Agreeing and disagreeing

A reader writes:

I have just started reading NKCy and let me start by thanking you for it. What I have read so far articulates my own struggles extremely well and it has helped me to re-grasp faith to some extent. A book hasn’t had that effect on me since Dave Tomlinson’s “Re-enchanting Christianity”. Thank you!
A few comments based on what I have read so far… Although on the whole I agree with your analysis of the Greco-Roman influence on the shape of traditional “salvation history” I do think you are a little brutal about it.

I’ll insert some comments in your inquiry. But first let me say it’s an honor to be associated with Dave Tomlinson!

You must acknowledge that, even in the 6-lined paradigm there is an enormous act of grace on behalf of the Platonic “Theos”. You don’t seem to recognise that there is still an inherent beauty in the idea that the perfect Deity would voluntarily become part of the story in order to return creation to Platonic perfection. This is an extraordinary act of love, even if the dualist worldview has a lot of nonsense in it…

You’re right: it is a huge act of grace for the lucky few who are its beneficiaries. But for the vast majority of humanity, it’s not quite so great. A great outcome for a select few doesn’t, it seem to me, compensate for the fact that most of human creation is forever subjected to eternal conscious torment. I don’t think it’s ethical to celebrate the joy of the few without simultaneously acknowledging the torment of the many … and I speak as one who was raised to consider myself one of the few!

Secondly, I disagree in part with your analysis of Genesis 2/3. I think that it must be interpreted as a “relational death” which comes about as a result of Eve’s hunger. In your scheme it would seem to be that the first command God gives has the consequence ignored and so from the start God becomes a weak parent prone to making rash statements which he will not follow through on. If you haven’t read R W L Moberly’s essay “Did the serpent get it right?” then I highly recommend that you do. He argues that Elohim’s threat is of relational death, which is indeed shown in the breakdown of relationship between Adam and Eve (they argue about blame), relationship with God (they hide), relationship with the earth (sweat of the brow in tilling the soil). This does not fundamentally alter your argument that the frst chapters of Genesis are about God’s relationship with a stubborn, rebellious, foolish, curious and easily led people. Elohim does indeed seek to rebuild failed relationships and bring good out of bad. My position would be that Elohim warns of the potential to break down relationship because it saddenss him, then (when it happens) puts his efforts not into condemnation but into rebuilding.

There’s certainly room for disagreement on this, but I find it a little hard to imagine the concept of “relational death” at work among ancient peoples. I agree with you, though, that death is a complex reality in Genesis – and that the relational breakdowns you suggest are critical to understanding the crisis we’re in, according to the ancient Jewish mind. One thing is clear (to me at least): Genesis isn’t working on the model of the six-lined narrative, and I think we’re agreed on that …

Hope that makes sense. I am very much looking forward to my bedtime reading over the next few weeks!

I hope you enjoy it! I’m sure you’ll find points of disagreement, but I also hope you’ll find stimulation for your own thinking and in the end, a challenge to love God and neighbor with more fervency and joy.