Eden as Allegory

January 26, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 7:42 pm   Category: Before Abraham,Theology

As the next post in my mini-series on the Garden of Eden story as an allegory, I will respond to an interesting set of questions Tim J. posed in one of my posts over at T&S. He asked:

I think to follow the Fall as an allegory, I would need the allegory to be pretty well spelled-out. What I mean is such things like:

What does the Garden represent?
Is Satan’s role allegorical-if so what is he representing?
Why was Eve first to partake of the fruit?
Why did Adam refuse the fruit (if we are to believe the narrative that he was offered beforehand)?
Is the Atonement (which is inextricably linked w/ the Fall) also purely allegorical, or literal?

Here are some answers.

What does the Garden represent?

The Garden represents our pre-mortal existence in general. We were in the presence of God in “paradise”. All the levels of pre-sentient life forms are represented there from plant life up through pre-sentient humanity.

Is Satan’s role allegorical-if so what is he representing?

Satan in the allegory represents pride, ambition, and acquisitiveness. He represents the ambition common to humanity – the acquisitive nature in humans that manifests itself in greed and the general lust for power, pleasure, and wealth. It also represents our lust for knowledge though. Therefore, God used that aspect in our nature to drive us from pre-sentience into to the full sentience that is humanity. But even though God used that to get us this far, he also knows that the very ambition, pride, and insatiable acquisitiveness that got us this far must be cast out from among us if we are to progress further to become like him (and become one with him).

Why was Eve first to partake of the fruit?

This is a tough one. My guess is that besides representing males and females separately, Adam and Eve could represent aspects of each one of us. That is, we each have aspects of Adam and Eve in us. Maybe it is sort of a left-brain/right-brain thing. It seems that Adam represents the pragmatic side and Eve represents the more intuitive and visionary side. As the visionary, Eve naturally was the side that recognized the upward reaching opportunity and seized it first.

Why did Adam refuse the fruit (if we are to believe the narrative that he was offered beforehand)?

As the pragmatic side, Adam’s character is all about getting the job done in the prescribed way. “I know not save the Lord commanded me” (Moses 5:6) If this left-brain/right-brain analogy is accurate, then Adam was never a candidate to see the bigger picture and take the opportunity presented.

Is the Atonement (which is inextricably linked w/ the Fall) also purely allegorical, or literal?

See my atonement posts here. Specifically, check out my Parable of the Pianist. If my theory is right, the Fall represents our move into sentience. The Atonement is all about our move from human-level sentience to the next level of intelligence and glory. It is literally the description of God’s process of helping us become “at one” with him.

Some other questions that might come up…

What does the tree of life represent?

I assume it represents the same thing it did for Lehi and Nephi – the love of God. Specifically, it represents unity with God in a perfectly loving relationship. We cannot have it without taking the steps to build that perfect relationship. The cherubim and flaming sword set to guard it sound very much like the angels that stand as sentinels guarding the way to the presence of the Father as described by Brigham Young to me.

Why is Satan described as a serpent?

Pride is the great sin (according to President Benson). It is among the most subtle of sins too.

What is the coat of skins God gave them?

Human mortal bodies.

Anyway, it seems to all fit pretty well to me. What do you think?

[Associated radio.blog song: Fishbone -Ma and Pa. The post is about Adam and Eve right? Plus this is one of my favorite Fishbone songs.]

69 Comments »

  1. RB suggestion? They Built This Garden For Us by Lenny Kravitz :-)

    You know, I don’t have anything profound to add right now, but I just want to reiterate how much I love these thought-provoking and intelligent posts. Thank you.

    Comment by meems — January 26, 2006 @ 8:06 pm

  2. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (Translation: In the Garden of Eden) – Iron Butterfly

    If the garden was figurative, what about Adam, is he but a figure as well?

    Comment by Ian M. Cook — January 26, 2006 @ 8:32 pm

  3. Good stuff Geoff. I particularly like your musings as to why Eve partook of the fruit first.
    I also like your idea that the fall represents humanity’s move from pre-sentient to sentient beings. It is very Kierkegaardan.
    I think it may also symbolize humanity’s move from childhood into adulthood. Adam (who “is like a little child”) and Eve are first children. They are innocent of being naked and are not yet sexualized. They fall through an adolescence in which they question the rules of their parents This happens first for Eve, as girls mature faster than boys (especially as it pertains to romantic attraction). Adam and Eve then lose their innocence and become adults who now have to bear the adult responsibilities of work and child rearing.
    A couple of other things to consider……anciently the serpent was a symbol of wisdom and knowledge, which would go along nicely with your idea that Satan symbolizes our desire for those things. Also the tree and fruit anciently were symbols of procreation and the continuance of life. So that is interesting within the Fall context.

    Comment by Katie — January 26, 2006 @ 9:29 pm

  4. Truth and Soul, I don’t think that I have heard that in 15 years. I love that album.

    Comment by Russ J — January 26, 2006 @ 10:51 pm

  5. Sorry, but your answer to why Satan was a serpent seems a bit of a non sequetor. Could you expand somewhat?

    Comment by Clark — January 26, 2006 @ 11:07 pm

  6. I think Ian askes a good question. How does this allegorical theory translate into practical reality? There eventually needs to be some type of physical creation right? I have previously liked the garden story because it provides this transition – sort of. So where does the physical ‘play’ of life begin?

    Comment by Eric — January 27, 2006 @ 6:40 am

  7. Meems – Good idea for a song. I think I was putting this song up just as you commented

    Ian – I think we can still have a literal Adam here on earth. I am specificaly talking about the Adam and Eve in the Garden here. Earth is represented by the world they enter after receiving a “coat of skins” and being sent out of paradise.

    Katie – Thanks for the excellent input. I think that you are right that the symbolism works on several different levels. Also, I started a Kierkegaard book recently but got sidetracked — you’ve inspired me to pick it up again.

    Russ – Me too

    Clark – Good point. I was thinking specifically of the scriptural comment that “the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which I, the Lord God, had made.”

