Death And Destruction In The Garden

The Canvas Conference, a joint effort between Humble Beast and Western Seminary, took place August 12-13, 2016, in Portland, Oregon, and was hosted by Imago Dei Community. This event, which sought to address the intersection of Christianity and creativity through a robust gospel-oriented and gospel-driven lens, included talks given by a number of Western Seminary faculty members. In today’s post, we are featuring David Thommen’s conference talk.


“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” It was the best of times in the sense that the Lord had spoken all things into creation, pronouncing that everything was “very good.” The crown of his creation, humanity, had been intimately fashioned, being made in the image of God. Though in the image of God, humanity was not God. The Master Potter formed his crowing creation with the work of his hands. Both man and woman had been placed in the garden where they were provided all that they needed. Humanity had been given the mandate:

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen. 1:28)

Humanity was placed in the first garden temple where God uniquely manifested his presence in the midst of his people. The mandate to be fruitful and multiply and to subdue the earth was more than a command to have babies. It was a mandate to expand the borders of the garden temple and fill the earth with image bearers of God who would bring glory to God. Humanity was blessed and given every good gift from God in order to be able to carry out the mandate that he had given to them.

It was the worst of times in the sense that things don’t stay the way they were. The creation that man was to have dominion over, now seeks to have dominion over them. The serpent invades the first garden temple and begins calling into question the truthfulness and goodness of God. “Did God really say?” “For God knows that when you eat of it (tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which was forbidden by God in contrast to every other tree they were given for food) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The irony of this temptation was man and women were already in the likeness of God. However, they were no longer content with being in the likeness of God, they wanted to be God. We will decide what is right and wrong. We must reach our optimum potential. Both the man and the woman eat of the tree. Temptation lures and gets you to willingly engage in your own death and destruction.

The consequence of the first sin introduces pain, toil, and the disposition to self-idolatry to the human experience.

Everything is turned upside down at this point. The creation over which man was to have dominion, now had dominion over him as the woman listened to the serpent and the man ate of the fruit given to him by the woman. Where there was once not shame, there is now shame as they cover themselves. There is now alienation from God as the man and woman try to hide from him. There is alienation between the man and the woman as man blames God for giving him the woman saying the woman that he (God) gave to man gave him the fruit.

In Genesis 3:15-16, the judgment on the woman introduces the reality of pain into the now fallen world. It is not that there is only physical pain, but there is now a disruption between even the most intimate of human relationships. Additionally, passion and power will now characterize the instincts of fallen man. “Your desire shall be for you husband and he shall rule over you.”

In Genesis 3:17-19, where dominion had been given, now the dominion is challenged. The freedom to eat of all of the trees of the garden is now replaced by the struggle to get the earth to yield its necessary daily breads. “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life.”  Where there was fullness of life in the presence of God, there would now be death. “For you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Work was not a consequence of the fall, but the futility of work is and the struggle is. Though we see people creating culture in Genesis 4 and doing beautiful things, it is not without toil and it is possible to do these things without honoring God in them. All that was done in Genesis 4 was done by the line of those who did not follow God. We know that this was not done for the glory of God because God brings judgment upon the world later in the book because “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was oly evil continually (Gen. 6:5).

Though he begins “afresh” following the flood, mankind creates culture again with an end to making a name for itself. Humans were not content with their position, but sought to reach to the heavens with their structure building. They wanted to draw attention to themselves. Look at what we can do! It is the consequence of the fall that humanity now has a disposition to idolatry, self-idolatry.

Even though the things we use to create are God’s, we don’t honor the one who gives them, but ultimately end up worshipping them – which is self-worship. We create, thinking ourselves to be God, and then worship the very things we create, which reflect our own being. Our hearts become proud in what we do, what we make, and we say, “I have done this and this is good. ”

When Adam and Eve did what God told them not to do, they put themselves at the center of everything. They wanted to be like God.

When Adam and Eve did what God told them not to do, they put themselves at the center of everything. They wanted to be like God. We can do the same thing, and when we do, it evidences the death and destruction that came in the garden – like those who made the tower of Babel. When we seek to make a name for ourselves, we are evidencing the disposition toward self-idolatry.

Instead of subduing the land, humans would be subdued by it. Instead of harmonious relationships between humans and nature, and men and women, conflict would now rule. The creation project was compromised and the global end for humanity to live in God’s place under God’s rule would have to await its fulfillment by other means. In the midst of death and destruction that came because of sin, God gives the promise of grace. “He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heal” (Gen. 3:15). There would be one who would overturn evil, sin, death, and destruction.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

The one who is God did not count being God a thing to be grasped, but instead came as a servant, as a man. The one who had every right to be worshipped as God came as a man to reverse the curse. He is exalted by God because he, without flinching and without fail, did the will of God and was victorious over death and destruction through his own death and resurrection.

Here is the hope for us. When we submit our lives to the Lord, we are given a new heart. No longer a heart that has imaginations that are only toward evil and toward our own self-idolatry, but heart that longs to do the will of God. Now, all the creative things we do as human being, because of the new heart, are done with the disposition of bringing glory to God over against glory to self.



About David Thommen

David is a graduate of Western Seminary. He serves as the Assistant Director of Western Seminary's Doctor of Ministry program and The Spurgeon Fellowship and teaches in the Bible and Theology department. David also serves on the executive committee of the Northwest Chapter of ETS and has served in Pastoral Ministry for over 10 years. He currently serves as the pastor at New Life Church Robinwood.