omestic disputes were born in heaven. They require only one condition. If it’s absent, they can’t happen. Domestic disputes are only possible when two minds compete about what is the right thing to do. At the beginning, when God was through creating heaven and earth, there was more than one mind, but none striving for mastery over the other. There were distinct and independent intelligences, but no concept of loss or losers. There was husband and wife, two persons living together, and no domestic dispute. There was male and female and no gender wars. Neither man nor woman suffered from machismo. There was the infinite Creator and the creature made from dust, and no conceit or inferiority complex.
How It Used to Be
The fact is that domestic disputes are not necessarily different from other kinds of disputes between human beings. The critical element is that they usually involve people who want to win, and for whom winning means being right, while losing means not being right, which is being wrong. Disputes, we should note, are not a function of greater or lesser intelligence. Smart minds may have few quarrels or many, and other minds may have lots of quarrels or hardly any. In either case, Adam and Eve once lived in Eden’s bliss with absolutely no idea of disturbance. Depression did not destablize their emotions. Nothing set their nerves on edge or got them crotchety. Mean blades of sharp grass did not reach up and scratch their bare skin as they strode the fields. No concept of worry about allergens or poisonous snakes occurred to them when they walked in the woods. God, who is love, was constantly pouring out from the treasures of His boundless affection into their living environment (Rom. 5:5). The man and the woman reveled together in days and nights of delight as they lived before Him in whose presence “is fulness of joy” (Ps. 16:11, KJV). Seasons and hours of refreshing effort climaxed with blessed company, visits from their Creator and principal instructor whose princely peace gave indescribable serenity to their cool-of-the-evening strolls (Gen. 2:8).
What inspired Adam and Eve to prefer snakebites, allergies, grass cuts, and family fights, or any of the other miseries of our present world, over hanging out in Jesus’ company in an unfading garden? The answer is perplexing enough to escape logical response. Nothing reasonable can be said that justifies intolerance and physical abuse, heartache and heartbreak, as appropriate substitutes for hugs and kisses and holding hands with Jesus.1
But something did happen that brought us to where we now are. What was it? What marked the beginning of all our quarrels—domestic disputes on earth and with heaven, tensions and hostilities between the man and the woman, or between the earth people and their heavenly Father.2
The answer does not validate the stupid choices that brought us here. It merely comments on the difficulty of getting here from there. It comments on the fact that ideas are reality, that you can violate reality by thinking wrong.
Freedom to Think
This is, for some, a disputable matter. It is not a truth that is consistently apparent. For there is no law against lying in bed entertaining the thought that two plus two equals seven and three eighths. Far better, we believe, far safer, to test new suggestions and ideas, rather than naively accept them, or peremptorily dismiss them and deny ourselves the growth and progress they may afford. So that when the smart voice of Genesis 3:1-5 proposed to Eve a new way of relating to the reality around her, it seemed not unreasonable to test it. Trees weren’t really what she thought they were—at least not “the tree” she had once believed was certainly dangerous; and fruit wasn’t really what she thought it was. God, she learned, wasn’t really who she thought He was. And she wasn’t really seeing all there was to see. As the voice spoke and she kept doing her part to think through what it said, nature began to look different to the woman. She could tell that he had done his research, aggressive research, objective analysis, involving touch and taste of the phenomena she may have been too cautious to investigate. She could test now, for he was doing it before her eyes, and coming up with remarkable findings. She came to believe she could go with the new conclusions.
From his now-authoritative position he could make her promises: eternal life (verse 4), likeness to God (verse 5), new knowledge,3
“ideas of progression.”4
He could assure her that she, “by partaking of this tree, . . . would attain to a more exalted sphere of existence and enter a broader field of knowledge. He himself . . . had acquired the power of speech” by partaking.5
She sensed some unease about this provocation of her curiosity. A new spirit, a different spirit, characterized it. It was “irreverent,”6
but she found it credible. She believed him. She shared his findings, now hers as well, with her husband. He followed her lead. And with that they violated the beautiful serenity they had known before they undertook their new line of investigation. As simply as that, they had become losers. And just as everything before had been paradise, now everything was hell. When they
lost, they lost all around. Their action brought disruption to them and to us who follow in at least five areas:
(1) between me and myself, (2) between humanity and God, (3) between one human and another, (4) between nature and itself, and (5) between humanity and nature. Commenting, in sequence, on how these ruptures then, and since, expressed themselves: (1) personal insecurity now replaced God-grounded
self-confidence, so that personal embarrassment dictated reaction (Gen. 3:7); (2) suspicion and fear now rushed in where once humans embraced their God in delighted welcome (verse 9); (3) blame now took the place of affirmation and compliment (verses 11, 12); (4) slithering serpents upon the earth continue to restate Planet Earth’s first curse (verses 13, 14), despite their riveting mysteriousness for Jakeh’s wise son Agur (Prov. 30:19); and (5) escaping starvation would be a continuous struggle, resolved only by succumbing to the final loss, that of life itself (verse 17).
Ideas Can Hurt
It is a miserable story, this report on how life became lost and humans became losers. And, as mentioned before, it is perplexing proof that you can violate reality just by thinking wrong. For this is no account of some violent brute bludgeoning his victim into submission. All the dirty devil did to bring us to this mess was share some ideas. What’s wrong with sharing ideas? Ideas never hurt anybody. Nothing is wrong with thinking about things. I can surf the Web and read and play all the video games I want. I’m not affecting anybody.