    Eric – For now I think it will suffice to say that I think a literal Adam on earth is not jeopardized by calling the Garden narrative an allegory. I’ll explore the Adam idea more in future posts. As I posted at T&S though, I think the literal creation of the earth is described in Moses 2 and that the allegorical Eden story starts in Moses 3.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 27, 2006 @ 9:17 am

  8. Geoff,

    Thanks for the post, I’ll respond (debate) more this evening if time allows. You make some excellent posts though. I appreciate you doing this.

    Comment by Tim J — January 27, 2006 @ 1:06 pm

  9. How does the “Garden as Allegory” fit in with Joseph’s declaration of Adam-on-di-Ahman, and Misouri as the actual location of the Garden?

    Comment by Hyrum — January 27, 2006 @ 2:44 pm

  10. Hyrum – Not well.

    I suppose we’d have to file that idea under the “Zelph” category if my theory is right…

    Comment by Geoff J — January 27, 2006 @ 2:56 pm

  11. The only problem with that, is that Zelph does not appear in scripture, Adam-ondi-Ahman does.

    Another question I asked before that you may have (conveniently) forgotten:

    When does the allegory end and the literal narrative begin?

    With Cain and Abel?
    With Noah and the flood?
    Abraham and Isaac?

    Comment by Tim J — January 27, 2006 @ 3:00 pm

  12. Geoff,
    This is great stuff! My favorite religion teacher taught this idea…kind of, and it REALLY opened my eyes in understanding the Fall. Personally, my take on it being allegorical is partial. I think Adam and Eve were SOMEwhere physically participating in all these actual events somehow to bring about the Fall, BUT whether they actually ate physical fruit, talked to an actual Satan-being, or actually made fig-leaf aprons is up for debate. They could just be means by which God helps us understand the Fall.
    Also, the whole story could be literal and made to happen by God the way it did so we could apply it allegorically, too; just like so many other stories in the Bible (Noah, Joseph, Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22, etc.)
    In regards to Eve taking the fruit and Adam refusing it, one way we could look at it is that Satan did a poorer job of convincing Adam than he did of convincing Eve. He tried Adam first, failed, regrouped and thought up some new ideas to try on Eve and succeeded. Maybe the same would have happened if he had gone to Eve first and then Adam and Adam would have partaken of the fruit. Who knows?

    Comment by Bret — January 27, 2006 @ 3:19 pm

  13. Tim ,

    As I mentioned to Ian, I’d say the pure allegory ends after Adam and Eve receive a “coat of skins” and enter our world. I think there were a literal Adam and Eve here on earth. (Though I suspect the account we have of them probably also has non-literal/allegorical aspects to it — something I’ll sketch out in later posts.)

    Adam-ondi-ahman is the name of the place where the great meeting will happen in connection with the Second Coming of Christ. The Garden of Eden need not be literal for the prophecies relating to Adam-ondi-Ahman to be fulfilled. (Missouri as the location of a literal Garden of Eden is not scriptural — unless I’ve been looking in the wrong places…)

    Comment by Geoff J — January 27, 2006 @ 3:19 pm

  14. Geoff,

    Why did God command them to not partake of the fruit (gain sentience)?

    Comment by Tim J. — January 28, 2006 @ 8:25 am

  15. Tim,

    See my last post called “Happiness and The Fall“. I answered that question there.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 28, 2006 @ 9:08 am

  16. Why was Adam created first?

    Why was Eve not created at the same time as Adam?

    Why is “gain sentience” called a Fall – seems more like a step up?

    Why wasn’t Satan smart enough to grab fruit from both the tree of life and the tree of knowledge and have Adam and/or Eve eat both?

    What did Satan bother with the excuse about doing the same things as been done in other words?

    Comment by ed — February 1, 2006 @ 10:08 pm

  17. Ed,

    Why was Adam created first? Why was Eve not created at the same time as Adam?

    Eve wasn’t created ex nihilo. The record makes it sound like the original “Adam” in the narrative (as in “the Lord called their name Adam”) was a literal union of both a male and female part. So it appears that the male and female versions of Adam were created at the same time to me.

    Why is “gain sentience” called a Fall – seems more like a step up?

    See my last post on why gaining sentience would be called a fall.

    Why wasn’t Satan smart enough to grab fruit from both the tree of life and the tree of knowledge and have Adam and/or Eve eat both?

    Satan represents the ambition/greed/pride within Adam and Eve. See the post again for that answer… I think I already addressed this part. (Perhaps I am misunderstanding your question though..)

    What did Satan bother with the excuse about doing the same things as been done in other words?

    It is a teaching moment in the narrative explaining that this applies to children of God on every world/probation (and is a support for the MMP notion in my opinion).

    Comment by Geoff J — February 1, 2006 @ 10:36 pm

  18. The record (both scripture and temple) makes it sound like Adam (Man) was created first and then slept and woke up with a missing rib and was presented with the woman (which he later named eve) – and then they were called Adam.

    Didn’t Adam name the animals BEFORE he was kicked out? If the story was allegorical why would it matter if he named them before or after?

    Comment by Ed — February 2, 2006 @ 7:58 pm

  19. I agree that Adam (Man) was first — as long as “Man” represents something seperate from the later male human Adam… Whatever that original Adam represents, it had both the male and female in it. Eve wasn’t created out of nothing after all.

    As for naming the animals, that is a good question. I’m not sure what that is symbolic of but it sure seems like it must mean something important — why else would that seemingly random detail be in the record when thousands of other details are not?. I’ll give it some thought and research and if I come up with anything I’ll post it here… (Anyone else have ideas of what the naming of the animals might represent?)

    Comment by Geoff J — February 2, 2006 @ 10:53 pm

  20. If Eden is an allegory, can we go back to believing partaking of the fruit is having sex?

    Why else can’t you replenish the earth without tasting the forbidden fruit?

    Also, don’t make the coats of skin mortal, human bodies. The coats of skin come from a sacrificed animal, showing that naked guilt is covered by scapegoating or sacrifice or the prefigured atonement, from the beginning.

