Archive for November, 2010

Knowing Good and Evil

November 28, 2010

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. [a]

From a modern worldview, one may question why simply knowing about good and evil is a big deal. Isn’t it better to know danger, so one can avoid it? Hardly seems like a capital crime. Yet this is my contention, that God means what He says. This Bible passage refers to an episode at the beginning of history called “the fall”. It serves as the explanation for the entry of death into the world and evil into the hearts of men.

The word knowledge has an expansive set of definitions. It may mean much more in v17 than “the condition of being aware of something” or “apprehending truth or fact through reasoning”. Though the preceding cognitive interpretation could be all we mean when we speak of knowledge, its primary connotation is “knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association”[b]. For example, a skilled tradesman “knows” or perfects his craft from long practice.

We can deduce that this passage does not mean simple awareness if we begin from v17. If the creation was “very good” in the sight of the Creator at the end of the sixth day (Gen 1:31) and disobeying this command caused death, then God was – by using the word death – expecting Adam to understand a consequence he had never seen. Adam could not have an experiential understanding of death, since death did not yet exist [c]. Genesis 1 makes clear that everything exists because “God said”. Thus, the irresistible nature of the Word of God – the voice responsible for making everything – would cast grave doubt on the premise that the same creator would speak to Adam in language that Adam had no hope of interpreting.

The meaning of v17 can therefore precisely NOT be that the original sin was only that Adam “found out” about evil by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Actually, this fall from perfection is self-fulfilling of the “experience or association” sense; the disobedience itself is evil. Adam and Eve participated in the same vein of evil that Satan did in questioning the motives of the perfectly loving Creator until they felt justified assigning evil motives to Him.

What do I mean by “assigning evil motives”? On Satan’s part, I mean the premise that God has assigned us a station in the scheme of things that is substandard to our rightful place, or considering the human ability grow, of the ability actually so-far attained. Satan’s intimation to Eve was that God was withholding to “protect his own turf”, keeping Adam and Eve from the knowledge of good an evil that set Him apart from them. Of course, this is a lie that ignores the truth that every parent knows: we do want our offspring to succeed to the limit of their ability and we don’t want them to squander their precious innocence. Do we fear they will surpass us? No, we hope they will!

Having vilified God’s motives, Adam’s next step down the pathway of death was to actually cross the line and eat. Violation of God’s prohibition required a physical act. Just having an idea pop into his head wouldn’t do it. Isn’t that a relief? Does it seem strange that the “knowledge of good and evil” should be imparted in the process of eating a fruit? Isn’t fruit good for you? Doesn’t an apple a day keep the doctor away? I wouldn’t quickly jump to the conclusion that this story is only allegorical. It wouldn’t matter much what the prohibition was. If God had said to Adam, “Don’t play golf in the garden”, Satan would have posited that God didn’t want to risk Adam besting God’s handicap. Then Adam would have found a club-shaped stick and a small white dimpled gourd to try to get one-better. Was the physical fruit special?  Not necessarily. The failure could have been all in the spiritual realm and the soulish attitudes and assumptions. Disobedience is a denial of faith in the One who gave the instruction; i.e. deciding for oneself. On the other hand, there may well have been something about that particular tree. It could have contained a chemical compound that mutated DNA to remove a human ability to sense the spiritual realm with the same facility that we interact with the physical world (pure speculation, of course). God did made later provision to keep Adam and Eve from also partaking of the tree of Life while in their fallen state [d]. Think of Hitler living forever. How much evil can the fallen do, with all eternity to plot it?


Again, why fruit trees? What can a tree have to do with knowledge (or eternal life)? Maybe that they were good for food is key [e]. If one wants to change course in life by developing a value or belief, success depends on whether we can internalize the new principle. We speak of this metaphorically. In the physical sense, we say “You are what you eat”. Intellectually: “I swallowed it hook, line, and sinker”, or “I devoured that book”. Eve took the bait; hook, line, and sinker as Adam joined in.

[a] Genesis 2:15-17 (Scripture quoted from the King James Version, since it is in the public domain.)
[b] Merriam-Webster
[c] Romans 5:12
[d] Genesis 2:22-25
[e] Genesis 3:6

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Fostering Leadership

November 21, 2010

As I drove my twenty-year old step-daughter twenty miles into town this evening to meet with two of her classmates, I talked with her about what she was doing – what she had in mind. I found that she had set up the meeting, and that she had done considerable work in preparation to be able to guide the meeting down the path toward a vision she had been praying about. The class in question requires a journalistic video production on some subject of significance. Her idea is to interview some of those responsible for the Salvation Army bell-ringers project; both at the organizational level, and to collect the stories of some of those who volunteer. Maybe it’s just me, but I think the idea is divinely inspired. As a project for a journalist, it has both societal significance and human interest. Purpose overlaid with passion. A magnificent idea, as ideas for stories go. As a parent who is personally trying to develop the characteristics of an effective leader, I couldn’t be prouder of the work my daughter has been doing on this project:

1.She sought God in prayer about the direction the project should take.
2.She wrangled with God until an idea formed in her mind.
3.She made some plans, thinking through where the story might lead.
4.Having formulated a vision, she called her associates to schedule a meeting.
5.At the meeting, she used her passion for the idea to sell her friends on the vision she had.
6.Her friends were only too happy to have someone with a bona-fide good idea for their project.
7.She and her friends made a rough outline for what they might do.
8.She scheduled a time for the next developmental session in a day or two.

