Two Gardens, Two Philosophies And The Future Of God
This morning, I read Matthew 26:39 as my devotion text. It was a text I randomly selected, but as I read it, I reflected over two things. The first was the existence of two gardens in my life. The second was my response to either of the gardens and the consequences attached to my choice. The two gardens I read existed and continue to exist in our lives. The first garden was recorded in the book of Genesis. It was referred to as the Garden of Eden. According to the Bible, it was purposely created by the Triune God to provide a comfortable habitat for humankind. It was the garden that hosted our primal ancestors - Adam and Eve. For a very long time, scholars, usually those with a bent towards Afrocentric thinking have debated the exact location of the Garden of Eden. In 2006, I followed the teaching of Ben Ami, the founder of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, who contended that the Garden of Eden was located in Africa. Consequently, he argued that Adam and Eve were Africans. This argument ties into the debate over monogenesis (one God creating all men) or polygenesis (two separate deities, creating the ''white' race and 'black' race). To argue that Adam and Eve were blacks was/is part of the attempt to foist a romantic history of Africa and its civilization. There are those who think part of the location of the Garden of Eden is in somewhere present day Iraq.
Since we are unlikely to get to the bottom of the exact geographical location of the Garden of Eden, I will concentrate on the philosophical foundation of the Garden. In the Garden of Eden, God made Man (used in the generic sense to include women) His viceroy. Man was a finite creator who did at the finite level what the Triune God does at the infinite level. As a viceroy of God, Man was given supreme mandate over creation. He was authorized to develop his intellectual abilities, as God allowed him to name some aspects of creation. Also, in the Garden, Man was not lacking in anything. He was given two instructions to manage the Garden. First, he was to till it. In other words, God made work a divine-cultural mandate. Work was not to be seen as a curse. It was to be seen as part of the creation order. The fact of work being a divine-cultural mandate was recapitulated by the reformers of the sixteen-century, particularly John Calvin. Calvin argued that idleness was the same as godlessness. It was in this sense that we got the dictum: ‘’No pain, no gain.” The fixation the protestant reformers had about work gave birthed to what Max Weber, the sociologist, described as 'Protestant Ethic'. Weber contentiously argued that it was the 'Protestant Ethic' that birthed western capitalism. When the early missionaries, particularly the Basel came to Ghana (formerly Gold Coast) in 1824, they instituted the work 'Protestant Ethic' in the Eastern Region of Ghana, where they established plantations.
There was also another rule in the Garden. Man was to depend solely on God. He was to remain obedient to the supreme will of his creator. A test of Man's obedience was his attitude to a particular tree that had been planted in the Garden. God created Man both as a social and moral being. As a social being, Man was gregarious who had capacity for group living. It was this bent of Man that inspired the excitement of Adam expressed when God brought Eve to him. And as a moral being, Man was capable of making moral judgment. He was not a robot who was to be manipulated. In other words, Man had a free choice to obey or disobey God. His decision, however, had consequences attached to it. He was responsible because he was able to respond. Since Adam was the progenitor of the human race, his decision had a lasting effect. He represented all human beings before God. His obedience and disobedience were to affect human beings accordingly. The law of representation was instituted right in the Garden of Eden. Also, the education in the Garden was both theocentric and eco-centric in focus.
Growing up, I heard many people say the tree in the Garden was an apple tree. Obviously, this can be nothing other than pseudo-biblical myth. Be as it may, the tree represented a test of Man's loyalty. Sadly, Man missed the mark. The reason leading to his disobedience was the focus of my meditation. He succumbed to the lie that 'He would be god, like the Triune God.' Since Adam desired to be god, his descendants have never shied away from wanting to be god. The resurgence of spiritism, occult practices and rituals, witchcraft, the New Age Movement (which is a fusion of western science and eastern mysticism) is a clear exhibition of Man's effort at usurping the authority of God. The rationalistic movement of the enlightenment, which made reason the canon and judgment bar of all things formed/forms part of Man’s attempt to displace God. The deification of reason was well captured by Protagoras, ‘Man is the measure of all things.’
In my meditation, I searched to find out areas in my life where I had expressed an inordinate desire to be god. It became obvious to me that many times, I took decisions without duly involving God. I also realized that I spend countless hours reading books other than the Bible, the compass of life. I also realized that I had become comfortable in establishing relations with others (anthropocentrism and eco-centrism) more than with Jesus Christ, my Lord (theocentrism). Perhaps, you might also be wondering areas in your life where you have attempted supplanting God. In the end, in the Garden of Eden, the philosophy Man developed was egocentric and self-serving. This is expressed as: "Let my will be done." Also, the political economy of the Garden of Eden was framed around self-sufficiency. No need for God. Throughout the ages, Man has expressed the inner desire for self-dependence and self-sufficiency. During the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, many of the French philosophes predicted the demise of God. In the nineteenth century, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, the German philosopher, captured the vision of the philosophes well, 'God is dead.' Indeed, Nietzsche did not mean to express the vicarious death of Jesus Christ. He was arguing that Man had run out of his need for God. God had become irrelevant and redundant.
One of the books I am reading for the next two weeks is Yuval Noah Harari's 'Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.' In the book, Harari argued that science and technology would displace God. Death will be conquered by science. Food production will increase and there will be no starvation. Wars will be over, as we edge towards cosmopolitanism and afropolitanism. Sickness will be over, as we make advances in medicine. And finally, death will be killed by science and technology. Certainly, we still express the desire to be gods in our own eyes. Must we be so upbeat about science and technology?
The second garden is the Garden of Gethsemane. The episode in the Garden of Eden records Jesus' last days on earth. He went to the Garden to seek the face of God and to re-energize Himself to face the excruciating pain that was awaiting Him. Unlike Adam who had a wife as a companion, Jesus had no one. His disciples could not stay awake for a few hours to pray with Him. He was literally alone. But he had to make a decision: either to be self-sufficient, self-dependent, or depend on God. But unlike Adam, Jesus succumbed to the will of His Father. He said, 'Let your will be done.' In other words, the philosophical foundation of the Garden of Gethsemane was 'God, let your will be done.' The need for God's will to be done is explicit in the prayer Jesus taught His disciples, including all Christians. He said that after we have prayed, we should conclude with the epithet: "Let your will be done." It is very easy for us human beings to press for our will to be done. Most of the wars, conflicts and tensions in the world are as a result of human beings asserting their will. Again, in my meditation, I asked myself: 'Do I allow God's will to be done in my life?'
The two Gardens mirror the present and future philosophies of our world. It also reflects the future of God in the affairs of human kind. If we think we are self-sufficient and self-dependent, we are challenging our ontological status as dependent being. Self-sufficiency is nothing but a rebellion against God. On the other hand, if we accept the will of God to be done in our lives, we show how obedient we are to our Maker. But the truth is that no matter the decision we make (whether we allow God's will to be done in our lives or not), we will face the consequences. Are we ready to receive the consequences of our choices? I pray that as we go through life, we will think through closely the two gardens in our lives.
Charles Prempeh ([email protected]), African University College of Communications, Accra