    Music suggestion: “These are the Days” then “Eden” from the 10,000 Maniac’s album _Our Time in Eden_

    Comment by Johnna Cornett — February 3, 2006 @ 12:27 am

  21. I think the idea of partaking the fruit as sexual relations is equally untenable – an echo of the Greek-influenced belief that the most virtuous were the unmarried – that sexual relations were dirty and degrading.

    My position is that the Garden of Eden story as we know it today, the Genesis 2-3 part is not even a good allegory, but rather a product some Yahwist scribe’s wild imagination (cf. the Documentary Hypothesis).

    Anything that takes more work to explain away that it provides in support for fundamental principles isn’t even worth propagating as fiction.

    That said, it seems to me that Adam and Eve were likely real individuals, on this world, or some other world, and not just metaphors for men and women generally. The post-Garden account is just fine, as is the account of Lucifer in the war in heaven.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 20, 2006 @ 1:36 am

  22. Im thankful for the blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Much obliged.

    Comment by Annalisa — January 9, 2012 @ 1:39 am

  23. Geoff, it’s six years since you posted origianlly so I would assume some of your views on this have changed, but with respect to why Eve ate first, how would you react to the suggestion that in a narrative about how the world got so screwed up (which seems to be a major function of the garden story when it was written), it was convenient to blame the woman.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 9, 2012 @ 11:25 am

  24. That certainly make some sense from a purely naturalistic point of view Jacob.

    It looks like I was still leaning toward a spirit atomism model back when I wrote this post. Most of my ideas in the post only hold water if some form of spirit atomism were true. I tend to reject spirit atomism now in favor of a “whole cloth” version of intelligences/spirits.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 9, 2012 @ 11:33 am

  25. Geoff, are you sure you read the right post? How does this have anything to do with spirit atomism?

    Comment by Jacob J — January 12, 2012 @ 5:04 pm

  26. Yeah the problem was I was being pretty generic and cryptic in the post. But I can see all the signs there that I was trying to craft a spirit-atomism friendly model that worked for the Eden story.

    The basic assumption I was working with at the time was that our spirits are unions of who knows how many “intelligences”. Basically the Orson Pratt model. The idea being that as more intelligences joined the union the higher level of intelligence the spirit would be.

    Thus I was using phrases like “pre-sentient life” etc to signify less intelligent spirits and humans represented the quasi graduates I guess.

    Anyhow I no longer lean toward that model at all mostly because it seems too ludicrous. But I can see in the post I was trying to make the explanations there work with that model.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

  27. Hopefully this is the right place. I think it speaks more to the recent post on Gary, but…

    While it is perfectly possible to be a faithful Latter-day Saint and believe in something you term “evolution,” all putative faithful Latter-day Saints who so choose are engaged in equivocation – because, whatever you mean by the word “evolution” is not what is meant by the academic / scientific community when they use the word “evolution.” This equivocation on the word “evolution,” universally practiced by putatively faithful Latter-day Saint who affirm with their mouths that “evolution is true,” is evidence that the orthodox doctrine of evolution (without equivocation) is fundamentally contradictory to the Gospel.

    There are four ways to reconcile the Gospel with evolution (without equivocation), and usually the preferred method is a combination of the first two of these.

    1.Falsify the scriptures. Using “metaphorical” or “allegorical” readings as you will, the effect is to insert a “not” into the historical claims the scriptures make whenever these historical claims conflict with the claims of “scientists.” The acids of allegory do not stop at Adam and Eve of their own accord, however, so you have to start engaging in special pleading to protect your preferred literal scriptural accounts – say, the Condescension, Atonement, and Resurrection – from such readings.

    2.Equivocation. The word evolution as used in the academic and scientific communities is logically incompatible with any form of intelligent action. Therefore, when LDS use the word, they usually have something in mind where God might have intervened to cause a particularly fortuitous mutation, or perhaps actively intervened to kill off something that otherwise would have been selected for. To be a faithful Latter-day Saint, it is necessary to affirm that God, at some point, actually did something to effect creation.

    3.Rejection of the truth of the Gospel in preference to the truth of evolution. Similar to #1, this simply takes the falsification of the scriptures to its logical conclusion. This position has as its benefit consistency with the philosophies of men, rendering one immune to the scorn and mockery of those outside of the Church.

    4.Rejection of evolution in preference to the truth of the Gospel. Unlike any of the previous three, refusing to mingle the philosophies of men with scripture leaves its adherent wide open to the scorn and mockery of both his co-religionists and the secular academic / scientific community.

    If Nature is a closed system of material causes, then there is no God that makes any difference in Nature – including the bestowal of testimonies. Evolution (without equivocation) springs from, and supports, such a view. Here is one recent, salient example of the historical behavioral consequences of such a view:

    If a person doesn’t think there is a God to be accountable to, then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought anyway. I always believed the theory of evolution as truth, that we all just came from the slime. When we, when we died, you know, that was it, there is nothing… – Jeffrey Dahmer.

    Examples might be multiplied ad nauseam.

    As a follow up: if we’re seeking to congratulate one another on our cleverness and lauding the spiritual truths contained in our denatured scriptural accounts rendered consistent with the philosophies of men in our age, may I point out that this is merely doing that which has been done in other worlds – such as when the literalistic primitive Christians confronted the philosophies of their age. We all know which one won that one.

    Comment by Log — April 22, 2012 @ 1:38 pm

  28. Log,

    The question is, are you trying to get to God or to built a logically consistent picture of reality? It’s pretty obvious why somebody would desire the former, but the same cannot be said of the latter.

    Your 4 options presuppose that one is seeking the latter, but many of those you speak of have little to no interest in that.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 22, 2012 @ 7:04 pm

  29. Jeff G,

    I’ll take this over to the R. Gary thread. I think you see why I thought it would be best there in the first place.

    Comment by Log — April 22, 2012 @ 9:06 pm

  30. @Log

    1. The church accepts 4 different tellings of the creation account as scripture, and all 4 vary in dramatic ways.

    2. Many parts of the account that would appear at first glance to be essential parts of a literal story have been revealed to be allegorical (e.g., Eve created from the rib, Satan as a serpent).

