All the “like some’s” of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian

blood-meridian-tSince I first read Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian some years ago I have been fascinated and at times bewildered by his amazing use of language. Honestly, his often obscure turns of phrase and his sometimes arcane words are one of the delights of the book. One of his favorite tools is the “like some” comparison. Having just finished Richard Poe’s Audible version of the novel, I was struck again by the vivid imagery of these “like some” statements. So I pulled up my Kindle version of the book and copied and pasted the thirty-something instances. (After creating this list I noticed a longer list of similes from Blood Meridian here that was compiled in 2017. Biblioklept includes all of the “like” similes whereas this list is only the “like some’s,” but check out that longer list as well.) Enjoy!

like some fairybook beast (p. 2)

like some wholly wretched baptismal candidate (p. 26)

like some demon kingdom summoned up or changeling land that come the day would leave them neither trace nor smoke nor ruin more than any troubling dream (p. 45)

like some reeking issue of the incarnate dam of war herself (p. 52)

like some deserter scavenging the ruins of a city he’d fled (p. 55)

like some heliotropic plague (p. 71)

like some great pale deity (p. 86)

like some loutish knight beriddled by a troll (p. 96)

like some instrument of ceremony (p. 101)

like some drunken djinn and resolve itself once more into the elements from which it sprang (p. 106)

like some fabled equine ideation out of an Attic tragedy (p. 110)

like some tatterdemalion guard of honor (p. 114)

Like some ignis fatuus belated upon the road behind them. (p. 115)

like some crazed defector in a gesture of defiant camaraderie (p. 132)

like some fabled storybook beast (p. 132)

like some third aspect of their presence hammered out black and wild upon the naked grounds (pp. 145-146)

like some strange vendor bound for market (p. 151)

like some reeking outland nurse (p. 153)

like some changeling (p. 155)

like some pale and bloated manatee surfaced in a bog (p. 163)

like some more ancient ossuary (p. 170)

like some terrible hatching (p. 207)

like some egregious saltland bard (p. 214)

like some queer unruly god abducted from a race of degenerates (p. 248)

like some storied hero (p. 264)

like some great balden archimandrite (p. 265)

like some wild thaumaturge out of an atavistic drama (p. 266)

like some scurrilous king stripped of his vestiture and driven together with his fool into the wilderness to die (p. 275)

like some medieval penitent (p. 275)

like some immense and naked barrister whom the country had crazed (p. 277)

like some dim neolithic herdsman (p. 282)

him like some mad dowser (p. 283)

like some naked species of lemur (p. 291)

like some monster slain in the commission of unnatural acts (p. 319)

Genesis 6:1-10

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Genesis 6

1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

In 1895 a 23-year-old Stephen Crane published a book of poems entitled The Black Riders and Other Lines. He was inspired to write his brief poems after being introduced to Emily Dickinson’s work. The Wikipedia page on the collection states that “Crane told friends that the poems came to him spontaneously and as pictures, saying, ‘They came, and I wrote them, that’s all.’”[1]The poems are provocative. Crane was an atheist and many of the poems reflect his anger at the idea of God or at God Himself. They are very interesting and many of them are memorable. Here is the ninth of the poems:

I stood upon a high place,

And saw, below, many devils

Running, leaping,

And carousing in sin.

One looked up, grinning,

And said, “Comrade! Brother!”[2]

From the first time I read that it stuck with me. I do not know how Crane intended for the poem to be interpreted, but it is very difficult for me as a Christian not to see a deep theological truth in these words: the world is fallen and the story of human history appears to grant legitimacy to Crane’s picture of a devil looking at a man and saying, “Comrade! Brother!” Human beings far too often do act like devils and the story of human history must tragically be seen ultimately to be what is called “a narrative of declension,” a story with a downward trajectory. We have already seen this in the way that the lineages of Cain and Seth are presented in the latter half of Genesis 4 and in Genesis 5. We see it to in the events leading up to the flood in Genesis 6.

In the first ten verses of Genesis 6 we see three portraits: of the many, of the One, and of the few.

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Genesis 4:17-Genesis 5

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Genesis 4

17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. 19 And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. 20 Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah. 23 Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. 24 If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.” 25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.

