Sunday, June 10, 2012

Adam and Eve and the Cat in the Hat


When I was young, one of my favorite books told a story about a cat, an anthropomorphic cat, about the size of an adult human. This cat walked upright, carried an umbrella, and wore a red-and-white striped top hat.

In the story, the cat shows up unexpectedly to torment a pair of human children who are home alone while their mother is away. The cat's mischief causes mayhem and consternation for the youngsters. Somehow, by the story's end, the cat manages to clean up the mess it has made and beat a hasty retreat just as the children's mother returns.

The story also features a talking goldfish.

I'm sure you recognize the book I'm talking about as Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat. It's a great book. It is not only highly entertaining, it also teaches some valuable life lessons. It is not, however, factual.

I think that even at age five or six I would have laughed out loud at anyone who dared suggest that the events of this story had actually occurred. It is not that kind of book.

Another favorite book from my childhood tells the story of a man and a woman who live a harmonious life together in a beautiful garden. There they enjoy a close relationship to the God who created them. They are innocently, naively, naked.

One day, when God is away from the garden, a talking snake happens along. The snake's mischief causes mayhem and consternation for the couple. Did I mention that this snake apparently has legs? Unlike the Cat in the Hat, the snake doesn't clean up after itself, and by the time God gets back to the garden, everything has gone to hell.

This is, of course, the story of Adam and Eve from the book of Genesis. It, too, is a great story and highly entertaining. Beside this, it teaches some valuable life lessons. Perhaps most importantly, it describes the nature of our life in this beautiful, broken world.

Describes, not explains.

Some Christians insist that the story, because it is in the Bible, must be factual. This overlooks the fact that the Bible contains many different genres of literature, sometimes within the same book.

Last month, in this post at the Slacktivist blog, Fred Clark had a pointed reply to those who would read such a story literally:

Seriously, people, it’s a story. If you don’t know how to read stories, then you don’t know how to read.

If you don’t know how to read stories, then you become the literacy equivalent of that person who never lets you finish a joke because they’re always interrupting with irrelevant questions and thinking they’re particularly clever for pointing out that a bar stool probably couldn’t support the weight of a gorilla.

 I sometimes encounter Christians who say that the story of Adam and Eve must be factual because, without a real Adam, there is no need for a Savior. This is wrongheaded thinking. For humankind to need a Savior, Adam does not need to have been real. Only sin needs to be real.

 A talking snake with legs!


  1. So true! But I think I would start shoring up my castle walls if I were you, 'cuz I can see an angry mob with torches and clubs storming your place real soon! Comparing the story of Adam and Eve to the Cat in the Hat!!!!

    But it seems so much more helpful to me to understand "eating the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil" to be not about dietary choices, but the very real experience of coming to know the difference between good and evil by suffering the consequences of choices that are contrary to God's will and desire.

    When someone enjoys the fruits of their labor, that doesn't mean they get a big basket of apples and bananas!

    1. An angry mob with pitchforks, for having an opinion? Douse water on them and cast out their ignorance. You might have actual people. Before you talk about how someone walks check the way YOU walk.

  2. Might I humbly suggest that to gain a fuller appreciation of the Adam "story" that you read the book "Spirit and Truth" by Samuel Mann. While Adam was not a physical "person" he is the father of mankind in individuality as opposed to man as oneness in spirit. This is explained (along with many other confusing Christian concepts) in the book. It can be purchased from

    1. I have one hard-and-fast rule for the comments to this blog: I will not publish spam. I argued with myself for some time before publishing this comment as it seems designed only to promote a book.

      Now, from the little investigation that I've done this book seems to be (pardon my frankness) flaky. It appears to be a heterodox work of Christian-tinged New Age philosophy which quotes extensively from Edgar "the Sleeping Prophet" Cayce and Paramahansa Yogananda. I'm skeptical enough that I won't be buying the book. Honestly, I think I have better ways to spend my time and money.

      I won't make that decision for anyone else. If my readers choose to invest their resources on this book, it is up to them.

      Just because I disagree with the author, that wouldn't disqualify a comment to this blog. In fact, I welcome comments from those who disagree with me.

      The reason I chose to publish this reply--the thing that keeps it from being utter spam--is the fact that my anonymous respondent actually presents an idea from the book being hyped.

      It would seem that the author is presenting a Manichean body/spirit dualism. I'm reminded of Philo of Alexandria's exegesis of Genesis 1 and 2. He argues that the two creation accounts represent two creations, one of spiritual ideals and forms, the other of physical matter. Philo's allegorical reading of Scripture had considerable influence on some of the early Church Fathers, a fact that undermines the oft-made contention that a literal reading of Scripture is the historic norm.

      What Philo, Samuel Mann, and I seem to have in common is that we do not read the Genesis creation stories as literal, factual, historical accounts. After that we part company pretty quickly.

  3. Why did God make us? - to be happy with Him in heaven - how do we do that? - we become one with God - how is that possible - because Jesus did it and showed us the way - How does it happen - through the evolution of consciousness - Open your mind to the teachings of those who have "been there" instead of the "blind leading the blind." Read Eckhart Tolle, Jakob Boehme, and even Yogananda who was in touch with the Christ and promoted His message. Cayce may have been an ordinary man but he provided confirmation of most Christian beliefs. He read the Bible once for each day of his life and dedicated his life to helping others. He lived simply and suggested remedies for both physical and spiritual healing that are only now being recognized as his having been way ahead of his time. From your response I see that reading the book would "go against the grain" of everything you hold as truth - so be it and may God bless you and bring you peace.