My Thoughts On... Eden
Right. The fall from Eden. It was a good thing. I'm absolutely certain of that. Here's my thinking.
It was during a discussion in an English lesson in 1999 that the subject first came up - I'd mentioned The Truman Show, and how it was all a Christian allegory, being an update of the story of Eden. If people don't believe me about that, I usually say a few times 'You know, that film in which 'Christ-off', living in the heavens, creates a perfect world for his 'True-man', but his 'True-man' ultimately decides to forsake his paradise, in favour of self-knowledge and understanding'. If people still don't believe after that, I'm usually convinced that they never will be, and stop talking.
Anyway, Daniel Elstein, another person in the class, basically went 'That's ridiculous, then you'd be saying that the fall from Eden was actually a good thing, and clearly nobody believes that'. Mr Venning, our genius English teacher chipped in saying that obviously it's the case that that was a good thing, and 'haven't you read Paradise Lost?'. Clearly, as Mr Venning explained, nobody seriously wants paradise, and instead wants knowledge, understanding, and a world with sex, children, death, grief, and opportunities for the most painful of failures - though they hope they don't have to experience them. I'd agree with this totally, and can't see how people can seriously advocate such a boring world as that created in Genesis, without resorting to the (rather pathetic, in my mind) excuse of 'But you just can't imagine a perfect world, it wouldn't be boring, it would just be great. All the time. Forever'.
Further still, I'd suggest that it makes a much better story, and delivers a much better message, if we think about the fall from Eden as a good thing. The additional reason why I think this gives a better religious message is that of free-will. Eden is presented as a world with very little choice (sure they're allowed to wander around doing what they like, but that's a very limited set of possibilities) so it's hardly surprising that when, for the first time ever, they were given the opportunity to actually decide how to live their lives - being told not to eat from the tree of knowledge, though not physically impeded from doing so, in the way they have been prevented from doing anything else that God doesn't want them to, through it simply not being an option - that they relish this opportunity to make a decision for themselves, and exploit it.
Given the choice, therefore, they screw up. They choose to disobey God's will, and thus force him to take back the paradise he has created for them; but should he really have hoped that they would blindly follow orders, without any consideration of why they should follow them - without, I would suggest, any notion of morality. In a way we can view the entirety of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, as an attempt to make right the wrong committed by Adam and Eve - and I'd suggest that this is a very good and positive step.
One good example: Abraham and Isaac. God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son to prove his faith. God is omniscient. Ergo God really doesn't need to ask for anything politely. But he does. Rather than force Abraham to sacrifice his son, he asks him to, and by choosing to follow the will of God, rather than being forced to, Abraham shows he's understood this whole religious morality / fear of God / following that big bloke that's supposed to be supporting and nurturing him thing. Having proved this faith God excuses him this sacrifice, and Isaac live. What on Earth would be the point of this story if we believe, as many people would suggest, that we should (as Adam and Eve should have) blindly follow any demands that God makes of us.
Another good example: the flight from Egypt. Okay, picture the scene: the Israelites are fleeing the Egyptians, their long-time slave-owners, God having scared them horribly with lots of nasty blights; the Pharaoh changes his mind, and the Egyptian army comes after them. Now do you (pretending, somewhat blasphemously, you're God) a) part the Red Sea in preparation for their arrival, ready for a quick escape, or b) wait for them to wade in up to their necks, before parting it? The answer, I hope, would be a) - except, of course, if you had something to prove. What in fact happened was b) (and this is one detail that that great, and almost entirely true-to-the-tale film The Prince of Egypt got wrong, having the Sea part when Moses stuck in his staff). The reason for this, in my mind, can be but one thing - that God wanted them to have faith in him. Rather than make it easy, he waited till they've truly laid it all on the line before showing them he really cares - rather than having them do what they're told because it's the obvious, or only, thing to do, he wants them to do it because they want to, because they have faith, because they trust him.
So overall, we can see that much of the Bible is trying to get back to a paradise state - to regain Eden - but with one small difference. Rather than being blind, unthinking people, they will know morality, know the love of God, and follow him because they think that's right, not because they're simply too gormless to know better!