It is rare that I get a chance to write about my “specialty”, which is human communication. Now before you jump to a conclusion, what I mean is I have spent years studying human communication. Do I fall prey to making communication errors?
Ask my wife…of course I do.
Pastor John Bevere in his book Good or God? brings up communication in Chapter 2. He contrasts human communication to divine communication. In particular, he calls human communication “communicated knowledge.” Knowledge from God he calls “revealed knowledge.”
In Chapter 2 he pinpoints that human foibles, with communication as a major factor, may have led to Eve making a mistake about that tree, you know that tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God had “revealed” to Adam that he and Eve were not to eat of that tree. Adam “communicated” that idea to Eve.
What if Eve had received that message from God?
Maybe she would not have been swayed by the serpent? Who knows?
But that is not how the story unfolded. Eve possibly was tripped up by human communication errors. Of course, we are still making those today. Let’s dig into the Adam, Eve and serpent scenario.
God told Adam “You may eat the fruit from any tree in the garden except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Now that is pretty clear but that is not what Eve heard from Adam. When the serpent quizzed Eve about the tree she said that Adam told her God said they should not eat it or “touch” it lest they die.
Where did she get the idea that God said they could not touch the tree?
I am not a theologian by any stretch, but as someone who has studied human communication, when humans talk to other humans, I know that listening is problematic. Eve’s thinking may have been based on poor listening, something which plagues us all, all of the time. Listening experts know that humans have a tough time processing messages due to mental distraction. In other words, we can be so distracted that the message does not even get through. Half the time when we are listening to others, we are in “another world”, thinking private thoughts that have little to do with the message at hand.
Then we have to figure in remembering. We forget so much of a message right after we hear it. Communication experts estimate forgetting rates can be as high as fifty percent at times.
If this is true, what do we do when we pass along messages to others? We know we don’t have all the facts but we pass the message on to others anyhow. Sometimes we invent things to fill in the story [which can be the root of a lot of gossip]. Some people hate to report bad news so they substitute “good news” to make a bad report a bit better.
And then one has to figure in the nature of words themselves. Words are not rock solid bits of information that we hand to other people. Words are fraught with meaning. When Eve said that Adam told her that the Lord told them not to eat of that tree or touch it, that idea may have come from how Adam told her the information. Maybe he used a dramatic word that scared her. Maybe he used an emphatic word indicating God’s authority; must, shall or cannot. When we hear words we often respond with feelings. Feelings vary from one person to the next.
We don’t know exactly what happened but we do know that “shall not eat it” also became “nor shall you touch it.” Eve said do either and she and Adam would die.
We have to use human communication. Without it we cannot share ideas, but human communication can easily become miscommunication and miscommunication can be the basis for making grievous errors.
Pastor Bevere is not merely content in his book to discuss human communication. He wants to go much deeper than that. He wants to use Adam, Eve and the serpent to illustrate how we can value communicated knowledge more than revealed knowledge or knowledge directly from God.
Communicated knowledge is all around us all day long. We spend all our days processing communicated knowledge. Some people pride themselves on their ability to have vast amounts of communicated knowledge in their brains but “revealed knowledge” is more valuable that all the communicated knowledge we can ever know.
For Eve, direct communication from God would possibly have made the difference, but that is not how it happened.
God spoke to Adam and then Adam spoke to Eve.
The message that was passed along may have made all the difference.
Direct communication from God would have possibly solved the problem but it was impossible.
When God was talking to Adam, Eve was not in the picture. God had not created her yet.
What a shame…