I have often said to myself that Adam’s Fall is my systematic theology. I was delighted, therefore, to come across this quote by Richard Rohr about Jesus’ approach to teaching:
Most of Jesus’ teaching is walking with people on the streets, out in the desert, and often into nature. His examples come from the things he sees around him: birds, flowers, landlords and tenants, little children, women baking and sweeping, farmers farming. Jesus teaches with anecdote, parable, and concrete example much more than creating a systematic theology. Particulars seem to most open us up to universals. “Thisness” is the actual spiritual doorway to the everywhere and the always, much more than concepts. Incarnation is always specific and concrete, here and now, like this bread and this wine, and this ordinary moment, or this half-crazy person right in front of me. – Adapted from Hell, No! (CD, MP3 download)–Coming soon!; and Things Hidden: Scripture As Spirituality, pp. 124, 126-127.
This encourages me because as I go deeper into the particulars of Adam I come closer to expressing universal values of life and death, faith and fear, joy and pain.
How does this work? As I draw closer to Adam’s particularity, Adam becomes a better-rounded human being. He takes on characteristics we can recognize in ourselves and others who are close to us. He elicits empathy. And this empathy causes people to care about his story, care about his struggles, and care about the lessons he is learning.
According to Robert McKee, author of Story, there is a genre of screenplay (which I equate with graphic novels and prose novels) called the “Education” genre, in which there is a deep change in the protagonist’s view of life, people or self from negative to positive. This is definitely what Adam’s Fall is about. Adam learns that his old, Calvinistic notions of a punitive, judgmental God are unnecessary and un-useful carry-overs from a more infantile version of religion and that he has the ability to move into a more mature faith which surprises him in its life-affirmation and potential for love, joy, power and freedom.
Does this influence how I approach Book 3 of Adam’s Fall? Yes, it sort of gives it shape. It tells me that I need to follow my instincts and focus on the narrative and the truths it elicits, rather than just do a proof-texting of why Adam’s life “after” is actually Godly and justifiable. The idea is not to create Biblically… well, I want the arguments to rest on solid Biblical understandings, but this isn’t going to be a proof-texting, chapter-and-verse sort of thing. The stories will be told as stories. They will be told whole and there will be a lot of contextualizing.
The interesting thing about Adam’s Fall is not that Adam is a rabid conservative who becomes a rabid liberal (although some will read it that way); Adam believes himself to be a relatively liberal, open-minded sort of guy, but his theology and spirituality of sexuality haven’t kept pace with his rhetoric about the goodness of God. When Stephan calls Adam a hypocrite at the wedding banquet and throws a drink in his face (baptism), Adam is confronted with the fact that his rhetoric and his personal life doesn’t equate. Stephan is totally out of line at this point, but he isn’t wrong. This is Stephan’s gift: often out of line on the surface, but seldom wrong on a profound level. Stephan gets what Adam’s story and struggle is about and helps bring Adam into a place of truth with his own narrative: a truth which Adam then can share with us.
Adapted from Jon’s Journal entry “Adam’s Fall as Narrative and Theology” written Fri, 16 Jan 2015 (0953-10:15).