Did I mention that I was a proud parent? What about you? Is God calling you to leadership? These steps are a good model for building your team and getting your vision off the ground!

Leadership: The Parable of the Sower, with a Few Side Rows

November 13, 2010

Today, I have been contemplating the Parable of the Sower in Luke 8:4-15. Jesus explained to His disciples how the parable applied to His calling of communicating the Word of God to the world. It still does. I am amazed, though, at the breadth of the applicability of scripture. One can reap great benefit in thinking through this passage while keeping in mind the personal calling that God has placed in his life: Spreading the Gospel message explicitly, making disciples, building a business, training a child, teaching a student, changing a heart, leading an organization. Whatever your call, there is some help here.

Who is a sower?
One who plants.
Why does he plant?
To produce a crop (increase or return).
Why does he want an increase?
His future depends upon it.
What kind of crop?
Depends on the seed.

The seed is the Word of God (verse 11) – there is a sense in which everything we see is the embodiment of the creative Word of God – the Gospel message, certainly, but also all our talents, abilities, and resources as applied to the specific call God has placed on each of our lives. (Matt 25:14-30)

How much of a crop?
Depends on the soil, among other things.
Where does the sower find good soil?
Where it has been prepared.
Why does the soil need to be prepared?
It has been cursed. (Genesis 3:17-19,23)
Does some soil lend itself to preparation better than other soil?
Of course. Some is along the beaten path, some soil is rocky, some is weedy.
Choose wisely, the season for preparation is short.
If one sows along the path (where everyone goes) the seed gets trampled.
Is trampling malicious?
At it’s Satanic foundation, it is. But, with men, participation is mostly mindless.
Jesus equated sowing along the path to getting out the message. There is a place for it.
Fundamentally, growth needs room.
The seed for sowing looks identical to that which is desired at the harvest.
If the seed is consumed for short term needs, it does not remain to produce a yield for the long term.
If the soil is rocky, more work is required for preparation.
The only viable preparation for rocky soil is removing the rocks.
Growth needs ample light, but not a withering intensity of it. Sunlight naturally provides periodic rest.
Growth needs refreshing (moisture, in the parable).
Weeds steal nutrients and space needed by the crop. All the available resources need to go to the crop to produce the best yield (Lack of focus is a thieving weed!).
Weeds produce their own seeds, contaminating future plantings.
Growth takes time.
Planting is not a one-time exercise. Timing is important. (Genesis 8:22, Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Promise from Nikita Khrushchev

November 5, 2010

My analysis of a blog entry I read today, from Alyson Klein at Education Week, leads me to the expectation that the membership of the National Education Association (NEA) is disappointed at the outcome of the election after they invested $40M to influence the outcome for Democrats. [1]

Union teachers dominate the public school system.  These teachers exert ideological influence over children for far more total hours than parents. Since most people send their students to public school, conservatives ought to consider the implications of alignment of the NEA with the “progressive” movement toward bigger government.

If one generalizes, liberal thinking dominates academia. This bent is evident to anyone who has pursued a bachelor’s degree while trying to hold on to a conservative viewpoint. A young man or woman who enters higher education will usually not be swayed from his or her religious faith or political ideology if indeed they are personal convictions. If those views are only vaguely recognized as parental preferences, the ideas will likely not stand the test of twelve to sixteen years of relentless contrary indoctrination.

Don’t be surprised, conservatives, that the country keeps moving to the left.   What can we do?

Remember those inalienable rights? They come with enumerated responsibilities. Responsibility for education of children belongs to the parents:

Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

A parent may delegate some work to a teacher. The parent may not delegate the responsibility:

Deuteronomy 11:18-21 – Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

To sum up these ideas, if one wants children to hold on to the views of the parents, implement a determined and proactive program of training at home. Personally, I strongly advocate home schooling. The children will end up better educated, and there will be less liberal programming to counter. Adding injury to insult, census data indicates the average cost of elementary and secondary education in the United States for the 2006/7 School year approached $10,000 per student ($8769 per student in Iowa). [2] With that kind of money, home school parents could load the kids on a plane and study art at the Louvre.  Conservatives are paying big to have their progeny indoctrinated in progressivism.

The view of the NEA is that progressives are more likely to throw money at the “broken” education system. Their support of Democrats is a reciprocal arrangement.  Just follow the money, there’s no mystery.

I leave you with a quote from Nikita Khrushchev:

“I once said, “We will bury you,” and I got into trouble with it. Of course we will not bury you with a shovel. Your own working class will bury you.”

[1]  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2010/11/the_national_education_associa.html?intc=mvsh

[2]  (http://www2.census.gov/govs/school/07f33pub.pdf)