Sunday, December 29, 2013

MY ALLEGORICAL NOVEL OF HISTORY



For a couple of years or more I have been formulating in my mind a basic storyline for a novel. I must say that, among types of literature, the novel is not my preference. However, there are some things that you can say in a novel that you are not able to say in another type of writing.

At first, I wanted this novel to be loosely based on my ancestor’s lives in Sweden leading up to their emigration to America; then including their early lives in Wisconsin. There are some wonderful stories of my mother’s family’s lives that should be told.
However, since I have wanted the story to be mostly an allegory, it could not be tied too closely to the actual history of these folks. I would have to take too many liberties with the actual facts to make it fair to them.

Because of this, I will make no claims to the family history aspect of the story, although I will say that it is their history that is inspiring me in this task. The allegory aspect is the most important to me, since there is a story that I want to tell through it.

From time to time, I may include on this blog a portion of this first manuscript attempt, as I am doing this week; or perhaps some interesting historical fact I have learned in researching this project.
I am also asking your help in this. Even though the family history may be far from correct, I do wish to keep the actual history of national and cultural events as accurate as possible. If you see a mistake or an anachronism, I would appreciate your input.

Thanks. Here then, is the first part of the very first chapter.
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introduction to ANDERS JOHANSSON

It was almost startling how early in the day the darkness came. The time was only about 2:30 in the afternoon, but already it was difficult for the man walking in the failing light of evening to make out the trail back to his cabin. As the man picked his way through the dark shadows of nightfall, he stumbled once on a limb that had broken off of a tree and was lying in the darkness across the path. He slipped a bit in the snow and it was only with some difficulty that he managed to regain his balance and keep himself from falling all the way to the ground.

The walker was named Anders Johansson, and the place was the midlands of Sweden. More specifically, it was in the province of Värmland, and the year was 1874.

The darkness at this hour of the day had taken Anders almost by surprise, as if it were something out of the ordinary. But Anders knew that the early sunset should not have been unexpected. It was winter, and at these latitudes, the daylight hours were always fleeting at this time of the year.

Nevertheless, even though he knew this fact, it was every year that Anders seemed to be taken aback by the early sunset. He was caught unawares by this because of the stark contrast that there was between the winter and the summer months. In the summer, the situation was just the reverse. The sun barely even set below the horizon in the summer; and true darkness only lasted a couple of hours. But now, in the winter, there were a mere five or six hours of daylight, making the day seem almost over as soon as it had begun.



Anders reached the front step of his little cabin and stomped his boots to get rid of as much snow as he could before opening the door. He lived alone, so there was no warming and cheering fire waiting for him in the hearth. No smoke coming out of the chimney. The inside of the cabin would be cold. In fact, once he stepped inside, it seemed to him colder inside the cabin than it did outside. It wasn’t really, but when one enters a house in the winter, almost instinctively he expects it to be warm. When it is not, the coldness seems all the more intense.

Every evening this winter, when Anders returned to his cabin and felt the coldness even inside his home, his memory returned to another specific winter, just a few years ago. In this region of Sweden, that winter of the past was now remembered as the Winter of the Great Hunger. He had barely survived that year. Many people he knew did not. Even some of his own family had succumbed to the starvation of that time.

Anders shivered inside of his cold cabin, but it was not only the temperature that made him tremble. Despite the fact that that winter of hunger was some years in the past, the memory of it still made him shudder.

Just as the early darkness caught him a bit unawares, so did these nagging and distressing remembrances of that frigid winter of starvation. Anders had not thought much about it in the winters that immediately had followed that one, only in that he was glad that it was over. However, this year, he was haunted by the memories. He did not know why those thoughts suddenly made a return, nor could he shake the visions of the past that came to him.

In his mind he saw the emaciated bodies of his family, their eyes bereft of hope. In the village he had even seen a child sitting pitilessly in the snow by the edge of the road. His fingers were raw and red. The child had been so hungry that he had been gnawing on his own hands.

