Skip to main content

It seems that God is asking humanity to live inside of a cosmic humility, as God also does. In that holding pattern, we bear the ambiguity, the inconsistencies, and the brokenness of all things (which might be called love), instead of insisting on dividing reality into the supposed good guys and the certain bad guys as our dualistic mind loves to imagine.

Such non-dual consciousness is our ultimate act of solidarity with humanity and even the doorway to wisdom. With this mind we realize, as Martin Luther wisely put it, we are simul justus et peccator, simultaneously both sinner and saint. Only the mind of God can hold these two together.

We read the story of humanity’s original sin in Genesis. There Yahweh says, “Don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:17). Now why would that be a sin? It sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it? We were actually trained to think that way.

In the seminary we took serious courses on “moral theology” to help us rightly discern who was good and who was bad. Unfortunately, this usually only emboldened the very judgmental mind that Jesus warned us against (see Matthew 7:1-2). Some then thought that this was the whole meaning of Christianity—religion’s purpose was to monitor and police society in regard to its morals.

Religion became all about morality instead of being a result and corollary of Divine Encounter. As such, this was much more a search for control or righteousness than it was a search for truth, love, or God. It had to do with the ego’s need for certitude, superiority, and order.

Is that what Jesus came for? Jesus never said, “You must be right,” or much less, “You must be sure you are good and right.” Instead he said, “You must love one another.” His agenda is about growing in faith, hope, and love while always knowing that “God alone is good.”

I guess God knew that dualistic thinking would be the direction religion would take. So the Bible says right at the beginning, “Don’t do it!” The word of God is trying to keep us from religion’s constant temptation and failure—a demand for certitude, an undue need for perfect explanation, resolution, and answers, which is, by the way, the exact opposite of faith. Such dualistic thinking (preferring a false either/or to an always complex reality) tends to create arrogant and smug people instead of humble and loving people.

Too much “eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” might just be the major sin of all religion—especially Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Bible’s first warning has consistently been ignored.

Richard Rohr

From Daily Meditation, August 31, 2014 [I reformatted the paragraphs]

Adapted from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, pp. 37-39

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.