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HOW CAN I DEVELOP A CHRISTIAN CONSCIENCE?- free ebook via Archbishop Rosenkranz

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CRUCIAL QUESTIONS
No. | 15

 

 

HOW CAN I DEVELOP A CHRISTIAN CONSCIENCE?

delivered free by: Archbishop Rosenkranz

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R. C. SPROUL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reformation Trust
A DIVISION OF LIGONIER MINISTRIES, ORLANDO, FL

 

 

 

 

How Can I Develop a Christian Conscience?

© 2013 by R. C. Sproul
Published by Reformation Trust Publishing
a division of Ligonier Ministries
421 Ligonier Court, Sanford, FL 32771
Ligonier.org ReformationTrust.com

October 2013
First edition

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the publisher, Reformation Trust Publishing. The only exception is brief quotations in published reviews.

Cover design: Gearbox Studios

All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Sproul, R. C. (Robert Charles), 1939–
How can I develop a Christian conscience? / R.C. Sproul.
pages cm. — (The crucial questions series; No. 15)
ISBN 978-1-56769-327-0
1. Conscience–Religious aspects–Christianity. 2. Christian ethics.
I. Title.
BJ1278.C66S67 2013
241’.1–dc23
2013014033

 

 

 

 

THE CRUCIAL QUESTIONS SERIES

BY R. C. SPROUL

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

One—THE QUESTION OF CONSCIENCE

Two—THE CREATION ORDINANCES

Three—THE RAZOR’S EDGE

Four—THE LEGALIST DISTORTION

Five—THE DISTORTION OF LAWLESSNESS

Six—THE DEGREES OF SIN

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

THE QUESTION OF CONSCIENCE

 

It is vitally important for Christians to consider the issue of conscience. In the classical view, the conscience was thought to be something that God implanted within our minds. Some people even went so far as to describe the conscience as the voice of God within us. The idea was that God created us in such a way that there was a link between the sensitivities of the mind and the conscience with its built-in responsibility to God’s eternal laws. For example, consider the law of nature that the Apostle Paul says is written on our hearts. There was a sensitivity of conscience long before Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the tablets of stone.
The famous philosopher Immanuel Kant was agnostic with respect to man’s ability to reason from this world to the transcendence of God. Even so, he offered what he called a moral argument for the existence of God that was based on what he called a universal sense of ought-ness implanted in the heart of every human being. Kant believed that everyone carried with them a genuine sense of what one ought to do in a given situation. He called this the categorical imperative. He believed there are two things that fill the soul with an ever-new and growing wonder and reverence: the starry heavens above and the moral law within. This is important to note because even in the realm of secular philosophy, there has historically been an awareness of conscience.
Historically and classically, the conscience was seen to be our link to the transcendent ethic that resides in God. But with the moral revolution of our culture, a different approach to conscience has emerged, and this is what is called the relativistic view. This is indeed the age of relativism, where values and principles are considered to be mere expressions of the desires and interests of a given group of people at a given time in history. We repeatedly hear that there are no absolutes in our world today.
Yet if there are no absolute, transcendent principles, how do we explain this mechanism that we call the conscience? Within a relativistic framework, we see the conscience being defined in evolutionary terms: people’s subjective inner personalities are reacting to evolutionary advantageous taboos imposed upon them by their society or by their environment. Having reached a period in our development when these taboos no longer serve to advance our evolution, they can be discarded with nary a thought of the consequences.
As a professor some years ago, I counseled a college girl who was overtaken with a sense of profound guilt because she had indulged in sexual activities with her fiancé. She explained to me that she had spoken of her guilt to a local pastor. He counseled her that the way to get over her guilt was to recognize the source of it. He reasoned that she had done nothing wrong; rather, her feelings of guilt were a result of her having been a victim of living in a society ruled by a puritan ethic. He explained that she had been conditioned by certain sexual taboos that made her feel guilty when she shouldn’t and that what she had done was a mature, responsible expression of her own emerging adulthood.
Yet she came to me weeping and exclaimed that she still felt guilty. I told her it is possible for a person to feel guilty because they have an uneasy, disquieted conscience about something that is actually not a violation of God’s law, but that in this case she had broken the law of God, and she should rejoice that she felt guilty, because pain, as uncomfortable as it is to us, is an important for our health. In the physical realm, the feeling of pain signals that there is something wrong with the body. Spiritually speaking, the pain of guilt, can signal to us that something is wrong with our souls. There is a remedy for that and it’s the same one that the church has always offered, namely, forgiveness. Real guilt requires real forgiveness.
This woman’s problem illustrates the conflict between the traditional understanding of sin and conscience and the new concept of conscience. This new concept sees it merely as an evolutionary, societal-conditioning process that is a result of imposed taboos. How does the Christian sort all of this out? Is there a biblical view of conscience?
The Hebrew term translated into the English as “conscience” occurs in the Old Testament, but very sparsely. However in the New Testament, there seems to be a fuller awareness of the importance of the function of conscience in the Christian life. The Greek word for conscience appears in the New Testament thirty-one times, and it seems to have a two-fold dimension, as the medieval scholars argued. It involves the idea of accusing as well as the idea of excusing. When we sin, the conscience is troubled. It accuses us. The conscience is the tool that God the Holy Spirit uses to convict us, bring us to repentance, and to receive the healing of forgiveness that flows from the gospel.
But there is also the sense in which this moral voice in our minds and hearts also tells us what is right. Remember that the Christian is always a target for criticisms that may or may not be valid. Even within the Christian community, there are wide differences of opinion regarding which behaviors are pleasing to God and which aren’t. One man approves dancing; another disapproves of it. How do we know who is correct?
We see in the New Testament that the conscience is not the final ethical authority for human conduct because the conscience is capable of change. Whereas God’s principles don’t change, our consciences vacillate and develop. These changes can be positive or negative. For example, the prophets in the Old Testament thundered God’s judgment upon the people of Israel who had grown accustomed to sin. One of the great indictments that came upon Israel in the days of King Ahab was that they had grown so numb and accustomed to evil that the people tolerated King Ahab’s wickedness. Hardness of the heart had set in. The consciences of the Israelites were seared and calloused. Think about this reality in your life, about the ideals that you had as a child. Consider the pangs of conscience that may have intruded into your life when you first experimented with certain things that you knew were wrong. You were overwhelmed and shaken. Perhaps you even became physically ill. But the power of sin can erode the conscience to the point where it becomes a faint voice in the deepest recesses of your soul. By this, our consciences become hardened and callous, condemning what is right and excusing what is wrong.
It’s interesting that we can always find someone who will give an articulate and persuasive defense for the ethical legitimacy of some of the activities that God has judged to be an outrage to Him. As humans, our ability to defend ourselves from moral culpability is quite developed and nuanced. We become a culture in trouble when we begin to call evil good and good evil. To do that, we must distort the conscience, and, in essence, make man the final authority in life. All one has to do is to adjust his conscience to suit his ethic. Then we can live life with peace of mind, thinking that we are living in a state of righteousness.
The conscience can be sensitized in a distorted way. Remember, the relativistic and evolutionary view of conscience is built on the principle that it is a subjective response to taboos imposed upon it by society. Though I don’t believe that such a view is finally compelling, I have to acknowledge that there is an element of truth in that view. We recognize that people can have highly sensitized consciences, not because they are being informed by the Word of God but because they have been informed by man-made rules and regulations. In some Christian communities, the test of one’s faith, is whether or not a person dances. If one grows up in this environment and decides to dance in the future, what happens? Usually, the person is overcome with guilt for having danced. How should you respond to that? Would you tell the person that dancing isn’t a sin, that his conscience has been misinformed? That might be a normal approach, but such a response may be problematic for this reason: the conscience can excuse when it ought to be accusing, and it also can accuse when it should be excusing.
We must remember that acting against conscience is sin. Martin Luther, at the Diet of Worms, was in moral agony because he stood alone against the leaders of the church and state and they demanded that he recant of his writings. But Luther was convinced that his writings conformed to the Word of God, and so in that moment of crisis he said, “I can’t recant. My conscience is held captive by the word of God and to act against conscience is neither right nor safe.” That was not a principle that Martin Luther invented for the occasion at the Diet of Worms. It is a New Testament principle: “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).
If a person is raised in an environment that has persuaded him that it’s a sin to read philosophy but he reads philosophy anyway, then he is sinning. Why? Is it because reading philosophy is a sin? No, it is because he is doing something that he believes is a sin. If we do something that we think is sin, even if we are misinformed, we are guilty of sin. We are guilty of doing something we believe to be wrong. We act against our consciences. That is a very important principle. Luther was correct in saying, “It is neither right nor safe to act against conscience.”
On the other hand, we have to remember that acting according to conscience may sometimes be sin as well. If the conscience is misinformed, then we seek the reasons for this misinformation. Is it misinformed because the person has been negligent in studying the Word of God? God has been pleased to reveal His principles to us, and He requires that each Christian master those principles so that the conscience is informed. I may think that it’s fine to indulge in a particular activity that God absolutely prohibits, and I cannot say to God on the last day, “I didn’t know that you would be displeased with this form of behavior. My conscience didn’t accuse me, and I acted according to my conscience.” In such a case you acted according to a conscience that was ignorant of God’s Word that was available to you and that you were called to study and be diligent in your understanding thereof.
We must return to the first principle. For the Christian, the conscience is not the ultimate authority in life. We are called to have the mind of Christ, to know the good, and to have our minds and hearts trained by God’s truth so that when the moment of pressure comes, we will be able to stand with integrity.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two

THE CREATION ORDINANCES

 

In this chapter, we’ll consider an important element of Christian ethics that is often overlooked. We must consider what theologians have called creation ordinances. Let me begin with a statement that may surprise you: Christians in every society, at all times, and in all ages always live under law. Your surprise at that statement may be that we are repeatedly told in the New Testament that we are no longer under law but under grace. And I certainly put great emphasis on the central importance of grace in understanding Christian ethics. Nevertheless, all of the grace that comes to us in the New Testament does not entirely eliminate the fact that we live under law.
We are New Testament Christians, and if we look at things in biblical categories, we see that the Bible is divided into different testaments. A testament is a covenant. We speak of the old covenant and the new covenant, the Old Testament and the New Testament. But we must take that a bit further. What is the essence of a covenant? In its simplest terms, a covenant is an agreement or contract between two or more persons. Every covenant contains within it certain benefits and promises, and every covenant includes legal requirements or laws. Even the new covenant, the New Testament, is a covenant with laws. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Yes, the curse of the law has been satisfied in Christ. We have been redeemed from it, but that doesn’t mean that now, as Christians, we are free from all obligations to our God. There are laws in the New Testament just as there are laws in the Old Testament.
As a Christian, I am a member of a covenant community, which we call the church. Every member of the Christian church participates in the new covenant, just as every member of the household of Israel in the Old Testament participated in the old covenant. Jew and Christian alike are covenant people, but what about the rest of the world? What about the millions of people on this planet who are not members of the Christian church or members of a Jewish community? Are they in a covenant relationship with God? The answer is yes.
All men, everywhere, are participants in a covenant relationship with God even if they never join the Christian church or the Jewish commonwealth. The first covenant that God made with mankind was with Adam, who represented the entire human race. In that covenant, the covenant of creation, God entered into a contractual relationship with all human beings. By nature, every descendant of Adam belongs to the covenant of creation. This may not be a relationship of grace, but it is a relationship nonetheless. The laws that God gave in creation remain binding on all men. It doesn’t matter if they are religious, members of the household of Israel, or members of a local church.
There is a certain body of moral legislation that God gives to all men, and it is that body of law that we are concerned with under the rubric of the covenant of creation.
What kind of ordinances are included in the covenant of creation? We’ll look at a few of the precepts and principles that God built into human relationships in the very beginning. In the garden of Eden, God established the sanctity of life. Before Moses received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, the human race knew that it is wrong to murder. The prohibition against murder is set forth in the law of creation. It is a creation ordinance. Another principle is the sanctity of marriage. Marriage is not something that has arbitrarily developed over time. It isn’t that human beings, by nature, were disinclined toward monogamous relationships, and later, through societal taboos, were manipulated to form the unit of family that functions as the stable, center point of any society. The sanctity of marriage is given by God in creation. Incidentally, this is one of the reasons why the church recognizes the validity of civil marriage ceremonies. We do not reserve the right to perform marriages to the church alone. We acknowledge the just estate of marriage that is set forth by the officers and magistrates of the civil state because marriage is not a uniquely ecclesiastical ordinance. It’s a creation ordinance. The state not only has the right but also the responsibility to regulate these matters.
How does this apply to our daily lives as Christians? As Christian people, we live under more than one covenant. As members of the body of Christ, we are also still members of the body of creation; we are still under the laws and the ordinances that God imposed on man as man.
We need to understand that creation ordinances transcend the limits of the particular laws that we find within the New Testament church. That means that the laws of creation go beyond the confines of the Christian church. One of the most embattled issues in our society is the relationship between the church and civil legislation. The covenant of creation establishes the basis by which the church can address moral matters in the wider secular culture.
We believe in the separation of church and state, so some people say that it is not the part of the church’s business to address moral matters outside of the church. But we are not talking about imposing ecclesiastical ordinances on the wider culture. It certainly would be a violation of the separation of church and state if we became a lobby group and tried to impose the celebration of the Lord’s Supper on every resident of the United States. We can’t impose a legal requirement on people who live outside of the covenant framework in which that particular mandate came, namely, the new covenant in Christ. But what about when the state is not fulfilling its obligation under God of carrying out the creation ordinances? The church is called to be the prophetic voice of God in a given society and call attention to the fact that all men are under the authority of the creation mandates.
What if people are atheists and don’t recognize the laws of creation? Remember, atheism doesn’t nullify the laws that God has given to man. The covenant of creation is inescapable. One cannot just repudiate it and step out of it. We can break the covenant, but we cannot annul the covenant of creation. So, Christians are called upon to be voices in favor of maintaining and preserving the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of labor, and yes, even the sanctity of the Sabbath day. These are laws that apply to all men in every age, place, and culture.
How many times have you heard it said that “you can’t legislate morality?” That’s been stated so often that it has become a cliché in our culture. It’s interesting to note that the very phrase itself has undergone a kind of strange metamorphosis. The original sense was that you can’t end sin by simply passing laws that prohibit it. If we could, all we would have to do is legislate against every conceivable sin, and the legislation itself would get rid of evil. But we know better than that. We know that people sin in spite of the fact that laws tell them not to. In fact, Paul himself expounds this idea in the book of Romans, where he says that there’s a certain sense in which the presence of law causes fallen people to sin with greater abandon.
But the statement that you can’t legislate morality has now come to mean that it’s wrong for the government to ever pass legislation of a moral nature. Unfortunately, I’ve heard very few people think through the implications of this idea. What would happen in a society if no moral legislation was allowed to be passed? There wouldn’t be much left for the legislators to do. What could they legislate? The state flag? The state bird? The speed limit? But how a person drives their car on the highway is a moral matter. If I recklessly endanger another person’s life because of my own selfish interests, that has moral implications. Stealing another person’s property has moral implications. If we can’t legislate morality, we can’t have laws against murder, against stealing, against false weights and measures, or against reckless behavior in public because these are all moral issues. Of course, if you think it through, you realize that moral issues are at the heart of all legislation. The question is not whether the state should legislate morality. The question is what morality should the state be legislating? If there’s any point in our culture where we have experienced a profound crisis, it is precisely at this point. What is the guideline for the laws of the land? We’ve seen a significant shifts, not only in American history, but in the history of Western civilization. That shift is away from a Judeo-Christian concept of law.
Historically, even within our own history, we see three levels of law. There is what we call the eternal law; there is natural law; and finally, there is what we call positive law. Working backwards, we should understand these terms. A positive law is a particular law that appears on the books. “You may not sell falsely measured baskets of wheat in the marketplace.” That’s a positive law. The questions may be raised right away: “Well, why shouldn’t we sell falsely weighted measures of wheat in the marketplace? Why can’t we lie about the contents of the ingredients that we’re selling?” Historically, we would see that this kind of selling involves a violation of certain principles. The principle here is the integrity of labor as well as the principle of the sanctity of truth.
Natural law states that in nature there are certain principles that we should never violate. But why? Just because nature says it’s wrong? No. Classically and historically, Christianity has said that those laws that we find in nature are the external manifestations of the law of God. Remember that all true and just law is based ultimately on the character of God and His eternal being. From those eternal principles we get a reflection of God in natural law.
Finally, there are particular, positive laws enacted in this world which are to reflect the natural law. This, in turn, reflects the eternal law, so that a law is considered good or just if it corresponds ultimately to God’s standards of righteousness.
We have a crisis of profound proportions in Western civilization. It’s a crisis of ethical principles. In the seventeenth century and into the eighteenth century, during the Enlightenment, a tremendous reaction against biblical revelation was voiced in Europe. Confidence in a revealed source of knowledge of eternal law came to be rejected. Society tried to establish itself in a revolutionary way, basing its legal structure on natural law apart from a consideration of the revealed law of God. In fact, one of the nations that emerged at that point in history was the republic of the United States of America. There is a key phrase in our founding documents: We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life and liberty the pursuit of happiness. The idea of the sanctity of life that is rooted and grounded in creation, is a part of the bedrock of the philosophical ethos of our nation.
But in the nineteenth century, confidence began to erode in natural law with the rise of positivism. Oliver Wendell Holmes, when he was an associate justice of the Supreme Court, said that law can no longer be enacted with an appeal to transcendent principles of ultimate truth. He said law merely reflects the tastes and the preferences of the current society at any given moment. Such an idea creates the legal free-for-all in which we now live, where laws are passed that are cut off from their classical foundation. Now the standard for a law is not eternal truth, or eternal principle, or the character of God, but the wishes and desires of the most powerful or most vocal majority. It’s what the special interest group is able to legislate that becomes the law of the land, and when that happens, we begin to live on the basis of expediency, rather than on the basis of principle. This is the time for Christians to call attention to the lex aeternita, the eternal law, and that eternal law of God is manifested in lex naturalis, the natural law that is built into creation. This protects society from the tyranny of the human majority and places us safely under God’s law.
There is a difference between rule by men and rule by law. Men make laws, but the laws they make are supposed to be subordinate to the law of God. That is the supreme norm for a society. As Christians, we need to be keenly alert to this radical change in the fabric of our own society and judicial system. We need to open our mouths and say “no” when we see our legislators legislating on the basis of expediency rather than on the basis of principle. Of course, if there’s going to be a Reformation, it has to start with us. It has to start in our own lives. In the final analysis, what the culture does or does not do must not affect my responsibility to God. We are called to be a people of principle. Reformation starts when we begin to live by principle and not by expediency.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Three

THE RAZOR’S EDGE

 

We’re in a revolution. It’s not a bloody revolution or an armed revolution, but it’s a revolution nevertheless. It’s one that is acutely real and touches the lives of every Christian. The media labels it a moral revolution.
As Christians, we’re concerned about moral issues and we see that ethics, as a science, is not something that emerges simply by evolutionary processes in nature. It is a sub-heading underneath the discipline of theology. Our culture is confused in reference to ethics and morality. In our vocabulary, you’ll find that most people use the words, ethics and morality interchangeably, as if they were synonyms. But historically, that’s not been the case.
The English word “ethic” or “ethics” comes from the Greek word ethos. The word “morals” or “morality” comes from the word mores. The difference is that the ethos of a society or culture deals with its foundational philosophy, its concept of values, and its system of understanding how the world fits together. There is a philosophical value system that is the ethos of every culture in the world. On the other hand, mores has to do with the customs, habits, and normal forms of behavior that are found within a given culture.
In the first instance, ethics is called a normative science; it’s the study of norms or standards by which things are measured or evaluated. Morality, on the other hand, is what we would call a descriptive science. A descriptive science is a method to describe the way things operate or behave. Ethics are concerned with the imperative and morality is concerned with the indicative. What do we mean by that? It means that ethics is concerned with “ought-ness,” and morality is concerned with “is-ness.”
Ethics, or ethos, is normative and imperative. It deals with what someone ought to do. Morality describes what someone is actually doing. That’s a significant difference, particularly as we understand it in light of our Christian faith, and also in light of the fact that the two concepts are confused, merged, and blended in our contemporary understanding.
What has come out of the confusion of ethics and morality is the emergence of what I call “statistical morality.” This is where the normal or regular becomes the normative. Here’s how it works: to find out what is normal, we do a statistical survey, we take a poll, or we find out what people are actually doing. For example, suppose we find out that a majority of teenagers are using marijuana. We then come to the conclusion that at this point in history, it is normal for an adolescent in the American culture to indulge in the use of marijuana. If it is normal, we deem it to be good and right.
Ultimately, the science of ethics is concerned with what is right, and morality is concerned with what is accepted. In most societies, when something is accepted, it is judged to be right. But oftentimes, this provokes a crisis for the Christian. When the normal becomes the normative, when what is determines what ought to be, we may as Christians find ourselves swimming hard against the cultural current.
The Christian concept of ethics is on a collision course with much of what is being expressed as morality. This is because we do not determine right or wrong based on what everybody else is doing. For example, if we study the statistics, we will see that all men at one time or another lie. That doesn’t mean that all men lie all the time, but that all men have indulged in lying at some time or another. If we look at that statistically, we would say that one hundred percent of people indulge in dishonesty, and since it’s one hundred percent universal, we should come to the conclusion that it’s perfectly normal for human beings to tell lies. Not only normal, but perfectly human. If we want to be fully human, we should encourage ourselves in the direction of lying. Of course, that’s what we call a reductio ad absurdum argument, where we take something to its logical conclusion and show the folly of it. But that’s not what usually occurs in our culture. Such obvious problems in developing a statistical morality are often overlooked. The Bible says that we lean toward lying, and yet we are called to a higher standard. As Christians, the character of God supplies our ultimate ethos or ethic, the ultimate framework by which we discern what is right, good, and pleasing to Him.
When it comes to every Christian’s duty to pursue righteousness—to pursue right ethics—there are two significant issues. The first issue is to know what the good is, to understand with the mind what God requires and what pleases Him. But let’s suppose that we have a clear and sharp understanding of God’s law and we know with certainty what He requires of us. Unfortunately, that’s only half the battle.
The second issue we face as Christians is to have the ethical courage to do what we know to be right. Let me raise a practical question: Do we always do what we know is the right thing to do? Of course not. None of us consistently does what we know we are supposed to do. It is not enough to know the good if we lack the moral courage to do what is right.
When we look at the issue of knowing what principles God approves for His people, we often encounter people who see ethical issues too simplistically. We sometimes refer to a person as being “too black and white,” meaning that they have no time for intellectual nuance or gray areas. This type of person is generally considered intellectually childish, and that is indeed sometimes the case. Unfortunately, we can also go to the opposite extreme and celebrate the existence and confusion of the gray areas as an end in itself.
There are different ways of talking about gray areas in ethics. On the one hand, the gray may stand for what the Bible calls matters of behavior that are adiaphora. This word refers to behavior that has to do with external things that carry no particular ethical weight in and of themselves. One could say that these are morally neutral matters. There is often debate about this in Christian circles. One school of thought says there are many things about which the Bible says nothing. They would argue that in these areas, freedom of conscience should reign. On the other hand, there are those who argue strenuously that there is nothing neutral under the sun. God calls his people to live all of life for His glory; thus, there are no situations that are free from ethical reflection.
Both of those positions cannot be entirely true, but each may have some degree of merit. I am sympathetic to those who insist that we do everything to the glory of God. The Bible is clear on that. On the other hand, the Bible also tells us that certain things are adiaphora in and of themselves, such as meat offered to idols. This issue has no ethical bearing whatsoever when we consider it apart from anything else. What we do with the meat offered to idols is what God is concerned about.
Let’s consider another example. Playing ping-pong is neither prohibited nor commanded by Holy Scripture, and playing ping-pong is morally neutral in and of itself. But a person could become addicted to playing ping-pong to such a degree that he neglects all of his daily responsibilities because he’s always at the ping-pong table. In this case, ping-pong has now moved from an act that is adiaphora to an act that is sin.
The gray area represents what I would call the “area of ignorance.” This is an area of confusion that exists in our minds about ethical principles. I understand that people who see everything in black or white categories can be annoying at times, but when it comes to ethical judgments, I am convinced that there are no gray areas in God’s mind. Everything that I do of an ethical character either pleases God or it does not. But God has not specified His black-and-white will for every conceivable circumstance. There are many ethical problems that we face every day that are not easy to pigeonhole.
For example, stealing is plainly wrong according to the Bible. We also know that giving to the poor is good in the Lord’s eyes. If you ask ten Christians if it is a good thing to steal, they will all generally agree that stealing is a sin. If queried as to whether it’s good to give to the poor, they would think it’s charity, and that’s a wonderful thing. But have you considered income taxes? This is where the government takes money from one group of people and dispenses it to another group of people. Here we have a forceful transfer of wealth from one group to another group. Is that good or evil? Is that theft or is it charity? Maybe it’s not quite so easy to discern whether such a practice is right or wrong.
Friedrich Nietzsche, the famous nihilist philosopher, said the most fundamental aspect of human nature is what he described as man’s intrinsic and inherent “will to power.” He said that humans have a lust for conquest, and if we’re to understand mankind, we have to measure man’s actions in terms of this primordial, fundamental, passionate, and consuming drive to conquer other people. This will to power accounts for the violence, bloodshed, and warfare that has marred the history of civilization.
Of course, we know that a lust for dominance is sin. However, if we examine the biblical concept of man, we see that God has built into man an aspiration for significance. We have an inner drive and desire for meaningful existence, and that’s a good thing. But if we take that which is good and let it be distorted so that our desire for significance becomes dominant to the point where it violates others, it crosses the line. When it’s all the way across the line, it’s plainly seen as wrong. But before it clearly crosses the line—when it’s still in the gray area—that’s when we are puzzled.
Unless we are well equipped with the tools of divine revelation, how are we ever going to be able to discern that acute line between righteousness and wickedness? Without knowing what the God of Word says, there will be too many gray areas before us. Yet the Bible doesn’t simply give us one or two principles, but many principles, so it takes work to understand and apply what it says about ethical issues. The more principles we learn, the better our understanding of ethics will become.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Four