Genesis 5

1This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Manwhen they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died. When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh. Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died. When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan. 10 Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11 Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died. 12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel. 13 Kenan lived after he fathered Mahalalel 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14 Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died. 15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he fathered Jared. 16 Mahalalel lived after he fathered Jared 830 years and had other sons and daughters. 17 Thus all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he died. 18 When Jared had lived 162 years, he fathered Enoch. 19 Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20 Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died. 21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters.23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. 25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech. 26 Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27 Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died. 28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29 and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relieffrom our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” 30 Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died. 32 After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

How is it possible that two sons born into the same family can end up so very different from one another? That is actually a question that researchers have looked into. In a very interesting NPR articled entitled “Siblings Share Genes, But Rarely Personalities,” three major theories were put forward:

Theory One: Divergence

“…[W]hen organisms compete,” says [Frank] Sulloway, “there tends to be a phenomenon…called the principle of divergence. The role of divergence is basically to minimize competition so it’s not direct. And that leads to specialization in different niches.”

So if one child in a family seems to excel at academics, to avoid direct competition, the other child—consciously or unconsciously—will specialize in a different area, like socializing…

Theory Two: Environment

The second theory has a slightly confusing name; it’s called the non-shared environment theory, and it essentially argues that though from the outside it appears that we are growing up in the same family as our siblings, in very important ways we really aren’t. We are not experiencing the same thing.

“Children grow up in different families because most siblings differ in age, and so the timing with which you go through your family’s [major events] is different,” says Susan McHale, a researcher at Pennsylvania State University. “You know, a parent loses a job, parents get divorced. If you are three or five years behind your sibling, the experience of a 5-year-old whose parents get divorced is very different from the experience of a 9-year-old or a 10-year-old.”

Also, McHale says, children in the same family are rarely treated the same by their parents, even if parents want to treat them the same.

“Children have different needs,” McHale says. “They have different interests. They have different personalities that are eliciting different treatment from parents.”

Theory Three: Exaggeration

The final theory is the comparison theory, which holds that families are essentially comparison machines that greatly exaggerate even minor differences between siblings.

Imagine, says McHale, two friendly children born in the same family. “One of those children is incredibly extroverted, and the other is just very sociable,” says McHale. In the context of any other family, says McHale, the second child would be considered an extrovert. “But in this family,” says McHale, “she’s the introvert.”

And once the introvert label is assigned—even if in an absolute sense it’s not really true—it influences the choices that the child makes.

“And so we pick different groups of friends, we spend our time in different ways that only reinforces what may have been a very small difference to begin with,” McHale says. “And, you know, once you get these forces feeding on one another, differences escalate over time.”[1]

Again, all of this is very intriguing, and I have no doubt that many of us in the room today have our own theories about how the divergent paths of children coming from the same home come to be, but I would like to consider that second principle a little closer, the principle of divergence. There may indeed be something to this idea that human beings take divergent paths to “avoid direct competition,” but there is another option. I am speaking of the option of removing your competition all together.This is the path that Cain took. He simply killed Abel when he sensed, in his mind, competition. Even so, in the latter half of Genesis 4 we find something very interesting: God gives Eve another son, Seth, who, she said, would took the place of slain Abel, and the divergent paths continued anyway.

The descendants of Cain and the descendants of Seth represent divergent paths, two paths, two approaches to life. These sons, born to the same parents, represent two ways of living life and two ways of viewing God and God’s role in our lives. These divergent paths coming out of the first family have been recognized throughout Christian history. For instance, Augustine of Hippo, in the 4th/5thcentury, observed:

We have two lines of succession, one descending from Cain and the other from the son who was born to Adam in order to be the heir of Abel who was killed and to whom Adam gave the name of Seth…Thus it is that the two series of generations that are kept so distinct, the one from Seth and the other from Cain, symbolize the two cities with which I am dealing in this work, the heavenly city in exile on earth and the earthly city, whose only search and satisfaction are for and in the joys of earth.[2]

Later, Konrad Pellikan, the 15th/16thcentury German Protestant reformer and Hebrew scholar, wrote:

Cain is the patriarch of all the impious, the first stone in the edifice of the city of the devil, the archetype of the sons of this world who do not believe in God, who blaspheme his judgments, persecute their neighbors, envy their brethren’s good fortune and despair of the mercy of God. But Abel, according to the testimony of Christ, is the first righteous one, the ancient church’s first martyr for the sake of righteousness, chosen by God through faith and charity, and his works were accepted on that account.[3]

And here is one more example. The 16thcentury Anabaptist Dirk Phillips put it in these terms:

…from that time on two kinds of people, two kinds of children, two kinds of congregations have existed on earth. They are, namely, God’s people and the devil’s children. God’s congregation and…assembly of Satan…[4]

Two sons. Two paths. Two ways of doing life.

