Notes and Reflections on Noah's Other Son, by Brian Arthur Brown -- see introductory post for more information on this book
Chapter 2 is about Cain and Abel or Qabeel and Habeel if you prefer the Quranic names. Here is a bit of what the author had to say about these brothers and what they represent.
"Abel is an ancient word for 'shepherd,' though it can also mean 'breath.' ... [He] represents the era in human history when humanity developed beyond hunting and gathering food.The era of animal husbandry is the first era of civilization." On the other hand Cain, meaning 'smith' as in blacksmith represents someone who "made tools that would actually interfere with nature." You know like putting up fences to keep out Abel's animals or trying to force plants to grow in rows, using animal waste as fertilizer and manufactured instruments to break up the soil. The author notes that "primitive religious folk" believe Abel's offering was accepted by God because "compared to the more natural life of Abel, the shepherd breathing freely out under the stars, Cain was seen as positively decadent in lifestyle and activity, much the way we feel about farmers using herbicides and pesticides, or the possible curse of genetically modified foods." (pg. 40)
Mr. Brown notes that both Cain and Abel had a God consciousness "which was one of the finest human instincts from the beginning." It is rather interesting to learn about more remote tribes and realize the people in those lands also have gods and ways to worship and please their deities. It seems a rather universal trait to have some awareness of higher beings out there running things. Do you suppose it's because people long for an explanation of why things happen - why a torrential rain would flood their land and wreak havoc? why a swarm of locust would ruin the crops? why the sun would do its job and cause things to grow? I wonder if it's only (or mostly) in more civilized societies where technology reigns where we find people denying the existence of a god controlling at least a few things out there.
The author credits Seth as introducing 'organized religion' based on the last part of Genesis 4 which reads:
25 Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, "God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him." 26 Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh.
At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD.
Brown believes the role of religion "in addition to offering warnings in the name of God [for such things as global warming, materialism, militarism], is to provide the protection that God offered Cain in a world where risks must be taken, technological or otherwise. Preachers are not to encourage turning back the clock at every juncture, but rather to offer encouragement and wise reflection on the trends, guiding progress instead of preventing it." (pg. 43)
Then he takes about a page to explain that mainstream Christian churches are declining, but perhaps this is what civilization needs as Christianity becomes more cultural. He even says some historic churches may be called to become 'shrines' as centers of cultural religion. Instead of meeting in churches, he says "serving God in the community and in the world is the new agenda."
Now I'm curious..if you were brought up hearing the story of Cain and Abel, what explanation were you given for why God accepted Abel's offering and not Cain's? What do you think of the author's interpretation of this story? Do you think he shows technology in an unfair light or is he pretty balanced in his thinking that people are often resistant to change ... perhaps even God because He accepted Abel's offering and not Cain's. Note: the author did make mention that Cain threw himself upon God's mercy after being judged for killing his brother. Thoughts?