THE LEGALIST DISTORTION

 

Christians are tempted to fall prey to one of two common distortions when it comes to the law of God and ethics. These disasters that may trap the Christian who seeks to live a godly life are legalism and antinomianism. We’ll explore antinomianism—“anti-lawism”—in the next chapter. In this chapter, we’ll consider legalism.
Have you, as a Christian, ever been accused of legalism? That word is often bandied about in the Christian subculture incorrectly. For example, some people might call John a legalist because they view him as narrow-minded. But the term legalism does not refer to narrow-mindedness. In reality, legalism manifests itself in many subtle ways.
Basically, legalism involves abstracting the law of God from its original context. Some people seem to be preoccupied in the Christian life with obeying rules and regulations, and they conceive of Christianity as being a series of do’s and don’ts, cold and deadly set of moral principles. That’s one form of legalism, where one is concerned merely with the keeping of God’s law as an end in itself.
Now, God certainly cares about our following His commandments. Yet there is more to the story that we dare not forget. God gave laws such as the Ten Commandments in the context of the covenant. First, God was gracious. He redeemed His people out of slavery in Egypt and entered into a loving, filial relationship with Israel. Only after that grace-based relationship was established did God begin to define the specific laws that are pleasing to Him. I had a professor in graduate school who said, “The essence of Christian theology is grace, and the essence of Christian ethics is gratitude.” The legalist isolates the law from the God who gave the law. He is not so much seeking to obey God or honor Christ as he is to obey rules that are devoid of any personal relationship. There’s no love, joy, life, or passion. It’s a rote, mechanical form of law-keeping that we call externalism. The legalist focuses only on obeying bare rules, destroying the broader context of God’s love and redemption in which He gave His law in the first place.
To understand the second type of legalism, we must remember that the New Testament distinguishes between the letter of the law (its outward form) and the spirit of the law. The second form of legalism divorces the letter of the law from the spirit of the law. It obeys the letter but violates the spirit. There’s only a subtle distinction between this form of legalism and the one previously mentioned.
How does one keep the letter of the law but violate its spirit? Suppose a man likes to drive his car at the minimum required speed irrespective of the conditions under which he is driving. If he is on an interstate and the minimum posted speed is forty miles per hour, he drives forty miles per hour and no less. He does this even during torrential downpours, when driving at this minimum required speed actually puts other people in danger because they have had the good sense to slow down and drive twenty miles an hour so as not to skid off the road or hydroplane. The man who insists on a speed of forty miles per hour even under these conditions is driving his car to please himself alone. Although he appears to the external observer as one who is scrupulous in his civic obedience, his obedience is only external, and he doesn’t care at all about what the law is actually all about. This second kind of legalism obeys the externals while the heart is far removed from any desire to honor God, the intent of His law, or His Christ.
This second type of legalism can be illustrated by the Pharisees who confronted Jesus over healing on the Sabbath day (Matt. 12:9–14). They were concerned only with the letter of the law and avoiding anything that might look like work to them. These teachers missed the spirit of the law, which was directed against ordinary labor that is not required to maintain life and not against efforts to heal the sick.
The third type of legalism adds our own rules to God’s law and treats them as divine. It is the most common and deadly form of legalism. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees at this very point, saying, “You teach human traditions as if they were the word of God.” We have no right to heap up restrictions on people where He has no stated restriction.
Each church has a right to set its own policies in certain areas. For example, the Bible says nothing about soft drinks in the church’s fellowship hall, but a church has every right to regulate such things. But when we use these human policies to bind the conscience in an ultimate way and make such policies determinative of one’s salvation, we venture dangerously into territory that is God’s alone.
Many people think that the essence of Christianity is following the right rules, even rules that are extrabiblical. For example, the Bible doesn’t say that we can’t play cards or have a glass of wine with dinner. We can’t make these matters the external test of authentic Christianity. That would be a deadly violation of the gospel because it would substitute human tradition for the real fruits of the Spirit. We come perilously close to blasphemy by misrepresenting Christ in this way. Where God has given liberty, we should never enslave people with man-made rules. We must be careful to fight this form of legalism.
The gospel calls men to repentance, holiness, and godliness. Because of this, the world finds the gospel offensive. But woe to us if we add unnecessarily to that offense by distorting the true nature of Christianity by combining it with legalism. Because Christianity is concerned with morality, righteousness, and ethics, we can easily make that subtle move from a passionate concern for godly morality into legalism if we are not careful. But this is a supreme distortion. It’s a distortion to the right rather than to the left, but distortions exist in both directions.
Closely related to this is the form of legalism that “majors in minors,” of which the Pharisees were masters. Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” (Matt. 23:23). Notice how Jesus complimented them for obeying some matters of the law. They paid their tithe. The latest report I have seen indicates that only four percent of U.S. church members tithe their income. We don’t even obey God in the lesser matters, but at least the Pharisees brought their tithes. They didn’t rob God. Even so, obeying God only in lesser matters is not enough. Obedience in lesser matters is but the starting point.
Why do we make the test of authentic Christianity simplistic, external things like dancing and playing cards? Just consider this question: Is it easier to be known for your honor, trustworthiness, justness, and mercy, or to conform to externals. Is it easier to love your enemies or to not smoke, drink, or dance? In a sense, the latter are all minor things. The Bible says that the kingdom of God is not in eating and drinking. Yes, it’s a sin to be gluttonous or to be drunk, but the issues that God has called us to be passionately concerned about are much more significant. We are to be concerned with integrity, justice, mercy, and helping a world that is in pain. It is all too simple to distort the biblical ethic by the kind of legalism that majors in minors.
One final type of legalism is what I like to call “loophole-ism.” The Pharisees were masters of interpreting the law and creating loopholes so as to get around it. For example, the law said you couldn’t go more than a Sabbath-day’s journey on the Sabbath, a distance of about one mile from your residence. Legally, one’s residence was where some of your personal possessions were stored. So, if the Pharisees wanted to make a six-mile trip on the Sabbath day, during the week they’d have a caravan trader take some of their toothbrushes and put one under a rock each mile along the way. By placing that toothbrush under the rock, the Pharisee technically established legal residence there. That way he would never travel more than a mile from his residence. His trip violated the point of the Sabbath-day’s journey by getting around the law with a technicality.
God wants us to obey His law from a heart that desires to please Him. We must be careful of the distortion of legalism, but also the error in the other direction, antinomianism, to which we turn in the next chapter.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Five

THE DISTORTION OF LAWLESSNESS

 

In the last chapter, we looked at the first of two distortions that would lead us away from a life of godliness and righteousness. We considered the various types of legalism that distort authentic righteousness. In this chapter, we will consider the opposite error, namely, the problem of antinomianism.
What is antinomianism? Anti is the Greek prefix that means “against,” and nomian comes from the Greek word nomos, which means “law;” thus, antinomianism means “anti-lawism.” As we considered the problem of legalism, you will recall that it was important to understand that there are several varieties of legalism. It’s not good enough to simply have a blanket understanding of legalism. We need to be precise in our thinking and see the differences as they manifest themselves. The same is true of antinomianism. There are different kinds of antinomianism, and each has its own subtle variations and attractive dimensions.
The first type of antinomianism is called libertinism. Since our justification is by faith alone and not by the works of the law, a libertine Christian might think he is under grace and totally free from having to obey God’s commandments. Libertinism becomes a license to sin, so it is really liberty gone astray. The libertine may be tempted to think that his love of sin and God’s eagerness to forgive is a great combination. God gets to do what He loves and the sinner gets to do what he loves. A person of this inclination fails to remember what Paul wrote in the book of Romans: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Rom. 6:1). Paul answers that rhetorical question by saying, “God forbid that we should ever arrive at a conclusion like that.” Unfortunately, this is the philosophy of the libertine. He sees his redemption from the curse of the law as a license to sin.
Consider also what Peter said, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God”(1 Peter 2:15–16). It sounds almost contradictory when Peter describes us as free and servants of God at the same time. But it is only when we are in bondage to Christ that we understand true liberty. Peter warns against those who use their freedom as a license for wrongdoing.
A second type of antinomianism is what I call gnostic spiritualism. During the first and second centuries, one of the most dangerous rivals to the Christian faith was Gnosticism. The Gnostics took their name from the Greek word for knowledge—gnosis. They believed that they had access to special forms of knowledge that others did not have. They thought they had authority to recommend certain forms of non-Christian behavior because they presumed to possess higher knowledge that was secretive and esoteric.
We don’t have card-carrying Gnostics in the twenty-first century in the same form they were found millennia ago, but the Gnostic heresy is still alive and well. In fact, the Gnostic spirit of ethics is epidemic in Evangelical Christianity. But where do we see evidence of this Gnostic spirit?
Just consider how often you have heard people say, “The Spirit led me to do this or to do that.” We have to be very cautious here. God the Holy Spirit does lead us, but the primary meaning of the leading of the Holy Spirit is not to lead us to marry this person or that person or to lead us to Cincinnati or Chicago. The primary place to which the Spirit leads us is to holiness and obedience. Sadly, many Christians put a cloak of spirituality around their ethical decisions so as to effectively stop voices of criticism before they’re even heard.
Certainly, the Spirit lead us to certain specific life choices such as a spouse, a new job, or a new place to live. But it’s all too easy to remove yourself from any discussion about the choices that you make by simply saying, “God is calling me to do …” Who wants to argue with God’s call? This can easily become a sinful evasion of responsibility where we use spiritual language to remove ourselves from accountability in the Christian community. There are times when we should be required to give thoughtful reasons as to why we want to do whatever it is we want to do.
Importantly, the guidance of the Holy Spirit is not in itself antinomianism. It’s not anti-law to be led by the Spirit of God; we’re supposed to follow the leading of the Spirit of God. What becomes devastating is doing things that are clearly violating the revealed principles and precepts of the Word of God and then having the audacity to defend our actions by saying the Holy Spirit led us into it. I know one Christian man who became involved in a moral problem that was a direct violation of the law of God. He knew that was the case, but he was so caught up in it that his defense was that he had prayed about it and God had granted him an exception. That man was fooling himself and, at the same time, doing violence to the Holy Spirit.
God the Holy Spirit does not lead us to break His law. We are called to test the spirits. A spirit who is from God agrees with the testimony of the Holy Spirit, who has given us the Scriptures. We must be careful of this kind of spiritualism that confuses our desires with the leading of the Lord. It’s a veiled form of antinomianism.
I call the third type of antinomianism situationalism. Maybe you’ve heard the familiar phrase situational ethics. This philosophy was developed by Joseph Fletcher. He sought to make love the highest norm above all others. He was searching for a middle road between the two dangers of legalism and antinomianism, and he declared that the only absolute was the absolute law to love. All other laws, he declared, are subject to the law of love and should be broken if a better and more loving course of action can be found. Fletcher wanted to find the best outcome of a given situation by holding up the law of love.
This may sound well and good, but this view has problems. We must never say that Scripture’s other laws are negotiable or reducible to one ill-designed view of love. Fletcher said that we are supposed to do what seems right in a given situation. We are to do what love would demand that we do. But the Bible doesn’t say what love seems to be; rather, it defines what love is.
Allow me to illustrate. Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:1–2). Now consider the very next verse, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Eph. 5:3). The Apostle said to walk in love, but what does it mean to walk in love? It means you are never to be involved in sexual immorality. He attaches a prohibition against sexual immorality as a universal prohibition. This defines what love demands, but we only get half of that from Fletcher. If we follow Fletcher’s reasoning, it might lead us to the oldest argument that men have used to seduce women: “If you love me, you will.” We must know that if love is left uninformed and its content is given merely by what seems right to me according to my personal, subjective preference, the situation becomes the ultimate norm rather than the Word of God. God, however, tells us what love truly demands.
Situational ethics is clearly antinomian. By its own testimony, it reduces the law of God to one law, the law of love. The New Testament certainly focuses on love and says love is the summary of the law. Even Augustine made the statement, “Love God and do as you please.” But when Augustine defined what he meant by that statement, he said that if you love God, you will be pleased by what pleases Him. How do you know what pleases God, except by careful study of the law of God? Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Commandments come out of love, and the Christian who is bound by the law of love is a Christian who recognizes the normative authority of the commandments of Jesus. That’s my issue with the new morality. Who is Lord? Who has the right to impose obligations upon us? God may do it, God can do it, and God has done it.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Six

DEGREES OF SIN

 

An important and practical question that we must address before we finish our look at building a Christian conscience is the question as to whether there are degrees of sin and of righteousness. There appears to be a great misunderstanding about biblical ethics in the secular culture. Not too long ago, I read an interesting essay written by a renowned psychiatrist who was distressed about Christianity. He expressed his concern that in his practice he dealt everyday with people who were neurotic, and at times psychotic, as a result of their inability to handle guilt. As an aside, have you ever stopped to think how many problems in psychiatry relate to the question of guilt? There’s a sense in which a medical practitioner has to be concerned with ethics, the relationship between right and wrong, and the powerful impact of guilt on the human personality.
This particular psychiatrist wrote a critique of the ethical teachings of Jesus. Usually, those who are most hostile to Jesus, the church, and Christianity have good words for Jesus as an ethical teacher. They don’t believe He’s divine, nor that He’s the Savior of the world, but they grant that He’s the greatest ethical teacher who has ever lived. But not this doctor. He laid down the gauntlet and made it clear that Jesus was not a great teacher of ethics.
The psychiatrist directed his readers to the Sermon on the Mount and said that it is the crux of Jesus’ ethical teaching. The doctor questioned why we would take Jesus’ teaching seriously at all. Why, he asked, is Jesus a great moral teacher since He said that it is just as bad to lust after a woman as it is to commit adultery or that it’s just as bad to hate somebody as it is to kill them? The psychiatrist claimed that such an ethic was foolishness. He wondered how a truly wise person could rank these different actions equally. Lust may be bad, but the consequences of it are truly different than actually committing adultery. The same is true for anger and murder. The psychiatrist was left dumbfounded as to why people elevate Jesus as a great ethical teacher.
At one point, I share the consternation of that psychiatrist. If Jesus of Nazareth had ever taught that adultery is no worse than lust and that murder is no worse than hate, I would be as astonished as the psychiatrist that anyone would revere the ethical teachings of Jesus. But the fact is that Jesus never taught that it is as bad to lust as it is to commit adultery or that it is as bad to be angry as it is to murder.
Why would someone come to the idea that Jesus taught that there are no distinctions? I think it comes from a simple misreading of the Sermon on the Mount. In that sermon, Jesus was dealing with the Pharisees and their teaching. He said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matt. 5:21–22). Jesus also said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:27–28). Jesus actually never says that it’s as bad to hate as it is to murder. Moreover, we can’t legitimately infer that from His teachings. What was his point then?
Consider a continuum. On the left, one has the most heinous act, which would be the physical act of adultery. On the right, one would have the righteousness of true chastity. There are many behaviors that fall between these opposing poles. A man can kiss a woman who is not his wife. That’s not adultery. It’s not sexual intercourse. The relationship can progress through stages of deeper and deeper involvement sexually. The relationship may start as something innocent such as a righteous friendship, but the friendship can progress in stages in the direction of an illicit, unlawful relationship that culminates in the physical act of adultery. There are steps along the way between righteousness and the heinous act of adulterous intercourse. Lust is usually one of those steps. When lust is born in the mind, that’s the first step towards moving in the direction of carrying out the fantasy that actually ends in adultery. The point Jesus made is that the law that God gives—“Thou shalt not commit adultery”—is not kept fully if one merely refrains from the physical act of adultery. When God forbids adultery, the full measure of that prohibition incorporates within it the whole complex of that sin, not only the actual act but all of the things that are a part of it. If you lust, Jesus said you have not fulfilled the whole measure of the law. That’s a vital point for us to understand because otherwise, the scriptural ethic would make no sense.
Historically speaking, both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism have understood that there are degrees of sin. The Roman Catholic church makes a distinction between mortal and venial sin. The point of that distinction is that there are some sins so gross, heinous, and serious that the actual commission of those sins is mortal in the sense that it kills the grace of justification that resides in the soul of the believer. In their theology, not every sin is devastating to that degree. There are some real sins that are venial sins. These are less serious sins in terms of their consequences, but they don’t have the justification-killing capacity that mortal sins have.
Many Evangelical Protestants have rejected the idea of degrees of sin because they know that the Protestant Reformation rejected the Roman Catholic distinction between mortal and venial sins. As a result, they’ve jumped to the conclusion that there are no distinctions between sins in Protestantism.
We should return to the views of the Reformers themselves. John Calvin was an outspoken critic of the Roman Catholic Church and their distinction between mortal and venial sin. Calvin said that all sin is mortal in the sense that it deserves death. The book of James reminds us, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (James 2:10). Even the slightest sin is an act of cosmic treason. We fail to feel the gravity of our actions to this degree, but it is true.
When I sin, I choose my will over the will of God Almighty. By implication I’m essentially saying that I’m more intelligent, wise, righteous, and powerful than God Himself. Calvin said that all sin is mortal in the sense that God could justifiably destroy each of us for the smallest sin we’ve committed. In fact, the penalty for sin was given the first day of human creation: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Yet God doesn’t deal with us always according to justice. He deals with us according to grace, He allows us to live, and He moves to bring about our redemption. Calvin said that all sins are mortal in that we deserve death from them but that no sin is mortal in the sense that it can destroy our saving grace. We have to repent, yes, but the justifying grace that the Holy Spirit brings to us is not killed by our sin. Calvin and every one of the Reformers strenuously maintained that there is a difference between lesser sins and what they called gross and heinous sins.
This distinction is important for Christians to understand so that we can learn to live charitably with each other. The sin of pettiness, by which people begin to dwell on minor transgressions in the community, can tear the body of Christ apart. Great damage comes when it is fueled by the fire of gossip and slander. We are called to patience and tolerance towards the struggling failures of other Christians. It’s not that we’re called to be lax on sin, for there are certain sins listed in the New Testament that are serious and ought not be allowed in the church. Adultery is serious. Incest calls for ecclesiastical discipline. Drunkenness, murder, and fornication are repeatedly mentioned. These sins are so destructive that they call forth church discipline when they are manifested.
It’s clear that we have different degrees of sin when we consider the warnings of Scripture. There are at least twenty-two references in the New Testament to degrees of rewards that are given to the saints in heaven. There are different levels, different rewards, and different roles in heaven. The Bible warns us against adding to the severity of our judgment. Jesus said to Pontius Pilate, “He who delivered me over to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11). Jesus measures and evaluates guilt, and with the greater guilt and greater responsibility comes the greater judgment. It’s a motif that permeates the New Testament.
The idea of gradation of sin and reward is based upon God’s justice. If I commit twice as many sins as another person, justice demands that the punishment fits the crime. If I’ve been twice as virtuous as another person, justice demands that I get more of a reward. God tells us that entrance into heaven will be only on the basis of the merit of Christ, but once we get to heaven, rewards will be dispensed according to works. Those who have been abundant in good works will receive an abundant reward. Those who have been derelict and negligent in good works will have a small reward in heaven. By the same token, those who have been grievous enemies of God will have severe torments in hell. Those who have been less hostile will have a lesser punishment at the hands of God. He is perfectly just, and when He judges, He will take into account all of the extenuating circumstances. Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matt. 12:36).
Why is it important for us to emphasize this point? Many times I’ve talked to men who struggle with lust and they say to themselves or to me, “I might as well go ahead and commit adultery because I’m already guilty of lust. I can’t be in any worse shape in the sight of God, so I might as well finish the deed.” I always answer, “Oh yes, you can be in much worse shape.” The judgment of actual adultery will be much more severe than the judgment upon lust. God will deal with us at that level, and it’s a foolish thing for a person who has committed a misdemeanor, to therefore say, “I’m already guilty; I might as well make it a felony.” God forbid that we should think like that. If we do, we face the righteous judgment of God. We must keep this in mind as we seek to build a Christian conscience and a Christian character.