    3. The major “orthodox” interpretations of the creation account require dispensing with multiple literal elements of the story. For instance:

    A. “orthodox” views dispense with a literal tree of life: Partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge somehow changed the spiritual bodies of Adam and Eve into mortal bodies rather than the more literal and straightforward explanation espoused by the Book of Mormon: Adam and Eve were prevented from living forever by not being able to partake of the fruit of the tree of life (a flaming sword being a major problem).

    B. “orthodox” views (transplantation or Adam descending from God himself) dispense with Adam being created from the dust of the earth. To accept either of these blatantly contradicts Mosiah 26:23, which unequivocally equates Christ with the creator of humans.

    The so called “orthodox” explanations for the origin of man require the dismissal of far more literal elements in the creation story than an interpretation that accepts man coming from the “dust of the earth” (i.e., an evolutionary type explanation).

    For a Latter-Day Saint to believe in biological evolution is no more an equivocation on principles than an LDS astronomer who believes they can explain the basic mechanics and forces at play behind the creation of stars:

    D&C 88:7 says: … As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.

    Do LDS astronomers/physicists equivocate when they espouse/formulate physical explanations for the creation of stars?

    Each creation story is difficult to reconcile with the others and with any detailed explanation of the origin of mankind (whether that is transplantation, direct offspring of God, “poof” or evolution).

    Geoff’s allegorical interpretation of Eden is no more problematic for reconciling with LDS doctrine/scripture than anyone’s detailed explanation of these events: Why can the apostles freely speculate on what is allegorical and what is not but Geoff cannot without being accused of “equivocation”?

    Any detailed explanation of the origin of mankind and his similarity with all other species will require harmonization between scripture and science. Engaged in humbly, this is a noble pursuit and should be encouraged.

    Comment by bwv549 — April 22, 2012 @ 11:17 pm

  31. @Log,

    [cont'd]

    That is not to say I don’t appreciate your post about the dangers involved in treading this spiritual/philosophical territory. I think I just see more grounds for wiggle room in the the creation account and am more optimistic about reconciliation without doctrinal dilution (at least any more doctrinal dilution than any of the alternative explanations).

    Comment by bwv549 — April 22, 2012 @ 11:25 pm

  32. BWV549 – my stuff wasn’t really written in response to Jeff G.’s post. He told me to dump it somewhere other than the R. Gary thread.

    The important question I see in post 30 is this:

    Why can the apostles freely speculate on what is allegorical and what is not but Geoff cannot without being accused of “equivocation”?

    I hint at an answer in the R. Gary thread.

    Thanks!

    Comment by Log — April 22, 2012 @ 11:31 pm

  33. Log (#27),

    Your claim that reading some scriptures as being allegorical is “falsifying the scriptures” highlights the silliness and hypocrisy often displayed by hyper-literalists. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: Everyone has a line where even they think some of the scriptures are not literal.

    Do you think Eve was literally created from a rib taken out of Adam? Do you think a literal snake was talking to Eve? If not aren’t you “falsifying scripture”?

    Further, while evolutionary theories don’t assume the existence of a God they certainly don’t crumble if a guiding God does exist so your claims that the two ideas are mutually exclusive are simply false.

    Last, there is no such thing as “refusing to mingle the philosophies of men with scripture”. Scripture itself is transmitted through men so it unavoidably contains a healthy influence of the philosophies of men from the moment it is penned/transmitted to men through (inspired) men.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 22, 2012 @ 11:37 pm

  34. BWV549,

    Well said.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 22, 2012 @ 11:40 pm

  35. Geoff J (#33)

    Actually, as the prophets have explicitly said the rib stuff was figurative, I take it as figurative.

    As for the snake, I’m willing to take the Endowments as the controlling text.

    As for evolution – I leave it to you to reconcile random mutation and natural selection with guided mutation or artificial or intelligent selection.

    Last – that’s not necessarily the case in my personal experience. It is simply not the case that transmitting a message implies muddying the message with one’s philosophies.

    Comment by Log — April 22, 2012 @ 11:45 pm

  36. Log (#35),

    I guess that is a reasonable way to be a hyper-literalist: Assume everything is scripture is completely literal and historically accurate until someone high enough in authority tells you it is OK to think otherwise. Whatever floats your boat I suppose.

    What do you do in cases where the literal interpretation seems completely ludicrous and fiction but no higher-up has commented on it? Do you just assume it is literally true are do you apply a little “as far as it is translated correctly” medicine like most folks?

    As for reconciling God and evolution I don’t think “natural” is a problem and “random” could possibly work too given a patient enough God. The main requirement is a time when there were suitable bodies on this planet for God’s children to start inhabiting. Seems to me we must leave room for spirits and bodies joining to reconcile the gospel with evolution.

    Last, while you might think you have personal experience with revelation not being influenced by the transmission medium I simply don’t believe it is possible.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 23, 2012 @ 12:00 am

  37. I think BWV549′s description of the creation accounts is a clear example of how viewing truth as a path in the scriptures suddenly snaps everything into place. The creation accounts aren’t trying to given an accurate, value-free description of how things played out in the beginning. Rather, they are trying to get people to heaven.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 23, 2012 @ 12:24 am

  38. Geoff J (#36)

    What do you do in cases where the literal interpretation seems completely ludicrous and fiction but no higher-up has commented on it? Do you just assume it is literally true are do you apply a little “as far as it is translated correctly” medicine like most folks?

    Did you have any specific examples you wanted me to impale myself upon?

    As for reconciling God and evolution I don’t think “natural” is a problem and “random” could possibly work too given a patient enough God. The main requirement is a time when there were suitable bodies on this planet for God’s children to start inhabiting. Seems to me we must leave room for spirits and bodies joining to reconcile the gospel with evolution.

    The claim that no intelligence did anything to produce X is not logically compatible with the claim that God did something to produce X.

    The law of non-contradiction requires one of these two propositions be false.