Anders quickly busied himself with getting a fire started in the large, open fireplace that dominated one end of his cabin. He did this mostly, of course, because he wanted to warm up his cabin as quickly as possible. However, if he were completely honest with himself, he knew that hurrying himself in the task would occupy his mind and let him put out of mind those harsh remembrances.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

THE SIXTH DAY - PART 7

ONE OF THE PURPOSES OF CREATION

As far as we can tell, when God created the animals, he immediately created both sexes of each kind of animal. The purpose was, after all, for the propagation of their own species. This was necessary to fulfill God’s desire that they should multiply on the earth. Of course, for the human
El Quetzal, Guatemala
species, both male and female are also needed for propagation, but there is also a deeper aspect of this particular relationship, an aspect that far exceeds that of the animals.
Eve was not created along with Adam, but rather at a somewhat later period. Moreover, as I noted the previous post, unlike all of the other breathing creatures, she alone was not made from the dust of the ground. Instead, she was made out of the material of Adam’s rib.
Adam himself recognized this uniqueness of Eve. When God brought Eve to him, Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man” (Genesis 2:23 NAS).
Adam realized that Eve had not been formed out of the ground like all the other breathing creatures, and even as he himself was. She instead had been made out of his own flesh, specifically out of his rib.
After so recently having named all of the animals,
Tepui Roraima - Venezuela
Adam was still in the mood for giving names to God’s creatures. He decided that this one that God had brought to him should be called “woman,” because, as he said, she had been taken out of a man.
I also noted earlier (part 4) some of the significance of giving a name to someone. Among other things, it is an indication of responsibility. Adam recognized immediately his responsibility for the well-being of Eve. The writer of Genesis, under the inspiration of God, said it like this: “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 NAS).
So foundational is this teaching in the husband and wife relationship that Jesus quoted it in teaching of the sanctity of marriage, (Mark 10:7), as did the apostle Paul (Ephesians 5:31). We also often quote this when speaking of the inviolability of the marriage vows. However, the significance of this goes way beyond fidelity in marriage.
Paul recognized this when, after he had quoted the Genesis statement, said this: “The mystery is great, but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church”
Estado Mérida, Venezuela
(Ephesians
5:32 NAS).

There is a sense in which an understanding of the relationship between Adam and Eve is foundational for us to have appreciation for the relationship that Christ means to establish with his church.
Adam could not have realized the future significance of this, nor could have Moses, who, we think, was the human author of the book of Genesis. Even today, although we have the word of the apostle Paul to teach us the fact that the relationship between Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is the beginning of an understanding of Christ and his relationship with his church, find this concept difficult to understand. I might even say that it is impossible for us to understand the full implications of this. All has not yet been revealed.
Nevertheless, this much we can understand. Even from the early days of the dawn of creation, God had in his mind the relationship that he was to form with his church. The editorial comment by Moses is a clear indication of that.
And who is this church of whom Paul speaks? Who is this one that will have such a close union with Christ?
Of course, we first may think of our local church, and if our local church is true to the teachings of Jesus and redemption by his work on our behalf, then that indeed is part of it. But if we were to think that the church of Christ is best understood in terms of a man-led organization or described as some sort of a political or denominational institution, then we would be missing the idea completely.
The very best definition of the church that I can find in the Bible is not an easy one to understand, and perhaps raises more questions that it gives answers. Nevertheless, it is a compellingly beautiful passage and one worth contemplating. I do it often:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

Then came one of the seven angels …and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.
(Revelation 21:1-3, 9-11, 22-27 ESV)

And it all began in the Garden of Eden.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

THE SIXTH DAY - PART 6

THE HELPER

After Adam had finished the task of naming all of the animals in the Garden of Eden, he fell into a deep sleep. It had been a day full of activity and he was exhausted! However, as busy as this 6th day of creation (and Adam’s very first day) had been, it was yet far from over.
But the deep slumber into which Adam fell was more than just the natural sleep of a tired man. The narrative in Genesis 2 tells us that it was God that caused this sleep to come upon him. The Lord had something in mind for Adam. What he had in mind would be for Adam’s benefit and delight, but it would require a bit of a sacrifice on the man’s part. While Adam was in his deep sleep, God opened Adam’s side and removed one of his ribs. It was from this rib that Eve was made.
Eve was a special creation. Earlier in the second chapter of Genesis, we learned that all of the beasts of the field and all of the birds of the air were formed from the soil of the ground (2:19). Adam was also formed in the same way (2:7). Eve alone, however, was not formed from the soil. She was instead created in an entirely unique way, out of the material from Adam’s rib.

