I had originally planned–or at least hoped–to complete my two main series, “Legends of the Fall” and “The Pretty Good Book” by the end of August. As the academic year moves along, I have less time for blogging in general and working on these series in particular. Still, I have managed to keep them ongoing. I think I will be able to wrap up “The Pretty Good Book” in no more than six more posts (perhaps fewer). On the other hand. “Legends of the Fall” has proven rather intractable.
I had actually thought it finished some time ago; but as I discussed when I began the (increasingly lengthy) series of addenda to it, issues I hadn’t thought about or considered deeply enough kept popping up in relation to it. My original idea had been to examine the Genesis story of the Fall of Man and to explore ways of harmonizing it with modern knowledge of human origins. However, this has been a much larger undertaking than I’d anticipated. After all, if one considers the stopping of the sun by Joshua or the swallowing of Jonah by a whale (or fish), such stories are obviously folktales or myths which can be dismissed without too much effect on the narratives. On the other hand, the Eden myth is right at the center of the main threads of Christian belief–creation, sin, atonement, redemption. Anything one does with this narrative–whether it be uncritical acceptance, wholesale rejection, allegoricization, or anything else–has profound effects in all areas of Christian belief.
Because of this, I’ve had to slow down and give a lot more careful thought to the issue, since facile analysis of the Eden story is like pulling a loose thread on a sweater. You run the risk of unraveling the whole thing. As I’ve pondered the issues, it seems that more and more ramifications and implications in other areas of Christian theology arise. At least some of these need to be addressed in order to clarify the approach to reading Genesis. This is all the more so because I am, at this moment, not completely sure, having discussed polygenism and reincarnation, among other things, exactly sure how to look at the Genesis story in terms of evolution and in regard to the other theological areas it touches on.
One of the areas most directly affected is the doctrine of the Atonement. The center and very raison d’être of Christianity is, of course, Christ. Christ saves mankind by bringing about the Atonement, the reconciliation with God. The Atonement is necessary because of the Fall. Which brings us back to Genesis and trying to figure out what the Eden narrative actually means. Thus, I propose to spend a few posts looking at the doctrine of the Atonement and trying to tease out a clear idea of how we should view it. Having done that, we can return to Genesis better equipped, perhaps, to complete our analysis of it.
I’ll be posting this in the “Legends of the Fall” series, and since may run to several posts, I’ll give it a sub-series of its own, too. Two posts that I’ve reblogged from other WordPress blogs will appear here, too, since they both had some very relevant points to make and were instrumental in directing some of my thought in this area. Therefore, let’s see what we can see about the Atonement.
Part of the series Legends of the Fall.