When Adam 2.0 Reboots Eden
About a decade ago, I was introduced to the 1976 Sci-Fi movie Logan’s Run, which ranks as one of the most ridiculous sci-fi movies I have ever seen. One sign of the oddity involves a scene depicting the ritual of “Carrousel”. In this ritual, citizens who have reached the age of 30 are “renewed”. They enter an arena dressed in a combination of bedsheets, lyotards and Jason-masks, and are sucked up into a crystal ball in the ceiling and explode in a shower of sparks. The audience, witnessing the renewal of citizens, cheer on and shout “RENEW". In fact, “Carrousel” is a ritualised means of population control where citizens are killed off, so that an affluent society of perpetually young citizens might continue. While ridiculous aesthetically, the religious nexus drawn between ritual, renewal and death was still fascinating.
Several years later, I would find myself teaching theology at Campion College. Now, before you think I was going to foist Logan’s Run on my kids, hear me out…
One of my favourite things was teaching the first years about the basics of Scripture, and the Catholic understanding of the place of Scripture in the life of the Christian.
As a way to unify the various books of Scripture covered in the course, I followed Scott Hahn’s lead and took the Jewish covenant and God’s renewals of that covenant as a constant refrain through my classes. The New Testament thus could not be understood without reference to the Jewish covenant, and must be understood as the final renewal and fulfilment of that covenant.
In talking about the renewal of the covenant, I sought to highlight the scandalous substance of salvation in the Judeo-Christian narrative: the return to the Garden of Eden, or what the medieval doctor of the Church St. Bonaventure called the restoration of “original innocence”.
The theme of the return to Eden is often lost in much of contemporary Christianity, particularly as the faith - and consequently its theology - become recast as a set of juridical precepts, a vague ethic or emotional stimulator. To these tendencies, St. Bonaventure thus acts as a corrective to this tendency, for he more than any other Doctor of the Church emphasised the return to Eden as the crux of salvation, and also more controversially, a practicable historical probability.
As I mentioned earlier, the link between the Covenant and the Garden of Eden has also been emphasised in Hahn’s A Father Who Keeps His Promises. There, Hahn spoke of the first creation account (Genesis 1:1-2:4) as prefiguring much of the Covenant that we shall see in later books of Scripture.
Because the Covenant is implicit in the structure of creation in Genesis, one cannot avoid construing the process of its constant renewal as a process of rebooting Eden time and time again, a process that comes to its culmination in Christ. Christ is thus the New Adam (See Rom 5:12-21) who revives the Garden of Eden.
One way I highlighted the notion of Christ as being the New Adam in a restored Eden in my class was with reference to the Baptism of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark (1:9-11). I used this episode because of its eerie resemblances to the first creation account in Genesis.
In Mark, Jesus the Word plunges himself into the waters, thereby uniting himself with the Word that was transmitted to the world in the process of creation (a theme covered by Bonaventure). The restoration of Eden comes when Jesus “was coming out of the water” (Mark 1:10), when the Spirit comes down on Him (Mark 1:10) and seems to hovers over the waters (as in Genesis 1:2).
This seemingly isolated parallel is coupled with another parallel, when God speaks from heaven to say to the Word “You are My Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). When the Word unites with world, God looks at this new fusion between the Word and world, and affirms it, saying in a new way “indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
The incompleteness of the parallel in this one account is indicative of the way Jesus restores Eden in an economy of actions, and economy that culminates in his Passion, Death and Resurrection, and continues on in his Body, the Church. This drama did not escape the unnamed ancient homilist for Holy Saturday who, voicing Jesus in a discourse to the first Adam, said:
[F]or you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden
Only this is no mere restoration, for the rebooted Eden supercedes the first. Again, this is recognised in the homilist when the Second Adam says to the First:
But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.