Lessons From Genesis:
If we adhere to a reading of Scripture that maintains a focus on the narrative of Scripture and strays from arguments on historicity, and instead narrows our attention to the intent of the author and the lessons to be learned from the passage, what can we expect to find in Genesis?
Genesis clearly expounds the fall of man, and the consequences of that fall from perfect relationship with God. In essence we can all find our story wrapped up on the story of Adam. We have all strayed from God, and sought to live on our own power. We are all prone to wander off in our own direction, seeking a course that seems right in our own eyes. This is exactly what is presented to us in Genesis, the results of straying from the plan and purpose of God.
The result of that sin in the garden is two fold. First, as man is created in the image of God, straying causes that image to be marred. Talk of original sin [something not emphasized in the Genesis story, but rather imported there via Paul], too often misses the point of judgment in the creation story. We are what Scot McKnight calls cracked eikons. We were created to reflect the image of God, our sin causes cracks in that image.
The second result from the sin in the garden is seperation from community with God. Adam and Eve are no longer permitted to remain in the close companionship of their creator. As they move further from God, giving into their own desires and ways, their relationship is damaged. It is not the desire of God for us to live in seperation. Community and relationship are established from the very beginning of the narrative. However, judgment comes when we decide to live in our own way apart from relationship with God.
If we seriously read the first chapters of Genesis as indicative of what all humans go through, and a picture of the relationship that man has with God, it could radically change our view of judgment and the future. Instead of God banishing humans to eternal conscious torment, the loss of relationship, and marred image of humans more clearly represents a Biblical example of future divine punishment.
That punishment in no way diminishes the reality of judgment, but rather as C.S. Lewis so adequately said emphasizes the two paths one can choose: At the end of life, either you say to God: Your will be done. Or God says to you: Your will be done.