Here is my thesis: everybody in this room today is on one of these two paths right now, at this very moment.The important thing is to understand this and to see which path you are on.

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Genesis 4:8-16

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Genesis 4

8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

I have long loved John Steinbeck’s novel, East of Eden. I personally think it is better than The Grapes of Wrath, but that is just me. There is an amazing scene in the novel in which three men—Samuel Hamilton, a man named Adam, and Adam’s Chinese cook, Lee—discuss the story of Cain and Abel. They wrestle with trying to understand what it means.

“Two stories have haunted us and followed us from our beginning,” Samuel said. “We carry them along with us like invisible tails—the story of original sin and the story of Cain and Abel. And I don’t understand either of them. I don’t understand them at all but I feel them. Liza gets angry with me. She says I should not try to understand them. She says why should we try to explain a verity. Maybe she’s right—maybe she’s right.”

After getting a Bible and reading Genesis 4, the men discuss the meaning of it. Samuel Hamilton offers this explanation of God’s rejection of Cain’s offering and then Cain murdering Abel.

Samuel said, “There’s an advantage to listening to the words. God did not condemn Cain at all. Even God can have a preference, can’t he? Let’s suppose God liked lamb better than vegetables. I think I do myself. Cain brought him a bunch of carrots maybe. And God said, ‘I don’t like this. Try again. Bring me something I like and I’ll set you up alongside your brother.’ But Cain got mad. His feelings were hurt. And when a man’s feelings are hurt he wants to strike at something, and Abel was in the way of his anger.”[1]

It is a charming attempt at an interpretation—God simply preferring lamb to carrots—but as we saw last week the scriptures actually do explain why God rejected Cain’s offering (i.e., Cain not bringing his best, Cain not having the faith of Abel, Cain being self-focused). Even so, I suspect Samuel’s homey explanation of the murder itself is probably correct. Let us hear it again:

But Cain got mad. His feelings were hurt. And when a man’s feelings are hurt he wants to strike at something, and Abel was in the way of his anger.

Yes, perhaps it is just that simple: Cain got mad, Cain wanted to hurt something, and Cain’s eye fell on Abel. We can be sure that Cain’s wrath at Abel is stoked to a red fury by God’s favoring of Abel’s offering. So, he seeks Abel out and he kills him. Indeed, as Samuel Hamilton says, we carry this story around with us like an invisible tail. It does haunt us. It frightens us. Why? What is its abiding significance?

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Genesis 4:1-7

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Genesis 4

1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

I am always intrigued by what people do NOT name their babies in America. You do not, for instance, meet many baby Adolfs here. You do not meet many Benedict Arnolds. You do not meet many Judases. Imagine if, at the child dedication service on Mother’s Day, we went down the line of beautiful little children and read these names: “This is little Charles Manson. And this is little Jezebel. And this is little Mussolini. He weighs 6 lbs and 7 oz.!” Can you imagine? Everybody would be thinking, “What in the world are these parents thinking?!”

No, there are some names that are just too damaged to be used. It is almost like an etymological curse hangs upon them. Most people would find the bestowing of these names on a baby today to be at least bad form and at most cruel.

Here is another name that I have yet to see parents give a child: Cain.I am not suggesting there is nobody named Cain today. For all I know you may know somebody who was named that. But I do not. At the least we can say that it has to be one of the more unpopular names, Cain.

So powerful is the imprint that misdeeds can leave on a name that I would wager many of you immediately had dark thoughts and feelings at the very mention of the name: Cain.

The story of Cain is a tragic story. There is some insinuation that Eve might have realized that Cain was going to be a disappointment in the way she named her second son, Abel. When Eve gave birth to Cain she said, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” The word for man is ish: “I have gotten an ishwith the help of the Lord!” This is not the word that is used of baby boys. It is used here because of Eve’s astonishment and sense of overwhelmed amazement that just as God had created a man, Adam, now she had been privileged to assist in the creation of another ish: “I have gotten an ishwith the help of the Lord!”

