All of us love a good myth: Santa Claus; the Tooth Fairy, Venus and Mars, and yes, let me respectfully add in spite of some disagreement: Adam and Eve, too. We find our naked couple in the second creation myth in Genesis 2:2. The first creation myth (Gen.1:1) was written at a different time and place and isn't nearly as much fun.
Myths cannot be taken literally; we know that. We can't go looking for Santa's workshop on the North Pole. And when we start picking at "myth details" we tend to miss the point. For instance, our naked couple are told "if you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will die." Well, they ate but they didn't die. So what? Leave it alone.
The same thing applies to this question: "if they didn't know the difference between good and evil, how could they sin?" Don't ask; these are just myth details like Santa's elves with pointed ears, and nobody really cares. Surely, the men who wrote this myth didn't care about these little contradictory details. They believed, for example, that God could see everything, yet they had him walking around the garden, yelling; "Where are you, Adam?" They were telling a story, they didn't care about the details.
But we care when it comes to Original Sin, don't we? Our Christian churches teach us: "Because we're all descendants of Adam and Eve, we all inherit their sin and their tendency to evil" (Rom. 5:12). In other words, this myth has now become historical. It's no longer like the Enuma Elish or any of the other creation myths of that time; this one actually took place exactly as it's written.
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They're saying that God actually created our universe and mankind in this way. He created a man and called him Adam and gave him all the animals to play with. Then when Adam still complained about his loneliness, God put him in a deep sleep, took out one of his ribs, and created Eve, whom Adam then named: woman. Here we have the mother and father of all human beings who are living in a paradise with nothing forbidden to their pleasure but the fruit of one tree. And they blow it.
Now, here's the kicker: We share in their sin. We are all born — billions of years later — with their sin on our souls. The moment we're taken from between our mothers' legs and washed and wrapped in swaddling clothes, we're all sinners and deserving of hellfire.
Wait a minute. I thought sin had to be voluntary. This is absurd. "No," says St. Augustine, "The law of solidarity which attributes to children a part of the shame resulting from the father's crime ... is enough to make the privation of grace — without absurdity — voluntary" (St. Augustine, Retract, 1, xiii). This is why Augustine insisted that all babies be baptized, and why Christians invented "limbo" in the year 1300 as a place for these unbaptized babies to go because they couldn't go to heaven.
I'm sorry, Auggie, but that doesn't make any sense to me, I think that's making a myth something it was never intended to be. That would be like the president issuing another executive order, commanding that all of our chimneys be expanded to allow Santa Claus to slide down. I am not denying the beauty of the creation myth. It is beautiful but this really makes it absurd.
I'm OK with the Christian liturgy of baptism as the initiation into the fellowship of that particular religion, much like the beautiful liturgy of the Bris in the Jewish religion. But I have a real problem accepting the Adam and Eve myth as historical, and believing that their first and only sin has tumbled down all these billions of years to land on this newborn baby in my arms.
Look at her: smiling and googling and the picture of innocence and beauty. This is a child of God, a miracle of creation, a gift to her mother and father. For the life of me, I can't look at this newborn baby as sinful and deserving of punishment if she should die without baptism.
Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corporation and Cummings Management Consultants. His blog is www.progressiveheretic.com.