Wisdom is not about having a lot of information, but about processing it correctly. An example: when today we reflect on mankind’s evolution, we can conclude that a society that doesn’t live in harmony – like ours – is bound to destroy itself. One reason for reaching this conclusion is that everything continuously becomes more sophisticated, including weapons, and that once a society has weapons of mass destruction it is only a question of before they are used. Another is that continually a smaller percentage of the world population appropriates a higher percentage of all resources, which increases the tension between the different groups of people, and between them and the environment. Although both are consequences of our struggle for resources, most people are unaware that this means that a society that doesn’t live in harmony is bound to destroy itself.

This new conclusion is the most important lesson that humanity has to learn, since our survival depends on how we react to this threat. The Bible recognizes this reality: ten generations after putting an end to harmony (paradise), for eating a forbidden fruit, a terrible catastrophe (the great flood) occurs, which leaves very few survivors.

Whereas secular authorities – including the philosophers – are unaware of this reality, the religious authorities don’t realize that this is the main message of the Bible.

Although the information to reach this conclusion is available to everybody, a self-taught philosopher and Bible scholar seems to be the first person to realize this. Perhaps this should not surprise us since wisdom is achieved by asking the right questions. Whereas a student of philosophy learns the questions that philosophers asked in the past, a self-taught philosopher asks his own questions after reflecting on the available information. Whereas a student of Christian theology learns how the Christian authorities interpret the Bible, a self-taught Bible scholar tries to understand this work on his own account. Not immediately looking up what others have written about a particular subject, gives the self-taught scholar the advantage of approaching it without getting blinded by other people’s opinion.

One reason why people find it difficult to reach this new conclusion about our society is the assumption that living in harmony is impossible. The idea that a society that doesn’t live in harmony is bound to destroy itself then implies that there is no escape. Since reflecting upon a problem that doesn’t have a solution is too stressful, people tend to ignore it.

The idea that harmony is impossible on earth is based on the observation that some people behave well while others behave badly, and the assumption that this will always be the case. However, since everything in the universe seems to be governed by the principle of cause and effect, we can assume that if we discover what circumstances make people behave badly, we can do something about them so that they stop behaving that way.

When someone studies the Bible exhaustively, he will discover that the only God in this book is based on the assumption that everything in the universe is governed by the principle of cause and effect, an idea that many scientists agree with. The belief in God is then the belief in the principle of cause and effect and, therefore, the belief in being able to avoid mankind’s self-destruction.

Although we don’t know whether what Genesis says is true and our ancestors indeed lived in harmony at a certain moment, a good reason for studying this book is that, to avoid our self-destruction we must ask why we have conflicts with the others and with the environment, and this is the same as asking what the forbidden fruit refers to.

A lot of people misunderstand Genesis. This book doesn’t say that the forbidden fruit was an apple and doesn’t refer to Adam and Eve as the first people on earth, but only as the generation that put an end to harmony.

Genesis is a book of wisdom because it invites us to ask questions whose answers lead to new questions, thus creating a dynamic that enables us to improve our understanding of ourselves and of the world we live in. What matters is not whether what it says is true, but that its stories encourage us to question ideas that have not been questioned before. For example, by pointing out that Adam and Eve were vegetarians in the days of paradise, and were expelled for eating a forbidden fruit, Genesis encourages us to question our diet.

#BrunoLernout –






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