”What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?”
Imagine, if you will, that you have a daughter barely able to walk and talk on her own.
In her short life this little girl has never been lied to, never been tricked, never been mislead or mistreated, and has only experienced people speaking the truth to her.
Imagine, if you will, that you place this child — your daughter — in a room to play while you do something else.
An adult drops in, and you let them stay in the same room as the child while you do something else (what exactly doesn’t matter).
Now, if you know this adult, and know they are trustworthy, you’ll have no qualms leaving them in the room with your daughter: She’s in safe hands because you know that adult would never ever harm her.
And the adult doesn’t, even though you are not in the room or watching.
So everything’s peachy keen.
Now suppose a different adult has dropped in, one you don’t know that well, but whom you have no reason to suspect would be the kind of creep to rape a child.
If you step into the room and find the creep raping your daughter, you may be criticized for not knowing this particular adult well enough to justify leaving them alone with a child, but at the same time you can argue you had no reason to suspect them and as such you are not as guilty as if, say…
…you knew the adult was a child molester and you leave them alone in a room with your daughter while you go do something else.
Now even there you have a defense:
You didn’t think they would be so brazen as to try something in your own home when you might walk in at any minute.
But let’s take this a step further…
Say the room is under surveillance, either a big two-way mirror in the wall or hidden security cameras. Let’s say you saw what was happening at all times.
Now, if you see the rapist making a move on your daughter and immediately rush to her rescue, you may have done something foolish by letting the rapist in the room with her in the first place, but at least you acted swiftly to prevent harm.
But if you didn’t pay attention to what the adult was doing, then you are a negligent parent at the very least.
But if you knew the adult was a child rapist, and if you saw them attacking your daughter, and you did nothing while it was within your power to stop it…
…and if you blame her for being raped afterwards…
…just what kind of parent are you?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
the story of Eve and the serpent
in the Garden of Eden.
More than any other story in the Bible, Old Testament or New, this one is the single most problematic.
Because a plain text reading indicates God doesn’t know what will happen and that the future is as much of an unknown to Him as it is to us.
In which case, why should we worship Him? No matter what promises He makes to us, He can’t guarantee He can deliver because He doesn’t know the future. (Call that Option #1)
And if He does know the future, then He should have known full well what the serpent would do when it had a chance and He let it happen anyway.
In which case, why should we trust Him? He set us up. (Call that Option #2)
And if he deliberately intended for it to happen just so He could punish us, then we are royally screwed, and just the playthings of a sadist. (Call that Option #3)
Now, our friends the atheists would look at options #1 & #2 & #3 and offer Option #4: There is no God, there is no divine presence, there is no moral center to the universe.
And the fundamentalist / literalists would offer Option #5 and say “Ah, God’s ways are not our ways; who are we to judge God?” in which case we would rightfully say “If God can’t clearly convey and articulate His desire for humanity in simple concrete terms that se can readily grasp, then communion with Him is an impossibility.”
Which is where the list of options usually ends…
But there is Option #6:
The story of Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden is not literally historically factually true but rather a parable by early culturally primitive and barbaric humans to express as best they could with their limited viewpoint their understanding of their relationship to the Divine.
This is where the atheists say “Yeah, right, whatever…” and go check the TV listings while the fundamentalist / literalists started screaming and stamping their feet and throwing a hissy fit: “No no no NO NO!!! It’s all literally historically FACTUALLY true — every single word of it!!! It must be literally true, it has to be literally true, because if it isn’t literally true then every single other thing in the Bible is false false FALSE!!!”
The same theology that makes God not a loving parent but either a negligent numbskull or a monster?
Because that’s where literalism inevitably takes us.
The Bible, no matter how Divinely inspired, no matter how faithfully transcribed, is still the product of human understanding.
And human understanding changes and expands and yes, even evolves from generation to generation, from year to year, heck, even from moment to moment.
And what some distant unknown Second Millennium BCE scribe recorded from whatever ur-creation myth his tribe hand passed down around the campfire from prehistoric times at best represents what they understood at that time, not what the actual Truth of the matter is.
It’s not the Bible that’s the problem, it’s the claim that only the surface details are important, not the underlying Truth.
Religion is a metaphor for the ineffable.