 

Sproul, R. C. (2013). How Can I Develop a Christian Conscience? (First edition, S. viii–57). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

ROSARY presents: Every Square Inch- How

ROSARY presents: Every Square Inch- How do Culture and church behave?-Chapter 1- via Archbishop Uwe AE.Rosenkranz http://ow.ly/YQDc50dNCkf

^UR http://ht.ly/JOYc30eNYdR

^UR http://ht.ly/JOYc30eNYdR

^UR http://ow.ly/TvHS30eNYii

^UR http://ow.ly/TvHS30eNYii

^UR http://ht.ly/3Quq30eNY3t Creation an

^UR http://ht.ly/3Quq30eNY3t Creation and how to do historical research- by Archbishop Dr. Uwe Rosenkranz

Genesis, study guide, part 1.3

Here is a short introduction how we may use the timeline of Logod/Faith Life and Verbum for a historical study of both biblical and cultural research:

LOGOS time line

Genesis, creation of man, Michelangelo

 

 

 

 

Appendix A

 

How to Read the First Chapter of Genesis*
By George Sim Johnston

 

The first chapter of Genesis remains a great stumbling block for the modern mind. The average educated person “knows” that the creation account in Genesis is contradicted by what science tells us about the origin of the universe and the animal kingdom. Charles Darwin himself discarded a mild Protestant faith when he concluded that the author of Genesis was a bad geologist. To his mind, the biblical six days of creation and Lyell’s Principles of Geology could not both be true.
The discomfort with Genesis, moreover, has not been restricted to the educated classes. According to the famous French worker-priest Abbe Michonneau, the apparent conflict between science and the six-day creation account promoted atheism among the poor far more effectively than any social injustice. Darwinian evolution is a major ingredient of that “science.” So is the “Big Bang” model of the universe, which plausibly asserts that the cosmos is billions, and not thousands, of years old.
The confusion over this issue, which Pope John Paul II addressed in 1996 in his highly publicized letter about evolution, boils down to the question of how to read the biblical creation account. In his letter, John Paul simply reiterated what the Magisterium has argued tirelessly since Leo XIII’s Providentissimus Deus (1893): the author of Genesis did not intend to provide a scientific explanation of how God created the world. Unfortunately, there are still biblical fundamentalists, Catholic and Protestant, who do not embrace this point.
When Christ said that the mustard seed was the smallest of seeds—and it is about the size of a speck of dust—He was not laying down a principle of botany. In fact, botanists tell us there are smaller seeds. Our Lord was simply talking to the men of His time in their own language, and with reference to their own experience. Similarly, the Hebrew word for “day” used in Genesis (yom) can mean a twenty-four-hour day, or a longer period. Hence the warning of Pius XII in Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943) that the true sense of a biblical passage is not always obvious. The sacred authors wrote in the idioms of their time and place.
As Catholics, we must believe that every word of Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit—a claim the Church will not make even for her infallible pronouncements. However, we must not imagine the biblical authors as going into a trance and taking automatic dictation in a “pure” language, untouched by historical contingency. Rather, God made full use of the writers’ habits of mind and expression. It’s the old mystery of grace and free will.
A modern reader of Genesis must bear in mind the principles of biblical exegesis laid down by Saint Augustine in his great work De Genesi Ad Litteram (On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis). Augustine taught that whenever reason established with certainty a fact about the physical world, seemingly contrary statements in the Bible must be interpreted accordingly. He opposed the idea of a “Christian account” of natural phenomena in opposition to what could be known by science. He viewed such accounts as “most deplorable and harmful, and to be avoided at any cost,” because on hearing them the non-believer “could hardly hold his laughter on seeing, as the saying goes, the error rise sky-high.”
As early as AD 410, then, the greatest of the western Church Fathers was telling us that the Book of Genesis is not an astrophysics or geology textbook. Augustine himself was a kind of evolutionist, speculating that God’s creation of the cosmos was an instantaneous act whose effects unfolded over a long period. God had planted “rational seeds” in nature which eventually developed into the diversity of plants and animals we see today. Saint Thomas Aquinas cites this view of Augustine’s more than once in the course of the Summa Theologiae. Saint Thomas, author Etienne Gilson writes,

was well aware that the Book of Genesis was not a treatise on cosmography for the use of scholars. It was a statement of the truth intended for the simple people whom Moses was addressing. Thus it is sometimes possible to interpret it in a variety of ways. So it was that when we speak of the six days of creation, we can understand by it either six successive days, as do Ambrose, Basil, Chrysostom and Gregory, and is suggested by the letter of the text … Or we can with Augustine take it to refer to the simultaneous creation of all beings with days symbolizing the various orders of beings. This second interpretation is at first sight less literal, but is, rationally speaking, more satisfying. It is the one that St. Thomas adopts, although he does not exclude the other which, as he says, can also be held.

In this century, Cardinal Bea, who helped Pius XII draft Divino Afflante Spiritu, wrote that Genesis does not deal with the “true constitution of visible things.” It is meant to convey truths outside the scientific order.
While they do not teach science, the early chapters of Genesis are history and not myth. But they are not history as it would be written by a modern historian. (It is not as though there was a camcorder in the Garden of Eden.) You might say that they are history written in mythic language—a poetic compression of the truth, as it were. We are obliged to believe the fundamental truths expressed by the sacred author—for example, that our first parents, tempted by the devil, committed a primal act of disobedience whose effects we still suffer (Catechism, no. 390). But the Catholic doctrine of original sin is entirely outside the realm of physical science. It’s worth keeping in mind, however, Newman’s remark that the more he contemplated humanity, the clearer it became to him that the race was “implicated in some terrible aboriginal calamity.”
Biblical fundamentalism—and its corollary, creation science—is a distinctly Protestant phenomenon. Although it has roots in the commentaries on Genesis written by Luther and Calvin, its real beginning was in early twentieth century America. Biblical literalism was a defense against the onslaught of rationalist criticism launched by German scholars who were intent on undermining Christian belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Certain Protestant denominations that were already suspicious of science took refuge in a semantic literalism that sheltered the Bible from the invasive procedures of agnostic scholarship. The intellectual simplicity and doctrinal clarity of this position make it attractive to some Catholics today. This appeal is understandable. They are seeking refuge from the attacks of heterodox theologians who seem as eager as their nineteenth century forebears to deconstruct the faith.
The temptation to biblical literalism should be avoided, however. The Bible was never meant to be read apart from the teaching authority established by Christ. Even many Catholics are not aware of the “Catholic” origins of the Bible. It was not until the end of the fourth century that the twenty-seven books which comprise the New Testament were agreed upon by two Church councils, subject to final approval by the pope. And it was the Church that insisted, against the protests of heretics, that the Old Testament be included in the Christian canon. The Bible was never meant to stand alone as a separate authority. It is the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, that preserves the deposit of the faith, of which Scripture is an integral part. Saint Augustine, as usual, got it exactly right: “But for the authority of the Catholic Church, I would not believe the Gospel.”
Since Leo XIII, the Magisterium has progressively discouraged the literalistic reading of Genesis favored by Protestants. Can a Catholic nonetheless read Genesis as a scientific treatise? Yes, if he wants to—but he may find himself in the dilemma of trying to force scientific data into a biblical template that was never meant to receive it. And he will be severely handicapped in doing apologetics in a post-Christian world. He will, in fact, be the reverse of apostolic if he tries to explain to anyone the doctrine of creation in the terms of ancient Hebrew cosmology.
The test of a first-rate intellect, it has been said, is the ability to hold two seemingly opposed ideas and retain the ability to function. A brilliant twentieth-century Catholic apologist, Frank J. Sheed, wrote of the creation account in his masterpiece, Theology and Sanity. His words are an invitation to Catholics tempted by biblical literalism to use their reason and not engage in overly simplistic readings of Scripture. The author of Genesis, Sheed writes,

tells us of the fact but not the process: there was an assembly of elements of the material universe, but was it instantaneous or spread over a considerable space and time? Was it complete in one act, or by stages? Were those elements, for instance, formed into an animal body which as one generation followed another gradually evolved—not, of course, by the ordinary laws of matter but under the special guidance of God—to a point where it was capable of union with a spiritual soul, which God created and infused into it? The statement in Genesis does not seem actually to exclude this, but it certainly does not say it. Nor has the Church formally said that it is not so.

Catholics in reality have no cause to be timid about Scripture or science. They simply need to distinguish between two complementary but distinct orders of knowledge—theological and scientific—and allow each its due competence. They should be extremely cautious about mixing the two. The Magisterium learned this the hard way in the Galileo affair. A faithful Catholic should be calmly anchored in the proposition that truth is indivisible, and the works of God cannot contradict what He has chosen to reveal through Scripture and Tradition.

 

 

 

 

Appendix B

 

Guide to Lesson Questions

 

Lesson 1

To make the most of this study, respond to all the questions yourself before reading these responses.

1. a. There are four phrases repeated throughout Genesis 1: (1) “And God said, ‘Let there be … and it was so,” (2) “And God saw that it was good,” (3) “And there was evening and there was morning,” and also (4) “God called …”

b. (1) In the repetition of this phrase, we see first the power of God’s Word to call things into existence. We see that God is not only powerful, but that He used His power to create life. He is the source of life. (2) In the repetition of this phrase, we see that pleasure and goodness are packed into creation, intensifying until God pronounced it “very good” at the end. In this, we see God’s own goodness, which He shared with His creation, and His intention to create the universe to be a source of satisfaction for Himself. (3) In the repetition of this phrase, we see that God created the world in measured steps. That the elements of creation were arranged in order of increasing complexity on successive “days” suggests that God planned and designed the universe, creating it deliberately in an orderly fashion. He was like an artist who patiently worked, observed, and then continued working until everything was perfect. (4) In the repetition of this phrase, we see God demonstrating His dominion over everything in His creation by naming it. He knew what each thing was meant to be.

2. a. Genesis 1:2 tells us that “the Spirit” (lit. ruah in Hebrew, or “breath”) was also present at creation.

b. The Spirit was “moving over the face of the waters,” or hovering expectantly over the unformed chaos that was about to become the earth. This description suggests that God’s Spirit was an integral part of all the action of creation.

3. The use of the plural “us” and “our” in Genesis 1:26 suggests two things about God. First, like the royal “we,” it reflects His greatness, power, and majesty. The Hebrew plural noun used for God in the text, Elohim, suggests this as well. There, it is a plural of emphasis, not of number. In addition, there is also a longstanding Christian tradition of seeing in these plural pronouns an intimation of communion, or community, within the Godhead. They suggest that God, although One, is not solitary. This eventually was explicitly revealed in salvation history as the Blessed Trinity (see next question).

4. Challenge question: The New Testament reveals that Jesus was the “word” that God spoke “in the beginning.” He was present as the creative Word of God. Jesus’ role was to create and to sustain the universe and life: “[A]ll things were made through him” (Jn. 1:3); “in him all things were created … all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16–17). From the very first words of Scripture, we are introduced to the Word of God, who will, throughout all the rest of its pages, slowly but magnificently be revealed. He was fully manifested when He took on human flesh in the womb of Mary, becoming the Incarnate Son of God.

5. Responses will vary. As God thought, planned, executed, and evaluated, man in His image should be expected to do the same; in other words, man will be rational. God’s boundless creativity was a central aspect of His creation. Surely, man will likewise be creative. All God created was good and well-ordered; even so we would expect man to have an appreciation of goodness and order. The care God exhibited for creation leads us to expect compassion and care in man. The eternal nature of God, living outside of time, suggests a capacity for eternal life in man. And the fact that God, although One, was not alone but existed in communion with the Word and the Spirit prepares us to expect a need for communion among men. They will not be solitary creatures.

6. God, who is Spirit, and thus neither male nor female, is nonetheless reflected in mankind by male and female together. Man and woman are created “equal as persons … and complementary as masculine and feminine” (Catechism, no. 372). Each has the inherent dignity of being created in God’s image. In communion together, and particularly in the context of the family, they fully reflect the image of the Divine Family, which is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

7. Challenge question: All that God made pleased and satisfied Him. Everything was filled with goodness, since it all came from God Himself. To be blessed by God, in this context, was to be pleasing in His sight. Man and animal were in complete harmony with the purpose God had in creating them. This is an important idea to grasp at this moment in Genesis. As Catholic students of Scripture, we will want to keep a very close eye on what becomes of this blessing that God has given to man. The blessing of God—how we got it, how we lost it, and how we’ll get it back (and keep it)—is the central focus of all salvation history. The entire Bible can be summed up as the story of this drama. Because of its importance in the rest of Scripture, linger here in Genesis 1 and soak in just how magnificent it was for man and beast to be blessed by God at the dawn of creation.

8. a. God’s blessing of both man and animals included a charge to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. In addition, man was charged with subduing the earth and having dominion over it. Dominion means “supreme authority; sovereignty.” God, who is absolute King over all His creation, shares His authority with man by entrusting him with the earth and its resources, thus giving man the dignity of cooperating with Him in completing the work of creation. Man’s dominion is not intended to be domination; he is, rather, to care for the earth, to oversee it, to work it, and enjoy its fruits.

b. Man’s work on earth was to be like God’s work in creation. In giving man the responsibility to be fruitful, God allowed him to participate in the creation of human life. In giving him charge over the earth, God vested man with some of His own authority, asking man to share in His work of ruling. Man’s two-part vocation was thus a reflection of God Himself. It enabled him to be what he was created to be—a creature made in God’s image. And in fulfilling this vocation, he would find true happiness.

9. a. God gave them food to nourish and sustain them (vv. 29–30).
b. In this provision of food, God made it clear that He is the source of all that living creatures need for their lives to be sustained. It is of great importance for Catholics to recognize this simple provision from God, which appears so early in Genesis. In connecting Himself to the sources of food for man and beast, God showed Himself to be the true nourishment of all life. Is it any wonder, therefore, that the Church has, as its central act of worship of God, the provision of a heavenly meal for man, the Body and Blood of Christ?

10. Responses will vary. It is difficult to answer this from Genesis 1 alone. However, given God’s self-sufficiency and limitless perfection, and having observed the great care with which God fashioned the earth for us, it is reasonable to assume we are here because He knew we would enjoy living and knowing Him. He created us for His good pleasure and our own. Theologian Frank J. Sheed has this to say: “It is a new light upon the love of God that our gain could be a motive for His action. He knew that beings were possible who could enjoy existence, and He gave them existence. By existing they glorify Him—but who is the gainer by that? Not God, who needs nothing from any creature. Only the creature, whose greatest glory is that He can glorify God.”

 

Lesson 2

To make the most of this study, respond to all the questions yourself before reading these responses.

Completion and Rest: The Seventh Day (Gen. 2:1–3)
1. God rested not because He was tired, but because He was finished. Nothing formless or empty remained in the world; it was complete and perfect. In His essence, God is not just a being who works. He is a being who is—He exists complete in Himself. When God rested from His work, He was in glad harmony and communion with all His works. When God’s creative work was finished, He gave man the task of continuing that creative work and caring for it. By resting on the seventh day He set a pattern, a rhythm of work and rest, that would one day be reproduced in man’s life on earth—six days to work, and one day to enjoy and celebrate his glad harmony and communion with God.

The Creation of Man (Gen. 2:4–7)
2. a. God created man in His own image and after His likeness. Whereas He told the waters and the earth to bring forth creatures, God Himself formed man “from the dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”

b. This breath of life is the soul, “that by which (man) is most especially in God’s image” (Catechism, no. 363). It is this that separates man from the animals. They are living beings, with the spirit of life in them, but they do not have this soul that comes from God. Breathed into him by God Himself, man’s soul has free will and is incorruptible.

The Creation of the Garden (Gen. 2:8–17)
3. a. The Garden was full of trees that were “pleasant to the sight” and “good for food.” There were two special trees in the midst of the Garden—one was the Tree of Life; the other was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

b. The Garden was a place where man was fully alive and in complete harmony with the purposes for which God designed him. His senses, a gift to him from God, were able to take in the beauty of creation. As the Catechism says, “The beauty of creation reflects the infinite beauty of the Creator and ought to inspire the respect and submission of man’s intellect and will” (no. 341). The Garden’s beauty was to be a reminder to man of the goodness and wisdom of God.

c. Challenge question: The beauty of the Garden makes us expect beauty wherever God and man meet on earth. We are not surprised, then, when we find unutterable beauty in the place where God first met man outside the Garden, that is, in the worship of Israel. In the tabernacle, built by Moses when the Hebrews had escaped from Egypt, the holy of holies was the place where God and man, in the person of the high priest, met. It was a place of extraordinary beauty, since its walls were covered with gold. It contained the ark of the covenant, a box containing the tablets of stone on which the Ten Commandments were written. The ark was covered in gold and had exquisite heavenly sculptures on it (see Ex. 25:10–22). The vestments of the high priest were studded with gems so that, when he went into the tabernacle on behalf of the people to do his priestly work, he was arrayed in “glory and beauty” (see Ex. 28:40). The Catholic Church’s tradition of exquisite beauty in her architecture and art continues what we see here in Genesis. God intends for man to experience beauty in His presence. As Saint Thomas Aquinas taught, man’s senses are ordered to beauty. (See also Catechism, nos. 2502–3.)

4. Responses will vary. The need to keep or “guard” the Garden makes one ask, “against what?” After all, this is Paradise, is it not? And haven’t we just seen that God called all creation “very good?” This is a curious detail at this point in the story, one we will want to keep in mind.

5. Challenge question: It is clear in this scene that God designed man with the capacity to make a choice that would determine his fate. Man understood that the choice to disobey God would result in death. Long before the serpent tempted him, he was aware of good and evil. “Good” meant living the way God asked him to, and living forever; “evil” meant disobeying God and facing death. We can see that man was, at the beginning, designed to achieve the end for which he was created by means of a choice. Of course, it had to be a real choice (what kind of choice would it have been if God had told man not to eat the thorns from a misshapen bush?). Because God is Himself free, He desires man to freely choose to love and obey Him. The choice was man’s to make.

The Creation of Eve (Gen. 2:18–25)
6. a. Being alone is not good because God is not alone. Within the one God are three distinct, equal Persons in a communion of love. Man alone, without an equal, could not be fully in God’s image. Man must be in communion with others like himself, in order to be all that God created him to be. In that communion, he reflects the Blessed Trinity.

b. Because the creation was an active work of all three Persons of the Trinity, man needed one who could help him do his work of fruitfulness and dominion—“a helper fit for him.” A “companion” is one who keeps another company; a “helper” shares his work.

7. Adam’s not finding a suitable helper among the animals was for his own benefit. He knew from his own experience that, while he was like the beasts of the field in many ways, he was different and set apart from them. He needed his helper to be one equal to himself. Notice here that this kind of knowledge is something Adam reached through his own experience. It was different from the knowledge that was revealed to him by God. God told him what to eat and what not to eat in the garden. It wasn’t left up to him. Man’s knowledge in the Garden was of two types: one was revealed knowledge, and the other was knowledge obtained through experience and reason.

8. Responses will vary. God went into the body of Adam to create a creature truly equal to him, yet different from him. Man and woman were remarkably similar, but they were not exactly the same. By creating the second human being on earth in this way, God guaranteed equality among human beings, in spite of their differences.

9. a. Adam recognized that Eve, as one like him, could really be his helper, unlike the animals. Adam’s work on earth was to be fruitful and have dominion over the earth. He needed someone who could work in the same way he did (with reason, hands, etc.) He also needed someone with whom he could produce offspring. If he looked at Eve’s body and his own, he would have seen that they “fit,” that they were meant to go together. She was just what he was looking for!

b. In the context of verses 23–24, marriage is the happy union of man and woman that enables each to be what God intended for human beings. Their marriage means that they are not alone. It also means that they can fulfill their work of fruitfulness and dominion. They can be fruitful because their “cleaving” will produce the “one flesh” both of intimacy and of offspring. They can have dominion because they will help each other with the work of maintaining what God created. In Genesis 2, marriage appears as the culmination of God’s creative work—a source of joy to both the humans and to Himself.

c. “One flesh” is both the sign and the expression of the indissoluble union of marriage. When a man and a woman come together in marriage, they become, in effect, a new, indivisible creation. The child that their cleaving begets is the expression of that oneness. As the Catholic marriage rite says, “You gave man the constant help of woman so that man and woman should no longer be two, but one flesh, and you teach us that what you have united may never be divided.” This is simply a statement of what Jesus teaches in the Gospels. Marriage was always intended by God to be permanent.

10. Challenge question: Genesis 2 helps us to see the full purpose of conjugal union in marriage. It has a divine dynamic, both for the production of new human life and for the fulfillment of husband and wife in their human vocation. Sexual union, with its intimacy and its power to keep creating human beings, was a great gift to Adam and Eve. We can see this clearly in Genesis 2. Preventing sexual union from accomplishing the purpose for which it was given distorts it and thus robs the creatures of its intended end. Understanding the clear picture here helps us to see that the teaching of the Church on “openness to life” and opposition to artificial contraception has preserved the truths of Paradise faithfully:

Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality.… The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle … involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality. (Catechism, no. 2370, quoting Familiaris Consortio 32)

 

Lesson 3

To make the most of this study, respond to all the questions yourself before reading these responses.

The Challenge (Gen. 3:1–3)
1. The serpent was “that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.” In the heavenly vision from Revelation, he is described as a great red dragon, with seven crowned heads and ten horns. The crowns and horns represent his tremendous power—he is a creature that strikes fear and dread into the souls of mere men. The Catechism helps us to understand that Satan was once a good angel who “radically and irrevocably rejected God and His reign” (no. 392). In addition to being a rebel against God’s authority, he is “a liar and the father of lies” (Jn. 8:44). He was an enemy of God’s first human creatures, seducing them to fall into disobedience and death. He even tried to “divert Jesus from the mission He received from the Father” (Catechism, no. 394). Although he is clearly powerful and intimidating, Satan is still a creature in God’s universe. His power to wreak havoc is finite. This truth will become abundantly clear as we move through the rest of Genesis 3.

2. a. We have to wonder why God would allow His enemy to enter the sanctuary of the Garden and tempt His creatures to disobedience.

b. Challenge question: As surprised as we are by the appearance of the serpent, we realize the serpent could never have gotten into the Garden without God’s permission. In the first chapter of Genesis, we saw that God created all things. There cannot be any creature with a power equal to or independent of Him. Even though the serpent is clearly evil, he did not get into the Garden by some horrible cosmic accident. If we took seriously the rich details of God’s goodness in the first two chapters, we must conclude that, however it may appear to us, His goodness was not violated in this episode. There is no other reasonable conclusion, although it is not one easy to embrace. “To this question [why does evil exist?], as pressing as it is unavoidable and as painful as it is mysterious, no quick answer will suffice” (Catechism, no. 309). The irrefutable testimony of Genesis 1–2 to God’s character helps us to have hope, in spite of appearances. “We firmly believe that God is master of the world and of its history. But the ways of his providence are often unknown to us. Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God ‘face to face,’ [1 Cor. 13:12] will we fully know the ways by which—even through the dramas of evil and sin—God has guided his creation to that divine Sabbath rest [cf. Gen. 2:2] for which he created heaven and earth” (Catechism, no. 314).

3. a. Responses will vary. We know from the Catechism that Satan rebelled against God’s authority. If Adam had been given a charge by God to guard the Garden, he was God’s appointed representative there. The serpent bypassed him completely. His pitch, addressed to the woman, was an act of insubordination, perfectly in keeping with his character.

The serpent may have also recognized the importance of the woman’s vocation as mother. In reflecting on the “Proto-evangelium” in Genesis, Pope John Paul says, “The ‘woman’, as mother and first teacher of the human being (education being the spiritual dimension of parenthood), has a specific precedence over the man. Although motherhood, especially in the bio-physical sense, depends upon the man, it places an essential “mark” on the whole personal growth process of new children.… [M]otherhood in its personal-ethical sense expresses a very important creativity on the part of the woman, upon whom the very humanity of the new human being mainly depends.”

b. Responses will vary. We can presume that Adam was right there with the woman as the serpent began his conversation. Why? In the Hebrew text of these verses, all the verbs the serpent used were in the second person plural. His references were to both the man and the woman, although his attention was directed towards the woman. In verse 6, we know that the woman gave some of the forbidden fruit to her husband. In order to translate the Hebrew more accurately than our RSV text does, one Bible renders this as “she gave some to her husband, who was there with her” (the New International Version or NIV Bible). That is the more literal sense of the verse.

4. a. God said to Adam, “[Y]ou may freely eat of every tree of the garden.” The serpent changed the command from a positive (“you may freely eat … except one”) to a negative (“you shall not of every tree”). That changed the command from being essentially an invitation to being essentially a prohibition. The meaning, strictly speaking, was the same: either way, there was a tree that was forbidden. By emphasizing the one tree over the many, the serpent made the woman focus on what she couldn’t have rather than on the bounty God provided for them.

b. The serpent’s language implied that God was harsh and restrictive, when actually He wanted His creatures to live freely and be happy. With just a simple rephrasing of the command, a deceptive shadow was cast over God’s character.

5. Responses will vary. It seems clear that the woman understood that eating from the tree was full of danger. Perhaps in her mind, she had resolved never to even touch that tree, since it had such a severe warning attached to it. She seems to have been making a noble effort to avoid contact with it at all costs.