    I personally view the notion of the universe, by rolling some 3 billion 4-sided die, magically coughing up a hominid organism, which by chance just happened to be in the literal bodily image of God, a wee bit dimly. In the face of such vast improbability, the limited probabilistic resources available, and in light of the fact that the outcome matches a simply expressed, algorithmic pattern, I would simply say that we bear the markers of design. The contrary claim, as the old saw goes, would require extraordinary evidence.

    Comment by Log — April 23, 2012 @ 12:28 am

  39. Log,

    Maybe I should ask you a related question: What parts of Genesis do you think might not be historically accurate? Literal trees with literal fruits in a literal NDBF Garden of Eden on this earth? Lot’s wife literally turned into salt? The whole earth underwater a few thousand years ago? A guy living inside a giant fish for three days? Any of that stuff possibly allegorical or at least exaggerated in your view?

    And yes of course the existence of an intervening God is contradictory with claims otherwise. But the idea of evolution is not mutually exclusive of a God existing. A God existing is not required for evolution theories; neither does the existence of a God scuttle the whole idea.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 23, 2012 @ 12:51 am

  40. Geoff J,

    Maybe I should ask you a related question: What parts of Genesis do you think might not be historically accurate? Literal trees with literal fruits in a literal NDBF Garden of Eden on this earth? Lot’s wife literally turned into salt? The whole earth underwater a few thousand years ago? A guy living inside a giant fish for three days? Any of that stuff possible allegorical or at least exaggerated in your view?

    Is it possibly allegorical? Sure. Unless, however, I have affirmative grounds to believe that any specific one is allegorical, I have chosen to believe them as literal. It’s kind of liberating.

    I think Hugh Nibley once said something to the effect that he read everything as completely literal – that way he had less he needed to change his mind on when the time came. I wish I could remember where that was from….

    And yes of course the existence of an intervening God is contradictory with claims otherwise. But the idea of evolution is not mutually exclusive of a God existing. A God existing is not required for evolution theories; neither does the existence of a God scuttle the whole idea.

    It is true that some kind of God existing is not incompatible with evolutionary theory – it just rules out the intervening creator-God of the prophets, by definition.

    An intervening creator-God who actually did anything to bring about the current state of biological affairs does falsify evolutionary theory as an accurate and complete account of bio-history.

    Incidentally, Brigham Young founded BYU, in part, to counter Darwinism by the teaching of the Gospel.

    Comment by Log — April 23, 2012 @ 1:04 am

  41. I guess I should specify that by affirmative grounds, I mean I require the literal readings to contradict personal experience, or revelation that the account in question should be considered other than literal. I accept also authoritative declarations by the leaders of the Church on such matters, provisionally.

    Comment by Log — April 23, 2012 @ 1:11 am

  42. Jeff G:

    The creation accounts aren’t trying to given an accurate, value-free description of how things played out in the beginning. Rather, they are trying to get people to heaven.

    How much more impressive to anybody, with eyes to see the fossils in the shale, would it have been if the scriptural creation myths substantially matched the naturalistic creation myths, if that’s the way creation happened?

    Do lies get people into heaven? Man cannot be saved in ignorance, we say, echoing Joseph.

    If we experience theophany – the explicit point of the Temple, it seems to me – do you suppose we shall see man arise by Nature, red in tooth and claw, through rolling the genetic dice?

    Why is it, do you think, the prophets consistently render the picture of creation that they do?

    Comment by Log — April 23, 2012 @ 1:32 am

  43. Log: Unless, however, I have affirmative grounds to believe that any specific one is allegorical, I have chosen to believe them as literal. It’s kind of liberating.

    Yes, I imagine that it is liberating. But I fear it is not liberating in a good way. I worry that it is liberating in the “put your brain on the shelf and let others do the thinking for you” kind of way. That is why I can’t bring myself to agree with that line of thinking. I figure God gave me a brain and to not use it to the fullest would be an insult to God.

    I don’t mean that as an insult to those who are more comfortable assuming literalism until specifically instructed otherwise. I mostly mean it as a description of why hyper-literalism doesn’t work at all for me as a Latter-day Saint.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 23, 2012 @ 1:51 am

  44. Jeff,

    See this quote from Log: Do lies get people into heaven?

    This is what I was talking about in the other thread. Literalists are not satisfied to say “it is ok if it is not historically accurate if it leads me to God”.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 23, 2012 @ 1:53 am

  45. Geoff J:

    Yes, I imagine that it is liberating. But I fear it is not liberating in a good way. I worry that it is liberating in the “put your brain on the shelf and let others do the thinking for you” kind of way. That is why I can’t bring myself to agree with that line of thinking. I figure God gave me a brain and to not use it to the fullest would be an insult to God.

    No need to fear; indeed, fear might be an indication you’re on the wrong path (turnabout is fair play!).

    As we learn from Joseph again, “I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief.”

    If your psyche is too rigid to attempt an experiment in the adoption of hyper-literalism, as it pleases you to call it, for, say, a week, and then to consider your position from an informed perspective, rather than your current position of fearful prejudice, then maybe the brain isn’t quite being used to the fullest – which would, as you say, be an insult to God.

    I’m goading you, of course, to try believing a bit more than you do now.

    What harm could possibly come of it?

    Comment by Log — April 23, 2012 @ 1:58 am

  46. Geoff,

    Point taken, but it seems clear to me that Log is a clear case of the religious believer being saturated with the rules of science. I don’t personally have any problem with people wanting Religion to live up to the standards of Science, but I don’t think those who think differently are any less rational, intelligent or sane.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 23, 2012 @ 2:04 am

  47. Log (#45),

    Well I actually was somewhat of a hyper literalist for many years of my life. And as you said, it was liberating.

    But it was liberating in the way being a kid is less stressful than being an adult. Having the grownups do all the big picture thinking and decision making for me was nice as a kid, but I can’t go back to being a carefree kid now. Likewise God has made it clear he isn’t going to let me go back to those pleasant hyper-literalism days. Such is life.

