Corrupted (part 2) … and Missing the Target

The Bible describes us as corrupted from the image God made us in.  How did this happen? It is recorded in the book of Genesis of the Bible. Shortly after being made ‘in the image of God’ the first humans (Adam and Eve) were tested with a choice.  The Bible describes their conversation with a ‘serpent’.  The serpent has always been understood to be Satan – an spirit enemy to God.  In the Bible, Satan usually speaks through someone.  In this case he spoke through a serpent:

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the LORD God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”

“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. (Genesis 3:1-6)

Their choice (and temptation), was that they could ‘be like God’. Up to this point they had trusted God for everything, but now they had the choice to become ‘like God’, to trust in themselves and be their own god.

In their choice to be independent they were changed. They felt shame and tried to cover up. When God confronted Adam, he blamed Eve (and God who made her). She blamed the serpent. No one accepted responsibility.

What started that day has continued because we have inherited that same independent nature.  Some misunderstand the Bible and think that we are blamed for Adam’s bad choice. The only one blamed is Adam but we live in the consequences of his decision. We have now inherited this independent nature of Adam. We may not want to be god of the universe, but we want to be gods in our settings, separate from God.

This explains so much of human life: we lock our doors, we need police, and we have computer passwords– because otherwise we will steal from each other. This is why societies eventually collapse – because cultures have a tendency to decay. This is why all forms of government and economic systems, though some work better than others, they all   eventually breakdown. Something about the way we are makes us miss the way things should be.

That word ‘miss’ sums up our situation. A verse from the Bible gives a picture to understand this better. It says:

Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred select troops who were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss. (Judges 20:16)

This describes soldiers who were experts at using slingshots and would never miss. The word in Hebrew translated ‘miss’ above is יַחֲטִֽא .  It is also translated sin through the Old Testament.

The soldier takes a stone and shoots it to hit the target. If he misses he has failed his purpose. In the same way, we were made in God’s image to hit the target in how we relate to Him and treat others. To ‘sin’ is to miss this purpose, or target, that was intended for us.

This missed-the-target picture is not happy or optimistic.  People sometimes react strongly against the Bible’s teaching on sin. A university student once said to me, “I don’t believe because I do not like what this is saying”.  But what does ‘liking’ something have to do with truth?  I do not like taxes, wars, or earthquakes – no one does – but that does not make them untrue.  We can’t ignore any of them.  All the systems of law, police, locks, and security that we have built into society to protect us from each other suggest that something is wrong.  At least this Biblical teaching on our sin should be considered in an open-minded way.

We have a problem.  We are corrupted from the image we were first made in, and now we miss the target when it comes to our moral actions.  But God did not leave us in our helplessness. He had a plan to rescue us, and this is why Gospel literally means ‘good news’ – because this plan is the good news that He saves us.  God did not wait until Abraham to announce this news; he first announced it in that conversation with Adam and Eve.  We look at this first Good News announcement next.

But corrupted … like orcs of Middle-earth

Previously we looked at what the Bible means when it says that people were created ‘in the image of God’.  This explains why human life is precious.  However, the Bible continues on from creation to explain a serious problem.  The problem can be seen from this Psalm (song) in the Bible.

The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalm 14:2-3)

This says that ‘all’ of us have ‘become corrupt’.  Though we were ‘made in the image of God’ something has wrecked this image in all of us.  Corruption is shown in a chosen independence from God (‘all have turned aside’ from ‘seeking God’) and also in not doing ‘good’.

Thinking Elves and Orcs

Lord-of-the-rings-orcs
Orcs were ugly in so many ways, but they were simply corrupted elves.

To understand this, compare orcs and elves from the movie Lord of the Rings. Orcs are ugly and evil.  Elves are beautiful and peaceful (see Legolas).  But orcs had once been elves that Sauron had corrupted in the past.  The original elf image in the orcs had been wrecked.  In a similar way the Bible says that people have become corrupted. God had made

Legolos
The elves, like Legalos, were noble and majestic

elves but we have become orcs.

For example, we know ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ behaviour.  But we do not  unfailingly live by what we know. It is like a computer virus that damages the proper workings of a computer. Our moral code is there – but a virus has infected it. The Bible starts with people as good and moral, but then also corrupted.  This fits with what we observe about ourselves. But it also brings a question: why did God make us this way? We know right and wrong yet are corrupted from it. As the atheist Christopher Hitchens complains:

“… If god really wanted people to be free of such thoughts [i.e., corrupt ones], he should have taken more care to invent a different species.”  Christopher Hitchens.  2007.  God is not great: How religion spoils everything.  p. 100

But he misses something very important, the Bible does not say that God made us this way, but that something terrible happened after we were made. The first humans revolted against God and in their rebellion they changed and were corrupted.

The Fall of Mankind

This is often called The Fall.  Adam, the first man, was created by God. There was an agreement between God and Adam, like a marriage contract of faithfulness, and Adam broke it. The Bible records that Adam ate from the ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’ even though they had agreed that he would not eat from that tree. The agreement and the tree itself, gave Adam a free choice to remain faithful to God or not. Adam had been created in the image of God, and placed into friendship with Him.  But Adam had no choice regarding his creation, so God allowed him to choose about his friendship with God.  Just like the choice to stand is not real if sitting is impossible, the friendship and trust of Adam to God had to be a choice.  This choice centered on the command not to eat from that one tree.  And Adam chose to rebel.  What Adam started with his rebellion has gone non-stop through all generations and continues with us today. We look next at what this means.