The Deception (Gen. 3:4–5)
6. a. Everything the serpent suggested would happen as a result of eating the fruit was already possessed by the man and woman. Let’s take a look:
“You will not die.” It was true already that the humans were intended for immortality, because they were made in the image and likeness of God, who is immortal. As we will discover later in Genesis 3, the fruit of the Tree of Life, which had been theirs for the taking, bestowed eternal life.
“Your eyes will be opened.” Their eyes were already open. Adam saw the woman God presented to him and burst into exclamations of delight at the sight of her. Genesis 2:25 tells us that the man and the woman saw each other’s nakedness without shame. There was nothing lacking in their eyesight.
“You will be like God.” They were already like God in the greatest way possible for created beings. They were made in His image and likeness, a fact verified by the work He had given them of procreating and sustaining life on earth.
“Knowing good and evil.” They already knew what God had revealed to them to be good and evil, although they had not yet experienced it. They knew that obedience to God’s command was good, because it would preserve their lives with Him; they knew that disobedience was evil, because it would cause their death.

b. Responses will vary. The serpent suggested that God’s prohibition against the fruit was for His sake, not for theirs. He implied that God did not want competition from the human creatures, so He prevented them from eating the fruit that would make them “like gods.”

c. Challenge question: The serpent wanted the man and woman to break free from God’s authority, implying that He couldn’t be trusted to put the creatures’ well-being first. He urged them to be independent and autonomous. Implicit in this temptation was a taunt: “Don’t be such creatures. Have you no pride? Think for yourselves.” How ironic that he urged them to grasp through rebellion what they already possessed through obedience.
A word from John Paul II is helpful here: “With this imagery, Revelation teaches that the power to decide what is good and what is evil does not belong to man, but to God alone. The man is certainly free, inasmuch as he can understand and accept God’s commands. And he possesses an extremely far-reaching freedom, since he can eat ‘of every tree of the garden.’ But his freedom is not unlimited: it must halt before the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil,’ for it is called to accept the moral law given by God. In fact, human freedom finds it authentic and complete fulfillment precisely in the acceptance of that law. God, who alone is good, knows perfectly what is good for man, and by virtue of his very love proposes this good to man in the commandments.”

7. a. Responses will vary. Adam’s status as child of God, husband of the woman, and keeper of the Garden required him to stand up in some way to the serpent. He should have stepped in to defend his bride, the Garden, and God’s name in whatever way that battle had to be fought. If the thought of that was frightening to him, he could have cried out for help from God: “Oh, Father! What do I do now?” He should have given himself entirely to preserving the life God had given to him and the woman in the Garden.

b. Responses will vary. It is impossible to know exactly why Adam was silent and passive in the Garden. Did the appearance of the serpent, who seemed to have superior knowledge to his own, intimidate him? Did it cause him to doubt God’s trustworthiness? Was he silent because he was calculating the cost of opposing the serpent? Did he think it might cost him his life, or, if not his life, at least some pain? At the most basic level, the serpent’s challenge caused Adam to wonder whether he could trust God. And uncertainty—as it does to us so often—rendered him speechless and unwilling to act. The Catechism says that “Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart, and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of [see Gen. 3:1–11; cf. Rom. 5:19]. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in His goodness. In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good” (nos. 397–98). Adam’s silence in the Garden was the sound of death.

c. Adam’s unwillingness to act left the woman vulnerable to the serpent. She was left to manage all on her own. She had valiantly tried to ward off the serpent’s earlier suggestion to reconsider God’s prohibition against eating the forbidden fruit, but what effect did Adam’s silence and inaction have on her? Adam’s self-donation to the cause of opposing the serpent would have confirmed her in what she knew to be true about God. His living example of putting complete trust in God’s word could have led her to do the same. Instead, she was the only one in the Garden who had not capitulated to rebellion against God. She was all alone, and it is never good for man to be “alone.”

The Decision (Gen. 3:6)
8. a. The tree was pleasing to the sight, a delight to the senses. The fruit looked tasty. Even the name of the tree—the tree of knowledge—sounded appealing. Everything about the tree—its look, its feel, its effects—seemed irresistibly desirable.

b. The beauty and desirability of the tree should have served to remind the woman of the goodness of God. The tree ought to have been a physical representation of the care, wisdom, and love of God. God wasn’t standing there in the Garden, rehearsing how He had done everything necessary to provide for His children. The goodness of creation was His silent witness. But once this focus was lost, the woman lost her way.

c. Challenge question: When the woman saw only the tree before her, she set all her affection on it. Forgetting God, she loved what He had created more than she loved Him. Saint John tells us in 1 John 2:15–17 that love of (inordinate attachment to) the world or the things of the world cannot coexist with love for the Father. The world is not an end in itself. Its splendor is meant to lead us to God and to make us want to live in obedience to its Creator. If our focus shifts from God, who created the world, to the world He created, we lose our way as the woman did. That is why Saint John tells us that love of the world short-circuits our lives. Our affection is meant only for God, and because of Him, for other people. The world is much too small and temporal to bear it. Like an overloaded fuse, if our love rests on the world, our lives are snuffed out; only “he who does the will of God abides for ever.”

9. a. Sometimes we’re inclined to think this test wasn’t fair because of its severity. It is important for us to guard against this reaction. We need to recall what the man and woman knew about God and about themselves before the appearance of the serpent. It might help if we make a list:

• They knew that they existed through the will and power of God.
• They knew that this God was good and cared for every aspect of their lives.
• They knew that even their communion with each other was literally a gift from God’s hand.
• They knew that they were like God because they could procreate and have dominion over the earth.
• They knew that God had revealed to them what was good (obedience) and what was evil (disobedience).
• They knew death existed as a consequence of disobedience.

Once we conclude that the man and woman knew enough to pass the test, we wonder why they didn’t. That will be our next question.

b. The man and woman should have been able to trust the goodness of the invisible God, no matter what appeared before them. The visible goodness of Eden testified loudly to God’s character. Although Adam was not able to “see” God, his own knowledge and experience of God’s goodness should have enabled him to have the courage to repel the enemy from the Garden, no matter what the cost. In other words, the man and woman should have exercised faith, which is trust in God, who cannot be seen. Faith believes that God exists, and faith expresses that belief in obedience to the unseen God.

 

Lesson 4

To make the most of this study, respond to all the questions yourself before reading these responses.

Discovery and Effect (Gen. 3:7–13)
1. a. The eyes of Adam and Eve were opened to see the world without the “grace of original holiness” (Catechism, no. 399). The world they perceived had not changed, but the way they perceived it had been radically altered. The supernatural grace that God had given them died through their disobedience. That grace had been the lens through which they perceived and experienced reality. The serpent’s enticement had been a half-truth. Eating the fruit did open their eyes, but that opening brought blindness, not sight.

Christopher West helps us to understand how these “opened” eyes worked: Adam and Eve no longer clearly saw in each other’s bodies the revelation of God’s plan of love. They each now saw the other’s body more as a thing to use for their own selfish desires. In this way the experience of nakedness in the presence of the other—and in the presence of God—became an experience of fear, alienation, shame: ‘I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself’ (Gen. 3:10).
Their shame was connected not so much with the body itself but with the lust now in their hearts. For they still knew that since they were created as persons for their own sakes, they were never meant to be looked upon as things for another person’s use. So they covered their bodies to protect their own dignity from the other’s lustful “look.” This is, in fact, a positive function of shame, because it actually serves to protect “nuptial meaning of the body.”

No wonder Jesus told His disciples, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If, then, the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Mt. 6:22–23).

b. Adam and Eve could no longer face their Creator and Father openly. They hid from Him among the trees. Had God changed? No, He was the same God, but their disobedience filled them with fear, making them want to flee from communion with Him in the Garden.

2. a. Responses will vary. God knew everything that had happened, but He asked them for an accounting of their behavior because He wanted them to put into words what they had done. He did this for their sakes, not His. It would have allowed them to have enough self-knowledge to recognize how far they had departed from the life God had designed for them.

b. Challenge question: By asking Adam and Eve for an explanation of their rebellion, God acknowledged that who they were and why they did what they did was important to him. God was the good Father in the Garden. His primary concern was for them. Their words mattered to Him. He gave them an opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and cast themselves on His mercy. This interrogation was meant to lead to restoration, an incredible sign of hope.

3. a. Adam blamed his disobedience on Eve, and, indirectly, on God, since He was the One who had given her to Adam. This response represented a dramatic change from Adam’s perception of Eve before the Fall (Gen. 2:23). There he had been able to see her for who she really was—a gift from God’s hands, to fulfill his life on earth. After the Fall, Adam saw her as the cause of all his problems. The man who had been put in charge of the Garden denied any culpability for its violation.

b. Eve likewise blamed the serpent, who had beguiled her.

4. Adam and Eve did not take personal responsibility for their actions. There was no evidence of remorse or grief over their disobedience—no crying out for forgiveness. With their new eyesight, they could not see how offensive their behavior was to their Father. It wasn’t that they were unaware of what they had done. They were unaware of what it meant.

5. a. Challenge question: As a direct result of their disobedience, Adam and Eve saw everything in their world differently. First, they saw themselves as naked, which caused shame. Second, they saw God as One to fear and avoid at all costs. Third, they lost sight of each other as helpers and companions. They were fearful and defensive. Although their bodies were alive, something inside of them had died. It was an interior death, affecting every aspect of their lives; it was the death of grace in their souls.

b. Responses will vary. Perhaps the most devastating consequence of their disobedience was that the new eyesight promised by the serpent had left them unable to see what they had become. There was no repentance, no remorse over their break with God. When God asked Adam, “Where are you?” Adam explained that he didn’t want to be seen by God in his nakedness. The center of his concern was himself. “I heard the sound … I was afraid … I was naked … I hid myself” (v. 10). How far he had come from his original relationship with God! Yet there is no evidence from the text that he and Eve knew that they were spiritually dead. There was only self-preservation and defensiveness. How great was the darkness.

Curse and Promise (Gen. 3:14–15)
6. Satan was the actual villain here. He was God’s true enemy. This is not to deny the humans’ responsibility, but the first order of business was to address this one who seemed to have gained such power over them. They would not be safe as long as he could wield that power.

7. By God’s curse, the serpent was destined to be the most wretched creature on earth—cursed “above all cattle” and “all wild animals.” He would be the lowest form of life, a status that would be evident even in how he moved from place to place (“upon your belly”), eating dust. The meaning was clear: Satan had gone from his position of pride and power to one of lowliness and impotence. His demise was lightening-quick. This sudden and irrevocable fall of Satan is a common theme in Scripture, as the other readings make clear.

8. a. Yes, a battle already existed in the rebellion of Satan against God.

b. God’s announcement meant that He was going to extend the battle to include the human beings. Initially, the humans had been targets of the devil’s wrath against God. But now God would enlist the humans on His side. Could the serpent have possibly imagined this incredible twist? It is the first great reversal in the story of man. From this point on, reversal will be the underlying theme of our human history. Pause now to think carefully about this. However we come to understand ourselves and our world, we must get this one truth firmly in place—God does His work through reversals.

9. The serpent had aimed his attack at Eve. It was through her act of disobedience that the first bite was taken. It was therefore appropriate that God’s punishment on the serpent should begin with “the woman.” Whatever had been lost from woman’s dignity as a creature in God’s image would be restored by the “woman” of the battle God announced.

10. a. The “woman” and “her seed” would work against God’s enemy, not for him, as Adam and Eve had done through their disobedience. They would stand outside of his power and authority, working as co-laborers with God, as Adam and Eve had originally been destined to do.

b. The question this phrasing provokes is: Why was there no husband mentioned in this scenario? The only “he” is the seed of the woman, not her mate. How can a woman have a child without a husband?

11. a. A head wound suggests one that completely incapacitates. What else does a serpent have to keep him in action beside his head? A bruise on the heel, although painful and aggravating, is not one that would end the life of a man.

b. The outcome of this battle will mean the defeat of God’s enemy, although it will not come without pain to “the seed.”

c. Responses will vary. Remember the contempt for the humans that filled the serpent when he began that deadly conversation that he had with Eve. The devil despised Adam and Eve. They must have looked like such dupes to him. He decided he would strike out at God by striking out at them, since they appeared to be weak links in the chain. He made patsies of them in short order. So, when God announced that, as his punishment, the serpent would face a battle with human creatures (the woman and her seed) in which he would be defeated, it was a crushing, mortal blow to his pride and arrogance. We need to linger long enough to let it really sink in. Whatever the devil attempted to rob from humanity—our life, our dignity, our exalted position in God’s family—was more than made up for in the punishment meted out to him. God will vanquish His enemy through human beings!

d. The promise of God to defeat His enemy through human beings, creatures who had just betrayed Him in the Garden, was a promise so full of hope that it swells and bursts into a vision of glory bright enough to make us want to shield our eyes from it. Who is this God, who loves His creatures so much that He would allow them to participate this way in His plan to defeat evil? How could such faithless beings matter so much to Him? The details we have in the story thus far hardly explain it. We are forced to recognize that behind the words and actions we see in Genesis is an unseen love that is fathomless, mysterious, unconquerable, and capable of unimaginable displays of power and constancy. In the middle of the worst thing that could possibly have happened, hope trumped everything.

 

Lesson 5

To make the most of this study, respond to all the questions yourself before reading these responses.

Disobedience Punished (Gen. 3:16–19)
1. a. Responses will vary. Good parents punish their children out of love for them. If they find behavior in a child that will put him in immediate or long-term physical or moral danger, they introduce a measure of suffering (in the form of punishment) in order to prevent the greater suffering that such behavior, left unchecked, will produce. Punishment has several purposes: (1) it reminds a child of his parents’ authority over him and that he is not autonomous; (2) it teaches him that his actions have consequences; and (3) it aims to deter a recurrence of the wrong behavior.

b. Challenge question: Punishment is a paradoxical sign of hope. Although to the child it may appear as anger or even hatred in the parents, good parents use it for rehabilitation. They know their child is capable of something better. Their love wants the very best for him. They are willing to appear like ogres in their child’s limited sight because they are confident that, despite appearances, they are working for that child’s ultimate happiness and well-being. Good parents are willing to risk the temporary loss of affection from their child in order to do what is best for him. They always take the long view; their hope for something better never dies. The Hebrews passage assures us that God is a good Father, who treats us as His own sons when He disciplines us. His discipline has a purpose, just like that of human parents. It aims to enable us to share His holiness, even though, at the time, it seems painful. This is a truth we will want to hold onto as we make our way through this part of Genesis 3.

2. As a punishment for her sin, Eve would give birth to children in great pain. Nevertheless, she would desire to be married, even though her relationship with her husband would be radically altered. The equality and dignity of her role as his helpmate would be gone; instead, her husband would rule over her, which was a terrible distortion of God’s design for marriage. (Think of the symbolic meaning of the fact that after the Fall, all human beings entered the world through pain. What a graphic, unmistakable clue that mankind is under a curse, that things are not as they should be.)

3. a. Adam had delighted in the creation of Eve because she was his equal. She was to be the remedy for his loneliness; she was given to him to assist him in his work on earth. Because she came from him and was made for him, he would exercise a role of authority in their relationship. As Saint Paul says, “For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman but woman for man” (1 Cor. 11:8–9). Their relationship was to be characterized by joy, harmony, cooperation, and mutual satisfaction, as the two became “one flesh” in marriage. But the effect of sin would be to shatter all this. Adam’s “guardianship” of his wife as husband would become “rule.” Adam would be tempted to tyranny and domination, a radical departure from the image and likeness of God in him. That would leave him at odds with himself, which always causes anguish. Eve, as a result, would seem more like Adam’s slave than his helpmate. For both, marriage would fall far short of its original ecstasy.

b. Challenge question: Saint Paul restored the “headship” of a husband to God’s original design for it. In verse 21, he wrote, “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” In those words, he reminds married people that their relationship is to be one of mutual self-donation. The husband is to give himself over entirely to the well-being of his wife; the wife is to give herself over entirely to the well-being of her husband. This is the essence of the love of the Trinity, made manifest on the Cross, when Christ emptied Himself, even unto death, for the sake of sinners. We remember that in the Garden, Adam refused to accept responsibility for his wife’s safety. He did not act as her “head.” By his inaction, he capitulated to the serpent, which led to Eve’s disobedience. The curse of sin on marriage meant that Adam moved from one extreme to the other—from passivity to domination, both of which are rooted in self-love, not self-donation. Saint Paul says that Christian husbands are to love their wives as they love their own bodies (vv. 28–29). That is a restoration of Adam’s exclamation in the Garden: “This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!” The headship of Christian husbands is to protect and nurture their wives. Paradoxically, a husband is “subject” to his wife by his willingness to take responsibility for her. Likewise, a wife is “subject” to her husband by her willingness to respect her husband’s decisions about how he can best love her. (For further reflection on this passage, see “Marriage: Sacrament of Christ and the Church,” p. 42).

c. As a punishment for listening to his wife instead of to God, Adam’s work of dominion over the earth, to subdue it, would turn to toil. The ground was cursed so that it would resist cultivation. His daily work would be full of the sweat of frustration, aggravation, and futility.

4. Challenge question: Responses will vary. Recall that the most frightening consequence of the death of grace in Adam and Eve’s lives was the distortion and disordering of their spiritual and physical faculties. They ran and hid from God; they wanted to remain autonomous from Him and from each other. How would God break through this wall of pride and darkness? How would He convince His children that their happiness was in His hands? Because their choice to turn to Him had to be a free one, He gave them reasons to make that choice. And so pain and suffering entered the human story. If, in their pride and fear of God, they would not run into His arms, would pain and suffering drive them to Him? They did not lose their knowledge that God exists when they disobeyed. But they could not see Him for who He is. If their lives became an experience of weakness, trouble, and desperation, would they humbly cry out for their Father’s help? This kind of additional punishment of Adam and Eve was meant to help them do the best possible thing—cast themselves on God for His mercy and help. If it had to come through pain and suffering, so be it. Better to experience short-term pain than to endure the everlasting pain and darkness of separation from God.

5. When God announced that man would return to dust, without the breath of God to animate him, He made clear the scope of what was lost in the Garden. The Church teaches us that “Even though man’s nature is mortal, God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin [cf. Wis. 2:23–24]” (Catechism, no. 1008). Man, designed to be immortal, would ever after dread death as unnatural and contrary to what he knows himself to be.

A Severe Mercy (Gen. 3:20–24)
6. a. Responses will vary. Once, Adam had named the animals; was he taking charge of his wife in that kind of way? Another possibility exists: perhaps he was taking charge because of his previous failure. Perhaps the words of God’s rebuke for listening to the voice of his wife were still with him. This may be Adam’s first attempt to do things the right way. It’s an interesting point to ponder.

b. The name Adam gave his wife, Eve, was one that was full of hope. Perhaps he was overjoyed to know that not only would they continue to live but that “the woman” and “her seed” would figure prominently in God’s battle with His enemy. Possibly, this exalted role of mother moved him to choose that name for her. There’s an irony in it, of course. Eve would become the mother of the spiritually dead. It would take another woman to be Mother of all the spiritually living. But in the name Eve, there was hope.
It is interesting to note that the Fathers of the early Church frequently saw in this naming of Eve an identification of her as a “virgin” mother. They noted that the record of the consummation of Adam and Eve’s marriage doesn’t appear until after they had left the Garden (see Gen. 4:1). Therefore, Eve received her name as “mother of all living” while she was still a virgin in the Garden.

7. God cared about these people. The fig leaves would not provide the covering they needed—too insubstantial. He wanted them to be properly clothed, in garments that would last.

8. Challenge question: The first shedding of blood on earth happened when God acted to cover the shame of Adam and Eve. It was the first episode of innocence covering guilt. The animals had not been created by God to serve this purpose. In the context of the story, it was a grave indication of the seriousness of sin and the lengths to which God would go to rescue man from it. Some have wondered about the power this detail from the creation story had on all civilizations that followed from Adam and Eve. Would the killing of an innocent animal become a gesture of remembrance or thanksgiving to God from men after that? Would they have an impulse to offer up an animal in order to reenact this provision from God to clothe the nakedness of His fallen children? Does it have some connection with the universal practice of animal sacrifice among ancient cultures? Certainly it was a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world and covers the shame of all human beings.

9. a. God did not want the humans to eat from the Tree of Life and “live for ever.” Why not? Surely it was because of the condition into which they had fallen. To live forever in a state of spiritual blindness and disorder in their natures would literally be a fate worse than death.

b. It is provocative to examine why God expelled man and woman from the Garden instead of just doing away with it. The expulsion, as severe as it seems, was actually a sign of unimaginable hope. It was truly a severe mercy. It suggested that the original plan of God for His human children did not die with the death of grace in them. Could it be that in allowing the Garden to remain, guarded by an angel and a flaming sword, God intended to return His creatures there someday to the life they once had? That, of course, would require healing the systemic wound in their natures. How could they ever receive a renewed human nature? When they left the Garden, with its Tree of Life, their physical bodies would be subject to death and decay. What would make it possible for human beings to eat from the Tree of Life and live forever?

10. Challenge question: Responses will vary. The departure of Adam and Eve from the Garden was tragic, but it was not a completely hopeless picture because of all the signs of God’s love we have seen in this chapter. They left Paradise for a valley of tears, but the signs of hope were everywhere:

(1) God punished them. The pain that Adam and Eve (and thus all mankind) would experience in the realms that mattered most to them was a sign that God wanted to join them in their everyday existence. It would be a powerful motivation for them to cry out for Him. His punishment was aimed at restoring in them what once they had by nature—the ability to see that He was the source and protector of all that was important to them. The misery that would permeate the world would make life in it incapable of satisfying man’s innate longing for goodness, truth, and beauty. This was a merciful blessing from God, who knew that His children, disordered as they were, would not on their own realize that they couldn’t be content without Him.

(2) God provided garments to cover them in their shame and nakedness. In this He demonstrated to them, in a way that they could see and feel, that He still loved them. Even in their spiritual blindness, this was a sign they simply could not misunderstand.

(3) God promised to defeat His enemy and theirs in a battle to be waged through human beings—“the woman” and “her seed.” The loss of dignity, honor, and glory that humans suffered because they betrayed God was only temporary. God had not given up on flesh and blood.

(4) God preserved the Garden on earth, with the Tree of Life. This sanctified place of extraordinary blessing and joy was not lost forever. This raised a flicker of hope that if God expelled them because He didn’t want them to live eternally in their fallen condition, He might let them back in if somehow their condition could change. Knowing that God chooses to work by means of reversal, did Adam and Eve take with them a hope that Paradise could be regained?

 

Lesson 6

To make the most of this study, respond to all the questions yourself before reading these responses.

The Annunciation (Lk. 1:26–38)
1. Recall that the problem in the Garden of Eden was the loss of grace in Adam and Eve through their disobedience. For us to read this greeting of an angel to a young girl should make our hearts race. No one else in Scripture is addressed this way. The last woman to be “full of grace” on earth was Eve, before the Fall. If we have been waiting for a woman to appear in human history who is free from the consequences of the devil’s deception and who will be God’s agent in a battle against him, we have found her. The Greek word used here (kecharitomene) “indicates that God has already ‘graced’ Mary previous to this point, making her a vessel who ‘has been’ and ‘is now’ filled with divine life.” It is actually more like a title than a description. Gabriel’s greeting to Mary marked her out as the woman for whom the world had been waiting. For a fuller explanation of Mary’s life “full of grace,” see the Catechism, nos. 490–93.

2. a. The “puzzle” of Genesis 3:15 was solved by a great mystery. The Father of the “seed” would be God Himself. This would be a most unusual Son! As we stood in the Garden with Adam and Eve, would we ever have dreamed that someday that Word through which the universe was created would take on human flesh—human flesh!—to undo the work of God’s enemy?

b. Perhaps Joseph was overwhelmed by the thought of marrying a woman who was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Could we blame him? He had to be encouraged by an angel in a dream not to be afraid to take Mary into his home. This just man was chosen to give his name and his fatherly protection and care to the Son of God and Mary. His was a unique role.

3. a. Eve looked at the tree and its fruit with disregard for God’s word about it. The fruit had great appeal to her, so she reached out and grasped it. She ate it, and she gave it to Adam to eat.

b. After hearing the angel’s announcement, Mary received into her life God’s word, which produced fruit in her womb, Jesus.

c. Challenge question: Eve disregarded God’s word and grasped for what she wanted for herself. Mary believed God’s word and received what He wanted to give her. Eve’s disobedience led to death; Mary’s obedience led to life. This was a spectacular reversal. No one has described it more beautifully than Saint Irenaeus (c. AD 140/160–202), who was Bishop of Lyons:

Even though Eve had Adam for a husband, she was still a virgin.… By disobeying, she became the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race. In the same way, Mary, though she also had a husband, was still a virgin, and by obeying, she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.… The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience. What Eve bound through her unbelief, Mary loosed by her faith.

