And God said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? (Genesis iii. 11) Following the spiritual description of the first transgression, God confronts Adam. God’s Word can never be far away from Adam, for it is only through the Word that he will understand his newly-minted identity. The inner knowledge of himself as other than and opposed to what God’s Word intended for him to be, leads to this spiritual dialogue. His conscience generates the communiqué. How did I come to know that I was naked? Why am I now self-conscious about my nakedness? I was naked before, and yet now I am ashamed of myself, my parts. I have made a part of God’s creation, a false god. I have made a created thing into an all-defining whole. I have worshiped the creature rather than the creator. But before I acted out externally and visibly, in my mind I had severed myself from God’s will. Is this why I am now feeling the shame about myself? I have made myself a part or worshiped my own will apart from God’s goodness. And, is it because I tried to comprehend and digest what was not meant for my feeble nature? I wanted to know as God knows. Now I know evil according to my nature and not His. I have been found out. I am naked. I am isolated. And now I know the tempting power of God’s absence and the presence of all other things –first myself and then others, as threatening gods. Thus I am ashamed of myself. Clearly Adam came to an awareness of having tried to see and relate to the creation apart from God’s wisdom for his nature. Man as a creature can be safe from all evil only when he is willfully dependent upon God’s rule and sway in his life. A constant recourse to obedience was essential is man was to use all things in the enjoyment of God and His goodness.
Obedience comes from the Latin ob-audire, meaning to or toward hearing. Basically it means to submissively listen. In this case Adam becomes conscious of having silenced God, not having accepted and honored His governance or rule of creation. Adam had, in other words, stopped perceiving, knowing, and acquiescing to God’s generation of all being and meaning in creation. Adam was tempted to make himself the arbiter and creator of goodness, and as a result treated the creation as potentially his for the generation of new meaning. Derivative creatures receive their life from their Maker, awaiting articulation of their meaning from man’s contemplation of creation through revelation. Individual and independent creatures assert their authority over all else, and so conquer, subdue, and enslave what is other than themselves. They mistake license for freedom. Adam decided to actualize latent potentiality of individuality, and so was now drowned in a sea of subjective servitude.
What Adam discovers is that in fleeing his true master and Lord, he became the slave of another. If man rejects the rule and governance of God, then the world becomes an ungovernable unity of anarchy, chaos, division, opposition, and tyranny. Suddenly Adam feels the power of the world around him as what threatens to overwhelm him. Rather than seeing himself as a responsible and accountable part of a greater whole, he sees himself as the victim of an all-powerful tyrant whose irrational demands and incoherent energies conquer and subdue. Having removed himself from his divinely-appointed vocation and calling, the collective whole ceases to make sense. The knowledge of order is possible only if and when man does his job and does not exceed the power of his nature. Man is a spiritual creature whose nature is perfected coherently in relation to all others and in himself only when the unchanging truth of God illuminates his mind to the appropriate perfection of parts in the whole. Otherwise he becomes someone whose changing and impermanent condition becomes subject to the ungrounded and transitory world that surrounds him. Without the rule of God’s Word, reality becomes unpredictable and unstable. And thus man knows himself as what is moved by what is always changing.
And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. (Genesis iii. 12) Adam now sees himself as a victim, the powerless serf of an oppressive master whose rule he cannot resist. The woman, she made me do it. His spiritual obedience to God as his Lord now forfeited, man claims that he is subject to the elements of the world. So he claims that he had no free will in the matter. The parts of God’s creation become hard and cruel taskmasters –gods, whom man claims he was unable to resist. And, in a way, he is right. Left to his own devices –the perfection of his individuality, man cannot possibly live the good life. He cannot freely will the good unless the power to do so is given to him from above, as gift bestowed upon him to be remembered and cherished, as that truth of things the illuminates the mind and adjusts the heart in relation to God and creation.