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Monday, December 30, 2013

So What About Cain’s Wife?

Someone asks, “Where did Cain get his wife?”

A question like that, I figure I have a pretty good idea where it’s going.

The insinuation is that Cain married his sister. And the implication is that I should be really, really offended by this, assuming it took place.

But it’s not incest that’s the problem.

Stuck with the Same Storyline

See, as a believer in the theory of evolution by natural selection, or Any Option But God, the person with the Cain question is stuck with exactly the same storyline we are. Let’s take it as read that over billions and billions of years a couple of creatures simultaneously evolved who were capable of procreating. The only logical way in which the human race could proceed from that point would be for these creatures to have at least two children, then for two or more of these to procreate together.

Alternatively, maybe a third, totally unrelated, evolving humanoid simultaneously reached the same evolutionary level and was miraculously compatible with one of the offspring. How improbable is that?

So the evolving proto-men did the same thing Cain and his sister allegedly did.

Incest is not really the issue.

The Real Issue

Forgive me if this was blindingly obvious at the outset, but the question isn’t a question, it’s an assertion: That God, if he created Adam and Eve, implicitly endorsed incest by not providing a wife for Cain.

So God (whom the questioner does not believe exists anyway) is either inconsistent or immoral. He either changed his views on incest between the time of Adam and the time he gave the Mosaic Law, or he’s not that bothered about incest one way or another. Inconsistent or immoral, take your pick.

No End of Questions

If you Googled this question this morning, you’d see 85 links before you’d get to the first one that disparages Christianity. The first 85 are Christians trying really hard to give answers to this question (and quite a few actually do). The nature of the web is that the number will change from moment to moment, but there are still a very large number of believers out there trying very hard to answer the Cain's wife question and others. All the time.

Most of these concede that Cain married a relative of some sort, which is certainly logical. But you sense that they concede it with reluctance. After all, incest is certainly an unpleasant subject. We really don’t want to lay that on God, even if our point is that incest only became a sin once God declared it to be one in the time of Moses. And you sense that most of those giving answers are not entirely confident in their responses. Or maybe that’s just me speculating.

For me, this and many other questions are non-issues. Their importance to the substance of my faith is so minute as to be imperceptible. There is no end of questions that unbelievers may raise. I’ve already established to my own satisfaction, and way beyond that, that God is neither inconsistent nor immoral. He’s the almighty creator and he’s not to be judged by our standards. Our standards, fragmentary and vacillating, derive from his, assuming we have any at all worth mentioning.

If I gave our hypothetical questioner an answer, is he going to get saved? I very much doubt it, because I’ve played this game too as a young believer. What happens when you provide answers to a long list of trick questions? You get an even longer list to answer.

There is no end to the deflections and rationalizations of which the human mind is capable in evading God.

Ready to Give an Answer

But aren’t we Christians supposed to always be prepared to ‘give an answer’?

Sure, but an answer for what? Peter says, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

I very much doubt Peter was counselling the average new believer in the first century to have at his disposal the technical answers to all possible weird questions about the text of the Hebrew Old Testament. The poor new believer, for one thing, didn’t have Google or Josh McDowell. He didn’t even have a copy of the scripture. He had in his head whatever he had been able to memorize, probably from a Greek translation of the Old Testament. He didn’t even have the full New Testament yet. It hadn’t been compiled.

Even today, with all the resources available to us, some people are good at apologetics. Some people couldn’t argue their way out of a paper bag.

Shouldn’t We Be Able to Demolish Arguments?

But didn’t the apostle Paul say of Christians that we should be able to demolish arguments? 

That quote comes from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. Specifically, he wrote, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” But is that an expectation for every believer? He goes on to say, “... being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” If demolishing arguments is my job as a believer, is punishing disobedience in my purview as well?

Clearly not. In context, Paul is talking about his own gifts and ministry to the Corinthian believers, not some general expectation for all Christians. Please feel free to follow his example if you find yourself in a similar situation with similar gifts. But it’s not my skill set and it may not be yours either.

We don’t read that the fruit of the Spirit is spectacular debating skill. The Lord had that ability. The apostle Paul had it. But the ability to reason and convict others by argument is only of value in a very small number of situations. I know of far more people who have come to the Lord because of a gracious, loving gesture than have been argued into the kingdom.

My Hope

Peter said we are to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have in Christ. My hope rests on the finished work of my Saviour. I have peace with God and expect to spend forever in his presence because I rest in Christ, and Christ has fully and completely satisfied God with respect to the question of my sin for all eternity.

Cain’s wife? An interesting intellectual exercise, that’s all.

She doesn’t have a thing to do with my hope.

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