Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Genesis 3:1-5's the anatomy of temptation

In Gen 3:1a, Satan starts things off by trying to inject doubt about God's word: “Did God really say...?” He’s note asking a question as much as calling God and His command into question. At this point, he does not deny, but merely seeks a loss of faith in God’s word and its applicability.

In Gen 3:1b, Satan moves to challenging God's love/goodness: "you must not eat...?" Here, he moves beyond the idea of God as arbitrary to God as harmful/hostile. In contrast, Heb 11:6 says that one must believe that God is benevolent. This is a crucial question: if one believes God to be a Cosmic Killjoy, then is much more likely to reach for the forbidden (and ultimately damaging) fruit.

In Gen 3:2-3, we get Eve's response. First, note that she neither answers the question correctly or, from a lawyer’s perspective, prudently. She is in error and she’s talking way too much. Second, she denies the accusation, but does not reaffirm God’s generosity. In fact, she doubles on God as naysayer. —now by Eve and now, doubled!

Third, she adds "and you must not touch it". Was she taught improperly by Adam &/or didn’t listen well enough? Either way, is this a well-intentioned self-control mechanism or a legalism—asserted by Adam or self-imposed by Eve? It’s reasonable for A&E to be scared about the tree and its consequences. But it’s odd that they set a questionable boundary with the world and sin nature, without a significant boundary in their dealings with the devil.

In Gen 3:4-5, we find Satan’s reply. Here, he ups the ante, denying God's judgment and focusing on the God-provided disincentive. (This is related to the contemporary idea that God is "too loving" to send someone to Hell.) He impugns God’s character and motives; he implies that God is lying and has ulterior/hidden motives. He questions His authority/power, contradicting his own experience with God’s judgment.

In 3:5, he twists the truth with the Bible’s first metaphor. First, he has denied the costs and now he promises additional benefits. (Such things are almost always at the heart of bad personal decisions, business decisions, and poor public policy.) Yes, their “eyes were opened”, but he left out a few little things—like guilt and death. Yes, they would be "like God"—as they had been "made in the likeness of God" (1:26). Close—as all counterfeits. As Kass points: “man does not die on the day that he eats…his eyes are indeed opened upon eating…the serpent does not exactly lie; but neither does he tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…His utterances—like almost all of ours—offer a mixture of ‘yes’ and ‘no’, of the true and the not true…”

Let me close with a "Top 12 Elements of Satan's Strategy—here and elsewhere"...
1.) injects doubt into the value of God’s word
2.) accuses God before man—and elsewhere, man before God (Rev 12:10-11, Job 1:9-11, 2:4-5; Zech 3)
3.) implies that God is strict, stingy, selfish, finite, etc.—trying to get us to forget all God has given us and gets us to focus on what they don’t have
4.) encourages legalisms—trashing God’s good gifts
5.) gets us to focus on circumstances vs. character and identity in Christ; what we (don’t) have vs. what we do and who we are
6.) gets us to love the gift rather than the Giver
7.) gets us to chase too much of a good thing or the good vs. the best—here, knowledge
8.) appeals to body (sensations) and soul (pride)
9.) encourage (short-run) benefits and downplay (long-run) costs of sin
10.) getting us to stray in the little things
11.) tries to pique our curiosity—probably chose to talk to her when she was near the tree
12.) goes for the "weaker partner" (revealed preference)


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