Paul and Genesis 2ff.

So anyone who's recognized the Christ and Adam theme in Romans knows that Paul knows Genesis from at least chapter 2. And we know he knows the Abraham stories, and Jacob and Esau. I'm not sure about the Joseph novel, but even without it, a good deal of Genesis plays its part in Paul's thought.

And the spot I hadn't thought about until today was Romans 8. We know Adam is in Romans 5, and he's a popular guess for what's going on in Romans 7, but Romans 8 we tend to miss as the full-circle return to Romans 5 that ends the section. It took the suggestion that "the will of the one who subjected it" was human will to make me realize the parallel, though.

So: Romans 8, about the first half
From this we may know that there is no judgment against those who are in Christ Jesus, for the culture of the spirit of life has released you, in Christ Jesus, from the culture of failure and death. Indeed, God sent his own son in the likeness of fallible flesh, and in the matter of failure judged against failure in the flesh—the impotence of culture, the root of its habitual weakness because of the flesh—so that the duty of culture should be fulfilled among us, who do not comport ourselves according to the flesh, but according to the spirit.

Indeed, those who exist according to the flesh intend things of the flesh, but those who exist according to the spirit intend things of the spirit. For death is the intent of the flesh, but life and peace are the intent of the spirit—for which reason the intent of the flesh is opposed to God. It does not submit to God's culture, nor indeed can it; those who exist by flesh cannot be pleasing to God.

Now, you do not exist by flesh, but rather by spirit, since the spirit of God dwells among you. Now, if someone does not have the spirit of Christ, that person is not Christ's—but if Christ is among you, your body may be dead because of failure, but your spirit is alive because of justice. And if the spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells among you, the one who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through the indwelling of his spirit among you.

It therefore follows from this, siblings, that we are not duty-bound to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you live according to the flesh you are sure to die, but if in the spirit you put to death the acts of your body, you will live. For as many as are carried in the spirit, are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit that would return you as slaves to fear; instead you received a spirit of adoption, in which we cry, "Abba!" ("Father!"). This same spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are God's children. And if we are children, we are also heirs, inheriting from God and together with Christ, since we suffer together so that we will be glorified together.

Indeed, I reckon that the hardships of this season are not equal to the glory that is coming to be revealed to us. And the eager expectation of the creation anticipates the revealing of the children of God, because the creation has been subjected to idle uselessness, not voluntarily, but because of the one who subjected it, in the expectation that that same creation will be released from her bondage to attrition, into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Indeed, we know that the whole creation groans together and suffers the pains together even today; moreover, that we ourselves, who have the sign and title of the spirit, also groan among ourselves, anticipating adoption, the deliverance of our bodies.
And that's enough to get us the point. "The creation has been subjected to idle uselessness, not voluntarily, but because of the one who subjected it." Who is this one? The generally obvious answer is God, but it was proposed to me today that our human responsibility for sin means that we are the ones who have subjected creation to "futility," as the more common translation reads. And this is where Genesis must be our subtext. Because if God has subjected creation to inutility, impotence, and incapacity, we know exactly when it happened. It is the text of the expulsion from the garden, and the fate of creation as world after the Fall.

And this is appropriate, considering that the whole section from Romans 5-8 is about sin. It is about how God overcomes sin, and it is also about the value of culture with respect to sin. Note that this is the word I'm using where we usually say "law," and then discuss whether "law" always means "Torah" here or not. But Torah is not law. Torah is instruction, but what it does as a system is culture, not law. It is custom, and way of life. Halakhah, the path we walk before God, which is also why the word peripateo is used at the beginning. It is how we conduct ourselves. But Torah is not the only culture, and at the beginning of the address Paul had already slammed his audience for believing that culture is the true path to righteousness before God, that Torah is the true and necessary correction of sin. For agreeing with Romans 1:18-32 as a condemnation of the goyim.

And, indeed, Torah is not the solution to sin, nor is any culture. All culture is, is a way of life. And, in fact, it is culture and its customs that define sin. We do not know sin, without culture. We cannot possibly fail until there is a standard established. Ah, but that is the prima facie nature of the Fall: obviously, Adam and Eve were punished for failing to obey the standard set for them. For doing what the Edenic culture said "do not." If, therefore, we do what God has said to do, and not what God has said not to do, we will be righteous. Right?

Wrong, but this is how we come to think that law is obedience, and sin is failure at law. What is the true nature of sin? In what did our first parents truly fail? Eating from the tree of moral knowledge was only the fruit of sin, a sin that would have been compounded by eating of the tree of eternal life. Note that they were permitted and even intended to eat of the tree of eternal life, as long as they were in right relationship as creatures with their Creator, but that moral self-awareness in distinction from God turns the good into evil. Moral self-awareness in distinction from God makes of all of our good creaturely powers and abilities a true danger. And so God subjected the whole creation—plants, animals, and humans—to uselessness. To struggle and unproductivity. To the blunting of all of our powers and abilities. To the million deaths of attrition, and decay, and loss. The whole creation is expelled from Eden into the world, where there are no trees that simply grow, and hold forth easy fruit by which we may live. And it is kept there by angels with fiery swords.

Ah, but Paul is right: it is kept out of Eden, groaning and struggling, on the expectation that this is not an eternal fate. The whole creation and we ourselves within it eagerly expect and await the adoption and fulfillment of the time, when our redemption as adopted children will become real in glory. And how will this come about? Not through culture. Not even through Torah as the culture of Israel, the part chosen for the sake of the whole. All cultures that are not the culture of the spirit of life are cultures of failure and death. They are instruction that belongs to the body, to the flesh, to the life in the world. They do not teach relationship with God, only paths before God. They are at best pedagogy, training our human powers and abilities such that strength is perfected in weakness. Such that, when we are revealed to be the children of God, our strength will be in God alone, and it will be God's strength, and not our own, that is manifest in us.

And this is the purpose of Abraham, in chapter 4. Abraham, if we follow Genesis from the Fall onward, is the seed planted in the world, the seed that will grow into the adoption of the whole creation. The seed in whom Christ already is, by promise and potency of God's act. This is God's act, and none other, and the only path into this action is by the relationship of trust. Only trust in God is true justice. There is no other true human responsibility, no other obedience. There is, in fact, no other way that the human creature can be considered responsible, without this response. And this response is not even our own, but is the response of the spirit in us, carrying us, crying out with us as we suffer under the futility of our own failure. The spirit who enters the pedagogy of our limitation and becomes our true teacher, directing us to the fulfillment of God's own action for us and the whole creation in Christ.

This revelation of the return of the whole creation to trust in God, in its fullness, will be the harvest of Eden, and the release of the whole creation from its enforced idle uselessness. For failure God subjected us, and in failure God struggles along with us, teaching us faith. And we will be redeemed, and God alone will do it. For this we wait in hope!


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