    (And yes I’m goading you right back)

    Comment by Geoff J — April 23, 2012 @ 2:12 am

  48. Since it appears clear that I shall be spoken about, rather than to, I would like to assuage any other fears you gentlemen might have that could stop you from taking the so-called “hyper-literalist” challenge.

    Planes will not fall out of the sky, antibiotics will not stop working, and gravity will not suddenly reverse itself should you try an experiment on believing the scriptures, rather than simply believing in the scriptures.

    Comment by Log — April 23, 2012 @ 2:15 am

  49. Geoff J

    My background is the reverse of yours, it appears.

    Likewise God has made it clear he isn’t going to let me go back to those pleasant hyper-literalism days.

    I would love to hear the contents of that revelation. I’m guessing, however, you really mean you can’t believe any more than you already do.

    Incidentally, you implicitly claim that I am letting the church leaders do my thinking for me. As a matter of fact, I do what I am told, and think for myself. Where I have not got experience, it is wise to take for guides those that do. That does not mean I do not critically analyze their teaching.

    I notice neither you nor Jeff G. are answering two pertinent questions, which I posted both in this thread and the R. Gary one – why do you suppose it is that the prophets who have beheld the creation of the world and all that dwells thereon give substantially the same account, and that account is not the evolutionary one?

    If you take your religion seriously enough to seek theophany and are granted such, do you expect to see the evolutionary account played out?

    Comment by Log — April 23, 2012 @ 2:30 am

  50. Log: I’m guessing, however, you really mean you can’t believe any more than you already do.

    Quite the opposite. By moving past the simplistic views I used to hold to I now believe much more than I used to believe. And my respect for God has only increased in the process.

    As for why the various creation narratives are similar — why would we expect anything different than that? The question is how much of those narratives are allegorical representations of much more complicated processes.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 23, 2012 @ 8:41 am

  51. Geoff J,

    By moving past the simplistic views I used to hold to I now believe much more than I used to believe. And my respect for God has only increased in the process.

    That’s interesting, because your transition from hyper-literalism, so-called, reads to me more like a process of deconversion, which might account for your hinted triumphalism; moreover, it is not obvious why the less God does, on your view, the more respect you accord Him. If you know God, and Jesus whom he has sent, you are therefore acquainted with a God of miracles – water into wine, dead rising from the grave, lepers getting cured by bathing in the Jordan, &c., &c. A God playing Yahtzee with genetic dice (or perhaps not even doing that much) seems rather unimpressive to me, having nothing either to commend it, nor in its result witness of the wisdom of the Divine Roller.

    Be that howsoever it may…

    As for why the various creation narratives are similar — why would we expect anything different than that?

    Because they do not speak the truth on your view. They are false, on your view, therefore the prophets must be speaking in allegory or metaphor; you reach for allegory or metaphor to try to retain belief, or a claim thereto, that the accounts are “true” in some rarified sense other than the one that matters – the crass, literal one.

    We would expect the truth. God cannot lie, we’re told.

    The question is how much of those narratives are allegorical representations of much more complicated processes.

    In this, I hear echoes of “Evolution happened. The only debate is in how, precisely, it happened.”

    As Joseph said, “Men are in the habit, when the truth is exhibited by the servants of God, of saying, All is mystery; they have spoken in parables, and, therefore, are not to be understood. It is true they have eyes to see, and see not, but none are so blind as those who will not see.”

    Let me rephrase the question.

    If the evolutionary hypothesis is the correct account of bio-history, and the evidence for that hypothesis is as simple as discovering the fossils in the shale or observing finch beaks, why would God not have shown the correct creation account to the prophets – wouldn’t it be far more impressive to, well, just about anyone, if the prophets had seen the naturalistic creation myth played out, if that’s the way things happened?

    What do you expect to see, should you take your religion seriously enough to seek and attain theophany, and are shown the creation of the world?

    Comment by Log — April 23, 2012 @ 9:09 am

  52. Log,

    your transition reads to me like a process of deconversion

    I don’t find it surprising that you would see any move away from literalism as a deconversion. But of course that is not the case. It is more a matter of looking under the hood to understand details more. In my mind it is the difference between assuming the earth is the center of the universe and observing that in reality the earth revolves around the sun. When that earth-revolves-around-the-sun theory was floated it was assumed to be an insult to God. No doubt people at the time wondered how any theory that had God doing less (not personally holding the stars in place above earth and whatnot) could allow for the same level of respect for God. But of course in retrospect that kind of thinking is silly. God is not any weaker just because our universe works differently than those people assumed.

    I am of course aware that God is a God of miracles. The subtle arrogance inherent in hyper-literalism is they are rigid in *how* they think God can accomplish his miracles. As if a even the suggestion of God-guided Big Bang was not a good enough way to create a universe and they are not OK with God accomplishing creation using such methods.

    Your claim that allegories are false is ridiculous. Need I remind you of those little things called parables that Jesus was so fond of? Allegories represent more detailed truths and God is clearly fond of them as teaching tools. Your question about why God would use even when teaching prophets is something you can ask God himself if you want.

    As for your last question — I expect that when I meet God face to face I will discover his methods of creating the universe and this world will be shocking and complicated yet it will all make sense.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 23, 2012 @ 9:52 am

  53. Geoff J,

    The subtle arrogance inherent in hyper-literalism is they are rigid in *how* they think God can accomplish his miracles. As if a even the suggestion of God-guided Big Bang was not a good enough way to create a universe and they are not OK with God accomplishing creation using such methods.

    Of course, you cannot find even a hint of such judgements in what I’ve written – I literally do not care *how* God accomplishes his miracles just so long as He accomplishes them.

    The not-so-subtle arrogance of the hypo-literalists is that they they are the light bringers, the sole purveyors of truth writ large, whilst the so-called hyper-literalists are children, believing in old wives tales, standing in the way of progress.

    Your claim that allegories are false is ridiculous.

