Monday, January 16, 2006

Why the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?

This question came in to my email address.

Question: "Why did God put that tree in the garden?"

Short answer: I don't know.

Longer answer: I'm not sure anybody knows definitively, but here are some things to think about.

1. The command to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (TKGE) is an opportunity for the the creature to express love and trust in his Creator. The negative commnad ("do not taste") serves as a test of obedience to the loving command given by God. It gives the creature a postive way to express his turst and love. The issue of trust is brought out in fuller relief when we evaluate the tatic of the tempter. "Has God said ..." (3:1) and "Surely, you will not die" (3:4), are clear attacks on the trustworiness of the Creator's words to Adam.

2. Alongside the issue of trust is the issue of authority. The Creator has implicit authority over the creature and so the divine prohibition is opportunity to recognize the authority of God.

3. God has from the beginning of creation, always been interested in the development of faith in the creature for Himself, the Creator. Faith in God is demonstrated when the creature obeys the commands of God before understanding.

A. A. Hodge speaks very pointedly as to why the command not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was selected as the test of covenant obedience. Perfect conformity of heart, and perfect obedience in act to the whole will of God as far as revealed.––Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10; James 2:10. The Command to abstain from eating the forbidden fruit was only made a special and decisive test of that general obedience. As the latter forbidden was morally indifferent in itself, the command was admirably adapted to be a clear and naked test of submission to God’s absolute will as such. The forbidden tree was doubtless called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because through the disobedient eating of it mankind came to the thorough experience of the value of goodness and the infinite evil of sin.

[Smith, M. H. (1994; Published in electronic form by Christian Classics Foundation, 1996). Systematic Theology, Volume One : Prolegomena, Theology, Anthropology, Christology. Index created by Christian Classics Foundation. (electronic ed.). Greenville SC: Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary Press.]

I have heard some who wish to take pot-shots at the Bible say that it was unfair of GOd to test Adam and Eve in this way. Further, they say that the text doesn't make sense because Eve and Adam could not have known that eating of the tree would produce evil results because they didn't know good from evil. In other words, that a real choice, implies a real knowledge of the difference between good and evil already.

But the reality is that obedience does not require experiential knowledge of good and evil. It requires recognition of an authority above yourself and trust. It is not the eating of the fruit that is sinful but the rebellion against God's authority and the distrust of his spoken word. The clay does not tell the potter what to do. Or as I told my four year old nephew, "It is generally not a good idea to give God advice on how to run the universe."

[more to come, ... Maybe!]


halfmom said...

this entry is right up your alley - pictures from a Stinter in Turkey about the sacrificial holiday they just went through and how they have the story as God providing a sacrifice when Abraham was going to sacrifice ISHMAEL, his beloved son. Wow!

Anonymous said...

Also, God knew that Adam and Eve would disobey, and that sets the stage for us needed a Savior.

ChosenRebel said...

What we have to finally admit is that all our answers are speculation since God does not reveal why in the text. Still the exercise of asking the question is helpful.

It helps us to see some issues that might have otherwise drifted by us unoticed and unappreaciated. Bottom line: God does all things for His glory. And we can be sure that the placement of the tree in the garden is for the greater glory of God. The creature's response is to obey his creator and trust in his superior wisdom. We always get in trouble when we go against the will of God.

halfmom said...

I think my question is, more than why did God put the tree there - because it doesn't surprise me that I don't understand a lot of what God does - but why did Adam and Eve make the choice they did? They didn't do it out of lack, because they didn't lack anything. They didn't do it out fear, because they didn't know fear. They had it all, including personal time with God where all they had to do was show up - no fear, no pain, no shame, no guilt. So why? And, if perfect people in a perfect environment sinned, what hope is there for me? And so, I end back up at "the tree", just a different one - the bloody one, because of course there's no hope for me on my own, duh!

ChosenRebel said...

I think you partially answered your own question. Here's a couple of additional thoughts.
1. Be careful of who your friends are and the advice they give. (If two perfect people with all that going for them--see your own comments--can stumble and follow the wrong advice, it is wise for me to be doubly careful about the counsel I keep.

2. Nothing good comes out of disobeying God.

3. Runing to a bloody tree is our only hope every day.

halfmom said...

I figured I was rebellious and liked to make my own choices rather than do what I was told - even sometimes when I knew I was wrong - because I was born sinful. However, it seems that is just what Adam and Eve were doing - and they weren't born sinful. That they would make the same choice is what amazes and confuses me.

Do you think that there is something intrinsic in being human (born sinful or like them, not) that leads us to want to make our own choices, to control our own lives?

Like I said, it is a mystery to me.