** Chapter by chapter summary of my book HERE
Both Jesus and Paul referred to certain individuals as “children of the devil”, Cain being the archetype of those who follow “in his way” (Jude11). John described Adam’s first-born as ek tou ponerou, i.e. derived from the Evil One (1Jn3:12). Ultimately of course like Lucifer himself, he is derived from God. All human souls are created by God (cf. Rom9:21,22) but not all are planted by Him (Mt13:39; 15:13), a mystery that I explore so far as I have been enabled in chapter six of my book. Following on from my previous post, the requirements for acceptance within the Universal Covenant from which Cain defaulted are intuitive, a part of natural law, involving the innate spiritual faculty we know of as conscience. In the Bible’s definitive chapter on final judgement, the Matthew 25 sheep did not require “special revelation” or a religious creed to recognise that they should show compassion to those in need – it was intuitive to them, since they were “ek tou theou” (of God 1Jn4:7). As Jesus made crystal clear, such is the quality that determines a person’s post-mortem fate (Mt25:44-46). It is a passage in which religious faith is not mentioned at all, but such acts of compassion are evidence (indeed the efflux) of an underlying faith or godly fear as I seek to demonstrate from Scripture in chapter three of my book, along with evidence that such a concept of natural law was understood by the earliest (pre-Augustinian) Church Fathers who had received the Faith directly from the apostles or their immediate appointees and so were not solely reliant on biblical exegesis.
One’s status within the Universal Covenant also determines one’s involvement or otherwise with Satan as an agent (Greek: aggelos) within God’s mysterious providential role for evil. That is why Cain as the type of those rejected from that covenant was brand-marked and protected rather than wiped out there and then. These issues are, as it were, the un-illuminated side of the revelation globe, pertaining (I believe) to the final mystery concerning God’s intentions towards His earthly creation (cf. Rev10:4-10). Failing to perceive the mystery of providence has resulted in biblical theologians for ever attempting to fit three square pegs (soteriological categories) into two round holes (soteriological outcomes). Anyone reflecting with hindsight on our planet’s religious and cultural formation should discern that such a presentation of the “Good News” not only provides the direst of cosmic outcomes but distorts the perceived characteristics of both man and his Creator. It dishonours the magnanimity and loving kindness of the One and nullifies the underlying goodness of the other, especially mankind’s ability to practice agape (compassionate love) which ultimately determines what one is and where one is heading (Mt25 again), the religious dimension determining in what capacity (Dan7:18). Such foundational errors have also resulted in seemingly intractable tensions within scripture typified by the narrow way leading to Life that few will ever attain on the one hand and frequent intimations (not least by Paul) of God’s broader scale intentions to reconcile all redeemable humanity to Himself on the other. The latter is surely consistent with the divine nature as Scripture reveals it and the Son of Man reflected it: compassionate and forgiving, making allowance for human weakness and culturally related ignorance (Acts17:30 cp. Amos3:2), yet One who will by no means show mercy towards the merciless but will avenge them for the suffering they have caused to those He loves (cf. Ex34:6-7; 2Thes1:5-6; Rev16:5-7).
It is surely no coincidence that Adam had three sons as did our postdiluvian Patriarch Noah, and from these have sprung all humanity: Adam’s son Seth and Noah’s son Shem represent the elect line; Adam’s son Abel and Noah’s son Japheth the “righteous” within the Universal Covenant whilst Adam’s son Cain and Noah’s son Ham were the accursed defaulters albeit that only one of Ham’s sons was cursed (Canaan) as Ham had already received a blessing (Gen9:1). Once we arrive at the EXCLUSIVE Abrahamic Covenant, Isaac represents the elect line resulting in Israel, whist Abraham’s other son Ishmael who had been circumcised by his father and blessed by God (Gen17:20), thereafter remaining in His favour and care (Gen21:20) had not been elected to the Covenant of Promise. As for the Church –
“You brethren LIKE ISAAC are the children of promise” (Gal4:28NASB):
And you sisters and brethren, if baptised, are in the elective covenant that replaced Abraham’s and you are there by grace alone. Others are equally loved and precious to God as was Ishmael, but are not elected to the exclusive grouping predestined before the foundation of the world to form the community in which the spiritual resources and teaching are provided for faithful adherents to become holy and faultless in love before God through Jesus Christ (cf. Eph1:4,5). That is the Church, priesthood for the world (1Pet2:9), brought forth by God’s will to be the first-fruits of His creation (cf. Jam1:18)
[A quote from “Fellowship of the Secret” – chapter 3]
** Illustration: A photo booth “selfie” of Patrick Mackay (b. 1952), a.k.a. “the Devil’s Disciple” – a prolific UK serial killer, animal torturer and Nazi enthusiast, allegedly taken on the very day he axed to death the Catholic priest who had earlier counselled him
Following on from my last post I am well aware that the Church’s theologians cannot rely on a single passage in Genesis but must compare scripture with scripture, and the concept of an inclusive covenant for fallen humanity implicit in the Cain and Abel story (explicit when utilising the Masoretic text) hardly fits in with much else as it has been historically and universally interpreted ever since Christian doctrine was systematised. Moreover, the Greek Septuagint (LXX) renders the key verse about God’s warning to Cain somewhat differently and that is the version to which most of the apostles and the early Church will have referred. The Hebrew (Masoretic Text) is just as dependable as the LXX but it simply was not utilised by the apostolic Church, the Greek language being lingua franca for the Roman Empire and therefore the Greco-Roman Church. It is therefore no surprise that the apostles do not make direct reference to this verse (Gen4:7) whilst the early Fathers always quote from the LXX, which intriguingly refers to Cain’s incorrect division of his offering and that he should “be at peace and rule over him”; somewhat meaningless and surely a corruption of the Hebrew, presumably the “him” referring to the devil. I understand such obscurity to be an intentional veiling on God’s part regarding an understanding of a Universal Covenant, yet it is not dependant on this verse alone but can be deduced from Cain’s punishment and curse in which he became excluded from the nature of the relationship with God that his brother, his parents and indeed Cain himself experienced before the fratricide, which surely is the point (Gen4:11-14.).