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden
By Jan Brueghel the Elder

Another point of uniqueness in the creation of Eve is that when we learn of the creation of Adam and all the breathing creatures, the word that is used to describe the method that God used was that he formed them. I discussed this word at some length in Part 1.
However, this same word is not used in the creation of Eve. Instead, verse 22 of this chapter says that the Lord God made (banah) Eve out of Adam’s rib. This is a very common word in the Old Testament, and in all but just a few cases, it is used to describe a making or a building of something. For instance, it is the word used in the building of a home or the construction of an altar.
When Eve was created, she filled a need that had been previously unmet (please read the last post - Part 5). I do not mean to imply that Eve was in some way an afterthought, or that God had not previously planned on creating a female counterpart to Adam’s maleness. All of the animals and birds apparently already had a corresponding male and a female for each species. This seems to be true, since it was after the naming of the animals that the realization came upon Adam that he alone, among the living and the breathing creatures, did not have a mate.
Eve is called Adam’s “helper.” To us, this has a slightly demeaning connotation. In our thinking, a carpenter’s helper is someone who the carpenter has to bring him tools and to clean up after him. A bricklayer’s helper carries bricks all day.
But this is not the meaning in the Old Testament. The word in the Old Testament is ezer, and to get a feeling for the word, here are a few other references that include this same word:

“The God of my father was my help (ezer), and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.” (Exodus 18:4b NAS)

“Blessed are you, O Israel; who is like you, a people saved by the LORD, who is the shield of your help (ezer), and the sword of your majesty!” (Deuteronomy 33:29 NAS)

Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help (ezer) and our shield. (Psalm 33:20 NAS)

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help (ezer) come?
My help (ezer) comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (Ps 121:1-2 NAS)

How blessed is he whose help (ezer) is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God. (Psalm 146:5)

You can see that all of these scripture passages use the word ezer as referring to God. In point of fact, in most places where it is used in the Old Testament, it does refer to God. The word ezer is one that speaks of a rescuer or a deliverer.
We should not think of Eve as being given to Adam necessarily to merely always assist him. Rather, in many ways, Eve rescued Adam from what would have otherwise been a less than complete existence.
I will conclude this series next week.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

THE SIXTH DAY - PART 5

THE EDUCATION OF ADAM


God knew from the beginning that the man Adam would need a companion. It was after God had showed Adam around the Garden of Eden that the Lord expressed his intentions concerning this. “It is not good for the man to be alone,” God said.
After reading that at the end of each creation day God saw all that had been done as being good, it is almost surprising now to hear him say that something was not good. It was not good for the man to be alone.
“I will make him a helper suitable for him,” God said.

The Creation of Eve from Adam
Raffaello Sanzio
The word helper is an interesting word and one that is commonly misunderstood. We will talk about that a little later. However, there is one point left over from a previous blog post (part 4) that we must conclude.

