I think it’s wonderful to throw out the questions and ideas you are struggling with for feedback, it’s an important part of the growing and knowing process for all of us.
The Adam/Eve and Cain/Abel questions plagued me also, many years ago. More often I assumed they were figurative of the start of humanity, rather than literal. I didn’t discount that they were literal, just leaned to the other view.
After being very stressed over my doubts I ultimately decided not to struggle with it, that there wouldn’t be a test at the gates of heaven where I had to have all the answers right in order to get in. That really helped eliminate the stress of figuring it all out.
As I progressed with the business (and pleasure) of knowing God things began to form more solidly in my beliefs. Rather than finding that solidity in the minor details of passages, more often than not I found them in the sum of ALL the parts. Especially the idea of Adam and Eve as the origin of humanity.
There are so many books, so many chapters and verses, so many concepts it’s a challenge to begin to grasp the whole. But as you begin to put it all together it becomes much more clear that these are not all fragments, that there are continuous threads through the full story of God and His creation. I will tell you this takes time and process. And that process came (and still comes) not just from study, but also prayer, worship, fellowship and communion with God.
Here are some things that helped me break through barriers of understanding:
– In many Bibles, on many verses, you will see very small letters next to texts that reference other places in the Bible where these verses are connected. This really helps illuminate the key connections between the OT and NT.
– Many study Bibles have information and outlines at the beginning of each book which can be very helpful.
– A friend and I spent a year, reading out loud, the “One Year Chronological Bible.” (It’s not perfectly re-ordered, but they clearly notate their rationale for how they’ve ordered things.) Both the process of hearing it out loud AND having the story more in a linear order really helped me put more things together and see the bigger picture as one continuous story. You really see/hear the repetitions in a meaningful way. I think the biggest take-away from this for me was the idea that, God-says-what-he-means and He-means-what-he says. I realize that sounds obvious, but for me it meant if I’m still not quite getting it, it’s likely a deficiency on my part and not God’s. Some things I ultimately must take on faith and pray for greater understanding in the meanwhile.
– I have access to wonderful teaching from highly regarded biblical scholars at our church. But I do have to be intentional about getting there and doing the work. Likely there’s good opportunity in most churches. Also, there is so much great content online it’s a valuable tool to take advantage of. (Recommend making the effort to understand the background of the online teacher and what might influence their ideas as a basis for categorizing their content. Such as did they study at a liberal or conservative seminary? Are they charismatic? Non-charismatic? Etc. Most teaching has value, but even teachers have context that needs to be taking into consideration).
– Bible study. Context is SO valuable. Who was the audience? Where did it take place? Were the preceding verses/chapter the same setting and are they related? Context sheds a lot of light on our understanding. No one in Jesus audience had to think twice about all the shepherd/sheep references. Today, we do. Most of us don’t know the nuts and bolts of how sheep behave and how to care for them. We tend to read these passages as figurative word pictures, but the original audience was connected to the references in a much more literal way. So if we understand what that audience understood we can do a better job of application for our lives today.
– Finding the distinction between God’s commands and God’s promises in another key. I guess another way of saying that is my part and God’s part. Life get’s much easier when I stop trying to do God’s job and I concentrate on my own! Also knowing His promises can help you build your trust muscle when life knocks the stuffing out of you.
I think the Apostle James gives the best advice:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8–my italics). Sincerely ask God for understanding in the things you are grappling with and He is good to provide. That provision may be in the form of the right book, the right teacher, or a difficult life experience, but He is good to provide (AND his provision is good!).
We all pray God’s blessing on your journey and the joy you will have in knowing Him.