I once watched my nephew blowing people up on a video screen. “You’re killing people,” I said. He didn’t think so. “I’m saving lives” was his response. Our disagreement about what was happening allows for the difference between imaginative games and actual reality. Whichever of us was correct, was anybody dying anyway?
Therein lies the trouble with our definitions of reality. We say, you can think of a lie and still be innocent. Eric Blair notwithstanding,7
there is no law in Los Angeles, or London, or Lagos that imprisons you because as you lay abed your mind said to you, “Two minus two is really nine and a quarter.” You can’t get punished just because you had a crazy idea; or a stupid idea; or a wild idea; or a false idea. It is the smallness of our human being; it is the finitude of the research we conduct into nature and society. We think we can think whatever we want, so long as we do not confuse the key for the exam with the one for the door. Nobody sues me for thinking I’d like to have somebody else’s yard, or car, or daughter, or husband.
God, on the other hand, is not finite. Along with that fact, reality is not as small as our collective wisdom and brain and imagination. Correlated with those cosmic truths, the disaster of sin does not depend on our scholarship or research: “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty” (Matt. 5:21, 22, NASB).8
Same with lust (verses 27, 28).
Getting Is Never Enough
How come? we wonder. What did I do wrong when I thought my thought? The answer is, you listened to the father of losers. The loser in chief. And he got your mind, as he got Eve’s. She became a loser by giving credibility to the loser. He told her she could think some other way than God’s way: He “tempts men to disobedience by leading them to believe they are entering a wonderful field of knowledge. But this is all a deception.”9
He “represented to [Adam and Eve] that they would be gainers by breaking the law of God.”10
What he did not let on was that “by transgression he had become an outcast from heaven. Though he had found sin to result in infinite loss, he concealed his own misery in order to draw others into the same position.”11
The song is right and we are wrong: “Satan is a loser man!” He has suffered infinite loss. And we become losers too by believing that we can be gods by getting what he offers. But you don’t become God by getting anything. God doesn’t become so by acquiring anything. He had to be eternally or He never would be. And we shall always be creatures. Creatures or nothing. Moreover, Satan, having already suffered infinite loss, does not have anything left to offer.
“You’re making progress,” he lied to Eve, “you’re getting more. You’ll end up with divinity. Don’t you want to be like me?” Yes
, thought Eve, I want to be like you
. And so she became a loser too. Because divinity is not achieved by getting enlightened or more beautiful, educated, or more popular. No one becomes God by augmented acquisitions, whether of wealth or wisdom. You surely don’t become God by subscribing to the loser’s law of getting. The loser says, “Get this fruit, and you’ll be fine. Get the thing you don’t have, and you’ll be OK: get the high score (even if you cheat, or it breaks your body); get the scholarship; get the degree; get the job; get the man or the woman; get the property, the smile (for a few thousand dollars), the promotions, fame, and prestige, the lakeside cottage, the cruise and the retirement parachute, and finally, the grand funeral.
Fooled and fallen, deceived and addle-brained, confused and confounded humanity keeps missing that if the grand funeral is the final get, clearly, our multiple acquisitions have not brought us divinity: “The principle of worldlings is to get, get, and thus they expect to secure happiness; but carried out in all its bearings, the fruit is misery and death.”12
You don’t become God by getting anything. If the goal is getting, you lose your life. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36, NASB).
It Comes by Serving
You don’t become God by getting anything. And yet, the glorious truth is that you can live like God if you choose. Over against listening to the loser, and living for getting, there is Adam and Eve’s Creator, and the message of Eden repeated in ear-splitting, soul-melting volume at the cross: There is glory up ahead, but it comes by serving, not by selfish craving: “The cross of Christ appeals to the benevolence of every follower of the blessed Savior. The principle there illustrated is to give, give. This, carried out in actual benevolence and good works, is the true fruit of the Christian life.”13
At the cross, as He did in Eden, God gives everything again, everything including life. And because of new life given us at the cross, we now have again the privilege of choice: We can try to become more by listening to the loser’s law of grabbing, and gaining, and getting. We may so choose, that we may thus lose. Or we can show that the message of the cross has got us, as we choose to answer its sacrificial appeal. We can abandon the determination to win at another’s expense, preferring to die that the other may live, as Christ has died that we might live. We may turn the world right side up again, recovering God’s first order, living here by faith according to God’s law of giving. We may show through the rest of our earthly lives the true fruit of the Christian life, until we set eyes on Eden restored, set feet upon its garden paths as Adam and Eve once did, and stroll together as it was always meant to be, hand in hand with Jesus.
1Ellen G. White, “The Words and Wisdom of Satan Repeated in the World,” Signs of the Times, Apr. 28, 1890: “Sin is a mysterious, unexplainable thing. There was no reason for its existence; to seek to explain it is to seek to give a reason for it, and that would be to justify it.”
2Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press, 1950), p. 492: “It is impossible to explain the origin of sin so as to give a reason for its existence. Yet enough may be understood concerning both the origin and the final disposition of sin.”
3Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press, 1950), p. 55.
5Ibid., p. 54.
6Ibid. , p. 55.
7Eric Blair, pen name George Orwell, wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four (London: Secker and Warburg, 1949), a dystopian novel envisioning a future where totalitarian control extends to police who monitor human thought.
8Scripture quotations marked NASB are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
9E. G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 55.
12 White, “Christian Liberality,” Review and Herald, Oct. 17, 1882.
Lael Caesar is an associate editor of
Adventist Review. This article was published January 12, 2012.