Another thing that is interesting to me in this narrative is that after God articulated Adam’s need for a helper, he did not immediately create Eve for him. Although God knew of this need, I wonder if Adam himself perhaps did not realize it. I mentioned in that same previous post what I believe was Adam’s superior intelligence, but even the smartest of us can be idiots when it comes to women. God decided that he needed to help Adam out a little.
Adam, at this time, was completely happy in his environment. I cannot speak for all men, but I know that for me, there is a feeling of complete contentment when I am in the woods. I lack nothing, even if I am alone. Over the years I have come to understand that there are several aspects about my personality that are not common to many other men, but I think that in this particular feature, I am not alone. It is the case of very many men that I know, that if you give them a backpack full of gear and drop them at the edge of a wilderness; you will discover one happy and
Oh, to someday return to Kashmir...
contented fellow.
In this same respect, I think that Adam was one happy and contented fellow. The garden was full of wonderful and awe inspiring places to explore and full of the creatures to observe.
But speaking of these creatures, what do we call them? It is almost unimaginable for us to think that it would be possible to be surrounded by such a menagerie of creatures and not put names to them.
When God suggested to Adam that Adam should give names to the animals, I am sure he welcomed the task. As I wrote in Part 4 of this series on the 6th day of creation, we do not know how large this undertaking was. However, God helped alleviate some of the logistics in the task of naming all of the creatures. God brought the animals in turn before Adam, so that Adam could assign names to each one. This was the original animal classification system.
But God had more than one purpose for this task. One of the things that had motivated God to give this job to Adam was the acknowledgement of the need for a helper for the man. God wanted to bring some femininity into the garden. The process of naming the animals was also part of the education of Adam in this regard.
There is little detail given as to how this naming was
More from Kashmir
done. It simply says God brought the animals to the man to see what he would call them. I suspect, however, that God did not bring the animals individually, but in pairs, the first male and the first female of each species.
After the naming of the animals, there is one simple commentary on the education of Adam concerning the need for a wife; “But for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.”
I mentioned above that Adam had been previously happy and contented in the Garden of Eden. I think that if he had been asked if there was anything that he needed, he would not have been able to think of anything. He had ideal living conditions, meaningful work, abundant food, and complete fellowship with God. It was not until he noticed that every animal had a corresponding mate that Adam may have been able to see that there was indeed something that he needed. Adam suddenly felt less than complete.
I also understand this sudden realization in Adam. In this sentiment, I know that I am not alone among men. This is an overwhelming commonality that men have. As we are hiking around the woods and the hills and enjoying the beauty of our natural surroundings, we are totally content. Suddenly, however, a twinge of incompleteness comes upon us. We would like someone to share this with. It is not enough to enjoy this alone.
But for Adam, “there was not found a helper suitable for him.”
It was with this thought that Adam fell into a deep sleep.

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I want you to know that it was my full intention to get to the creation of Eve in this post, but I see now that I have been a little long with the word. It has already reached the length to which I try to keep each individual post entry. I am going to have to wait until the next time to talk about Eve and the word helper. In many ways, the creation of Eve is the pinnacle of the creation story.

Monday, December 2, 2013

THE SIXTH DAY - PART 4


Like a potter forming an intricate clay pot on a potter’s wheel, on the sixth day of creation God formed the first man. “It is good,” He said. God was pleased with his creation.

Adam had not been created within the Garden of Eden, but from the dust of the ground outside of the garden. It was in some other location that God “breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life.” God had in his mind to create the woman as well, but interestingly, he did not do this immediately. He first took Adam to the garden to present to him his new home and to give him an orientation.


I cannot begin to imagine the wonder that Adam must
The Garden of Eden by Thomas Cole
have felt as the two walked around the garden! God, we know, was well pleased with his creation and must have been like a proud artist explaining his work. He showed Adam the trees of the garden and the many animals. He specifically instructed Adam about the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The text does not say so, but I suspect that God took the time to explain how all of the individual aspects and creatures of his creation were to exist together in total harmony. I say this because we know that God instructed Adam in his responsibility to “cultivate” the garden and to “keep” it (see the post – Part 3). I am filled with amazement just to try to imagine the conversation that the two had. But even today God still likes to share his work with us, if we care to listen.


Adam was not the only creature that God had formed
Jan Luyken, Amsterdam 1708
out of the ground. God had also formed “every beast of the field and every bird of the sky (
2:19). These included “living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind” (1:24).

After Adam’s orientation of his new home in the Garden of Eden, one of the first tasks that God gave to him (perhaps the very first task), was to give names to all of the animals. I do not know how big of an undertaking this was. It is impossible to say what the exact number of animals that God brought to Adam to see what Adam would call them. When the text mentions “living creatures after their kind,” we do not know if the word kind would most closely equate to our present day classification of species or if it would be closer to our word genus.

I doubt if there are many people who would think that when the text mentions that there were “cattle,” it is intended to mean that there were Holsteins, Guernseys and Scottish highlander cows (plus all the other cattle variations). Only the progenitor of all of these types came before Adam on that day to be named.
(From Flemish Tapestry Factory)

A species is usually defined as a group of animals capable of interbreeding and reproducing, such as a Holstein cow breeding with a Guernsey cow. However, there is no viable cross-species reproduction. A Holstein cow cannot successfully breed with a horse, for instance.

