Monday, January 25, 2010

Dead

They were dead. Adam and Eve. But not really.

There is some confusion about the verb 'die' in Genesis 2 and 3. God uttered a death threat to Adam, conditioned on consuming a fruit from the tree of moral knowing (Genesis 2:17). The devil challenged the Divine ultimatum: "You will not surely die, but your eyes will be opened."

And they didn't die. At least, not on cue. In fact, from a cursory reading, the devil's contention appears more integral than God's prediction.

Were I encountering Genesis 3 for the first time, I would expect Adam and Eve to slump to the ground like Princess Aurora at the prick of her finger on her Sweet Sixteen. I would expect them to melt like wax like the German raiders who peered into the Lost Ark. I would expect them to vanish behind the Death Chamber veil like Sirius Black.

But they did not die. Rather, they stood--naked and aware. Then they hid--fig-leafed and ashamed. Their breath continued ascending; their hearts continued pumping; their neurological synapses continued firing.

Did God lie? Did He withhold information? Or is the answer to these and similar questions buried in the minutiae of Hebrew lexicography?

First of all, if it takes a certified Hebrew scholar to answer a given theological question, I fear circumcision may become preferable to hermeneutics. Dead is dead is dead. For the sake of the curious, all three occurrences in the Creation and Fall narratives (2:17; 3:3-4) employ the same verb. (Good job Bible translators, you steered us right!)

Second, time is non-sequential for God. His declarations are anachronistic. For mankind, the phrases ...when you eat of it and ...you will surely die can be separated by ages. For God, when and will are not applicable terms. This is why the Lamb of God could be slain before the foundations of the world (1 Pet. 1:19-20) and days and years are interchangeable on His calendar (2 Pet. 3:8).

Finally, words can be figurative and literal--connotative and denotative. Because death has no predecessor prior to Genesis 3, it difficult to say what God meant by death. Death as mortality (i.e., physical)? Death as an end (i.e., cessation, discontinuation, permanent break)? Theologians have opted for a both/and definition. The immediate consequence was "spiritual death," culminating chronologically in "physical death."

So perhaps dead is not dead is not dead. "....it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment..." (Heb. 9:27). So they are dead, but they are not too. As were Adam and Eve. As is each one whose lust gives way to sin, and sin miscarries into death (James 1:14-15).

Whether figurative or literal, temporal or eternal, the uncertainty of death is not intended to shackle us in fear. Paul professes that Jesus' resurrection frees us from such terror and its Satanic litigator (1 Cor. 15:55-56; Heb. 2:14). That freedom, of course, cost Jesus Christ his life. Forsaken, his spiritual death preceded his physical death (Matt. 27:46; Luke 23:46).

And now there is a new reality; the when/will of the Fall has been reversed to the now/then of Redemption. Amen.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

IBS

This is a test of the Internet Broadcasting System. For the next sixty seconds I will expose a private thought to a faceless audience. This is only a test.

Broadcast media are at everyone's fingertips. We post. We update. We publish. We send. It has never been so easy to have an audience.

Readership and friendship intimate fame; followers and subscribers spawn celebrities. We want to leave an imprint in our world, even if it's digital and the village is virtual.

If we are honest, these status markers are mere substitutes for the emptiness, loneliness, and disappointment we feel with our page on the time-space continuum. We can't stop biting our nails; we can't lose five pounds; we can't stop downloading pornography; we can't stop accruing debt; and we certainly can't persuade others to do the same.

But we can publish posts and leave comments. We can update status and forward emails. We can share personality tests and suggest music for iTunes. We can feed the endless stream of bandwidth, clogging the virtual toilet with more binary code that suffices for ourselves.

Internet Broadcasting System (IBS) is wireless, tireless, and high-speed. Make sure you clean up after yourselves (i.e., 1110010100001).

If this had been an actual emergency, you would have been instructed to tune into one of the broadcast stations in your area.
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This shift, from receiving to generating media, has created an enormous epistemological shift between reading and writing, from talking to writing. Reading, by virtue of the constant interruptions we face due to electronic communication, is harder than ever before, whereas typing and publishing have become easier than at any point in human history. (Freeman, The Tyranny of Email, 98).

Monday, January 11, 2010

Vanity and Shame

I've been sleeping with a banana peel on my face. The recent decision has affected both my skin quality and sex life. Rotting fruit doesn't appeal to my wife. Nor does the wart that it conceals.

How the wart sprang into being on my face is uncertain. It was probably the mixture of Dark Magic in Disney's current Frog Prince (don't see it!!!!) and my daughter's left foot. She had a plantar wart, and one playful kick to my face likely caused an outbreak.

When it first appeared, I mistook the wart for a zit. When I could not pop it, but bloodied my cheek in the process, I grew suspicious. The growth metastasized, mimicking cauliflower both in color and texture. Its side effects were vanity and shame.

Then I went into attack mode. Consulting a virtual MD, I found that pouring acid on my wart should kill it. I found some salicylic acid and applied generously. It burned and bubbled, and dried like a swatch of Wite-Out. I hoped no one would notice, but the first Sunday morning I showed up at church like a crudely edited Mary Kay assignment, someone commented: "You have something white on your cheek."

I had to fess up. "I have a wart. On my face." Thereafter, I invested in a box of band-aids.

The holidays ensued. Friends and family avoided my wart-face. In each photo I tried to profile my unsullied, left side. At one meal my brother looked at my wart and said, "I can't eat; that's so gross." I wouldn't have eaten it, either.

After weeks of acid treatment the wart seemed to double its resolve (and girth). I researched other treatments: cosmetic lasers and cryosurgery, Dimethyl ether and liquid nitrogen, and all-purpose duct tape. Only the latter sounded feasible, seeing as I would not spend three to six hundred dollars for vanity (and shame) treatment.

And then I caught wind of a homeopathic remedy: banana peels. Place a cut from the peel over the infected area while you sleep and let natural selection take over. Humans and apes eat bananas; bananas eat warts. And they have.

Unfortunately, I am not out of the jungle yet. Warts dig deep roots. They reach for the smallest crack of light to reemerge. They are like cancer (and can be). They are like weeds. They are like leaven. They are like vanity and shame. They should be treated.