Circa 450 BC, Greek philosopher Protagoras coined his most famous line: “Man is the measure of all things.” That is a claim, not a fact. It is, in fact, mankind’s chief claim to fame. Man was created in God’s image to be His grounds - and gamekeeper. But like his mentor, the wily serpent (Genesis 3:1), the father of lies (John 8:44), the prince of this world (John 14:30 et. al.), man aspires for title, privilege, wealth, possession, position. Thus aspiring to King of the Hill, man appoints himself the Imperial Maker and Keeper of Definitions which is about as “Like God” as it gets (Genesis 3:7).
Man’s belief in his inherent ability to determine the measure and definition of all things, to have the final word on every subject, is foundational to moral relativism, which is the snowball Adam and Eve kicked downhill some six thousand years ago. In the story of the Fall (Genesis 3), “knowledge of good and evil” means two very different things, one truth, one a lie - the Mother of All Lies, in fact. From a God-centric perspective, which is truth, the knowledge in question refers to God’s “moral mathematics,” His everlasting definitions of right/wrong, truth/lie, good/evil. Those definitions are eternal, unchanging. They are God’s intellectual property. Man cannot possess and change them, but he thinks he can, and his thinking is the issue.
From a man-centric and self-centric perspective (they are essentially synonymous), “knowledge of good and evil” is whatever man decides is good/truth and evil/falsehood at any point in space and moment in time. The man/self-centric worldview is a lie, the false image the serpent had taken on himself (Isaiah 14:12 – 17) and enticed Adam and Eve to incorporate, to write large on their blank slates: I AM WHO AND THINGS ARE WHAT I WANT THEM TO BE!
The human who believes he can accurately define (know) good and evil without reference to God and His permanent standard is kidding himself, yes, but more significant is the power trip he’s riding. At the risk of wearing out the metaphor, it is the Mother of All Power Trips. Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud termed it ego, albeit it deserves to be written EGO. Self is the fountainhead, the source of all sin, the wall that must be torn down if we are to join Jesus in New Jerusalem. The scourge of moral relativism is why it became necessary for God to choose a people for Himself and give them Ten Commandments in which He drew the line between good and evil in unequivocal terms and set it in stone. We have had no excuse ever since.
But having no excuse has not stopped us. Over the past six thousand years, the snowball of moral relativism first kicked by our first parents has become an avalanche steadily growing, gobbling up everything in its path and steadily gaining speed. Isaiah speaks of man’s proclivity for flipping the definitions of good and evil:
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! – Isaiah 5:20, ESV
Since the 1960s, humans have formed large consensuses around the false “rights” to terminate, in the name of the Almighty Me, the life of an unborn child, practice homosexuality, and self-determine one’s gender. Just sixty years ago, a substantial majority of Americans held that those claims and practices were aberrant, even absurd. Today, significant numbers of people deem those same things good and demonize as evil anyone who disagrees. The next flipping will concern adults having sexual relations with children—gullible, impulsive children. Mark my words. Certain liberal academics have already proposed that the term “pedophile” is slanderous and should be replaced with “minor-loving persons.” A movement is afoot that would have the legal age of sexual consent lowered to twelve (at which point a movement will begin that would have it lowered to ten, then eight, and so on). The infamous Jeffrey Epstein was reportedly providing underage girls to his wealthy and influential adult male clients. Mark my words.
Progressives are slaves to the serpent. Created in the image of God, progressives think and act in the image of the father of lies. They are, by definition, intellectually lazy. They “think” with their feelings, self-justify on the basis of their feelings, and acquire power by manipulating the feelings of others. Progressives are dangerous to themselves and others but try telling them that. Like their mentor, they perpetually gorge on self-righteousness and the illusion of moral superiority—their primary sources of sustenance which, being impermanent and only temporarily satisfying, they constantly crave.
Theological consensus has formed around the notion that upon tasting the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve were overcome with shame (supposedly expressed as “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked” – Genesis 3:7) and fashioned fig-leaf loincloths for the purpose of hiding their disgrace. That puzzling and even perilous misinterpretation is the centerpiece of the “shame hypothesis.” How a falsehood of such magnitude developed when the text says nothing of the sort boggles the mind.
The text portrays two child-minded individuals lured into sin by the father of sin upon which their “eyes opened” to self-determination and they declared their newly-discovered “right” by altering God’s design for their appearance. The fig leaves were adornment, not concealment. Then, when God confronts them, Adam and Eve self-justify with the arrogance of a toddler. The shame hypothesis merely illustrates the potential folly of consensus.
At the Fall, man opened a trap door under himself and plunged headlong into the morass of moral relativism—self-centric “knowledge” of good and evil—from which all sin arises. And we’ve been stuck and struggling there ever since.
The “they-felt-no-shame-at-all” hypothesis sketched herein alters everything, including the existential meaning of Jesus’ mission. It means He came not only to provide substitutionary atonement on behalf of us helpless sinners, but also to set aright what had toppled at the Fall: authentic, God-centric knowledge of good and evil. During his brief conversation with Pilate, Jesus states His purpose in those exact terms:
Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” – John 18:37
Nothing short of stunning. Jesus states in no-uncertain terms that He, the Son, One with the Father, came to rehabilitate our sin-condition by witnessing to the truth, which He further claimed to embody (John 14:6). That does not abridge the fact of His offer of salvation, but it changes the context of that offer. Jesus came to set right what had gone wrong in the Garden. He came to light the Way to Life eternal with Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but Truth. By turning the story of the Fall on its head, the shame hypothesis obscures that important aspect of Jesus’ mission, thus rendering us less capable of resisting the enticements and excitements of moral relativism. Heresy, it needs to be burned at the stake.
Copyright 2023, John K. Rosemond
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