December 7, 2019

Cliff's Edge--The Blotch on the Banana

While devouring a banana, I stopped dead at a blotch. The banana had, to that moment, been flawless, probably as close to its archetypical ancestors as possible for something millennia of banana-tree generations away from its origins. Solid, yet soft, it melted sweetly over my taste buds as if configured just for them (it was, in Eden).

The aesthetic glory of the banana (I mean it: marvel at the symmetrical construction, the converging shapes, and the harmonious texture of the next banana that you plan to deconstruct into glucose), which itself exudes the wonder of its own existence (look at a single seed in the banana and tell me it’s not a miracle that a banana tree, heavy-laden with hundreds of seed-bearing bananas, can sprout out of something so small that you need the metric system to weigh and measure it)—amid all this came the blotch?

Gross, ugly, decaying, rot, it was like a chancre, a sore, as if part of the banana but not really of it, any more than deafness is of the ear. The blotch was an intruder, an-enemy-has-done-this kind of thing (Matt. 13:28). Aberrant, alien, it was a deviancy whose deviance festered in obvious contrast to what it deviated from.

Look, sexual disease cannot occur without, first, sex. The blotch on the banana could not have occurred without first—what? The banana! The blotch, the disease, are after-the-fall facts, and the facts themselves, i.e., a banana, sex, are good, gifts from our Creator.

Yes, “creation groans” (Rom. 8:22); we creatures do, too. Who or what after 6,000 years of sin wouldn’t? But creation itself, the creatures themselves—stripped of the after-the-fall adjectives scream out about the before-the-fall ones: “good” and “wonderful” and “beautiful” and “glorious.” Every cell, every blade of grass, every leaf, every piece of fruit, every human being, every sunset blatantly in-your-face testifies to God’s goodness and unapproachable power.

In The Sorrows of Young Werther, JohannWolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) wrote about a young man who marveled at the wonders and simplicity of a simple life in nature. “Oh, how thankful I am that my heart can feel the simple, harmless joys of the man who brings to the table a head of cabbage he has grown himself, and in a single moment enjoys not only the vegetable, but all the fine days and fresh mornings since he planted it, the mild evenings when he watered it, and the pleasure he felt while watching it grow.”

All that over a head of cabbage? Why not? I can sit down to a bowl of oats, sprinkled with walnuts, raisins, blueberries, and wheat germ, all soaked in soymilk, and go out-and-out transcendental. All these things—oats, walnuts, wheat germ, soymilk—are what? Necessary and noncontingent that their nonexistence would entail a logical impossibility? Of course not. Each flake, each nut, each berry, each germ of wheat, and molecule of soy are voluntary gifts from a Creator with a power so great that our imaginations, even carried on the mind-expanding chariot of faith, can barely approach but only marvel and cower before it.

And these miraculous forms of life grow out of dirt. Dirt! A single oat is a miracle filled with mysteries that our mortal minds can’t fathom; a blueberry points to a reality so ineffable that we don’t even know the right questions to ask; and, besides, so debilitated by sin, we wouldn’t understand the answers anyway. We don’t usually think about how miraculous it all is because all that we do with these miracles is digest them.

Yes, famines, earthquakes, disease exist, but only against the goodness that they sponge off. For Augustine of Hippo (354-430), evil was a falling away from, a deprivation of, the good. “For evil,” he wrote, “has no positive nature; but the loss of good has received the name ‘evil.’” Maybe in an abstract way, but the blotch on the banana—ugly, corrupt, violent even—was as tangible as the banana it tainted. Satan is no less real now than when he had first been Lucifer, the “son of the dawn” (Isa. 14:12), and “anointed as a guardian cherub” (Eze. 28:14), even if his evil exists only as a perversion of the original, without which he couldn’t exist anymore than the blotch on the banana could without the banana. And the banana, like the original creation—Lucifer included—was good.

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature, and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:7-10).

Sure, lions eat gazelles, birds can spread the Type A virus, the earth can quake, and “the fish of the sea” carry pollutants. But even these after-the-fall-facts, despite their fallenness, declare that “the hand of the Lord has done this.”

In the banana I see the obvious glory and goodness of creation, however corrupted (the blotch). The great controversy—it’s all there, even if the solution isn’t. Yet the goodness and beauty and love for humanity built into the piece of fruit speak to us—“They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them” (Ps. 19:3)—of the Creator. In the banana are intimations of a love that could lead this Creator to Calvary, and in the blotch intimations of why He went.

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His latest book, available from Pacific Press, is Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity.