Even if you’re not much of a Bible reader, you’ve likely heard the story.
God creates Adam, and out of Adam he creates Eve. He tells them both not to eat from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” but a talking snake convinces them to do otherwise. God finds out and decides to banish them from the Garden of Eden, forever sealing the fate, not just of these two renegades, but of all their descendants, including you and me.
What’s often lost within this abbreviated retelling, however, is any clear indication of the one responsible for our supposed downfall. Is it Adam? Is it Eve? Is it God? Actually, it’s the snake, described by Christian Science Church founder Mary Baker Eddy in her exegesis on the Book of Genesis as the devil, a tempter, a liar.
Although I’ve never been one to take this story literally, I still find it instructive; in particular, the metaphor of the lying serpent.
Case in point:
Just last month I was out on a hike, mulling over a relationship with a friend of mine that had hit a rough patch, when all of a sudden I had this overwhelming sense that I was being lied to. I don’t mean that my friend had lied to me, but that I was being tempted to believe that the two of us were incapable of working through our differences.
Most people probably wouldn’t see this as such an unbelievable concept. After all, disagreements, even between friends, are a dime a dozen. But for me, it just didn’t make sense that the wholly benevolent God we read about in the first chapter of Genesis – well before the appearance of any snakes – would have set me up to be at odds with someone who I felt certain was created by the very same God.
So, assuming that neither my friend nor I were to blame, where did this disagreement, this lie, originate?
For me, that’s kind of like asking where the idea that 4+4=23 came from. I have no idea, and honestly, it would be a waste of time trying to trace the beginnings of what, in the end, is no more than a mathematical error. Rather than asking where it came from, then, perhaps we should be asking if it’s true.
I get it that it’s a whole lot easier to see the falsity of 4+4=23 than it is to understand that there was no basis to whatever was going on between my friend and me – if, as I said, we both shared the same creator. Even so, the result was the same in that I was immediately relieved of any sense of animosity. The only real difference, at least as I experienced it, is that while the former is backed up by the laws of mathematics, the latter was inspired by a deeper appreciation for the Divine.
Certainly there are more egregious lies that we face every day, whether they relate to politics, the economy, our family, our health – most of which are pretty hard to detect. And of course, there are those who feel that any effort to see through these lies is nothing more than positive thinking. Obviously, I see things differently.
“Because you cannot walk on the water and raise the dead, you have no right to question the great might of divine Science in these directions,” writes Eddy. “Be thankful that Jesus, who was the true demonstrator of Science, did these things, and left his example for us. In Science we can use only what we understand. We must prove our faith by demonstration.”
Just like the young baseball pitcher who makes his way through the minor leagues before taking on the more seasoned sluggers in the majors, we should all be willing to challenge the little lies before taking on the big ones. This step-by-step approach enables us to improve upon our God-given ability to distinguish between truth and error and, in so doing, to reap the benefits.
By the way, I’m happy to report that the sense of resolution I felt about that situation with my friend wasn’t one-sided. Ever since my revelation about being lied to, things have gone more smoothly between us. I also feel that much less likely to be fooled by any other snakes I might encounter in the future.