The Visitation (Lk. 1:39–56)
4. a. In the description of the Visitation, we have a marvelous opportunity to experience firsthand the joy of Israel at the coming of the Messiah. See that Luke tells us that Elizabeth “was filled with the Holy Spirit.” Her utterance had the power of prophecy. As she jubilantly blessed Mary and the Child in her womb, Elizabeth gave voice to what all creation would want to sing out with “a loud cry” at the coming of the “woman” and her “seed” promised so long ago. Even the babe in Elizabeth’s womb, John the Baptist, leaped for joy upon the arrival of the Mother and Son.

b. Challenge question: Notice that Elizabeth, in pronouncing her blessing, did not separate the Child from His Mother. Her blessing was on both of them together (1:42); she expressed reverence for both of them when she humbly asked why she should be the glad recipient of a visit from “the mother of my Lord.” It was Mary’s voice that caused the child in Elizabeth’s own womb to leap for joy when he heard it. The promise of God in Genesis 3:15 led us to expect a woman and her seed to turn the tide against His enemy, the serpent. Both Elizabeth and John recognized the fulfillment of that promise in Mary and Jesus. The Church continues to appreciate and honor Mary for her role in redemption.

5. a. As the Catechism points out, it was Elizabeth who first described the source of Mary’s blessedness: “[B]lessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (1:45). It was Mary’s unwavering trust in God that evoked the first act of veneration of her by Elizabeth when she said, “[W]hy is it granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (1:43). Because Mary “perfectly embodies the obedience of faith” (Catechism, no. 148), she has been called “blessed” by all generations since then.

b. Challenge question: We know from the example of Elizabeth, who was full of the Holy Spirit when she blessed Mary, that it cannot possibly be wrong to bless and venerate her. Indeed, Mary herself said that “all generations shall call me blessed.” So we see in Luke 11:27–28 that Jesus did not rebuke the woman in the crowd for honoring His Mother. He simply established the reason that Mary was to be honored. She was the one who had given birth to Him because she heard God’s Word and kept it. Jesus wanted her to be honored for her faithful obedience, not simply because she was His biological mother.

The Presentation in the Temple (Lk. 2:22–35)
6. Simeon prophesied that suffering lay ahead for both Jesus and Mary. The Child was destined to initiate the messianic age in Israel. He would be a source of division, because some Jews would believe Him to be the Messiah and others wouldn’t. His life, His teachings, and His Crucifixion would require a response from every Jewish heart. Simeon made that clear in his words to Mary. In the unusual phrasing of verse 35, he describes a time in the life of this Child when a sword would pierce through Him, and Mary was to share this moment. We know from accounts of the Crucifixion that when Jesus hung on the Cross, soldiers pierced Him with a sword to see if He was dead (Jn. 19:34). Simeon’s words suggested that, in some way, Mary would be there with Him, with her own soul pierced. She would not simply be an observer of her Son’s life. As both Jesus and Mary shared God’s blessing, they were both to share in suffering.

As the Catechism tells us, all followers of Christ are invited to “ ‘take up [their] cross and follow [him]’ [Mt. 16:24],” because Jesus “desires to associate [them] with his redeeming sacrifice.… This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering” (no. 618). This is precisely what Simeon prophesied.

The Wedding at Cana (Jn. 2:1–11)
7. It was Mary who was first aware of the wine shortage at the wedding feast. She took the problem to Jesus for resolution. She expected Him to do something about it, which is why she said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (2:5). The miracle Jesus performed in response to her request was the beginning of His public manifestation as the Messiah. Mary and Jesus collaborated in this work of turning water to wine, which preserved the happiness of the marriage feast in Cana.
The Church sees in this episode Mary’s work of manifesting the glory of Jesus (cf. 2:11). This was a fulfillment of her own statement about herself as a soul that “magnified the Lord” (Lk. 1:46). Mary’s collaboration with Jesus in this initiation of His public ministry, which eventually led to “the hour” of His Crucifixion, and thus His glory, was a stunning reversal of Eve’s collaboration with Adam in the Garden of Eden. There, Eve gave the forbidden fruit to Adam to eat, a collaboration that led to disobedience and death. At Cana, Mary’s work with Jesus was a collaboration that led to celebration and joy.

The Crucifixion (Jn. 19:25–27)
8. Challenge question: Adam, in naming his wife “Eve,” understood that she would have a maternal relationship to all humans on earth. She would be “mother” to all human beings, since they would all trace their physical beginnings back to her. In the gift of Mary to John, Jesus desired to make her “mother” to those who, like John, were His faithful followers. Those who are truly “living,” who have been born again in the waters of Baptism, also have Mary as “mother.” Because our new life comes through Jesus, we all trace our spiritual beginnings back to her, the one in whom God became flesh. There is, at last, a “Mother of all living.”

A Vision of Heaven (Rev. 12:1–17)
9. a. The child is Jesus, the “one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron” (12:5). Thus, there is a strong indication that the woman is Mary, since she is His mother, the one who gave birth to Him.

b. The woman is clothed with the elements in heaven created by God to give light. “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens” is what He said at the time of creation (Gen. 1:14). These elements were to “give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night” (Gen. 1:17–18). They were the only other creations of God, besides man and woman, to which He gave dominion. For the woman to be clothed with these elements suggests an exalted position of dominion in heaven. She appears like a queen, with a crown of twelve stars.
This is an image of Mary, as Queen of Heaven, that the Church holds dear. Her crown of twelve stars may represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Jews would have recognized that by virtue of being the mother of the Messiah, who was Son of David and royal ruler of Israel, Mary would have been queen of Israel. In ancient Israel, the queen was not the king’s wife but his mother (since kings often had many wives). In 1 Kings 2:19, King Solomon was approached by his mother, Bathsheba, on behalf of someone making a request of him. “And the king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her; then he sat on his throne, and had a seat brought for the king’s mother; and she sat on his right.” Jews had great respect for the queen mother.

c. The dragon tried to devour the child, which he was not able to do. The child was taken up to heaven, to sit at God’s throne. The woman was left behind, but she was “nourished by God.”

10. a. The dragon, who is identified as “that ancient serpent … the Devil,” (v. 9) was thrown down by the victory of the blood of the Lamb, as well as by the testimony of all those who loved Him more than their own lives. This is a fulfillment of the promise of Genesis 3:15—the serpent “bruised” the heel of the “seed,” making Him shed blood. By shedding that blood, the “seed” bruised the head of the serpent, destroying all his power.

b. The serpent directed his wrath against the woman and the rest of her offspring. The woman was given special protection from his enmity. The Church sees in this vision the biblical basis for her teaching about Mary’s Immaculate Conception, her sinless life, and her Assumption into heaven. The devil was never able to touch Mary’s life with sin or its consequences. She is the woman “nourished by God” in Revelation. The Church, “all those who keep the commandment of God and bear testimony to Jesus,” are her offspring.

11. Challenge question: Responses will vary. The gift of Mary, given to us by Jesus, adds immeasurably to our lives. Because we have retained Mary in our vision of the Redemption won by Jesus, we have the grace of meditating on her example of faithful obedience to the Word of God. Her wholehearted surrender to God’s plan for her, the energetic assistance she gave to Elizabeth, her awareness of people in need at Cana, her confidence that Jesus could solve the problem, her perseverance through the ordeal of the Crucifixion, and her triumph as the Queen of Heaven—all these shed light on the path that we must follow in our journey home to God. Her life, magnified through the liturgies in her honor and through devotions to her like the rosary, keep her alive in our mind’s eye. In that, she is a constant treasure to us.
Beyond that, we have the joy of sharing a Mother with Jesus. Her prayers and advocacy for us are as beautiful as the Magnificat and as effective as her work in Cana. Our recourse to her as our Mother acknowledges and keeps alive the wish of the dying Jesus, as He gave her to Saint John. Scripture tells us that from that moment the disciple took her to be his own. He recognized the great gift of Mary.
Finally, we know that, as Mary’s offspring, “who keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus,” we are objects of the devil’s wrath. She has been completely victorious over him; she knows what the battle is like. We are able to fly to the Queen of Heaven when we feel the full force of the enemy’s enmity against us. In this battle, we are never alone.
Thank You, Jesus, for the gift of Mary in the Catholic Church.

 

Lesson 7

To make the most of this study, respond to all the questions yourself before reading these responses.

Jesus and the Devil (Lk. 22:39–46)
1. a. In the first two temptations of Jesus in the desert, Satan challenged Him to renounce His human limitations and act like the Son of God that He was. He taunted Jesus with the same challenge he gave to the woman: throw off the yoke of creatureliness. In the third temptation, Satan tried to win Jesus’ allegiance away from God for himself. In this, he was a usurper, just as he was in the Garden. His aim in both places was to set himself up as a rival authority to God.

b. Jesus did not rise to the bait of Satan’s temptations; He did not try to prove Himself. He freely accepted the limitations placed on Him by being human. In each temptation, Jesus answered the devil by quoting God’s Word and referring to His commands. He chose humility, which is dependence on God, instead of the pride of autonomy. “Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him” (Mt. 4:11).

c. Right from the outset, as Jesus and the disciples entered the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus seemed to have temptation on His mind. He warned His friends to pray so that they could ward off temptation. He knelt down in prayer to face the difficult moment of freely accepting His capture and death. An angel appeared to strengthen Him, just as angels had ministered to Him after His desert ordeal. Although there is no mention of the devil here, these are powerful clues that Jesus experienced the full force of temptation to preserve His life rather than lose it in a brutal assault. It was the temptation to avoid suffering, a scene of intense anguish.

2. In Genesis 3, God told Adam that his face would be covered with the sweat of his toil as a punishment for his disobedience. Adam’s dominion over the earth, meant to be a source of joy for him, would instead bring him suffering. That Jesus’ “sweat became like great drops of blood” in His garden presents a vivid picture of His taking upon Himself the curse placed on Adam (Lk. 22:44). The first Adam’s disobedience was punishable by suffering and death. Jesus, the Second Adam, in the agony of the Garden, began to experience it. The sentence pronounced so long ago was now being executed.

3. Remember the deafening silence in the Garden of Eden when the serpent began his cunning attack? As we watched Adam stand there, perhaps weighing in his mind whether the serpent spoke the truth, didn’t we long for him to cry out for help? We felt that just one cry could have changed everything. In these verses, we see a picture of Jesus doing precisely what Adam didn’t do. He was afraid, but His fear led Him to call down help from His Father. This is the test of love that Adam did not endure. Love has to be a real choice, which means that it must be tested. Love of God leads one to continue to trust Him and to seek His help in the midst of the most threatening circumstances. It is a conscious, willful choice to believe in God’s goodness, no matter what appearances suggest. This anguished cry of Jesus filled His garden with the sound of faith. It was a cry that reached heaven, undoing the silence of the Garden of Eden.

“Here Is the Man!” (Jn. 19:1–11)
4. Challenge question: If you have a picture of this scene in your mind’s eye, it ought to make you catch your breath. Jesus, having been scourged, stood there in a purple robe and crown of thorns (remember the meaning of thorns in Eden in Genesis 3:17–18). Pilate’s grand introduction was meant as mockery. The angry crowd was full of contempt for Jesus. And yet, this was a man in whom the likeness of God had not been lost, and the image has not been distorted (Catechism, no. 705, 1701–2). This was man as God always intended him to be—perfectly obedient and faithful to the covenant, no matter what the cost. In this Gospel scene, Jesus was the only one with real human dignity. He was the New Adam, and Pilate’s announcement of “Here is the man!” heralded the beginning of a new humanity.

5. Jesus understood that power on earth is not without limitation; it is not autonomous, even when it can preserve or destroy physical life. He had confidence in God, which enabled Him to face frightening threats with courage and serenity. He recognized that no matter how things looked, God’s plan would not be thwarted. This is just what we wished we had seen in Adam, when his silence suggested that he was intimidated by the serpent, perhaps believing him to be a source of power and truth that rivaled God.

An Opened Side (Jn. 19:31–37)
6. Pathologists would tell us that a wound like this one, in its place on the body of one who died as Jesus died, would actually produce both blood and water. The Church has always recognized in this detail of Christ’s death a startlingly beautiful symbol of the birth of the Church. The water of Baptism initiates believers into union with Christ; the Blood of the Eucharist sustains them on their journey to God (Catechism, no. 1225). In Scripture, the Church is frequently described as “the Bride” of Christ. The Lord refers to Himself as “the Bridegroom” (Mk. 2:19), and heaven will be the marriage feast of the Lamb (see Catechism, no. 796). In Eden, as Adam slept, God opened his side to create Eve, his bride, a true helper for him and one with whom he would form a permanent union in body and spirit. As Jesus slept the sleep of death on the Cross, the wound in His side poured forth the signs of His Bride, the Church. Adam, tempted by the devil, did not protect his wife with his life, but “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her” (Eph. 5:25–26).

Jesus, the Gardener (Jn. 20:11–18)
7. Challenge question: Who was the very first gardener on earth? It was Adam, of course. God planted a garden for Adam and put him in charge of it. Adam, however, failed in his responsibilities. He did not keep that garden safe and had to be sent away from it. For Mary Magdalene to mistake Jesus as the gardener is a profound clue to us of what actually happened in this garden of Resurrection. He is, in fact, the “Gardener.” He is the New Adam, who will not fail to keep His Father’s vineyard safe and make it fruitful. All things have been made new.

Suffering and Death (Heb. 2:5–18)
8. Challenge question: Remember that Adam was tested in Eden to prove his love for God. In the presence of an intimidating enemy, would he choose God’s way, no matter what? In giving into the temptation of the serpent, he avoided the suffering of self-denial, of losing his opportunity to be “as gods.” Although God had warned him of the fatal consequences of disobedience, he chose to satisfy himself in the short term and avoid suffering. Jesus, as the New Adam, had to retrace the human steps leading up to the first Adam’s capitulation. For Him, it came down to a choice to obey God and suffer a torturous death, or to avoid suffering by putting His own welfare first. We know that Jesus embraced His suffering. He entered fully and without reserve the step that would be the final and unequivocal proof of His love for God. This was the step man was originally designed to take. It was part of God’s plan to perfect in man the selfless love shared by the Blessed Trinity. As the Catechism says, “Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love” (no. 311). It was entirely fitting that Jesus should reach that destination through suffering, demonstrating for all eternity that man has nothing to fear (or lose) in trusting and obeying God.

9. a. Challenge question: The devil does not have ultimate power of life and death. He is only a creature; God alone has that power. These verses suggest that the “power” the devil has in death is the fear that it produces in human nature. The fear of death keeps men in bondage to the devil. How? Think of the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane. The fear of death in Jesus had the potential to turn Him away from God’s will. In Jesus, we are able to see that choosing God over ourselves can be painful. It is a kind of death to ourselves. In the case of Jesus, it eventually led to a physical death as well. Think of Adam in Eden. To resist the temptation of the devil would have required a death in Adam—if not physical, then surely a death to what he wanted to gain by eating the forbidden fruit. When men are afraid to die to themselves, the devil uses that fear to entice them away from God.

b. When Jesus died and rose again, He stripped the devil of his most potent weapon against man. If death could not hold Jesus, He is really the One with power over it. He was “bruised” in the process, but in a great reversal, the death of Jesus, in spite of the appearance of victory for the devil, turned the world upside down, and the serpent slithered away with a mortal wound (see Catechism, no. 635). Men need only look at the Cross to know that obedience to God means victory over death. In losing our lives, we find them. We can see through the devil’s sham.

A Surprising Solution (Jn. 3:1–15)
10. Jesus told Nicodemus that no one will see the kingdom of God without being “born anew.” This comment addressed the radical problem man developed in Eden. How would he ever be able to enter the Garden and eat of the Tree of Life again unless he was healed of his debilitating condition of sin, which is lodged in his body and is passed along to his descendants? Jesus said it would take another birth, one of “water and the Spirit.” This baffled Nicodemus, because it seemed so impossible and contrary to nature. Jesus registered surprise that Nicodemus, “a teacher of Israel,” didn’t understand this need for men to have a second birth. Yet we should understand it, because of what we know from Genesis. In fact, we longed for it when we watched Adam and Eve leave Paradise, but we couldn’t imagine then how it would ever be possible. Now we know. Jesus announced to Israel, represented in the person of Nicodemus, that the victory He would win on the Cross (“the Son of Man must be lifted up”) would be for anyone who believes in Him. The birth of “water and Spirit” is Baptism (read Rom. 6:1–11), the sacrament through which a believer is united to the death that Jesus died to sin and to the Resurrection which gives new life. The New Adam and Eve won’t be alone in Paradise; all who believe in Jesus will join them through Baptism.

Eat and Live Forever (Jn. 6:47–59)
11. We know that the first “sacrament” appeared in Eden, where men could have eaten fruit and lived forever. Remember that Adam and Eve had to be sent out of Eden so they wouldn’t eat from the Tree of Life and live forever in their fallen condition. For Jesus to offer Himself as food and drink for those seeking eternal life was a wonderful sign that the time had arrived for men to once again eat food for immortality. The Tree of Life was a prominent feature of life in Eden. Jesus told the Jews that “the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (v. 51). Thus, we understand that the “tree” of the Cross (see Acts 5:30), which is where Jesus gave His flesh, has born fruit for eternal life. In the Eucharist, we eat that “fruit” and live forever.

12. Challenge question: Responses will vary.

Holy water at all the entrances—the Garden was well-watered by a river that flowed out of it, dividing into four rivers. The water in church is a reminder that only by being born of water and the Spirit can man reenter Eden.

Beauty—Catholic churches are often beautiful, some dazzlingly so (think of Saint Peter’s in Rome). In their beauty, they reproduce the great sensual beauty of Eden. Beauty is God’s gift to man fully alive. It is His testimony to our senses that He exists; beauty reminds us that God, who created it, is worthy to be adored.

Sanctified time and space—In the beginning, God hallowed one day out of all the others for Himself. The Church continues to hallow time, identifiable through the liturgical colors of the altar cloths and vestments of the priests. Eden was sanctified space, a place set apart from the rest of the earth for God and man to meet in a unique way. The red tabernacle light alerts us to the continued reality of sanctified space. The Lord is present in the consecrated hosts; the ground of the church is holy ground.

Artistic representations of Jesus and Mary—A man and a woman presided over the first Garden, male and female in the image of God. A woman and her Son were promised to fallen humanity to begin the restoration of life in Eden. To see Jesus and Mary represented in a church, in statuary or art, should plant us deeply into the soil of joy. God has kept His promise to His creatures—the devil has been defeated through the New Adam and the New Eve. The stunning victory of God is complete!

Artistic representations of the saints—Adam and Eve were meant to begin a family, but the fall into disobedience intervened. The people who would have filled the Garden were born outside of it and not allowed in. In the Church, the saints represent the family of the New Adam and Eve. In Eden, Adam would have been the father of all who came after him. In the New Eden, God is the Father of Jesus and all who are “born anew.” This means that Adam’s fall resulted in a better life for us than would have been possible had he not fallen. Adam would have made us creaturely sons of God; Jesus makes us divine sons. The saints represented in churches remind us that God’s family plan for Eden was not only preserved but elevated through the Redemption by Jesus. The human faces of the saints, upon which we gaze in church, give us more occasions to rejoice over God’s triumphant humiliation of the serpent, who so loathed the creatures made of dust.

Crucifix—The Tree of Life in Eden offered fruit that was to be eaten for eternal life; the “tree” of the Cross offers fruit to be eaten for eternal life; it has become the Tree of Life.

Altar/Table—In Eden, God provided food for Adam and Eve to eat; in the New Eden, Christ welcomes us to share a meal of supernatural food and drink. In Eden, an innocent animal was sacrificed to provide covering for Adam and Eve. In the New Eden, the altar reminds us that an innocent man made an offering of His life to cover the guilty. The meal He offers is not a picnic meal. It is a sacrificial meal, which represents life in Eden both before and after the Fall, a meal that makes communion with God possible for helpless, redeemed sinners.

Confessionals—In Eden, God called Adam and Eve to give an account of their disobedience. They were free, and thus responsible for their actions. They showed no remorse for their sin. In the New Eden, men still have the freedom to choose to remain in God’s covenant through obedience. If they fall, they can express their remorse and their resolve not to sin again in confession. They are restored to sanctifying grace through the sacramental presence of Jesus. They are not expelled from the Garden.

Next time you enter a Catholic church, breathe in deeply. You’re back in the Garden!

 

Lesson 8

To make the most of this study, respond to all the questions yourself before reading these responses.

Firstfruits of the Fall (Gen. 4:1–7)
1. It should cheer us considerably to hear Eve’s acknowledgment of God’s gracious gift to her. She confirms for us that although man was weakened by sin, he was not in total darkness. It appears that, in Eve, the harsh punishment from God may have had a restorative effect. Was she humbled by being expelled from the Garden? Was she moved by the unmistakable sign of God’s tenderness and care when He clothed her naked body with animal skins? Eve’s statement about the birth of her son reflects the kind of humility that comes from true repentance. Adam and Eve proceeded with married life outside Eden; even if they were not the people they once were, God’s mercy on them bore good fruit. Perhaps Eve’s humble comment about the birth of “a man” with the help of the Lord reflected her understanding of the promise God made in Genesis 3:15. Was she already looking for the birth of a special baby boy?

2. When Cain got angry with God rather than falling down in repentance and sorrow because the Lord did not accept his inadequate worship, he revealed himself to be a man whose perspective was seriously flawed. He stood in the center of his world, overshadowing God Himself. Cain was firmly in the grip of intense spiritual blindness.

3. a. God told Cain that if he did not “do well,” sin would be “couching at the door” and its “desire” would be to master him. The image here is of an enemy lying in wait, ready to attack a victim. If Cain refused to worship God appropriately, he would make himself more vulnerable to giving into sin again. Why? Because God designed our natures to be habitual; we are, literally, “creatures of habit.” If we choose the good, that choice strengthens us to choose the good again. Choosing good becomes a habit. If, like Cain, we choose evil, that choice weakens us to choose evil again. Choosing evil becomes a habit.

b. Challenge question: Saint Paul warned the Roman Christians about the subtlety of sin and its power to enslave those who give themselves to it. What makes sin dangerous is that it not only breaks communion with God, but it becomes the master of the one who commits it. The Church refers to this as the “double consequence” of sin—one is eternal (a break in communion with God) and one is temporal (a weakened will, making it easier to sin again). That is why God gave such a sober warning to Cain.

4. The difference between Cain and Abel is the mystery of human freedom. Surely both men knew the story of creation and of the expulsion from a beautiful garden. They both inherited Adam and Eve’s sinful nature. They were well aware of God and themselves. Yet one chose to serve God and one chose to serve himself. They were free to make their own decisions, just as their parents had been.

Cain Is Cursed (Gen. 4:8–16)
5. Instead of choosing to accept God’s offer to put things right, Cain chose to plot the murder of his brother. Rather than putting to death the jealousy and anger that raged within himself, he allowed hate to grow into murder. He calmly laid a trap for Abel, inviting him to join him in the field, in the way a brother would. A brotherly gesture was the beginning of his betrayal (just as the kiss of a close friend would one day betray Jesus). This episode reveals to us how hard Cain’s heart had grown. Even though God had made a profound offer of grace to him, he became even more resolved to do evil rather than good. This characteristic of sinful human nature constantly appears throughout the rest of Scripture. When God’s grace—the fire of His love—comes near to some men, their hearts melt and become malleable. For others, however, the nearness of God’s grace causes a hardening like clay in a kiln. Such was the case with Cain.

6. God gave Cain an opportunity to confess his sin and be accountable for it, just as He had done with Cain’s parents in Eden. A Father’s love always wants to hear an explanation of why things went wrong.

7. Cain lied to God, and then he became sarcastic. He disavowed any responsibility for his brother’s welfare, throwing off any constraints on his autonomy. In his pride, Cain chose separation from God and from men.

