Making sense of it all (part 2)

A fine mess ....

We go back to the beginning, to Father Adam and Mother Eve, who got us into a right old mess.

They had everything going for them. After all they were living in paradise and wanted for nothing. They acted as caretakers of the Garden of Eden, a pleasurable job, as there were no poachers or hunters and all the animals got on with each other rather well. But things weren't to last and their curiosity and their disobedience were to be their downfall.

They gave into the devil's temptation and ate of the forbidden fruit, the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And their eyes were opened, they were filled with shame and fear and, for the first time, they hid from God, their creator and friend. That friendship was destroyed forever, from that day onwards a chasm was to appear between man and God. They were banished from the Garden and were told to go out and work for a living, their salad days were over!

There are two important points to make about the above story.

The first is a consequence of the points I was making a couple of chapters ago. For me and most other Christians, along with Orthodox Jews, the Hebrew Scriptures are, in their entirety, true. If God has truly inspired the writing of this collection of books, then he must be responsible for all of it.

Therefore, going against the scientific materialism of our current secular society, it is my belief that Adam and Eve were real, flesh-and-blood people and not a fabrication, a legend or an allegory. If you are going to accept the literal existence of Jesus, Daniel, King David, the prophet Samuel, Abraham and Noah and all of the others, then the same rules must be applied to Adam and Eve. And just as the actions and life (and death) of Jesus had a real, lasting effect on the whole of humanity (more of that later), then just so for Adam and Eve. Their big mistake wasn't just to affect them, but also all others who would come after them, including you and me.

The second point is vital and it concerns the one way that God provided for Adam and Eve, as well as all others to come after them, to restore some sort of relationship with God.

We read it in verse 21 of Genesis Chapter 3. "The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them." An innocuous phrase, you may think, but not so! This is because, in order for these garments of skin to be produced, an animal had to be killed! This was the first sacrifice, in fact the first recorded death, in the Bible and set the scene for God's plan of salvation for the human race.

This theme was again illustrated in the next Chapter of Genesis, the story of Cain and Abel. They both had to bring an offering to God. Abel brought an animal sacrifice, while Cain offered a few vegetables. Ignoring the outcome of this story, which, as you know, culminated in the slaying of Abel by his brother, the point is that the only acceptable sacrifice was Abel's animal sacrifice.

Now this may seem brutal and unnecessary to us, with our sanitised lives, shielded from such harsh realities (unless you work in a slaughterhouse, or in the world of boxing), but that is and was God's way, however unacceptable it may be to us. God tells us this in a very clear way, in Leviticus Chapter 17. "For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life."

So, through some mysterious property of blood known to God alone, only the shedding of blood can make atonement. Before we go on, perhaps we should examine this word, 'atonement', to see exactly what it means.