Eve begins, then, with jubilation and astonishment! She has high hopes for Cain! However, in the very next verse we read the understated, “And again, she bore his brother Abel.” It is not just that the birth announcement of Abel is much less dramatic than that of Cain. It is also the naming of Abel.

The name Abel means “vanity or weakness” or “vapor,” something temporary, something doomed not to last.  Clyde Francisco has observed that some believe the name “Abel” may reflect Eve’s disappointment at realizing that Cain would not be the hero God had spoken of who would crush the head of the serpent when she realized Cain’s “stubborn nature even as a baby.”[1]Remember: she named Abel “Abel” obviously before Cain committed his great crime. This means that there was something in the boy Cain that led her to move from the elation of her initial announcement—“I have gotten an ish!”—to such a situation of despair that she called her second son “vapor.” Was calling Abel “vanity” or “vapor” a self-condemning statement of her own vanity in thinking that Cain could be the promised one or was the idea that of “weakness,” both her own, her children’s, her husband’s, and the whole human race’s, in the light of this frustration?

Even so, Cain falls far from Eve’s initial grand hopes and becomes for us a chilling cautionary tale of what happens when we turn from God.

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Genesis 3:14-24

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Genesis 3

14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” 16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” 17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” 20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. 22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

A few days ago my brother sent me a picture of a large snake slithering across the dirt rode down which he had been traveling. It appears to be a Kingsnake. My brother observed that he had stopped his car to watch the snake cross the road in front of him. I observed in reply that, if I were him, I would continue to watch the snake from inside the car!


It was a poignant reminder for me as I prepared to preach on our text. Adam and Eve have sinned against God. Eve gave ear to the devil, who, in the garden, came to her in the form of a serpent. And Adam had listened to Eve. Thus, they fall.The Fall is one of the most crucially important truths of all scripture. The Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck put it in these terms:

…the Fall is the silent hypothesis of the whole Bib[lical] Doctrine of sin and redemption; it does not rest only on a few vague passages, but forms an indispensable element In the revelation of salvation. The whole contemplation of man and humanity, of Nature and history, of ethical and physical evil, of redemption and the way in which to obtain it, is connected in Scripture with a Fall, such as Gen. 3 relates to us.[1]

I could not agree more. The Fall is indeed “the silent hypothesis” of scripture. It is perhaps no surprise, then, that the Fall is one of the most attacked and dismissed doctrines in the church today. This is a tragedy, for if we lose the doctrine of the Fall we lose a key component of the overall message of scripture. For this reason we should pay special attention to what scripture says about the result of Adam and Eve’s sin.

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Genesis 3:7-13

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Genesis 3

7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

If you think about it, questions have their rightful place in a relationship, but when they are present in abundance it usually means that something is wrong. The greatest moments in any relationship tend to be declarative, not interrogative: “I love you.” “I am happy to be with you.” And, of course, “You complete me!”

Imagine, however, if you went to a wedding and the preacher said, “Do you take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife?” and the groom responded with, “What do you mean? Why? What does lawful mean? And what is this about wedded?” Or imagine the preacher says, “I Bubba take thee Oree…” And Bubba says, “Where do I have to take her?”

Yes, sometimes questions mean that something is wrong. This fact is demonstrated in Genesis 3 and the immediate aftermath of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit. When God confronts them hiding in the garden, He peppers them with questions. In fact, He asks four questions right out of the gate:

“Where are you?”

“Who told you that you were naked?”

“Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

“What is this that you have done?”

These questions, all rhetorical in one sense since God knew the answer to them all, served a vital purpose: they were intended to get Adam and Eve to own what they had done and see the significance of their crime. I would propose that these questions maintain their significance in our own day and always will. They are the questions that we all must answer if we are to see rightly our broken relationship with God and if we are to put ourselves in a position to be restored and saved by God.

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Genesis 2:25-3:7

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Genesis 2

25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Genesis 3

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

All scripture is inspired by God and authoritative. Even so, there are certain sections of scripture that communicate key and foundational doctrines, doctrines upon which the rest of scripture hinges and in the light of which the rest of scripture makes sense. The beginning of Genesis 3 is one such section of scripture. I am not exaggerating when I say that if you get Genesis 3 wrong you will get John 3 wrong. Indeed, if you do not understand the entry of sin into the world, you will not be able to understand the cross and the empty tomb.