Scientists have today identified almost 5,500 different species of mammals that currently exist in the world, and almost 10,000 species of birds. We know that species of animals do evolve in small ways (micro-evolution) to form types or subspecies within the species. And then there is crossbreeding, such as the aforementioned Holsteins, Guernseys and Scottish highlander cattle. There has even been some research to show that a single species of organisms could develop into two separate ones (this is called speciation, although it seems that this work is inconclusive).

However, I am not of the persuasion that all the species of mammals and birds have one common ancestor (such as an evolutionist would say). There has never been any evidence to demonstrate that this mechanism of species development is a viable one. This is something that has never been observed and is only a “reality” in evolutionary theory.


Nevertheless, if one were to assume that there must have been at least one of every species of animals and birds that still exists today (every beast of the field and every bird of the sky), it is quite a large number, and some others have become extinct. The consideration that Adam may have had to give names to 15,500 animals on that 6th day of creation (and more if he also gave names to the 9,000+ reptiles) is a difficult one indeed.

Some might say that the word “kind” in the Genesis text may equate better to our broader classification of “genus,” but even with that, the task that Adam was given that day must have been formidable (I was not able to find out an estimate of the current number of genus in the world, I think because there is not agreement among biologists as to what actually constitutes a genus).

If one depends very heavily upon speciation, one could make some calculations about how it could be possible for Adam to name all of the species in the Garden of Eden within a 24 hour period. However, this view would require the continual development of new species on our planet in order to reach the current level, and this level of speciation has never been observed in our natural world. In fact, to be honest, I do not think that speciation has actually ever been observed in our natural world.

To creationists, such as myself, the word speciation is more tolerable than the word evolution. However, with such a high level of speciation necessary to accommodate Adam naming all of the animals in such a short period of time just several thousand years ago, at what point does it cease to be mere speciation and begin to become evolution?

Adam, I believe, was of much higher intelligence than any person alive today. The effect of a sinful nature has had a degrading effect up not only our spirits, but also upon our minds and bodies. But even with this, the naming of so many animals would be quite formidable, and I do not get the sense that God was in a hurry to “get things done” before the end of the 24 hour day. Moreover, God is never in a hurry.
Rembrandt Scetch


With all of the above considerations, I have come to the opinion that, while some speciation has occurred in species development, I think it is best not to insist that the 6th and the other creation days were of necessity the 24 hour days that we see today. My best understanding is that I need to leave the actual length of the creation days open to consideration and not to hold adamantly to our current 24 hour day. I do not think that these days were ages or eons, as some would say, but still a relatively short period of time.

Actually, we have no way of determining the length of the day at that time. The days of creation were unique in every sense, even to the point that the day length was not determined by the rotation of the earth in relation to the sun. God did not create the sun and moon until the fourth day. Thus we know that, in at least the first three and a half days of the six day creation, the sun played no part in the length of the day.

I am also quite sure that there are many considerations of the exact details that are unknown to us. When we know all of the facts, we will also understand. In whatever way that it was accomplished, God intended it for a reason and it was done in the way he has revealed it to us.



But I do not wish to become overly technical here. The marvelous aspect to me is that God brought all these animals to Adam to be named instead of naming them himself and then telling Adam what the names were.

I said above that there was a reason that God did this. Actually, there were at least a couple of reasons. The first of these have to do with the fact that God intended that people were to “have domain over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

The naming of something or of someone is normally reserved for whoever is to have immediate responsibility for it. It is the pet owner who names his dog, it is the farmer who names his cows, and it is the parents who name their new child. Giving something a name is an act of recognition that I am in some way responsible for the well-being of it. By naming something, I have put even my own identity with it.

When God brought the animals to Adam so that Adam could give them names, it was a demonstration of the fact that Adam was to have dominion over these animals; he was to be their “keeper.” There are some aspects of our relationship with the animal kingdom and with nature in general that have changed since those first days in the Garden of Eden, but this one aspect; that is, that we should be the caregivers of our environment, has not changed.

There is a second reason that God brought the animals before Adam to be named. We shall look at that reason in a week or so.
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