, also experience:
Fear in the presence of God [3:8,10]
Guilt in the presence of God [3:8.10]
Separation from God [3:8,10].
In this separation from God, our source and our centre, we each, man and woman, seek our identity within ourselves or within our ability to control or dominate the other.
C. PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS OF THIS DEATH AND DIVISION
The essential value and dignity of man and woman remains unchanged: these are retained by virtue of creation. However, because of the Sin Factor human beings frequently fail to treat one another (and themselves) with value and dignity. The image of God continues to give significance to human beings over and above the rest of creation (the prohibition of murder in Genesis 9:6 is grounded on the image of God). However, as long as we are in rebellion against God we will not image his character, we will not reflect his likeness.
The equality and unity which we saw in Genesis 1 and 2, are also essentially retained, but because of the Sin Factor their practical recognition in daily life has been destroyed and replaced by rivalry and division.
The mutual interdependence that existed in Genesis 1 and 2 has been replaced by a grasping for personal independence and/or dominance, or by a mutually destructive dependence of man on woman or woman on man.