By Robin King
The Fall. That’s what most Christian traditions call the story in Genesis when all is perfect in creation until the devil, disguised as a snake, convinces Eve to eat the apple from the forbidden tree of knowledge.
Eve gives into the temptation and then seduces Adam into eating it too, and before you know it they’re naked and ashamed and on their way out of the Garden of Eden. It’s the Original Sin, the one that establishes our guilty, sinful nature, the one that casts us out from the perfectness of Eden into, well, whatever this is.
The sin that makes the sacrifice of Jesus necessary. And, don’t forget, it’s all the woman’s fault.
Or so we’ve been told.
Is that really how the story goes? Is that what it means? Or is that the doctrine talking? That’s centuries of “Christian” interpretation and church teaching that emphasizes temptation, sin, guilt, fear and all those great things, not to mention the patriarchal society of the church founders.
Maybe it’s time, like it has become so often, to revisit the story, not the interpretation. What if The Fall wasn’t a fall at all, but a Leap? A Leap of Faith.
The story doesn’t make the snake the devil, for starters, nor is the snake evil, just crafty or cunning (and not necessarily in a bad way).
At most, the snake is a “satan” in the traditional biblical sense, that is, it’s a tempter. The snake makes a case for eating the fruit. Eve considers it and makes a reasoned decision.
“She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate” (Gen. 3:6). There’s no seduction, no coercion. Adam makes a choice, too. And their choices bring them awareness.
It also brought them some fear, but was it fear that they’d done something wrong or were they simply afraid and anxious in the way we all are when something is suddenly different and the future becomes unknown and unpredictable?
Those choices have consequences, but I can’t help wondering that God knew what was going on all along. Maybe we needed to acquire free will, maybe we already had it, but we needed to use it in a way that had consequences in order to grow. And God wants us to grow.
What if Adam and Eve being created in the image of God and of the earth, God provided the opportunity for them to make a choice — their own choice — one that was a leap of faith into their own being?
What if God wasn’t afraid of them becoming self-aware, but God inspired it? Maybe Eden wasn’t “lost,” it was left, maybe even outgrown, so that we could have a garden of our own and participate in this creation, freely, experiencing life. And death. And love and fear, temptation and grace, sorrow and joy.
What if the story is just that, a story?
The truth that’s at its heart is that we are of God and the earth, that we have our own garden to live in and the choices we make can either distance us from God or bring us closer to God – the source of life, the spirit of being, the love of relationship. We’ve struggled with that, with what might be good choices, and we’ve moved further away from the God, the source of life. We’ve even neglected the sacredness of our own garden and our relationship with it.
So along comes Jesus — and others, too — showing us how to embrace the divine again, to honour the earthly, to live in love. Leap or fall, that’s where I’d like to land.