Philosophy objectifies its themes. Imagination creates an image, reason coins a concept. All conceptualization is limitation, restriction, reduction. In the question, What is the cause of being? the ultimate has been restricted to one aspect, to one category. “Cause” is one concept among many; “what” does not mean “who.” There is an anticipation of a “who” in the question of religion, as there is an anticipation of a “what” in the question of speculation…
The argument that “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” only provides temporary satisfaction to the craving for causal explanation and is insufficient to even answer the child’s question, “Who made God?” – rests upon the assumption that to the biblical mind the supreme question is, “Who made the world?” and that the essential idea of creation is the answer, “God made it.” However, the Bible does not begin by saying, “God created heaven and earth”; it begins by saying, “In the beginning.” The essential message is not that the world had a cause, but rather that the world is not the ultimate. The phrase “in the beginning” is decisive. It sets a limit to being, as it sets a limit to the mind.
The supreme question is not, “Who made the world?” but rather, “Who transcends the world?” The biblical answer is, “He Who created heaven and earth transcends the world.” Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets, pg 340-341.
Since I’ve been thinking about many things from the book Education lately, why not continue the line of thought (not that I can stop anyway).
Few events in the Bible were as pivotal as the moment humanity first chose to disobey God. I don’t think it possible to ever describe sufficiently the weight and import of that single decision to eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. It was one decision that ultimately turned the whole universe around. Because of that decision, God the Son had to come down to earth and died as a human being. Because of that decision, Jesus would remain a human being forever. That one decision brought a change in the Godhead. (Mind –> blown)
That one decision changed everything. But since “everything” is so nondescript, it would be useful to focus on one particular change that sin brought.
“Adam and Eve had chosen the knowledge of evil, and if they ever regained the position they had lost they must regain it under the unfavorable conditions they had brought upon themselves. No longer were they to dwell in Eden, for in its perfection it could not teach them the lessons which it was now essential for them to learn. In unutterable sadness they bade farewell to their beautiful surroundings and went forth to dwell upon the earth, where rested the curse of sin.” Ellen G. White, Education, page 25.
This paragraph, especially the second sentence, struck me ever since I first read it. It says in the first sentence that because Adam and Eve chose to sin, they brought upon themselves an unfavorable condition. This condition was not purposeless, however, since it was a means through which they could regain their first position.
The second sentence contains what is, for me, a truly groundbreaking concept. It says that because of sin, the perfection of Eden could not teach them the lessons they needed to learn anymore. I hope I can do this idea justice in unpacking it.
When I think of the ideal surrounding to learn and to study, I naturally think of a perfect environment. And by perfect, I imagine perfect in its totality. No evil, no violence, no suffering, nothing negative at all. In other words, something like Eden.
Yet in God’s estimation, this perfect place was not suited anymore for the education of Adam and Eve. Perfect wouldn’t do any longer. Why? Because they sinned, and with sin, came a whole nature that was incongruent with how God and the sinless worlds operated.
That decision to disobey God was more than just a wrongful deed. It transformed the entire nature of how we, human beings, learned. The whole method and mechanism in my being that went from not knowing to knowing, unlearned to learned, changed because of sin. Before sin, a perfect environment like Eden was the ideal venue to learning. But that perfection became unfitted for sinful men. (Even that sentence felt oxymoronic.)
But couldn’t we see the truth in that statement? Didn’t we say this a lot, that suffering and struggles taught us the most? Yes, happy moments taught us too, but when it came to an accelerated track to gain wisdom and learn important lessons in life, all of us learned the most through suffering.
And so it went that Adam and Eve moved to dwell on sinful earth, which by implication was now the fitted classroom to their sinful nature. God seemed to have a lesson for them, for humanity to learn, and He was adamant that this lesson was learned. Before sin, Eden’s perfection was ideal for this learning. But as a Good Teacher, He didn’t impose the same method to different people. When His students changed (i.e., became sinful), He changed His classroom, His approach.
Which was why I could not help being so struck when I read the following verse in Hebrews:
“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” Hebrews 5:8.
Jesus Christ learned through suffering. First, Jesus Christ learned. “Though he were a Son,” the Omniscient, God the Son, he learned. When Jesus put on the garb of humanity, He did not access that omniscience, but humbled himself to not know certain things, and after a season of time, to learn and know them. And the way he learned these lessons, in particular the lesson of obedience (which hinted that this was the lesson God wanted Adam and Eve to learn as well), was through the things that he suffered.
Here’s the marvelous thing. Because Jesus Christ did not sin, he did not have to get on this education track that required suffering as textbooks. He was perfect. In other words, perfection like the one in Eden was ideal for Him who had no sin, to learn. But when Jesus Christ came down to earth and put on the garb of humanity, He set aside that first education track and adopted the one that we, sinful human beings, had to be on. Why? In verse 9 it says, “And being made perfect,” through obedience, and before that, through suffering, “he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” So that we could obey Him and follow in His example.
All the world’s a classroom has been my personal slogan. But such is the nature of this classroom: glorious at times and horrendous at other times. It has bright and dark spots and periods. Its history has noble and despicable characters in it. But somehow in the divine arrangement, this is to be so for now, so that I can learn what I need to learn, until one day I can transfer to the heavenly classroom. At that time, I will be changed, so that I will not have to learn through suffering anymore.
And yet even more beautiful is the fact that God himself joined me in this imperfect classroom and went through the education that I have to go through, at the very least, so that I know that he is a High Priest that can “be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” (Hebrews 4:15) What a marvelous God.