A Follow up.
I went back and forth on wether or not I should post a follow up, but here we are. Maybe this is my attempt to move closer to those who feel angry about my ideas, maybe I’m just a sucker for punishment haha.
I do deeply (and perhaps madly) believe that we were made good. I don’t deny an obvious disconnect between who we are in practice and who God says we are — I actually acknowledge it — nor do I want to belittle the work of Jesus. My view of him is so much more full and beautiful than ever before. I don’t deny sin is real, I just don’t believe that sin is the symptom of depravity, rather, it is the symptom of disconnection.
What do we do with scriptures like Romans 7:9&10, where Paul says that when the law came, sin came alive and he died? That the very commandment that promised to be life actually proved to be death? There are tons of scriptures that we can quote and throw at each other to harden our stances in opposition, but I fear in doing so, we miss the opportunity to connect.
These conversations are difficult because they are so nuanced and complex — they are not black and white — like most things worth delving into and having meaningful conversation about. Most likely, we all approach and understand scripture itself differently. Without time and intention, without life and process together, we may be spinning circles here. None the less, I would like to remind everyone that these ideas and revelations are not mine, at least not originally, and they’re definitely not new. The doctrine of original sin — leading to total depravity wasn’t even introduced to the church until nearly the year 400. Was everyone a heretic up until then too?
Regardless, I don’t understand how I can earn the label, “heretic” by choosing to believe God’s first word about me (and you) all of the way back to the creation story in Genesis. Just read Genesis 1:10–31 and tell me these are not clear statements about how God feels about his creation and our inherent goodness. Somehow we still became so fixated on the doctrine of total depravity that we often missed out on God’s words about our inherent goodness or our “original blessing.”
Again, I believe there is a disconnection between who we are and who God made us to be. I said that in my post but people hear what they wanna hear. It’s just not the first or final word about us in scripture.
If we believe that we our inherently bad, then Jesus is just the problem-solver and we don’t ever get to experience him as the fullness of God we read about in Colossians 1 where it says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God — the firstborn of all creation — whom all things (you and I, too) were created THROUGH and FOR. He is before us and in him all things hold together (you and I, too). In him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell and through him to reconcile us all to himself making PEACE for us by the blood of the cross. I emphasize peace here because there is obviously room within Christian Orthodoxy for those who believe that the more violent atonement theories are not the only accounts in scripture worth exploring — even from Paul, whom people love to quote.
Let me be as clear as possible — and I realize I’m not making this any easier on myself.
I believe we are inherently good — because God made us in their divine image — both male and female (Genesis 1:26&27) and said that we were good (Genesis 1:31). I believe that we are inherently good and we all start in the garden “naked and unashamed” (Genesis 2:25) just as intended.
So what happened at the fall? You tell me.
Did something transactional happen with Adam & Eve that caused a separation between God and man forever? Or is scripture trying to tell us something about our human condition? In that, we inevitably have to leave the garden and become aware of our nakedness — our disconnection. I have to be honest with you, I am not taking these stories literally. Did Adam & Eve eat the fruit and change our makeup altogether or is scripture telling us the story of our humanity?
The point, for me, is that there is an obvious disconnection between the truth about our inherent union, who God is in us and who we are in Him — his first word about us where we live in perfect communion with the trinity and walk and talk and live in the garden together naked and unashamed — and the lie we choose to believe about ourselves everyday, our false identity that separates, that alienates and leads to all kinds of symptoms of disconnection that we call sin.
It’s interesting to me as you read Genesis 3 that the first thing God asks Adam & Eve when they heard him walking through the garden (such a beautiful picture) and hid in shame because they had all of a sudden become aware is, “Who told you that you were naked?” Then, after describing how difficult life would be now that they were “aware” the first thing that God did for Adam & Eve was cover their shame — he clothed them. Why do we believe that he’s not still doing the same thing with us in Jesus? Why do we feel the need to beat each other and ourselves up over our nakedness and shame? This picture of God’s character, revealed through Jesus, is all throughout scripture too.
Did Jesus come to offer his life as the blood sacrifice that would appease the wrath of his angry father? Or did God himself, through the Christ, Jesus, repair the breech and reconcile us all unto himself inviting us back into garden? I don’t know! God that feels good to say. I don’t know. But, they are both metaphors present in scripture. The major difference here is, I’m not accusing anyone of heresy for understanding scripture differently than me. I believe, whole heartedly that there is room at the table for you AND for me. I’m also making a case for folks, like ME, who were buried under the weight of a doctrine that wasn’t even original to the earliest church. I’m not preaching some kind of new enlightenment or heresy.
I look at scripture and the life of Jesus and see that he is reminding us once and for all that we are His, created in His image, known and perfectly loved and inherently connected — which means we have the divine image of God in us. This doesn’t make us God, but it does make us divine in nature. The original creation, who we were intended to be is fully good, fully blessed and connected — intimate with God. This is the work that Jesus came to restore and should be the work of religion, to religio or re-ligament…to reconnect!
I see Jesus reminding us, divine-indwelling beings and temples (1 Corinthians 3:16&17) — the new home for divine life, how to live as humans. Non violent, loving, gracious, compassionate, patient, and tender…walking with people in the their suffering. Touching their wounds with his wounds, revealing life and salvation and hope to their hearts and inspiring life to the fullest right here and right now. I see him freeing us, not subservient to systems of control, fear and greed, nor bound to its inherent injustice and the intentional oppression of those on the “other side” or constantly feeling the need to silence people “out of line” or those who think and discern differently than us — even those handed a different tradition and set of language than us.
We are salt and light. We are a city on the hill. We are the fullness of God walking the earth and filled with the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead. Are we not?
We are from the same body and Christ is the head. I need you. You need me. Together, we make up the full body, the church. Without you I miss out on a part of God’s nature and character, as revealed in your story, that I can benefit from. I don’t want to divide, I want to move toward you ALL in love. I want to sit at the table with you and break bread and explore the greatest of divine mysteries and all of their nuances WITH you.
I believe we get to start building on the foundation of inherent union. I believe you are good. I believe God looks upon you, and has always looked upon you, with grace and with love (Ephesians 2).