However, the principle reason for what might in a dual sense be termed “the Lost Covenant” concerns the nature of the Bible itself which was never intended to be a detailed story of God’s creation; for example we know relatively little about the angelic realm from which evil had sprung and with which we will one day participate; rather scripture’s focus is the salvation history for the world centred on Christ, His cross and His peculiar peoples (the Jewish nation and the Church). Hence Abraham is a vastly more significant figure than Abel; both had “faith” and were justified by it, being representatives within covenants, but Abraham initiated the EXCLUSIVE covenant from which his own son Ishmael who had been blessed by God and circumcised by his father was not admitted (Gen17:20,23: cf. 21:20). Such a covenant was formed to provide the royal priesthood through whom God might enlighten and reconcile the world to Himself (cf. Deut4:5,6; Ex19:5,6; 1Pet2:9). The inclusive covenant into which Abel was declared to be righteous and Cain defaulted does not have a direct role in that salvation story, firstly because it pertains to that which is intuitive (so is not dependant on special revelation or a specific creed) and secondly because individuals are not “saved” through it, i.e. they are not purged of their sin and spiritually empowered to experience a living, transformational relationship with Christ whilst still in the body so as to be fitted to be His eternal Consort in the ages to come. That is the nature of gospel “salvation” and it requires “the exceedingly abundant grace which is in Christ Jesus” to accomplish it (1Tim1:14).
As considered in some detail in chapter two of my book, God’s munificent providence has been obscured by a foundational error in traditional western biblical theology – the failure to distinguish between fallen Adam and his psychopathic eldest son. The latter’s relationship with God radically altered AFTER his extraordinary act of defiance towards His creator and the murder of his brother (vv11-14), the theological consequences of which have been quite eluded.
The “death” referred to in God’s warning to Adam (Gen2:17) was clearly not physical death, he continued for centuries; nor did God say (as my Catholic NJB translation inaccurately infers) that Adam was “doomed to die”. The “death” he would experience would occur the very day he ate the forbidden fruit and is the “death” that every man and woman experiences as a consequence of the Fall: that is the disruption of their vital relationship with God – the very purpose for which they were made but cannot experience whilst “in the flesh”. This is the death Paul is generally referring to in his writings where at one point he asks “who will deliver me from the body of THIS death? (somatos tou thanatou toutou – Rom7:24). “This death” is referring to the condition that the unregenerate man he was depicting in that passage was currently experiencing such that he desired to do good but constantly gave in to the desires of the flesh (“the law of sin that is in my members” – previous verse). It is that absence of “Life” that Jesus spoke of when He said “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood you have no life in you” (Jn6:53). He means “eternal life” (lit: age life) being the present-day experience of “knowing God” (Jn17:3), which by its nature will also be everlasting (i.e. Jn10:28 is not tautological). Paul’s reference to death in this context neither refers to a person’s mortality nor that he is “damned” but the loss of the vital communion which our first parents brought about the day they ate the forbidden fruit. But thankfully “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive”. Cain, though is another kettle of fish… (to follow).
[These posts are intended to complement my book by identifying “glosses” in the interpretation of OT narrative which have impacted upon traditional Christian perspectives on divine providence]. /
Having acknowledged in my previous post that the Genesis account would not be expected to incorporate a scientific account of creative processes, moving on to chapter 3 and the “Fall”, I personally am content to take references to trees of knowledge and a garrulous snake literally. Those who regard the whole account as allegorical or symbolic must nevertheless take stock of the events and what they are intended to symbolise, given that all the key players in the saga are frequently referred to in New Testament writing. Adam and Eve disobeyed God, but that is only a third of the story, and the smallest third at that, once understood from a more enlightened Christian perspective such as that possessed by the apostle Paul (cf. Rom8:20,21NIV). In those two verses Paul identifies Whom he regards as ultimately taking responsibility for the Fall – it is certainly not man, he is third in the pecking order, which is not to say he is not culpable and deserving of the punishment which he has received. But the consequences outlined for man in Genesis are temporal, not eternal in nature, and (believe it or not) the punishment devised is ultimately beneficial for the recipients. By temporal I do not mean merely physical in nature; the “death” referred to in God’s warning to Adam pertained to his vital relationship with God which would be broken (cf. Jn17:3). Damnation will be a reality for some, but that is not what this “death” (or indeed Pauline “death”) is referring to. Hell has been prepared for the devil and his messengers/agents (Greek: aggelos), many of whom are human (Mt25:41) – we will shortly encounter their archetype in Genesis 4. The chief culprit at Eden was the snake representing Satan, whom it should be noted alone was cursed by God in the post-incidental exchanges (as later was Cain). Nevertheless, man’s Adversary would appear on the surface to have achieved a mighty victory, gaining control of the world order and seemingly ruining God’s plans for the elevation of its human inhabitants so that they may come to share in the divine nature – the cause of Satan & his minions’ rebellion in the first place. But the Adversary had played right into God’s hands and has actually facilitated the process! I will say no more about that here, merely offer a textual clue, which taken in the context of the above offers a solution to the mystery of evil. It explains why a sovereign God described by the apostle John as Love personified (1Jn4:8) permitted events to take the course they did at Eden; also why this will ultimately be beneficial for mankind, whilst at the same time immensely costly to the Godhead: it is Heb2:10, and it is Love beyond human imagining.