The chapter/verse distinctions in scripture are oftentimes muddled. Remember: the chapter/verse distinctions were added many many years after the writing of the Bible. One may criticize them in good conscience! The separation of Genesis 2:25 from the first seven verses of Genesis 3 would be one such occasion for criticism! Genesis 2:25 and Genesis 3:7 form an inclusio, a bookended section that begins and ends with a common image and whose verses are defined by the bookends. Look at the first and last verses of our section:

Genesis 2

25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Genesis 3

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

Do you see? The bookends have to do with (a) the nakedness of our first parents and (b) their understanding of that nakedness. In Genesis 2:25 we see innocence. Adam and Eve are naked but “not ashamed.” They have nothing of which to be ashamed in Genesis 2:25. But in Genesis 3:7, they are naked and know they are naked. Thus, they feel shame and seek to hide themselves.

Were one to situate these two verses on a graph, one would put Genesis 2:25 in the upper left corner of the graph and Genesis 3:7 in the bottom right corner with a sharply descending line going from the former to the latter. On the line one would write, “the fall.”

These two verses show the radical devastation wrought by what Christians call the fall of man, by which we mean humanity’s descent from innocence to shame, from guiltlessness to guilt, from holiness to sin, and from a right relationship with God to a fractured relationship with God. Indeed, the fall of man refers to the entry of death into the world, for this is ultimately what Adam and Eve’s sin brought into the world: death.

The question becomes, then, “How did we get here? How did this happen?” And to answer this we can turn to a close examination of the verses between our bookends, Genesis 3:1-6. They are not only a record of what went wrong. They are also an explanation of what goes wrong every day in your life and in mine and the lives of all human beings when we sin. This is the story of humanity and our fall into shame.

How did this happen? How did our first parents fall?

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Genesis 2:21-25

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Genesis 2

21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

At this point in our nation’s ethical and moral history, it should be clear that Christians are faced with two very clear and contrasting choices: either we will allow the scriptures to shape our views of gender, marriage, and human sexuality or we will allow the culture to do so. I would compare these two choices to, respectively, a lighthouse and a sea-bound ship. The lighthouse does not move. It is unchanging and it gives light and, when heeded by those at sea, life as it steers us away from the deadly rocks. The sea-bound ship of the culture has set its back to the lighthouse and is speeding with narcissistic confidence into the great unknown of the deep. Those on this ship are calling out to those in the lighthouse to abandon the set light of scripture and to join them in the thrilling wilds of adventure. And many, tragically, are swimming frantically out to sea hoping to catch up. Others in the lighthouse remain inside, but only just so, and feel deeply conflicted. “Are those on the boat right after all?” they wonder. “Are we in the lighthouse out of touch and outdated?” Then there are others—and we would call these orthodox, biblical Christians—who realize that the lighthouse is very different from the seabound ship, but who believe that the light of the lighthouse is truth, that it is God-given, and that it is indeed the path to life and joy!

Our church wants to be a lighthouse church. Even now there are water-logged survivors of the speeding ship of culture who are climbing back onto shore after being thrown into the chaotic deep by the instability of the boat. These survivors are announcing that what was promised at sea was not what was actually at sea! Others on the boat remain defiant.

Even so, the church is a lighthouse and a lighthouse we must remain. We are founded on Christ. Our light is the gospel. The scriptures are our guide, for they are God-breathed. Therefore, when it comes to these crucial matters of gender and sexuality, we are fully aware of their unpopularity but fully convinced at the same time of their truthfulness.

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Genesis 2:18-23

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Genesis 2

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

As we work through Genesis 2 we are building a case for the social realities of human beings as revealed by scripture. We began by noting the fundamental fact of the social nature of human beings as evidenced by God’s words in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” We will now consider the maleness and femaleness of humanity. We will next consider the specific reality of marriage and all of its astonishing implications.

As we turn to Genesis 2:18-23 I am struck by the fact that probably for the first time in the history of the church are pastors in any widescale sense having to say the things I am going to say today regarding the human sexes and gender. There are few areas where there is more confusion and more hostility and more outright attacks on biblical truth than in this area. We may thank God, then, that He has not been silent on these vitally important issues.

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