    Which would be relevant, I suppose, if that’s what I said. However, you’re too intelligent for me to take this question of yours seriously; you’re playing the audience. You know full well that I said that because the scriptural accounts of creation, taken literally, are false to you, you have chosen to interpret them as allegory, so that you may claim to believe that the scriptures are “true” in some sense.

    That’s what the literalistic primitive Christians did when confronting the science of their day, incidentally. We know which side won that conflict.

    Need I remind you of those little things called parables that Jesus was so fond of?

    I suppose, given the tenor of your question, that I need to remind you that Jesus flagged those little things called parables as such.

    Where such is not flagged, such is not a warranted interpretation – unless, of course, they are false and, to be part of the community, you must believe them to be “true.”

    As Joseph said, “No one can ever enter the celestial kingdom unless he is strictly honest.” You can’t be affirming X with your mouth while denying X in your heart.

    As for your last question — I expect that when I meet God face to face I will discover his methods of creating the universe and this world will be shocking and complicated yet it will all make sense.

    Do you suppose it will be consistent with the evolutionary account, wherein he did not create?

    You also inferred intellectual laziness as part of the liberating effect of what it pleases you to call hyper-literalism.

    Let me tell you what is liberating:

    I no longer have to maintain two irreconcilable pictures in my head.

    I no longer have to swallow bald logical contradictions.

    I no longer have to wrest the scriptures.

    I no longer carry with me a smug sense of condescending superiority towards the Brethren.

    I am free.

    Comment by log — April 23, 2012 @ 10:19 am

  54. Log,

    The not-so-subtle arrogance of the hypo-literalists is that they they are the light bringers, the sole purveyors of truth writ large, whilst the so-called hyper-literalists are children, believing in old wives tales, standing in the way of progress.

    Nice. I am impressed with the eloquence of this rebuttal and somewhat agree with it. First, well done in coining “hypo-literalists”. I like it. Second, you are right that hypo-literalism is as rife with pitfalls as hyper-literalism. Both stances can lead to serious pride problems.

    and, to be part of the community, you must believe them to be “true.”

    Thanks for a textbook example of the ugly and dangerous pitfalls of hyper-literalism in the restored church. It often devolves to “believe like I do or you are no longer part of this community”. Lovely.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 23, 2012 @ 10:40 am

  55. Geoff J,

    Thanks for a textbook example of the ugly and dangerous pitfalls of hyper-literalism in the restored church. It often devolves to “believe like I do or you are no longer part of this community”. Lovely.

    The hyper-literalist does not deny the hypo-literalist a seat at the Lord’s table. However, there are minimal standards for belief in this community – yet, as I said, the acids of allegory require special pleading to spare the literal truth of any portion of the scriptures from their corrosive effects.

    But, to answer your weak rejoinder, I wonder what a bishop would say should a should he be so crass as to admit that “Well, I believe in an allegorical God and a metaphorical Son and a mythical Holy Spirit…” and so forth; yet there is no principled difference between these scriptural characters and their related stories and Adam and Eve, is there?

    Comment by Log — April 23, 2012 @ 2:14 pm

  56. “I wonder what a bishop would say to one seeking baptism should he be so crass…”

    Comment by Log — April 23, 2012 @ 2:18 pm

  57. I also note that you do not address the precise parallel between the modern allegorization / spiritualization of the scriptures when confronted with the reigning philosophy of our day – scientific naturalism – and the ancient allegorization / spiritualization of the scriptures the primitive Christians performed when confronted with the reigning philosophy of their day, which was the direct precursor to the apostasy.

    What makes what you’re doing so different from what they did?

    Comment by Log — April 23, 2012 @ 2:22 pm

  58. Log,

    The hyper-literalist does not deny the hypo-literalist a seat at the Lord’s table.

    Hehe. Says you.

    The bishop is supposed to ask the baptismal interview questions when he is the one giving baptismal interviews. There is nothing in those interview questions about whether the candidate believes some dude literally lived inside a fish for three days or if that is just an allegory meant to teach a lesson. (The lack of such silly litmus tests is surely to the chagrin of hyper-literalists everywhere.)

    But you will be glad to know that none of the hypo-literalists I know begrudge the many hyper-literalists in the church their seat at the Lord’s table. Most hypo-literalists I know are mostly hoping to avoid the unwelcome unrighteous judgments their hyper-literalist brethren seem so eager to heap on them.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 23, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

  59. Geoff J

    But you will be glad to know that none of the hypo-literalists I know begrudge the many hyper-literalists in the church their seat at the Lord’s table. Most hypo-literalists I know are mostly hoping to avoid the unwelcome unrighteous judgments their hyper-literalist brethren seem so eager to heap on them.

    That is emphatically NOT the impression y’all give out in the R. Gary thread.

    Seems to a wee bit of pointing the finger of scorn at R. Gary (and, presumably, me) going on in there; a couple of highly revealing comments were made, too, like this one:”I’m not convinced the brethren know the way or that it’s all we really have to go on.”

    Is it fair to say faith in the brethren is a predictable casualty of hypo-literalism?

    Comment by Log — April 23, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

  60. Log,

    What makes what you’re doing so different from what they did?

    Ah yes — this is a fine example of a hyper-literalist on his church-cleansing jihad. Basically you are saying “You’re an apostate if you don’t believe Lot’s wife was literally turned into a giant salt lick”.

    The problem for you is one need not be a hyper-literalist to be on the path to exaltation.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 23, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

  61. Geoff J,

    Not only do you not answer my question, which is straightforward, but you imply that it is a problem for me that one need not be a hyper-literalist to be on the path to exaltation.

    Care to explain, and, please, be detailed, why this is a problem for me? Because, before you said that, I had no idea I had any such problem.

    Comment by Log — April 23, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

  62. Log,

    Is it fair to say faith in the brethren is a predictable casualty of hypo-literalism?

    Well it is certainly fair to say that a rejection of the infallibility doctrine is part of hypo-literalism. I would hope that all of the saints would reject the false notion of infallible leaders though.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 23, 2012 @ 2:40 pm

  63. Log,

    Well your question in #57 was never a good faith question to begin with. It was really an accusation of apostasy. So I responded to what it really was, not what you were pretending it was.

