by Jonathan Brink
As I stood in my cheap motel room pouring over the evidence one more time, I felt a strange question arise in my Spirit. “Who else is in the Garden?” At that moment I happened to be standing in front of a mirror, and I caught my own reflection. “Who else is in the Garden?”
“We are,” I said out loud, and mirrors don’t lie. Had we located the problem incorrectly? Did the story present another possibility? The answer was a resounding, “Yes.”
Where the traditional theories had always pointed outward, casting the problem away from humanity, the story actually pointed the problem back at us. The key phrase in the story was, “And they realized they were naked.” Naked was always true but their judgment of it had changed. Created in the image of God, humanity held the capacity to construct a reality different from God’s. We held the capacity to judge the self in a way that was untrue. How then does God convince humanity it is good, when it has convinced itself it is not good?
This new possibility opened up an entirely new way of seeing the story. The problem wasn’t with God. The problem was in me. I need evidence to the contrary. I needed evidence that would release me from my own captive judgments. I needed someone to take my place in my own retributive form of justice, one that could only see guilt.
The cross was not God sending his Son to satisfy the demands of Satan, or to appease his own sense of justice. The cross was God lifting his arms to the world and saying, “This is how far I will go to show you that my original judgment of you was true.” For the first time the Gospel could be framed as a ferocious love. God’s justice was found in the act of mercy. It made sense in a way that seemed to redeem the Gospel. And it was so simple.
I’m still wrestling with my own religious (a-religious) feeling and am not sure where I land on much of it but this is really well said