8. a. Cain didn’t show any remorse or even regret.

b. His primary concern was that he would suffer under his punishment and that someone would kill him.

9. Responses may vary. Perhaps it was Abel’s blood crying out for mercy for Cain that spared his life. Perhaps it was God’s desire that Cain have an opportunity to repent and return to His presence. It may have been God’s purpose to reaffirm the sacred nature of human life, even when it strays far from God’s design. No matter what caused it, God’s preservation of Cain’s life was an expression of His goodness and mercy, especially for sinners.

10. Responses may vary. In the previous question, we recognized God’s desire for Cain’s life to be spared, even though he was a murderer. We have also seen many other signs of His love for humans:

• God expected the best from Cain, since giving the best to God is what men were designed and created for; anything less than the best in man’s relationship with God will mean that man is less than fully human. God’s rejection of Cain’s offering, calling him to something better, was a sign of His love for him.
• God extended to Cain a gracious offer to do the right thing and blot out the wrong that had gone before.
• God gave Cain clear warning about the subtle danger of giving in to sin, as a friend would warn another friend about an enemy lying in wait.
• God gave Cain an opportunity to confess his sin and ask for forgiveness.
• To punish Cain, God gave him what he wanted; thus Cain would have an opportunity to experience the consequences of the choices he made; this could perhaps have led to repentance and restoration.
• In preserving Cain’s life, God indicated that He had not entirely given up on this rebellious son.

Two Cultures Develop (Gen. 4:17–26)
11. a. Lamech, who is the Bible’s first polygamist, appears to have been a violent, arrogant man. He boasted to his wives that he had killed a man for wounding or striking him. He appointed himself to avenge a simple wound in a wildly disproportionate way. He reasoned that if God promised to avenge Cain’s death “sevenfold” (4:15), he was justified in avenging himself, even for a very small offense, “seventy times seven.”

b. Something must have gone very wrong among these people. They knew the details of their family history (how else would Lamech know to compare his deed with that of Cain?), but they had no knowledge of what the details meant. Because Cain, by choosing to be a murderer and liar, had been exiled from his family and the presence of the Lord, his spiritual blindness was not only perpetuated among his descendants, but it intensified. The father always teaches the son, either for good or for evil. This is how it is in families. Through the rest of Scripture we see, over and over, what traits develop among men who, for whatever reason, have shut their hearts away from the presence of the Lord. This is our first example of it.

12. Seth appears to have been a man who, upon learning his family heritage, decided “to call upon the name of the LORD.” This indicated in him a reverence for God, a humility, and perhaps a human spirit like Abel’s.

 

Lesson 9

To make the most of this study, respond to all the questions yourself before reading these responses.

Wickedness Reigns on Earth (Gen. 6:1–10)
1. a. Just as God could look at all His works in the beginning, at creation, and see that they were “very good,” He could look at what man had made of his life on earth and see that it was “corrupt.” Man’s rebellion against God eventually resulted in violence against other men and perhaps against the living creatures who were created to help man. Man’s abuse of his freedom grieved God to the heart, for it was far removed from man’s original destiny. Because evil overcame the good among men, it had to be stopped. God would pass judgment on His wayward sons.

b. Challenge question: As God continued to reveal Himself within man’s history, He showed that although He is patient with sinners, ready to forgive, and tender in His care of them, a time does arrive when, because He is just, He does execute judgment. Rebellion, wickedness, and evil cannot continue unchecked. This is a truth that will appear again and again throughout Scripture. The history of Israel is full of episodes of judgment upon sin, after a period of forbearance. Jesus spoke often of “the day of the Lord,” when God, acting as the just Judge, calls everyone to account. The Flood is Scripture’s first warning that man should never mistake God’s patience and mercy as grounds for presumption. If the Lord is slow to punish sin, it isn’t because He winks at it. As Saint Peter says:

First of all you must understand this, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own passions and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation.” They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago, and an earth formed out of water and by means of water, through which the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist have been stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (2 Pet. 3:3–7)

2. Challenge question: For animals to have been included in the cleansing of the earth suggests the inseparable relationship between man and the rest of creation. The dominion God had given him had real meaning—when man went down, so did all the rest of the earth. This helps us to see clearly how all the elements of creation led up to the creation of man. He was not just one player among many. Without man, the rest has no meaning.

3. Responses will vary. It is never easy for a man to live righteously when everyone around him is wicked. It requires self-discipline, courage, and faith. In Hebrews, Noah is described as one who was warned about events “yet unseen.” He built a huge ark in the middle of dry ground. What kind of confidence did he have in the unseen realities? It was profound. He did not live his life according to what he could see. He exhibited a detachment from the world around him, relying only on God’s commands. Quite possibly he had to face ridicule or abuse from people who lived only according to the imaginations of their own hearts. This was heroic virtue. Truly, he was God’s friend.

The World Saved through Noah (Gen. 6:11–22)
4. a. Responses will vary. One of the truths about God hardest to grasp is that the One who set the stars in the skies, who put limits on the seas, and who keeps the entire universe working also knows how many hairs are on our heads. The fact that we are not lost in the cosmos is a staggering reality. Noah’s quiet faithfulness in the midst of great evil was not overlooked. God is aware of each human life. No moment is lost.

b. For God to preserve the race of human beings through one righteous man, even though nearly all had become entirely corrupt, was a powerful testimony to how precious in His sight human righteousness is. Goodness, in one man, was the victor over the evil of thousands. In this, Noah was a “type” of Jesus, whose righteous life conquered evil definitively for all eternity.

The Waters Subside (Gen. 8:1–12)
5. a. Responses will vary. It would have been natural for Noah and his family to be eager to get off that boat. Perhaps they did wonder why they had to wait so long, while nature ran its course. Maybe they thought about asking for a miracle or two to speed things along.

b. Challenge question: This is a question we should be willing to ponder from time to time. We could have asked it right after Adam and Eve left Eden. Why didn’t God immediately send “the woman” and her “seed” to set things right? Surely Israel’s long wait for the appearance of the Messiah was punctuated with cries of “How long, O Lord?” In our own day, the Church echoes what Saint John wrote two thousand years ago at the end of the Book of Revelation: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (22:20). A few miracles could certainly speed things along.
As difficult as it may be to accept, God carries out His plan for creation through natural and supernatural means. It must please Him to allow nature and human history to take time to arrive at their destination. When we bump up against this, it reminds us how much of God’s work is mysterious and inscrutable to us. We must agree with the Psalmist: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.” (Ps. 139:6) Sometimes it looks to us as if a miracle or two would be so much more efficient. God isn’t aiming at efficiency. His desire for us is holiness. God, the Artist, works in the media of time, nature, and human history to create the perfection that is our destiny. It takes faith to believe that. Noah is our example.

6. a. When the dove did not return, Noah knew that all the waters had receded and that the earth could sustain human life again.

b. Challenge question: The Church helps us to see the Holy Spirit as the dove that looks for habitable ground. In the days of Noah, it was dry earth that the dove sought and finally found. The appearance of the dove with the olive branch was a sign that a new life for man on the earth was about to begin. At the baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit’s descent on Him in the form of a dove was a powerful sign that the soil of the human soul was finally fit for the presence of God’s Spirit once again (cf. Gen. 2:7). Is there any thought more beautiful than this?

“Go Forth from the Ark” (Gen. 8:13–22)
7. This language reminds us of God’s charge to Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. It prepares us for a renewal of the covenant God made in Eden and probably a code of behavior.

8. a. Noah offered a burnt offering to the Lord as soon as he got off the ark.

b. It pleased the Lord greatly to see a man live this way—not just the faith in his heart, but his public act of making an offering. God made a promise never to curse the ground again because of man.

c. Challenge question: Noah’s life provided “rest” for all those who came after him. Never again would they have to fear a return to chaos on the earth. This is the first episode of God’s people being saved through the faithful obedience of a human being. It will not be the last.

 

Lesson 10

To make the most of this study, respond to all the questions yourself before reading these responses.

A Blessing from God (Gen. 9:1–7)
1. a. The repetition of God’s blessing, the command to be fruitful and fill the earth, and His provision of food in the second scene helps us to understand that God began a work of restoration after the purging action of the Flood. He wanted to return His creation to His original intention for it.

b. Challenge question: The significance of the differences between the two scenes is that, although God had taken the initiative to cleanse the earth of evil and make a fresh start, sin and its devastating effects have not been completely rooted out of creation. The harmony of the first creation had been broken; now the living creatures will fear man as he exercises dominion over them. The fear of creatures for man will be a reminder to him that he is not who he thinks he is and not at all whom he was meant to be. As painful as it is to experience this dread in animals, it is a great mercy to us. In our spiritual blindness, we can look very good in our own eyes. With the loss of grace in Eden, we simply cannot see the truth about ourselves. We have an amazing capacity to minimize our sin, forgetting our true destiny. A little bird hopping away from us in fear gives us a moment to see ourselves reflected in its eyes—we are not the holy creatures we were meant to be. In fact, we are scary. We need help.

2. Responses will vary. The prohibition against taking life, which was to be penalized by death, reflected the reality that violence and corruption had spread so thoroughly in the human community at the dawn of history that God had to send the Flood to purge it. God could not trust men to curb their appetite for violence. Now, in the renewed earth, He would use laws with drastic penalties to rein it in. We are to interpret this as a sober sign that whereas God left Cain to his own conscience, without requiring his life for his act of murder, now He must act with laws to preserve safety on earth.

3. Responses will vary. This taboo on blood reflected the value of all life, both human and animal. Even though God permitted man to eat animals, he was not thereby to be callous towards animal life. He was to continue to show respect for life, since it comes directly from the hand of God. Man in his spiritual blindness is subject to pride, in which he sees himself as the center of the universe. It is a short step from there to abusing elements in that universe to serve his own purposes. Prohibitions such as this kept that impulse in check.

The Sign of the Covenant (Gen. 9:8–17)
4. a. Responses will vary. Man, weakened by sin, had the potential to miss the messages God gave him. Was it possible that men would see the importance God attached to that beautiful rainbow and begin to worship it instead of God, who created it? Certainly. We know for a fact that men regularly worshiped what God created instead of the Creator Himself.

b. Challenge question: God took that risk in order to communicate with man in a truly human way. As the Catechism says, “In human life, signs and symbols occupy an important place. As a being at once body and spirit, man expresses and perceives spiritual realities through physical signs and symbols. As a social being, man needs signs and symbols to communicate with others, through language, gestures, and actions. The same holds true for his relationship with God” (no. 1146). Scripture is full of examples of God working this way among His people. The culmination, of course, was the Incarnation, when God took on the most profoundly human form of communication—flesh and blood—to reveal to men who He is. That was risky, too. After all, if God became a Man, men could lay hands on Him and kill Him. God knows well the danger involved in His condescension to our humanity. He is not deterred.

The Sons of Noah (Gen. 9:18–29)
5. Responses will vary. We have seen a gardener abuse fruit before (in Eden). That did not produce a happy outcome.

6. Although we can’t be sure of his exact offense, Ham appeared to have been severely lacking in respect for his father. If he was guilty of incest, it would demonstrate not just a lack of respect, but possibly an attempt to reject his father’s authority. He may have boasted about his deed to his brother, always a sign of pride and arrogance; the boasting could have represented his attempt to usurp the rightful superiority of Shem, Noah’s firstborn son.

7. Shem, the firstborn son, and Japheth, the youngest, went into the tent to make things right. They took every precaution to keep their father’s dignity intact. Perhaps we can presume that because Shem was the oldest, he was the one who turned a bad situation away from complete disaster by having his youngest brother assist him rather than stay back and listen to more talk from Ham.

The Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1–9)
8. a. These descendants of Ham reached a high degree of technical proficiency. This seems to have created a great deal of power among them. They did not want anything to threaten that power. They especially seemed to dread having to move out over the uninhabited parts of the earth. Perhaps they feared their power would dissipate if they got separated. Perhaps they didn’t want to leave the comforts that came with civilization. Their desire to build a tower to heaven speaks of an arrogance and autonomy that has been dangerous when we have seen it in others (Adam, Cain, Lamech, Ham). The tower was a physical manifestation of the pride of man, a self-exaltation of men from earth to heaven.

b. God saw that because men had chosen to band together, refusing to spread out, the evil among them could grow without limit. The ease with which they could communicate made this possible. Their power to influence and intimidate each other meant that goodness could easily be overwhelmed by what comes most naturally to man, which is pride.
God responded by confusing the one language all men spoke at the time of the building of the tower. Whether they wanted to or not, the Lord scattered men over the face of the earth, separating them by languages and making unity difficult.

c. Challenge question: The diversity in human languages represents the pride and arrogance of man, who abused his original unity with others to work against God instead of for Him. On the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the apostles to begin the work of creating the Church, it is of no small significance that there was a miracle that undid the effects of Babel (cf. Acts 2:1–13). It was a thrilling sign that God was creating a new unity on earth—a unity that would overcome the effects of sin and enable God’s family to live as one, for His glory.

The Descendants of Shem (Gen. 11:10–32)
9. Terah and his family worshiped “other gods,” according to the passage in Joshua. What does that mean? It is simply evidence that even in families that issued from a righteous man (in this case, Shem), there was always the possibility of confusion and contamination in their understanding and practice of the covenant. As we saw early in the history of man, intermarriage between cultures of different religious beliefs always presented problems to those whose heritage it was to live within the covenant. As the Catechism says, “The covenant with Noah after the flood gives expression to the principle of the divine economy toward the ‘nations,’ … toward men grouped ‘in their lands, each with [its] own language, by their families, in their nations.… But, because of sin, both polytheism and the idolatry of a nation and of its rulers constantly threaten this provisional economy with the perversion of paganism” (nos. 56–57).

10. Challenge question: Responses will vary. If we think of the re-creation as an act of God to wipe out wickedness on the earth, it didn’t work. But if we understand the Flood to be an act of divine revelation, it was everything it needed to be. First, it served as a demonstration that God does not restrain His judgment on sin forever. Men need to know this so they can live in truth. When men persist in their desire to be entirely free from God, eventually God gives them what they want. For them, God ceases to exist.
Second, it was a lesson for man in his own history that the solution to the wickedness of the human heart must be interior. Sin is inherent in his nature. It is systemic. The waters of the flood cleansed the earth of sinners, not of sin itself. It will take the waters of baptism to wash clean the human soul. “Baptism, which corresponds to this [the Flood] now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21).
Third, the re-creation is one in a very long line of episodes in Scripture in which the persistent longing of God for men is made crystal clear. In it, we saw His willingness to do whatever it takes to keep them in the covenant with Him. The promises He made to Noah and his sons gave them every reason to love Him back in the way He loved them. Frail mortals like us need to read these re-creation stories over and over until it finally sinks in—God will never give up until He has us for His own.

 

Johnston, G. S. (2004). Appendix A:How to Read the First Chapter of Genesis. In Genesis, Part I: God and His Creation (Genesis 1–11) (S. 101–139). Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing.

Genesis study guidse, part 1.2 – by Archbishop Dr. Uwe Rosenkranz

Genesis, creation of man, Michelangelo

 

 

 

 

Lesson 7

 

Jesus, the “Seed”
(Genesis 3:15)

 

In our lesson on Mary as “the woman” of Genesis 3:15, we observed something surprising begin to emerge. Studying the details of her life, we began to understand that the mother and son foretold in Genesis would not only appear someday to begin God’s victorious battle against the devil, but they would, in a mysterious way, undo what went wrong in Adam and Eve. This is even more glorious than what we might have expected. It satisfies the longing all of us develop as we read the first three chapters of Genesis. Saint Paul is the one who alerts us to this grand plan, in his references to Adam as “a type of the one to come.” The earliest Christians bear testimony in their writings that the Church continued to reflect on the relationship between “the woman” and her “seed” and a New Adam and New Eve. Already we have noted the comparison between Eve and Mary: Eve’s conversation with a fallen angel led to the loss of God’s likeness in human flesh; Mary’s conversation with an angel led to the Incarnation, God taking on human flesh.
Eve, left exposed by her husband, talked herself out of being embarrassingly gullible in believing God’s word about the forbidden fruit; Mary, full of grace through the work of her Son, chose God’s will for her life, knowing the potential for embarrassment over her unusual pregnancy.
Eve, having broken the covenant she and Adam had with God, heard God’s curse on her life, which would be pain in childbearing; Mary, having accepted God’s plan, heard a voice of blessing on her and her childbearing.
Eve, Adam’s helper, assisted him in entering the devil’s bondage; Mary, at the wedding in Cana, assisted Jesus in showing Himself to be the Messiah who had come to free Israel.
Eve became the mother of the dying; Mary, the mother of the living. Eve was expelled from Paradise; Mary appeared as the Queen of Heaven.
Now we will continue our examination of the promise of Genesis 3:15. Having recognized “the woman” in Mary, we will also see the “seed” in Jesus, her Son. We will want to watch the details of Jesus’ life to see why Saint Paul refers to Him as a second Adam. Was Adam’s life, without the fall into sin, recapitulated in Jesus?
There’s one more question we ought to ask ourselves. What does all this mean? If Jesus and Mary, in the details of the lives they lived, undid the wrong of Adam and Eve, what were the implications for humanity? Dare we let ourselves think that if we find within human history a New Adam and a New Eve, we might also find a new Garden of Eden, complete with beauty, goodness, and truth?
This lesson follows the format of the previous topical study.

 

“He Opened to Us the Scriptures”

Before we read God’s Word, we ought to take a moment to humble ourselves before Him, remembering that His Word is primarily a conversation with us, not a textbook. “Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears” (1 Sam. 3:10) can be the prayer on our lips. In this lesson, because of the variety of texts, use the “Our Father,” the prayer that Jesus gave His disciples, to prepare you to hear what God has to say to you.

 

Now, ask for His help as you work on the questions below.

 

Questions

Jesus and the Devil
Read Mt. 4:1–11
Read Lk. 22:39–46
1. In an earlier lesson (lesson 3, question 6c.), we observed that the serpent in the Garden of Eden tempted the humans to cast off the mantle of creaturely dependence on God and to listen to the voice of pride and autonomy.
a. Read Matthew 4:1–11. Look carefully at how Satan tempted Jesus in the desert. How were those temptations similar to the one in the Garden?

b. How did Jesus counter them?

c. Read Luke 22:39–46. In this Gospel scene, which took place in another garden, Gethsemane, do you see any evidence of another kind of temptation?

2. See that Jesus’ sweat fell to the ground “like great drops of blood” in this scene. Remember the Garden and God’s punishment on Adam (see Gen. 3:19). What do you think is the significance of Jesus sweating in His own garden of temptation?

 

3. Read Hebrews 5:7–10. This text reveals how Jesus met His temptation in Gethsemane. What difference might this kind of reaction have made for Adam in his garden?

 

Jesus, the New Adam
It wasn’t just a coincidence that Jesus happened to be in a garden when He had to make His decision to choose God’s will over His own, no matter what the cost. This was the moment when Jesus completed His work as the New Adam. The first Adam was silent and passive in the face of temptation. Jesus, well aware of what it would cost Him to obey God, put the will of the Father first. The pride of the first Adam was replaced by the humility of the Second Adam. If Adam shrank from the danger in his garden, giving into disobedience, Jesus rose to the challenge of the danger in His garden, surrendering Himself freely to God’s plan. The undoing of the devil had begun. As the Catechism says, “The evangelists indicate the salvific meaning of this mysterious event: Jesus is the new Adam who remained faithful just where the first Adam had given in to temptation.… In this, Jesus is the devil’s conqueror: he ‘binds the strong man,’ to take back his plunder [cf. Ps. 95:10; Mk. 3:27]. Jesus’ victory over the tempter in the desert anticipates victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of his filial love for the Father” (no. 539).

“Here Is the Man!”
Read Jn. 19:1–11
4. Challenge question: See that Pilate declared to those seeking to kill Jesus, “Here is the man!” (v. 5). How was that announcement by Pilate an unwitting fulfillment of Genesis 1:26?

 

5. Read verses 10–11. What was the source of the courage Jesus showed here which Adam lacked in the Garden?

 

A Return to Paradise
In Luke 23:43, Jesus promised one of the criminals next to him on the Cross: “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” As Tim Gray says in Mission of the Messiah:

The word ‘paradise’ is only used two other times in the New Testament. Paul uses it to describe heaven (2 Cor. 12:3), and it is used in Revelation to describe heaven as the new Garden of Eden that Jesus promises to those who persevere in faithfulness: “To him who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). Jesus completes on the Cross the return from the ultimate exile, the exile from the Father. With Jesus’ last breath on the Cross, the exile from Eden ends, and heaven is reopened to Adam and his descendants.

An Opened Side
Read Jn. 19:31–37
6. Look at verse 34. Recall that an opening in Adam’s side produced his bride, Eve. Then read the Catechism, no. 1225. What was the significance of blood and water flowing from a wound in Christ’s side?

 

Jesus, the Gardener
Read Jn. 20:11–18
7. Challenge question: We know that Jesus was buried in a garden (John 19:41). Thus, the Resurrection took place in a garden as well. Mary Magdalene mistook Jesus to be “the gardener” (20:15). What is the connection we can make between Jesus and Adam in this scene?

 

Suffering and Death
Read Heb. 2:5–18
8. Challenge question: Look at verses 9–10 carefully. The writer says that “it was fitting” that God made Jesus “perfect” through suffering. This does not mean that Jesus was imperfect. “To perfect,” in this context, means to advance to the final and complete fulfillment. Knowing what we know about life in (and out) of the Garden, why was it “fitting” for Jesus to suffer in order to reach His fulfillment as the “pioneer” of our salvation?

 

9. Challenge question: Look at verses 14–15. In Genesis 3:15, God said to the serpent, “he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heal.” According to these verses, Jesus delivered that bruise through His own human death. His death destroyed the devil, who “has the power of death.”
a. What do these verses suggest is the “power” the devil has in death?

b. Why would the death of Jesus have destroyed the devil’s power?*

A Surprising Solution
Read Jn. 3:1–15
10. In the Garden, we realized that Adam and Eve (and all their descendants) underwent a radical, systemic change in their human natures. In this conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, what did Jesus present as the solution to this radical problem?

 

Eat and Live Forever
Read Jn. 6:47–59
11. Here is another occasion in which Jesus startled Jews with His teaching. Why was Jesus’ offering of Himself as food and drink for immortality a sign that Eden could be regained?

 

The Church, the Goal of Eden
The signs are everywhere in the New Testament that the Woman and her Seed—Jesus and Mary—preside over new life in a regained Paradise, which is the Church. The Church is the family of God, people who are born anew through faith and baptism into the life of supernatural grace that was lost in Eden. It was always God’s intention that men would have communion with His divine life. As Saint Clement of Alexandria tells us, “Just as God’s will is creation and is called ‘the world,’ so his intention is the salvation of men, and it is called ‘the Church.’ ” The plan of God has never been thwarted. The Catechism assures us that even the fall of angels and men was only permitted by God in order for Him to demonstrate more magnificently His love for us and His power to save us (no. 760). Evil never has and never will triumph over Eden.

12. Challenge question: The Garden of Eden was both a spiritual and physical reality. The same is true today. The Church exists spiritually, among God’s people, and it also exists in a physical way, when Christians gather together to give public demonstration of their faith in God and their desire to keep covenant with Him. They do this in churches.
Picture the inside of a traditional Catholic church. What are some of its features that evoke the Garden of Eden?

 

“Did Not Our Hearts Burn within Us?”

Our hearts will burn with joy when we consciously open them wide to God’s Word. Scripture memorization is a good way to get that started. Here is a suggested memory verse:

Father, if thou are willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
—Lk. 22:42

Continue to welcome Him into your soul by reflecting on these questions:

In the Catechism, we read an amazing statement: “Christ’s whole life is a mystery of recapitulation. All Jesus did, said, and suffered had for its aim restoring fallen man to his original vocation” (no. 518). And also, “Christ enables us to live in him all that he himself lived, and he lives it in us” (no. 521). Think about your life as one who has been readmitted to the Garden of Eden. Is your love being tested? Do you hear a temptation to deny yourself nothing? What have you learned in this lesson about the power of Jesus’ life that can see you through every struggle this day will bring?