    The Gospel envelopes all truth. That includes all scientific truths. I try to believe only true things.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 23, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

  64. Geoff J,

    The question was, and still is, a good-faith question.

    I could hardly classify you as an apostate simply because you don’t believe what I believe. I was like you, once. Everyone’s got their own cross to bear.

    However, as the past is prologue, I would like to hear why you think you’re doing something different than what the primitive Christians did – because, and, no, this is not an accusation of personal apostasy – it looks to me like the parallel is precise.

    Well it is certainly fair to say that a rejection of the infallibility doctrine is part of hypo-literalism. I would hope that all of the saints would reject the false notion of infallible leaders though.

    You cannot be seriously claiming to believe I was speaking of “belief in the infallibility of the brethren” when I spoke of “faith in the brethren” as a potentially predictable casualty of hypo-literalism.

    I know you’re too intelligent for that.

    Comment by Log — April 23, 2012 @ 2:55 pm

  65. Log,

    I’ll play along on your apostasy parallel thing. The comparison doesn’t hold because the priesthood is still here in the church and I still hold and exercise it. So what exactly do you think the parallel is? Are you saying the entire restored church is in some grave danger because not all of us think God made a literal bet with Satan about Job?

    Second, if you don’t mean infallibility of the brethren what do you mean precisely when you ask about “faith in the brethren”?

    Comment by Geoff J — April 23, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

  66. Geoff J,

    This exchange has proven extremely fruitful for me.

    Not only do I not think you apostate, I’m willing to concede you have only the best of intentions.

    I think – correct me if I am wrong – you perceive what you’re doing as defending the Church by strengthening her doctrines to withstand this confrontation with naturalism in which we are currently engaged and which you feel the Church must lose if her doctrines are taken entirely literally.

    I get it – all of it.

    Anyways, you never really appropriately responded to my theophany question, but I’ll give you my personal answer – what we see shall be consistent with the prophets, and it won’t be the evolutionary version. The reason the prophets give a consistent picture is because that’s the way it happened. But you needn’t believe that.

    Peace!

    Comment by Log — April 23, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

  67. Here’s my original response to #65.

    Geoff J,

    The ancient Christians had the priesthood too; if I recall my Nibley correctly, there were faithful Saints up till around the time of Nicea. I can’t locate my source just now.

    The parallel is that some of the Saints, both ancient and modern, engage in the practice of falsifying the scriptures – call it deliteralizing, allegorizing, or spiritualizing, if you like – in response to confrontations with the dominant philosophy of their age. This process has as its intent the rendering of the scriptures conformant to the reigning philosophy.

    The process of falsifying the scriptures seems to have the effect of weakening faith in the Brethren, and certain members use the rift in the relationships as well as the appeal of the denatured scriptures in contrast to the unyielding, narrow, uncompassionate, crass literalism of the Brethren to pressure the Brethren to allow things into the church which should not be there – anciently, perhaps belief in an embodied God had to go, while icons and Platonism were introduced; today, perhaps the goals are homogamy, naturalism, and women in the priesthood.

    After all, falsifying the scriptures is but one step removed from falsifying the Brethren, for what are scriptures but the fossilized words of the Brethren, hopefully spoken as moved upon by the Holy Spirit – if the fossilized Brethren can be falsified, why not the current Brethren?

    It appears we are simply doing that which has been done in other words by mingling the philosophies of men with scripture.

    Understand, I’m looking at the “big picture,” not accusing you of apostasy.

    When I speak of “faith in” the Brethren, I mean such things as “trust in,” “good will towards,” “loyalty to,” “unity with,” and the like – mostly “trust in.”

    Comment by Log — April 23, 2012 @ 7:00 pm

  68. Log,

    Thank you for your conciliatory words in #66.

    As for your comment in #67 I disagree with your basic premise there. First your term “falsifying the scriptures” seems like gibberish to me. A person believing certain scritural stories are historical or allegorical does nothing to make scriptures false or true. Scriptures are either inspired by God or they are not and the cannot be “falsified” by people.

    Claiming that anything but hyper-literalism is somehow “falsifying” scriptures is simply begging the question at hand and thus adds nothing to this conversation.

    Further, it seems to me that if God wants another Great Apostasy he will get his wish. If God wants the church never apostatize again he’ll get that wish too. (Not that I’m a fatalist — I just think God is actively involved in guiding the fate of His restored church.) It seems to me that if you see yourself on a crusade to end hypo-literalism among the saints in order to protect the church from some next Great Apostasy you are mostly overstepping your authority and steadying the ark.

    But more likely you are doing what I’m doing — just engaging in an interesting debate on an interesting subject. Since I am pretty sure that is really what you are doing I thank yo for the enjoyable debate. Also thanks again for coining “hypo-literalism”. I wish I had thought of it but I will definitely use it going forward.

    Next, I suspect when all is revealed we will be surprised at how much of the science the children of God have uncovered here on earth is utilized by God. But we shall see.

    Finally, no I don’t think hypo-literalism leads one to trust in the brethren less when it comes to the spiritual counsel they give.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 23, 2012 @ 7:43 pm

  69. Geoff J,

    I explained the content behind the phrase “falsifying the scriptures,” but you needn’t accept my definition, neither must you concede my position.

    I’m not so much interested in debating, believe it or not, as socializing and observing. Unfortunately, socializing in this context takes the form of debating. Or back-slapping. Or something.

    And, no, I’m not on any crusade. I am enjoying my present state of mind, and, since the R. Gary thread seemed on point, I thought I’d participate a bit. Mostly, I’m content to observe.

    Ahh, we shall see whose hypothesis about the relationship between hypo-literalism and faith in the brethren bears fruit. Certainly, let me not be understood to be saying there’s a necessary relationship, just as evolutionary theory, properly understood, does not necessarily lead to more Jeffery Dahmers, even if it did lead to one.

    And with that, lurk mode on!

    Comment by Log — April 23, 2012 @ 8:41 pm

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