Eve, Luther, and Authority

How exactly did Satan deceive Eve? He did so in three steps. First he belittled the authorized interpretation of God's prohibition on their eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil by rhetorically questioning an exaggerated form of the prohibition: "Did God really say . . . any tree of the garden?" Second, he offered an alternative interpretation to the authorized interpretation , explaining that the prohibition was actually a divine test (which in fact it was), but that God actually wanted them to choose 'thinking for themselves' over 'blind obedience' to Him. In that way, claimed Satan, God's true desire was that the humans would discover to think for themselves and thus disobey the arbitrary prohibition and go ahead and eat from the tree. Thinking for themselves and going ahead and eating from the tree, claimed Satan, would amount to passing the test and lead to their being like God. (In actuality, however, if they had not eaten of the tree, they would have passed the divine test and truly become like God.) Third, he got Eve to place herself in a position of deciding for herself whether the authorized interpretation or Satan's interpretation was better. That is why Eve was examining the fruit in Gen 3:6, to see for herself whether it would kill her or make her like God.

As soon as he got Eve to the third step (i.e. deciding for herself which interpretation was better), he had already accomplished his goal, because she was already at that point acting as her own ultimate authority, i.e. as if she had no ultimate authority. That was the same state that Lucifer was in. And so by bringing Eve into this same state, he was in fact getting her to follow him (while getting her to think she was following God and enticing her to trust herself), and ultimately putting her in bondage to sin and death.

We also see this very same three-step process take place in the early life of Martin Luther, when he starts questioning the Church's doctrine, coming up with alternative interpretations of Scripture, and eventually puts himself in a position to decide for himself which interpretation is better. He thereby spurns the lawful Church authorities and makes himself his own Church authority. Just as separation and division between Adam and Eve (in shame) and Cain and Abel (in murder) were the fruit of Eve's deciding for herself which interpretation was better, so the numerous sects of Protestantism are the fruit of Luther's imitation of Eve.

For further reflection, see Tim Jones's "Bible Scholar of the Year.

If you have ever read Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series or seen the movies, you might recall that the Ring of Power causes division wherever it goes. You see that occur when Smeagol murders Deagol when the ring is first rediscovered. (The parallel between Smeagol and Cain, who wants to 'worship' God his own way, is not accidental.) Then we see the Ring's divisiveness again at the council at Rivendell when those invited to the council start quarelling with one another over what should be done with the Ring. Galadriel later tells Frodo that the Ring is already working to destroy the fellowship and will break it apart. This in fact happens when Boromir tries to take the Ring for himself. Then the Ring even brings division between Frodo and Sam. The "Ring of Power" represents unlawfully obtained power. It has definite allusions to the "Ring of Gyges" in book II of Plato's Republic, where Plato explains that injustice in the state is rooted in a rebellious usurpation of governing authority and power by individuals who lack the proper dispositions and training necessary for the possession of such authority and power. Likewise, injustice in the individual is rooted in a rebellion of the appetites against their rightful authority, i.e. reason. Tolkien shows that injustice in the Church takes a similar form. It is this power, the power of determining for themselves the 'authoritative' interpretation of the Scriptures, that Luther and the Protestants took to themselves in usurping and arrogating that which belongs rightfully to the bishops appointed by Christ through His Apostles and their sacramental successors. This usurpation of the authority of the bishops and the papal seat not surprisingly mimics the original attempt by the "Angel of Light" to usurp the divine throne. (Isaiah 14:12-14) See Newman's comments here. The fruit of this rebellion is division upon division, just as the "Ring of Power" brought division between all who were drawn to it. And as in Tolkien's story, the "Ring of Power" must be destroyed, and we must return in allegiance to our rightful shepherd, the true 'heir' from Peter in apostolic succession who retains the "keys of the kingdom" which were given to Peter. Those are our only choices: the ring of power, or the rightful heir. The former is the way of pursuing unlawful power and thus further division upon division; the latter is the way of submission to rightful authority and thereby true unity and peace.