 

We understand from this lesson that Jesus defeated the devil by conquering death and the fear attached to it. If fear has a grip on you anywhere in your life, recognize it as a sham. Name that fear, and ask the New Adam to set you free.

 

“Stay with Us”

The Scriptures leave no doubt that all the stirrings of hope and anticipation we experienced in our study of the first chapters of Genesis, in spite of the tragedy of man’s fall from grace, were not without foundation. As the Gospel story unfolds, we have seen all the clues that Mary and her Son, Jesus, are the long-promised “woman” and her “seed” from Genesis 3:15. By their faithful obedience, not only do they bring ruin to the devil, but they also become the human faces and bodies of a New Adam and New Eve. God’s lost children, barred from the Tree of Life, have now received a way back into Eden. The Garden of the Church is a haven of safety in a hostile world. Although the children of the Church are still battered by an enemy, his time is short. In this Garden, the children enjoy the presence of the New Adam and New Eve and the community of love and holiness that was supposed to fill Eden. They eat freely of the Eucharist, the food that will give them eternal life. Theirs is a blessed, happy life.
The prayer that sustains these children in their life is the “Our Father.” Think for a moment about this prayer. Knowing what we know about everything that happened in the first Eden, what kind of prayer do you think men and women would pray if they were allowed back in? What would they have learned from the experiences of Adam and Eve? With their restored spiritual sight, what would they say to God in their profound gratitude for being restored to what was lost, entirely through His goodness and grace?
Surely, they would adore and honor Him. “Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.” They would recognize the need for obedience to His plan for creation, and that no other plan will do. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” They would know that God provides the food they need. They would have no need to lust after forbidden fruit. “Give us this day our daily bread.” They would be ready to confess their faults, which Adam and Eve tried to avoid. They would recognize the need to forgive others rather than laying blame. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” They would live in dependence on God, knowing that an enemy stalks them. Their lives would be lived in humility and faith, not pride and autonomy. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
The “Our Father” is the prayer of the New Eden. It says everything.

 

Lesson Summary
✓ The Gospel details of the life of Jesus lead to an inevitable comparison between Adam and Jesus. Not only was Jesus “the seed” of Genesis 3:15, who did battle with the devil, but He was also the Second Adam, undoing what went wrong in Eden:
• He chose to obey God in His garden of temptation, even though it meant terrible suffering and death.
• He cried out in faith to His Father instead of remaining silent in doubt, as Adam did.
• He began to take the curse of man’s sin onto Himself, with sweat and thorns.
• A wound in His side while He was on the Cross became a symbol of His Bride, the Church, just as from a wound in Adam’s side, God created Eve; the water of Baptism and blood of the Eucharist create a community of believers in union, body and soul, with Him.
• Jesus is the “gardener” of the New Eden; Mary, His Mother, is the first fruit of that Garden.
✓ In fulfillment of God’s promise in Genesis, “the seed” defeated God’s enemy, the devil, through a great reversal. Although His death on the Cross had the appearance of defeat, it was actually the beginning of victory. Because Jesus perfectly obeyed God, loving not His life to the end, God raised Him from the dead, breaking the bondage that comes through fear of death. The devil was left powerless in his battle with a human being (“he shall bruise your head”), just as God promised.
✓ The death and Resurrection of Jesus in a garden is meant to help us understand that He has made it possible for men to return to Eden. He took upon Himself the punishment of God on man’s rebellion. The innocent suffered for the guilty. As a result, the guilty can be washed clean in the water of Baptism and receive the new life of a second birth through the Holy Spirit. They can once again live as God’s blessed family.
✓ Jesus offered Himself as food for those who desire to live forever. In the Eucharist, men will enjoy “the medicine of immortality,” just as they would have in Eden, eating from the Tree of Life.
✓ The Church, the New Eden, is the family of God, which is primarily a spiritual reality. But Catholic life in its physical expression, especially in churches, evokes many features of the original Garden. This preserves what God intended for man from the very beginning. It is a life that is very good.
For responses to Lesson 7 Questions, see pp. 127–32.

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson 8

 

Life Outside of Eden
(Genesis 4–5)

 

It is time now to return to the story of Genesis. We have been fortified by our knowledge of what the New Testament reveals as the fulfillment of the promise of God in Genesis 3:15. We have allowed ourselves to peek ahead to see if the hope of a restoration and return to Eden, which we felt so strongly when Adam and Eve were expelled, could be possible. Now the challenge for us is to continue our study of Genesis as if we do not know what lies ahead. This will take some discipline, of course, but our study will be better for it.
We are now ready to see what happened to Adam and Eve once they left the sanctuary of Eden. Remember that when they left Paradise, even though they had lost their supernatural grace, and were consequently subject to sin, suffering, and death, they also left with concrete reasons for hope (read about these again, by way of review, in lesson 5, response 10). We ought to be full of questions about their new lives outside the Garden. What kind of relationship will the “dis-graced” humans have with God? What will they pass along to their offspring? What kind of civilization will develop from these people?

 

“He Opened to Us the Scriptures”

Before we read God’s Word, we ought to take a moment to humble ourselves before Him, remembering that His Word is primarily a conversation with us, not a textbook. “Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears” (1 Sam. 3:10) can be the prayer on our lips. Then, read all the way through Genesis 4 and 5. Think about what you understand and what you don’t understand. Make a simple response to God in terms of what you do understand. Write your prayer in this space:

 

Now, ask for His help as you work on the questions below.
(Prayer hint: “Lord, please grant that I will always accept Your invitation to ‘do well’ rather than evil.”)

 

Questions*

Firstfruits of the Fall
Read Gen. 4:1–7
1. Look at Eve’s comment after the birth of Cain (v. 1). She recognized that this son was a gift from God. Why was Eve’s statement a hopeful sign in this new life outside Eden?

 

The Offerings of Cain and Abel
It is interesting to see that the sons of Adam and Eve both understood that offerings to God were necessary. Where would they have gotten that idea? Undoubtedly they had learned it from their parents. We can assume that Adam and Eve told their children everything that had happened to them in the Garden. They would have explained how they had disobeyed God and paid dearly for it. They would also have been able to testify to God’s continued love and kindness for them, especially in the promise of defeat of God’s enemy. The first knowledge that Cain and Abel had of God would have come to them through their parents.
The details about God and His creation that Adam and Eve passed on to their children would have been their offspring’s first encounter with grace. Because of original sin, men, outside of Eden, would know that a Creator existed and that He was entitled to their reverence, but they would be dependent on additional information to know more than that. The story of Eden, with details of God’s nature revealed in His actions both before and after the Fall of man, would have provided that extra knowledge. The creation story was a source of grace to Cain and Abel. It gave them what they couldn’t have gotten for themselves. How did they respond to it?
Abel’s response to the God of his parents was wholehearted and generous, which pleased the Lord (Heb. 11:4). He gave the best of the best; he must have believed that God was worthy of it. Cain, on the other hand, did not please the Lord, and his offering was not acceptable. It is important to see that “for Cain and his offering,” God had “no regard” (Gen. 4:5). It was not simply that Cain had made the wrong offering. There was something in Cain himself that the Lord found displeasing. What could that have been? We don’t know for sure, but perhaps Cain had made the offering perfunctorily, without generosity or gratitude. Perhaps he had offered the leftovers and not the “first” portion of his crop. God knew that Cain’s offering reflected his heart. He knew that Cain was capable of something better, something more appropriate for creatures who are made in God’s image. So, He rejected the lesser, in hopes for something better.
These two men give us the two responses possible to God’s grace in the world. One response to the fact of God’s existence is humble generosity of heart. The other response is proud resistance. Thus begins the story of life outside of Eden.

2. Cain was very angry over God’s response to him and to his offering. What does this suggest to you about the kind of man Cain was?

 

3. God gave Cain the opportunity to worship Him in the right way, which opened wide the door to forgiveness and restoration (v. 7). It was a lavish offer of grace.
a. If Cain refused God’s offer and did not “do well,” what problem did God tell him he would face?

b. Challenge question: God’s warning to Cain about not doing well (doing evil) suggests that sin has two consequences, not just one. Read Romans 6:16. What does Saint Paul say is the second consequence of sin (one that happens in addition to the first consequence, which is broken communion with God)? (Read also Catechism, no. 1472.)

4. Cain and Abel were born to the same parents and presumably had the same upbringing. What do you suppose explains the difference between them?

 

Cain Is Cursed
Read Gen. 4:8–16
5. See the details of Abel’s murder in verse 8. What more do we understand from these details about the kind of man Cain was?

 

6. Surely God knew where Abel was; why do you think He asked Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” (v. 9).

 

7. Read Cain’s answer to God’s question in verse 9. What becomes increasingly clear about the man Cain?

 

The Blood of Abel
In verse 10, the word “blood” is mentioned for the first time in Scripture. Abel’s blood cried out to the Lord. It seemed alive. Although Abel had been murdered, somehow his life had not been completely snuffed out. Throughout the rest of Scripture, blood will have potent meaning for man’s life, both natural and supernatural. It will come to represent the life of man, and, liturgically, the means of atonement for man’s sin. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; … it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life” (Lev. 17:11). At the Last Supper, Christ said, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk. 22:20). In the Book of Revelation, the final victory over the devil was won “by the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 12:11). Thus, we have a consistent witness to the vitality of blood in Scripture, beginning with Abel’s blood crying out from the ground.
What do we think Abel’s blood said when it cried out to the Lord? Sometimes we think that Abel’s blood must have been crying out for justice, which is a reasonable deduction. Yet, because Abel was a righteous man who had faith in God, is it possible that he was crying out for mercy for his brother? In Hebrews 12:24, there is a reference to the blood of Abel, comparing it to the blood of Jesus. The writer of Hebrews says that the blood of the New Covenant speaks “more graciously” than the blood of Abel. The possible implication is that Abel’s blood spoke graciously—that is, it gave more than what was deserved. If Abel’s blood spoke graciously, then it must have been asking God to show mercy to his murderer, Cain. The blood of Jesus, who also begged forgiveness for murderers, speaks “more graciously” because He was a willing victim of murder, whereas Abel was an unwilling victim. He had been accosted and killed, without any opportunity to choose life or death.
This is an idea worth pondering. If Cain and Abel represent fallen mankind, making their way through life outside of Eden, their story suggests that among the descendants of Adam and Eve, throughout all the ages of human history, there will be some who respond to God and others who will not. Those whose lives are touched by God are willing to offer their suffering to obtain mercy for those who harden themselves. Think of Jesus on the Cross: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:43).

8. Look at Cain’s response to the punishment God gave him.
a. What was completely lacking in Cain’s response to God?

b. What was his primary concern?

We Reap What We Sow
Cain is an example of the moral axiom that will appear over and over in Scripture—we reap what we sow. Adam and Eve wanted autonomy from God, and that’s exactly what they got, even to the point of being expelled from Eden. Cain’s original problem with God was that he was unwilling to give Him the best of himself or his harvest. God’s punishment was that Cain would experience from the earth exactly the treatment he had given God; the ground would be hard and unyielding, just as Cain had been in the offer of grace God extended to him. In addition, his desire to be autonomous and not responsible for his brother would have its fulfillment in his life as a “fugitive and a wanderer on earth” (v. 14). His covenant-breaking act would result in him being away from his home and family, God’s covenant-keeping community.
Cain’s punishment suggests that the worst that can happen to us in life, when we are in rebellion against God, is for Him to give us what we want. If we insist on having life on our own terms, God will give it to us. We will make our own misery.

9. Why do you think God marked Cain so no one would kill him?

 

10. After the Fall in Eden, we saw signs of God’s continued tender care of His creatures. During this second episode of human rebellion, do you see similar signs of God’s love for humans?

 

Two Cultures Develop
Read Gen. 4:17–26
11. Cain departed from the presence of the Lord and began a family.* Among his descendants, seventh in line from Adam through Cain, was Lamech.
a. What type of man does Lamech appear to have been?

b. What does this suggest about the kind of civilization that developed among people who lived “away from the presence of the LORD”? (v. 16).

12. What was different about the line of descendants of Adam through Seth (v. 26)?

 

Summary of Genesis 5
The next chapter in Genesis begins with a genealogy of Adam through Seth, the son God gave him to replace the slain Abel. In the first verses, however, there is a beautiful recapitulation of the creation of man, male and female, in the likeness of God (vv. 1–2). The text tells us that Adam “became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth” (v. 3). Adam was like God, Adam’s son was like his father, and thus Adam passed along to all his human descendants the imprint of divine likeness.
The genealogy of Adam through Seth produced many people, who lived many years. One of the most interesting of his descendants was a man named Enoch, who was seventh in line from Adam through Seth. “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (v. 24). If we look back through Adam’s descendants through Cain, we discover that the seventh in that line was Lamech, a proudly violent man, as we have seen. What a contrast in Enoch! He is the first man described as a “prophet” in Scripture (Jude 14–15; cf. Heb. 11:5–6). The difference between Lamech and Enoch helps us understand the difference between the two families of humans who developed through Adam and Eve, typified first by Cain and Abel. There are those who live “away from the presence of the LORD” (4:16), and their lives bear the fruit of that separation, tending towards pride and violence. There are those who “call upon the name of the LORD” (4:26) and respond generously to Him; their lives, too, bear the fruit of that choice.
Enoch is the first biblical example of what we call a “saint”—a human being in whom God does an extraordinary work of His grace. Apparently, he is also the first human to be taken up into heaven (Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5). Elijah, the prophet, was another taken that way (2 Kings 2:11), as was the Blessed Virgin Mary. This reference to Enoch, so early in the Scripture, begins the long and wonderful line of humans who walked in the friendship of God.
Genesis 5 also includes the account of another man named Lamech; he was a descendant of Seth. He had a son and “called his name Noah, saying ‘Out of the ground which the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands’ ” (v. 29). Lamech’s simple statement of hope for his son Noah gave voice to the expectation of the humble human descendants of Adam through Seth that, someday, a male child would grow up to deliver relief from God’s curse on sin. Lamech acknowledged the authority of the Lord and did not chafe against the curse. He was not complaining. He was only looking for deliverance. Lamech’s hope showed that he was living out God’s plan for humanity in the right way; he had a realistic understanding of man’s basic predicament, and he clung to exactly the kind of hope that the promise of God in Genesis 3:15 was meant to produce. What a beautiful thing to see!

 

“Did Not Our Hearts Burn within Us?”

Our hearts will burn with joy when we consciously open them wide to God’s Word. Scripture memorization is a good way to get that started. Here is a suggested memory verse:

If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.
—Gen. 4:7

Continue to welcome Him into your soul by reflecting on these questions:

In her teachings about sin, the Catholic Church preserves the very serious warning that God gave Cain (Gen. 4:7) and that Saint Paul wrote to the Romans that sin is a form of slavery (6:16). Each time we decide to do the wrong thing, we make it easier for ourselves to do wrong the next time we are tempted. Think about the little sins in your life that you have grown accustomed to. Take seriously God’s challenge to Cain, and resolve to turn away from them. Even small sins form calluses on our souls. Ask God to help you find and rid yourself of them.

 

When you give to God, whether it is time or money, service, attention, or anything else, do you give your best or your leftovers? Consider in your heart what has been given you and what you should return out of thanks to God.

 

“Stay with Us”

This first lesson on life outside of Eden packs quite a punch. So much of what has characterized human life through all the centuries of our history appears in embryonic form in Genesis 4 and 5. First, there was a mother’s announcement of the birth of her son (4:1), a gift from the Lord. The icon of Mother and Son began to take shape. We saw men worshipping God with offerings and that their offerings represented what was in their hearts towards God. Cain and Abel showed us the two kinds of responses that men can have towards their Creator—humility or pride. There was the clear, loving choice God gave to man to choose to live righteously, even after failure. There was the sober warning that sin begets sin and that resisting it means a battle. Cain became a living example of how sins like jealousy and hatred, if not mortified, give birth to betrayal, lying, and murder. Those sins harden the soul, leaving it callous and impervious to God’s approach. We saw that physical death didn’t mean the end of a life; Abel was still able to “speak” through his blood. Perhaps his voice was one that cried out for mercy for his brother, true evidence of the righteousness that characterized his life, which had so enraged his brother. We observed God as the loving Father who sought explanations, who punished in order to reform, and who held open the possibility of reconciliation. We recognized the disastrous consequences for human life and development when men live away from the presence of the Lord. We were cheered by the evidence that the descendants of Adam and Eve were still loved deeply by God and that they could, in spite of everything, walk in friendship with Him.
The final scene from Genesis 5, in which Lamech expressed hope for his son Noah, prints indelibly in our minds a conviction that all who love God have shared through the ages. Even among men who acknowledge God—calling upon His Name and responding to His grace, sometimes heroically—there is still the clear understanding that deliverance from God’s curse is necessary, that things are not as they should be, either in the earth or in the heart of man. They wait patiently for God to act within human history. Lamech focused that hope on the birth of his son. Thus, the lesson began and ended with a human baby. These chapters perfectly set the stage for the rest of the story of redemption. What we see in outline form here will grow in detail and drama as we wait to see what God has planned for the creation He loves.

 

Lesson Summary
✓ From the very start, the discord Adam and Eve’s sin brought to the world was evident in their children. The internal conflict that would reign between will and emotion was dramatized in the conflict between Cain and Abel: Abel gave God his best while Cain gave only the minimum. Abel’s sacrifice pleased God because it reflected a heart of gratitude for God’s provision and a desire to please Him. In contrast, the Lord had no regard for Cain’s offering because it reflected his heart’s desire to keep the best for himself.
✓ Cain’s jealousy and anger were apparent to God, who extended an offer to him to set everything right by choosing to live righteously. God warned him that to capitulate to the rage he felt inside would make him subject to sin, like a slave to a master.
✓ Cain chose his way rather than God’s. He murdered his brother. God approached him, extending grace to him by calling him to be accountable for his actions. That would have been the first step to forgiveness and restoration. Cain’s heart hardened, however. The trap that sin had laid for him snapped shut.
✓ God punished Cain, allowing him to experience in his own life the effects of the choices he had made. His life would be preserved by God, however, perhaps to make reconciliation possible.
✓ Cain left the covenant, which made him a fugitive and wanderer. The civilization that grew from him bore the continuing marks of pride and violence. His descendants became a living picture of human development apart from a humble acknowledgement of God.
✓ Seth, the son born to Adam and Eve to replace Abel, was a man who called on the name of the Lord. Among his descendants, were men like Enoch and Lamech who lived in friendship with God and who patiently waited for deliverance from the curse that rested on man’s life because of disobedience.
✓ Noah, whose name means “rest,” was a descendant of Seth’s. He was so named by his father in the hope that he would be a deliverer of God’s people.
For responses to Lesson 8 Questions, see pp. 132–35.

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson 9

 

Noah and the Flood
(Genesis 6–8)

 

Whenever genealogies appear in Scripture, as they did for the first time in our last lesson, they are meant to signify the passing of time and the unfolding of human history. The story of man, begun in the first chapters of Genesis, is now going to proceed in a way that will spread out in many directions. What was it like when the family of man began to fill the earth? We know from the account of Cain and Abel that the human story is going to be marked by violence and tragedy, as well as by faith and hope. These two men are examples of how differently each of the descendants of Adam and Eve will respond to God. Abel loved God; Cain loved himself. Cain murdered his brother, an act that was the fruition of his rebellion against God. His hard, unyielding heart, revealed first in his inadequate offering to God, eventually turned against his brother. His departure from the presence of the Lord meant that his descendants would live and develop away from the light of the truth and the covenant God had made with Adam and Eve. Among Cain’s descendants, we noted, was arrogance and violence.
Seth, however, was a son given to Eve to replace the murdered Abel. He was a man who called on the Lord’s name, a covenant-keeping man. His descendants showed faithful obedience and friendship with God.
We discovered in Genesis 5 that men were waiting for a deliverer. Even in this ancient era in the story of man, a picture begins to take shape of men who know that they are justly under sin’s curse and who are waiting for a male offspring to make some kind of difference for them. Remember Lamech naming his son “Noah,” a name that means “rest.”
In this lesson, we will watch the further development of man’s history, formed out of the two lines of descendants from Cain and Seth. How will the violence and pride of Cain’s line coexist with the covenant-keeping of Seth’s line? Why does God send such a devastating flood upon the earth? God has shown Himself to be remarkably patient and unconquerably loving to His human creatures. Will this continue?*

 

“He Opened to Us the Scriptures”

Before we read God’s Word, we ought to take a moment to humble ourselves before Him, remembering that His Word is primarily a conversation with us, not a textbook. “Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears” (1 Sam. 3:10) can be the prayer on our lips. Then, read all the way through Genesis 6–8. Think about what you understand and what you don’t understand. Make a simple response to God in terms of what you do understand. Write your prayer in this space:

 

Now, ask for His help as you work on the questions below.
(Prayer hint: “Lord, let me not forget that my choice to sin grieves Your heart.”)

 

Questions

Wickedness Reigns on Earth
Read Gen. 6:1–10
The first four verses of Genesis 6 are notoriously difficult to interpret conclusively. Some of the difficulty is removed, however, by determining who the “sons of God” and “the daughters of men” were. We know that there were at least two lines of human development from Adam and Eve, one through Seth and one through Cain. If Seth’s descendants were those who called on the name of the Lord, and Cain’s were those who lived independently of God, then it is possible that “the sons of God” were male descendents of Seth and the “daughters of men” were female descendents of Cain.
It appears that intermarriage between the two human communities led to a weakening of goodness on earth. Instead of the faith of the one group lifting up the other, wickedness and evil imagination prevailed. Throughout Scripture, there are sober warnings about marriage between people of faith and people without faith or those with false religion. In the history of Israel, one of the greatest dangers the nation faced was the threat presented when Israelites married idolatrous women. Likewise, in the New Testament, Saint Paul speaks specifically against marriage between a believer and an unbeliever (2 Cor. 6:14–16). Because human nature is frail and prone to sin, a marriage between a believer and an unbeliever introduces the possibility of a weakened commitment to keeping God’s covenant in the believer. If the unbeliever is the wife, as it seems to be the case here in Genesis, the danger is even greater, since she is the one who will nurture children in that family. The Catholic Church continues to guide Christians away from mixed marriages (Catechism, nos. 1633–34). In the case of early human civilization, it is possible that mixed marriages led to a widespread collapse of righteousness on the earth.
The Hebrew of verse 3 is difficult to translate. God said His Spirit would not abide or “strive” with man forever, indicating a kind of withdrawal from him because “he is flesh.” That meant that men were living according to their disordered natures. The reference to one hundred and twenty years could mean either the length of time before God withdrew from men, as He did in the Flood, or a reference to a shorter life span in man; the former is most probable. Likewise, it is hard to translate the word “Nephilim” with certainty. It can mean “giant” or “tyrant.” It has within its possible range of meaning “separated ones.” It could be a reference to men who, like Cain, left the covenant of God. In that case, it is perhaps describing those who became notorious (“of renown”) for their aggression and presumption, as we saw in the case of Lamech in Genesis 4:23–24.

1. Look at verse 6. This description of God is anthropomorphic, which means the ancient writer described God as if He were a man. We must not understand it to mean that God thought He made a terrible mistake in making man.
a. Read verses 11–13 in the next section. What was it that caused God such grief over men?

b. Challenge question: God’s intention was to blot out every living thing except Noah, his family, and the animals in the ark (7:4, 21–23). Think about what you have seen in God’s reaction to sin thus far in Genesis. He did not blot out Adam and Eve; He did not blot out Cain. But now, He would blot out almost all living things. What do you think is the significance of this?

2. Challenge question: Why do you suppose the animals and creeping things were included in God’s plan of punishment? (Read also Rom. 8:19–23.)

