Monday, February 4, 2008

The Subjection of the Mind (or "Why The Enlightenment and Feminism Have Haunted Us Since the Beginning" or "How to Screw Up Everything")

Genesis three comes as a disturbing plot twist in an otherwise flawless creation narrative. In Genesis one and two, things were just gaining momentum in God's new world. Everything was new and bright. Animals were receiving names and enjoying a delightfully non-darwinian existence, plants were producing oxygen and enjoying being eaten, and man and woman were just beginning the cultivation of God's garden. Everything was––pardon the expression–– "coming up roses." And then we find Eve reasoning with a snake.

Eve's discussion with the serpent is a telling one. It is fraught with subtle logical derailments that send the rest of history hurtling towards a damned future of wars, curses and imminent death. Within the dialogue we see man, represented by the woman, progress through three stages of thinking:
  1. The mind in subjection to God.
    Eve responds well to the serpent's initial temptation, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden you may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'" (Gen. 3:2-3) Eve knows what God has commanded, and she knows what she can and cannot do, but as Paul would later point out in Romans, if we are justified by faith and not by works (Rom. 3-4, esp. 4:3: read work as knowing the law; faith knowing the giver of the law), knowing the law is of little value if we do not subject ourselves entirely to the One giving it.

    (It is perhaps worth noting that Eve does not mention the first part of God's original command to Adam, "From any tree in the garden you may eat freely," [Gen. 2:16] Could it be that it is equally dangerous to forget what God has allowed us to do as it is to forget what He has told us not to do?)

  2. The mind suspicious of God.
    We infer this step based on Eve's response to the Serpent. In order for her to rebel, she had to believe something of the serpent's line of reasoning. The serpent tempts, "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil," (Gen. 3:4) Satan's suggestion is that God has maliciously kept something from man that is necessary for God to maintain His edge. In other words, Satan implies that God witholds information for the sake of self-preservation rather than for our protection. Of course, this is preposterous when we consider that God was willing to sacrifice the most beloved parts of Himself in order to redeem an obstinate people. But Eve is only making her decision based on the letter of the law and not on the attributes of the Giver of the law. In doing this, she fails to honor both the letter and the Person.

  3. The mind at war with God.
    The woman percieves some truth in the snake's words and she begins to reason in her own mind. Notice that every reason that she uses to justify partaking of the tree is idiocentric, "When the woman saw that the tree was good for food [she thinks first with her appetite], and that it was a delight to the eyes [then with her aesthetic], and that the tree was desirable to make one wise [and finally with her ambition], she took from it and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her and he ate." (Gen. 3:6) The mistake here is not that Eve reasoned– God forbid that we ever think using our minds is a bad thing! The problem is that Eve intentionally neglected thinking in subjection and fellowship to God and her husband––who is certainly not without blame–– and so in every way God's created order is flipped on its head. God is called a liar, Satan is exalted, women are masculinized, and men are emasculated. Fortunately this apparent victory for Satan is superficial. God is still sovereign, even though His creation rebels against Him. His law is still objectively true, His redemption is sure (Gen. 3:15), and the apparent mountain that Satan has seated himself upon will be shown to be nothing more than a winding inferno with all the rivers of hell emptying on his head.
Even though God's character is vindicated (as if it needed vindication), we still live with the same temptation that Eve faced. Our minds are constantly bombarded with the same temptation that she was, that is, to reason in spite of–– instead of with and under–– our God. This was the great mistake of the enlightenment and all similar movements. Shaeffer was right that whenever man emancipates himself from his God, he finds himself very much alone.


Christina Ottis said...

Thanks for writing this. You gave a lot of insight that is very encouraging and challenging.

Paul-David Young said...

you are by far the best writer on this blog. Glad to see some posts moving past the standards debate.

I found your insights to be very perceptive, and not riddled with propositionalism. I think you are on to something about the nature of the will and how we have selective hearing with the word of God.

Good form...

jim thompson said...

excellent, brother. very close to a baptist sermon outline. you just need a third "S"

this kind of thinking [along with deductions that can be made from Rom 14.23, rom 3.23, Js 4.17, 1 Jn 3.4, 1 Jn 5.17] reminds me that sin is really about GOd. He is the standard for every excellence.

quite satisfying to read.

david said...

Good thoughts Jon. Here's a pertinent quote from Bahnsen wrestling with Van Til's apologetic:

"Eve was obliged to postulate an ultimate epistemological pluralism and contingency before she could even proceed to consider the proposition made to her by the devil. Or, otherwise expressed, Eve was compelled to assume the equal ultimacy of the minds of God, of the devil, and of herself. And this surely excluded the exclusive ultimacy of God. This therefore was a denial of God's absoluteness epistemologically" (Greg Bahnsen 152).

Kenny said...

Three things... 1.) Jon GREAT job! Very insightful... 2.) Colour Revolt's new song has much to say about this topic (haha!... great song though!) 3.) I'm very happy to see Christina in on this and love that she added a picture!