Thursday, August 04, 2005

More on the Frog in the Kettle

Satan’s conversation with Eve in Genesis 3 may not seem very subtle at a casual glance. There was a response to my last post that pointed this out. It seems that Satan questioned the Word of God outright. In fact, compared with some of the errors that are prevalent today, it certainly does not seem to be that subtle. But the term subtle here is used in the sense of being crafty. This also illustrates an effective tactic that Satan uses to twist the Word of God. There is a crucial lesson to learn here. First, let us examine the texts in Genesis 2:16-17 and Genesis 3:1-5 to see Satan’s crafty scheme.

“16 The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."”

Genesis 2:16-17, NASB®

“1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" 2 The woman said to the serpent, " From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 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.' " 4 The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! 5 "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."”

Genesis 3:1-4, NASB®

The words describing the serpent carry the meaning of subtle in the sense of being crafty or sly. For instance, in Genesis 3:1, the Hebrew word, “aruwm” translated “subtil” in the KJV, “cunning” in the NKJV and “crafty” in the NASB, carries the meaning “subtle”, “crafty”, “sly”.

God’s command to Adam in Genesis 2:16-17 was that he could freely eat of any tree in the garden, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In Genesis 3:1, Satan begins by twisting the Word of God with the false statement that God commanded that they could not eat of any of the trees of the garden. This was contrary to God’s actual command. Also notice that Eve adds to the command by saying that they could not touch it. But God did not say that they could not touch it. Since the command was given to Adam and God had placed Adam in charge, it could be that Adam added the restriction not to touch it in order to protect her. Or maybe the addition was simply an indication that she did not fully understand the command. Satan could have figured that her lack of understanding made her vulnerable, so here was his chance. But notice when he first questions Eve how he twists the prohibition to extend to all of the trees in the garden. In his conversation with Eve, he introduces doubt and confusion on the Word of God. At this time, Adam and Eve had no knowledge of Satan. When Eve met up with the serpent, it is interesting that she does not appear at all disturbed at the notion of a talking animal. Perhaps they were in awe of God’s creation and Eve figured that this was but one more wonder in His creation. Of course, God did not create talking animals. The ability of the creature to speak was Satan’s doing. Satan indwells the serpent here in order to deceive Adam and Eve for the purpose to entice them to disobey God. Here was Eve in the garden and this crafty and seemingly interesting creature approaches her engaging in this conversation. This creature appears intelligent and seems to know about God. Through the course of the conversation, she probably began questioning her understanding of God’s command. She probably began thinking that “maybe I really got everything wrong, and here is this enchanting creature enlightening me on this topic. Hey, you know, maybe he is right, this stuff really looks desirable. Well it can’t be all that bad can it? After all, it will make us all the wiser. Why would God not want us to have something so good?”

While Satan seems in a very direct manner to attack God’s Word and His character, there is much more going on here. Satan cleverly sets Eve up before making a direct assault on the Word of God. He begins with the false notion that God was depriving them of anything good (i.e. restricting them from all of the trees). From that point, he then takes it a step further with the logic that it does not seem plausible that God would prohibit them from partaking from this particular tree, especially since it seemed so desirable and seemed to have so much to offer. After all, if they would take part of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, then they will be so much wiser and be like God. Satan presents the notion that God was holding out on them!

"3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. 4 For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully."

2 Corinthians 11:3-4, NASB®

When Paul addresses the Corinthians with his concern about their vulnerability to false teaching, he uses the same basic term that was used to describe the serpent in Genesis 3.
In 2 Corinthians 11:3, the word “craftiness” in both the NKJV and NASB, is translated from the Greek word “panourgia”, which means “craftiness” with the sense of being specious, meaning that it merely possesses a look and feel of truth, but is in reality false wisdom. Satan made his argument seem plausible, but it was indeed false.

If you look at issues such as the “emerging church” movement, you see a similar pattern to what Satan used. It starts with the questioning of God’s Word, especially through the use of deconstruction. Then we have the introduction of blatantly false claims, once the confidence in the Word of God is shaken. Little by little, God’s truth is called into question. A little whittling away of truth here and there over time, and heresy finds its way into the church. I will elaborate on this in some future posts. But I believe that many of the problems in evangelicalism can be traced to the shallow understanding of God’s truth. If Eve’s apparent misquote of God’s command is an indication that she lacked a thorough understanding of the Word of God, then this should be a lesson for us that we need to thoroughly understand God’s truth. Words are important and precision is necessary in order to accurately and precisely communicate the message. Subtly change the words and you can alter the message. This is why I am such a stickler for formal equivalency – as opposed to dynamic equivalency or paraphrasing - in Bible translation. I am not a fan at all of so-called paraphrase Bibles.

This is why it is extremely important that we thoroughly understand the Word of God. Unfortunately, a growing number (dare I say majority?) of Christians barely possess even a cursory understanding of biblical truth. No wonder Christians today are so vulnerable to false teaching. I can hear the serpent’s “hiss” all around us!

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