 

3. Noah found favor in God’s eyes. He was a righteous man. Think for a moment what a statement like this represents about the man Noah. Human society had become so corrupted by wickedness that God wanted to blot man out, but Noah lived righteously in their midst. Read Hebrews 11:1–3, 7. Describe the kind of person you picture Noah to have been.

 

The World Saved through Noah
Read Gen. 6:11–22
4. Verses 11–12 reveal how completely evil had covered the earth. Yet God found one righteous man and planned to save the world, humans and animals, through him.
a. What does this suggest about God’s knowledge of men as distinct individuals? (See Mt. 10:29–31.)

b. What does this suggest about the power of one righteous life?

Summary of Genesis 7
Genesis 7 recalls the onset of the Flood. Although brief, it helps us understand that the destruction of life on earth and the preservation of Noah, his family, and the animals were God’s plan to restore His creation to its original destiny. In the early verses of the chapter, we see many references to the number seven. Remember that this number had covenantal significance for the ancient Hebrews. God’s hallowing of the seventh day of creation sealed all of the universe into a covenant of love with Him. The covenant was fractured by man’s disobedience, but the repeated appearance of the number seven in the text reminds us that God had not forgotten that covenant.
When the water arrived on earth, it first came from the ground, then the sky (7:11). This helps us remember that the primordial earth was also watered from the ground and from the sky (Gen. 2:4–6). The earth was completely covered by water (7:19). This reminds us of how everything began in the first chapter of Genesis—the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters (Gen. 1:2). These parallels to the creation story show us that God was undertaking a re-creation of the earth and, in a sense, even of man himself. He wanted to renew the covenant. We should not mistake this for just another attempt to get things right. Rather, we are to absorb from all the details that evoke the creation that God desired to free man from his problems. God’s unrelenting initiative in seeking to restore man to his original destiny is unequivocal proof of His love for us. The enormity of God’s persistent love should rise up above all the details of man’s early history as the sun rises in the morning sky. We dare not interpret any of it apart from the illumination of that bright light. Behind, above, beneath, before, and throughout everything is the glorious love of God for mere mortals. “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is thy Name in all the earth!” (Ps. 8:9).

The Waters Subside
Read Gen. 8:1–12
5. Noah and his family had to wait quite awhile before they could leave the ark.
a. If God had miraculously made the waters appear, what question might they have legitimately asked while they waited for the waters to disappear?

b. Challenge question: Why do you think God just let nature take its course?

Noah’s Ark
The ark that Noah was to build was going to be the means of salvation for Noah, his family, and the animals taken into it. It was going to be roomy and well-stocked with food. The door to the ark would be in its side. God would make a covenant with everything inside of it. It was going to ride through water to safety.
The Fathers of the early Church saw the ark as a figure of the Church. Saint Augustine writes:

God ordered Noah to build an ark in which he and his family would escape from the devastation of the flood. Undoubtedly the ark is a symbol of the City of God on pilgrimage in this world, that is, a symbol of the Church which was saved by the wood on which there hung the Mediator between God and men—Christ Jesus, himself a man. Even the measurements of length, height and breadth of the ark are a symbol of the human body in which He came. […] The door open in the side of the ark surely symbolizes the open wound made by the lance in the side of the Crucified—the door by which those who come to him enter in the sense that believers enter the Church by means of the sacraments which issued from that wound.”

6. Read verses 6–12. Think of the picture of the dove going back and forth from the ark, looking for habitable land.
a. Eventually, the dove did not return (v. 12). What did that mean to Noah?

b. Challenge question: Read Matthew 3:16–17 and the Catechism, no. 701. What meaning does the Church help us to see in the Gospel scene when the Holy Spirit descended “like a dove” on Jesus?

“Go Forth from the Ark”
Read Gen. 8:13–22
7. Look at the command God gave Noah in verse 17. Read also Genesis 1:28. What does this language, so reminiscent of creation, help us to understand about the meaning of this moment when Noah and his family came out of the ark?

 

8. Look at the very first thing Noah did when he got off the ark (v. 20).
a. What was it?

b. Why do you suppose this act pleased the Lord greatly?

Incense at Mass
The Lord was pleased with the smell of Noah’s sacrifice (8:21) because of what it represented. The aroma was an expression of Noah’s gratitude and worship. In the Mass, whenever incense is used, we reproduce this moment of pleasure for God. The smell of the incense represents our act of worship and praise, as we offer up the perfect sacrifice of thanksgiving—ourselves and the Eucharist.

c. Challenge question: Remember that Noah’s name meant “rest.” Read verses 21–22. Did Noah live up to his name?

 

“Did Not Our Hearts Burn within Us?”

Our hearts will burn with joy when we consciously open them wide to God’s Word. Scripture memorization is a good way to get that started. Here is a suggested memory verse.

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.”
—Gen. 8:20–21

Continue to welcome Him into your soul by reflecting on these questions:

Noah was a man who was unaffected by the great wickedness around him. He remained faithful to the ways of God. We recognize this as a difficult thing to do, because our human nature, even after Baptism, is still bent in the direction of sin. Take the time to examine yourself to see if you are being influenced for bad instead of for good by the people around you. Perhaps you are not being dragged into great wickedness, but do others make it easier for you to gossip, to complain, to be dishonest, to be too attached to worldly possessions, to neglect your spiritual life, etc.? If so, build an ark to protect yourself. That should include confession, resolve, self-discipline, and prayer. Ask Noah to pray for you to live as a bright light in your world.

 

There are no unobserved moments in a Christian’s life. Think about how this truth can both save you from danger and give you the deepest possible joy. Be specific.

 

Noah had to wait patiently for the waters of judgment and devastation to recede. Is there a place in your life now where you must do the same? Is there anything in this lesson that will help your waiting to lead to holiness in you?

 

“Stay with Us”

When you read the account of the Flood, realizing that everyone except Noah’s family died because of God’s judgment, did you have a twinge of wondering if that was fair? After all, if some human civilizations developed away from the covenant-keepers, thus becoming intensely evil, perhaps we want to say that they didn’t know any better. Maybe we think they never really had a chance to live their lives the way Noah did.
Saint Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, helps us to better understand just exactly what was going on among men whose lives were given over to wickedness. It is worth examining what he has to say in the first chapter of that letter:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. (vv. 18–24)
Here we see that Saint Paul says that anyone who lives on the planet Earth, whether he lives among covenant-keeping people or not, knows enough about God to live in the right way. Why? Because God has revealed Himself in His works. Looking around at the world in which he lives, a man is capable of recognizing that (1) there is a God, (2) He is powerful, and (3) He deserves to be honored and thanked (Rom. 1:20–21). When a man chooses not to act on what he knows to be true, he suppresses truth itself. It isn’t that he has been deprived of it—he simply refuses to live by it.
When that happens, things go downhill fast. As Saint Paul tells us:

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them. (Rom. 1:28–32)

This is a description of what happened in the early history of man and what continues to happen when men, like Cain, know what is right to do but refuse to do it. When that happens, the most merciful thing God can do is to punish them. It is often only when men are faced with suffering and death that their autonomy crumbles to ash, and they are willing to cry out to God, whom they are finally ready to acknowledge as the only One who can help.
The Flood was just such an occasion. It was the just, merciful response of God to the mess man had made for himself. We may ask, suppose some people, as the waters of the Flood overwhelmed them, cried out to God for mercy? What if, in the very last seconds of their lives, they repented of their great offense against God? Saint Peter, in 1 Peter 3:18–22, tells us more about the Flood, lest we have any misgivings:

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

The Church tells us that “Christ went down into the depths of death so that ‘the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live’ ” (Catechism, no. 635). When Jesus entered “the depths of death” to preach the Good News of salvation, if there were any who had been humbled by the Flood, even in the last moments of consciousness, surely they responded to Him. But those who, like Cain, had hardened their hearts through sin might well have had the same reaction to Christ as Cain had to God—“Thanks, but no thanks.” We should never worry about the justice and fairness of God (see Catechism, nos. 632–35).

 

Lesson Summary
✓ Over time, and possibly as a result of intermarriage between men who called on the name of the Lord and women who did not, great wickedness spread throughout the human community on earth. There was unchecked violence and evil imagination everywhere.
✓ God decided to judge this wickedness by sending a great flood to blot out all living things. There was, however, one man who still lived the way God intended men to live—Noah. He found favor in God’s sight.
✓ The righteous man, Noah, was to build an ark to preserve some life—that of his family and of the animals God instructed him to carry into it. He obeyed and prepared for the onslaught.
✓ The earth returned to a time of watery chaos as a result of God’s judgment. Because of language evocative of the first creation story, we recognized in this account that God was re-creating the earth and man’s life in order to cleanse it from the great evil that pervaded it.
✓ When God caused the waters to subside, a dove became the symbol that the earth was ready to receive renewed life upon it.
✓ As soon as he was off the ark, Noah made an offering to the Lord. This act deeply pleased God (as the wickedness had deeply grieved Him). He made a promise never to repeat this kind of judgment on the earth in the history of man. Noah’s obedience and reverence was the human agency of God’s blessing on the earth and “rest” for troubled man.
For responses to Lesson 9 Questions, see pp. 135–37.

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson 10

 

The Covenant Renewed
(Genesis 9–11)

 

In some ways, for people closely studying the early chapters of Genesis, the story of the Flood comes as a kind of catharsis. Rebellion in and out of Eden, the spread of wickedness throughout the earth, and the profound sadness that comes from knowing how all this grieved God does make us want to cry out for an end to it all, and for a fresh start. In the account of Noah, who was a human being who still loved God more than he loved himself, we had reason to breathe a sigh of relief and hope. Perhaps with the earth washed clean of violence and with the continuation of human life through a righteous man and his family, we can expect better things. Surely the scene from Genesis 8 gave us some basis for this hope. God was once again pleased by what He saw on earth (an echo of the “very good” of the first creation); He took delight in the aroma of Noah’s sacrifice.
Genesis 6–8, with the frequent use of language evocative of the first creation, prepares us to expect to see a renewal of the covenant that God graciously made with all creation at its beginning. We expect that He will make it clear how He wants life on the renewed planet to be lived. And because God is Goodness itself, we are counting on some demonstration of His deep, abiding, persistent love for man—the kind of love we have already seen in our study, which reaches down to man in his dependent, helpless condition and gives so much more than he deserves. We will not be disappointed.
That is, we won’t be disappointed in God. But what about the humans? It’s hard for us to forget that the problem in Eden was man’s doing. Were men’s hearts also washed clean by the Flood?

 

“He Opened to Us the Scriptures”

Before we read God’s Word, we ought to take a moment to humble ourselves before Him, remembering that His Word is primarily a conversation with us, not a textbook. “Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears” (1 Sam. 3:10) can be the prayer on our lips. Then, read all the way through Genesis 9–11. Think about what you understand and what you don’t understand. Make a simple response to God in terms of what you do understand. Write your prayer in this space:

 

Now, ask for His help as you work on the questions below.
(Prayer hint: “Lord, help me to make the most of every fresh start You give me.”)

 

Questions

A Blessing from God
Read Gen. 9:1–7
Read Genesis 1:28–31 and Genesis 9:1–7. These two scenes are very similar, which is not a coincidence.
a. What do you think we are meant to understand by this similarity?

b. Challenge question: There is a dramatic difference between these two scenes: the second one is punctuated by fear and dread. What does that help us to understand about the re-creation?

2. Recall that in Genesis 4, Cain feared that someone would kill him because he murdered Abel, his brother. Yet God preserved his life. In the renewed world, those who kill others will lose their lives. What do you think explains this change?

 

3. In verse 4, God prohibited eating the flesh of animals that had any blood in it. Why do you think that God announced this strong taboo on blood?

 

Capital Punishment and Genesis 9:6
How can we reconcile God’s declaration of capital punishment for murder, recorded here in Genesis 9, with the tireless campaign of Pope John Paul II, in his pontificate, against it? The Catechism tells us:

Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.
Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically non-existent” (Catechism, no. 2267, quoting Evangelium Vitae 56).

The Church teaches that for much of human history, beginning with Noah, executing certain kinds of criminals was the only way to protect society against them. Now, however, in the modern era with its penal institutions, some societies are capable of curbing violence without killing those guilty of it. Pope John Paul II has been a strong voice speaking out against capital punishment in those societies because of his unwavering commitment to the dignity and sacredness of human life, even when men sin greatly. As God says here in this passage: “God made man in His own image” (Gen. 9:6). If, by imprisonment, we can protect society and prevent danger from a criminal, we should not take his life. Governments should respect life, not taking it unnecessarily. Further, they can aim to rehabilitate criminals to live a more productive life, while the Church prays for their repentance, conversion, and reconciliation with God.

The Sign of the Covenant
Read Gen. 9:8–17
4. God made a covenant with Noah and his sons. (A covenant is an agreement between parties that creates a family relationship among them.) God promised that He would never again destroy all life on the earth again with a flood. His just wrath had been spent. There was no need to fear any further destruction. God told Noah that the rainbow would represent this covenant promise.
a. In the rainbow, God closely identified Himself with something beautiful in the sky. What potential risk did God take when He chose to use a rainbow as the covenant sign?

b. Challenge question: Why do you think God took that risk? (See also Catechism, no. 1146.)

God and the Rainbow
In the Garden of Eden, everything that existed—trees, animals, fruit, sun, sky, moon—gave testimony to Adam and Eve that God exists and that He is good. In the re-creation, God chose one element in creation, the rainbow, to restore man’s confidence in His goodness and power. How? He told Noah that whenever the rainbow appeared in the heavens, He would do something: “When the bow is in the clouds, I will look upon it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature” (9:16). This made the rainbow much more than a sign. If it had been only a sign, God would have told Noah, “When the bow is in the clouds, remember the covenant.” The rainbow would have reminded Noah to do something. Instead, when the bow appeared, God committed Himself to doing something on behalf of every living creature. He would do the remembering.
In this, God used an ordinary element in nature to do an extraordinary thing for man. This is what the Church calls a sacrament. God does a gracious work for man in conjunction with an element in nature—bread, wine, water, oil. The rainbow was the first “sacrament” of the re-creation.

The Sons of Noah
Read Gen. 9:18–29
5. Read verse 20. Noah was a gardener (of a vineyard) who abused the fruit he had there. What kind of warning do you think this might be?*

 

6. What kind of son did Ham appear to be (v. 22)?

 

7. What strength of character did Shem and Japheth show (v. 23)?*

 

Summary of Genesis 10
The picture in Genesis 10 is one of slow but steady repopulation of the earth. As the Catechism says, “After the unity of the human race was shattered by sin, God at once sought to save humanity part by part. The covenant with Noah after the flood gives expression to the principle of the divine economy toward the ‘nations,’ in other words, toward men grouped ‘in their lands, each with [its] own language, by their families, in their nations [Gen. 10:5; cf. 9:9–10, 16; 10:20–31]’ ” (no. 56).
Because all humans have descended from Noah and his family, we are reminded that the human community is really a family. We knew this at the time of the creation, and we are seeing it again here. The longing that men have for universal peace, the end to wars, and respect for human life stems from this deep awareness that we are all related to each other and ought to live together in familial peace. In addition, of course, all men are God’s children, even when their national religions have lost much of the truth about God that Noah and his family would have possessed. As the family of man spread out over the earth and through the centuries, various cultures may have preserved elements of some truths about God even as they lost others. With additions and subtractions, with distortions and misunderstandings, those elements could have become the basis for various religions of the world. It is not difficult to imagine a process like that—a fracturing of the covenant story handed down through Noah’s generation. The Church teaches that many non-Christian religions contain some of these elements of truth; it is the Christian Gospel and the teaching of the Church that give men the possibility of knowing and experiencing the fullness of the truth (Catechism, nos. 842–45).
Of special interest to us in this chapter is Nimrod (10:8–11), who was a descendant of Ham through Cush. He is described as one who gained a certain ascendancy and was mighty “before the Lord.” This phrase is not meant to suggest that he had a great relationship with the Lord. Rather, it is used to express the degree of his notoriety. It is reminiscent of “the mighty ones” who were on the earth at the time of the Flood (6:4). Thus, Nimrod’s reputation would have been one of great might, not goodness. He was the founder of the first Mesopotamian kingdom and the civilizations that became known as Assyria and Babylonia. This is the first place in the Bible where the term “kingdom” occurs. It suggests the start of nations that were characterized by prideful opposition to the Lord (Gen. 11:1–9; cf. Rev. 17:1–18).

The Tower of Babel
Read Gen. 11:1–9*
8. Nimrod, a descendant of Ham, built the city of Babel (Gen. 10:10).
a. What appears to have been the motivation of this city’s builders, especially in the creation of the tower?

b. What threat to mankind did God see in their building project?

c. Challenge question: The solution to this offense in Babel was for God to fragment human civilization by different languages. What then, does the diversity in human language really represent? (See also Catechism, no. 57.)

The Descendants of Shem
Read Gen. 11:10–32*

9. This genealogy leads up to one family, Terah, and his sons, Abram and Nahor. They lived in Ur, a large city of Mesopotamia. Read Joshua 24:2–4. What had become of Shem’s “family religion” by this time?

 

10. Challenge question: Think about how the civilization of man developed from Noah and his sons. Although Noah was a righteous, faithful man, his drunkenness made him vulnerable to an outrage by one of his sons. He had to put some of his own descendants under a curse. As the sons of Noah had families, there were some who gained reputations for all the wrong reasons. This all looks strangely familiar. Did the re-creation of the earth work?

 

What Happens Next?
As we conclude our study of this section of Genesis, it is appropriate to ask, “What happens next?” The best way to prepare for the answer to that question is to ask two more: (1) what has happened already? and (2) what needs to happen next? We have already seen something of a pattern develop, in just eleven chapters of Genesis. We have recognized, in an unmistakable way, that God desired the existence of human creatures on earth so that He could share His life with them. Made in His image and likeness, with a vocation that matched His, man and woman were truly the crown of God’s creation. However, they abused their freedom and rebelled against Him. Although they experienced severe punishment for their disobedience, they discovered (and so did we) that there was a “deeper magic” at work in the universe (as Aslan, the Lion in C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, once said about Narnia). God did not give up on His plan for humanity. Once man and woman stepped out of Eden, God began His relentless hunt to return them to Paradise, their true home.
Just as we have seen a pattern of God’s goodness in Genesis 1–11, so we have seen a pattern of human weakness and failure. A massive expansion of wickedness on earth precipitated God’s judgment in the Flood; one man’s righteousness saved the human race from it. Before long, however, God had to visit the earth in judgment again, striking down a tower built by men who were attempting to storm heaven. He confused the one language that had made it possible for men to use their unity for all the wrong purposes.
Still, we know that God had a future for humanity. We know that plan included a woman and her seed, who would turn the tide in a cosmic battle. We know that God desired to bless, not curse, His human family. Even though Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden, the memory of the blessedness there would always beckon to their descendants.
So, what needs to happen next? We need to see more of God’s plan for His creation. We need to know how He will overcome the persistent pattern of man’s weakness and sin, which overpowered goodness wherever it existed. How would God contain man’s rebellion, as nations developed and expanded over the earth? Before the Flood, one man’s righteousness countered the evil intent of many hearts. After the Flood, will one nation’s righteousness make a difference in all that had gone wrong on earth?
The answer to that question lies in our study of the next section of Genesis, God and His Family (Gen. 12–50).

 

“Did Not Our Hearts Burn within Us?”

Our hearts will burn with joy when we consciously open them wide to God’s Word. Scripture memorization is a good way to get that started. Here is a suggested memory verse:

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”
—Gen. 9:12–13

Continue to welcome Him into your soul by reflecting on these questions:

Sometimes Catholics are accused by others of caring more about the outward forms of sacraments than about the direct encounter with Jesus that they are meant to give. This shows up in people who would never miss Mass, who go to Confession, who have all their children baptized and confirmed, but who seem not to have a living, vital relationship with God. If they are people who do not exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in their lives—such as kindness, self-control, and especially charity—then they appear to outsiders as people who could gaze on a rainbow and not meet the God who set it in the sky. Would anyone be able to say that of you? It is always good for our souls to check to see if we have fallen into ritual presumption. If we love the sacraments, our lives should bear the fruit of divine encounters. Ask God to help you be honest with Him about this today. Perhaps He has a word for you.

 

Look around your world today. Even if you don’t see a rainbow in the sky, what is there in your line of vision that is a powerful reminder of who God is and how much He loves you? Thank Him for it.

 

“Stay with Us”

Did you feel disappointed when Noah, a man so bright in faith and obedience, succumbed to drunkenness, which led to something even darker? In the bleak wasteland of a world given over to evil, Noah seemed like a man we could trust. He looked like a hero.
Why is it so difficult to accept flawed heroes? Is it because all humans long for a perfect human, one who will not disappoint us and let our dreams die? Ever since Adam, we have been looking for one who won’t botch things up. We want to see a human be all that God meant for us to be.
The characters of the Old Testament, such as Adam and Abel and Noah, begin to prepare us for just such a Person. Even though humans in the story of the Old Testament disappoint us from time to time, we should never let their humanity sour us or tempt us to be contemptuous of them. We must never forget that God’s promise in Genesis 3:15 to defeat His enemy through humans means that in this battle, step by step, God’s work will have a human face on it. This is the magnificent condescension of God to man. It is also God’s resounding confirmation that He did not make a mistake in creating man. God knows very well what weaknesses beset humanity. Nevertheless, He works relentlessly to make sure that someday our dream of human perfection will be a reality, not a dream. To be a Christian means not being squeamish about human beings doing divine work. This is especially true for Catholics, because sometimes our Protestant brethren protest that we have too many “mere humans” in our understanding of redemption. We have Mary, “just a woman,” as Queen of Heaven and Mother of the Church. We have a pope, “only a man,” who sits in the line of Peter and holds the keys of the kingdom. We have saints, men and women who are “just like us,” to serve as our examples and advocates in their lives as God’s friends. When this charge is raised against us, we should bow our heads, give thanks to God, and smile deeply in our souls. A “human” Church? Exactly.

 

Lesson Summary
✓ When Noah and his family got off the ark, God blessed them and gave them a command to be fruitful and multiply. Although the earth and life on it underwent a renewal, there was still evidence that men were not as they had once been in Eden. The dread that animals would experience toward man would be a sign of the loss of that harmony.
✓ Man was to respect the blood of every living thing, even that of animals, because it is a sign of life, a gift from God. God instituted a law of capital punishment for murder in order to keep in check the violence in man’s nature that too easily overwhelms the good.
✓ God established a covenant with Noah and his family, promising to never again destroy all life on the earth or disrupt its order by a flood. He used an element in nature, the rainbow, to seal this promise.
✓ Noah became drunk in his vineyard, making it possible for his second son, Ham, to sin against him. Ham lacked respect for his father, reflecting in him a spirit of insubordination and rebellion. This was evidence that although God had renewed the earth, sin was still present and active in men, wreaking its destruction.
✓ Shem and Japheth, the oldest and youngest brothers, did what they could to rectify Ham’s offense. Noah blessed Shem, perhaps indicating his role as an example to his brothers as one who respected and honored his father’s dignity.
✓ Noah cursed Canaan, the son of Ham. He and his descendants were to serve Shem and his descendants.
✓ In a city, Babel, built by descendants of Ham, men decided to band together and make a name for themselves, establishing a center of power and autonomy. Their pride led them to try to build a tower to heaven, a demonstration of their insubordination and arrogance.
✓ God opposed this abuse of man’s unity by confusing the one language men spoke into many different languages. They had to quit building the city and tower because they could not communicate. The separation of men into nations speaking different languages is a sign that men used their unity for the wrong goals. It would take a miracle of redemption and new birth to give men natures in which they would use their unity to love and serve God. That restoration began on the day of Pentecost and continues today.
For responses to Lesson 10 Questions, see pp. 137–40.

 

 

 

 

Genesis, creation of man, Michelangelo

Appendix A

 

Johnston, G. S. (2004). Appendix A:How to Read the First Chapter of Genesis. In Genesis, Part I: God and His Creation (Genesis 1–11) (S. 59–101). Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing.

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