What Are We Missing in the Story of the Garden of Eden?

Why did God place the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden and forbid Adam to eat it?

Once again, I am reading the epic of Eden by Sandra Richter. She takes the orthodox, traditional position that Eden was perfect, man fell, bringing God’s creation down with him, and God is redeeming man with creation so that man will live forever in perfection, again, after redemption is complete.

I write recently, poising the question, Was the Garden of Eden Really Perfect? I am leaning in the direction of no, the garden of Eden wasn’t perfect, as I explained in the the article linked in this paragraph, and something is missing from the traditional narrative.

Today, I am posing some other questions that occur to me as I continue to read through Sandra Richter’s fine book. Why did God place the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden? Did God know men would eat from it? What is the point of the fall and the long road back to redemption?

I don’t claim to have all the answers, or at least not all the right answers. We may not know, and may never know, the answers. Maybe they aren’t for us to know.

Yet, I think God wants us to seek to understand. “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” (Proverbs 25:2) My article today is an attempt at better understanding of God’s redemption story.

Surely, God had purpose in placing that tree in the garden, right? God is sovereign and all-knowing, right? Thus, I think the questions I pose today are good for us to consider.

Continue reading “What Are We Missing in the Story of the Garden of Eden?”

The Tree of Life

This bubble of time in the sea of eternity is not our ultimate destination. This life is the illusion, and what follows, when we are freed from the bounds of time and space, is the reality.

Shagbark Hickory

The tree of life was there in the garden. It was available to us until God “cast us out of the garden” and closed us off from it, so the story goes. Why?

I think there is intention to the fact that He let us know that the tree of life was there and we could eat of it. Conceivably, we could have chosen to eat of the fruit of the tree of life, instead of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

(Notice that it was not a “tree of knowledge” but a tree of the knowledge of the difference between good and evil.)

I began thinking about these things one day as I was contemplating the slow unwinding of my own body. Continue reading “The Tree of Life”

Revisiting Life and Death: The Gospel from Beginning to End

We can have every choice (but eternal life) without God, or we can let go of every other choice to choose God (and gain eternal life).

Chris Frayley On Rock at River Bend

“O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

These familiar phrases from 1 Corinthians. 15:55 (quoting Hosea 13:14) jumped out at me as I read them again. Of course, I know that God has swallowed up death in victory through the resurrection of Jesus Christ! But, what does that really mean for us?

This statement is the tip of the iceberg, and it occurs to me that we cannot understand without remembering and contemplating “how we got here”. Therefore, we must go back to the beginning. Continue reading “Revisiting Life and Death: The Gospel from Beginning to End”

An Overview of the Genesis Story

Sometimes we get lost in the forest and miss the trees. Below is a take on Genesis from 30,000 feet as told by some creative folks at www.http://jointhebibleproject.com/  I enjoyed and the fresh look at age old stories put together in an overview. Below is my breakdown. At the end of this article is a link to the entertaining video.

God & the World

God made the world and declared it is good

God made man in God’s image: Adam is the Hebrew word for humanity; and Eve is the Hebrew word for life. Representative of God’s character in the world God made.

God sends them out into the world to be creative, as God was, but he gives them a moral choice about how they do it.

The moral choice is what the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is all about

God tells them not to eat of it or they will die.

Up to that point God provided and defined what is good (His creation)

God has the knowledge of good and evil and made it attainable for humans (the choice)

The tree represents that choice: will humans accept God’s definition of what is good, or will they define what is good for themselves.

This sets the stage for sin – the desire and act of defining and controlling what is good for me and my tribe, even at the expense of you and your tribe

People are not good at defining good and evil without God – Genesis 3-11

Downward spiral

Adam & Eve can no longer trust each other – they were naked and felt fine about it before, but now they feel shameful after eating the forbidden fruit and hide from God and each other

Cain becomes jealous of Abel and kills him

Lemak accumulates wives, property and sings songs of being more violent than Cain and is proud of it

Things get so bad that God proceeds to wipe out humanity except for Noah and his family

We think of God as angry, but he is sad and grief stricken; to save the world He washes it clean with the flood

But even Noah takes a turn – he plants a vineyard, gets wasted and things get sketchy

Babel ends this portion of Genesis – God knows that men, if unified, will seize the opportunity to seek to become like God and that will be bad

God scatters them so they can not wreak anymore havoc

When humans seize autonomy from God and define good and evil themselves it results in corruption, tragedy and death

Abraham & His Family

Begins God’s mission to rescue and restore humanity

Before the video link, I want to make a few comments. First, it seems elemental to me that God creative Adam and Eve to be creative beings like God (in the image of God), but the link between that and the tree of knowledge of good and evil I find interesting. God gave them a choice to accept what God provided them and defined as good or to eat of the tree and define what is good for themselves. I have not heard things put exactly that way before.

Building on that, the choices that humanity makes are awful. Cain kills Abel. The strong become boastful of violence and domination over others. Even after the flood “cleanses” the world for a fresh start, Noah, himself, stumbles into weirdness. And when humankind repopulates, they become unified in an endeavor to reach the heavens for themselves, which will only allow them to cause more trouble and damage than they would otherwise be able to do; so God divides them by language and scatters them. In doing that, He creates some checks and balances that minimize the trouble they can cause.

The beginning of Genesis is the story of the moral choice that humanity made, to seize control of defining good and evil for themselves, and rejecting God’s definition. It does not go well. We do not do well with the choices we make.

While the video ends here, the next portion of Genesis is summarized as the beginning of God’s rescue mission to save and restore humanity through Abraham and his family. We will have to wait for the summary of the rest of Genesis.

I am certain that the overview can be done in different ways and emphasize different aspects of the Big Picture. I think this overview is compelling. The fundamental choice that we all make is whether we will “do it my way” or submit ourselves to God’s way. Will define good and bad for ourselves or accept how God has defined it?

Here is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOUV7mWDI34

What is your take? Is this a good overview?

Two Trees in the Garden

Connecting with nature

“In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Gen. 2:10

Sometimes things jump out when I read the Bible. Two days ago, I was reading Genesis, and it struck me:

 There were two trees mentioned in the garden

The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil….

and God only told Adam and Eve they could not eat from one tree – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

God did not forbid them to eat of the tree of life.

That suggests that they could have eaten of the tree of life without prohibition, and it struck me: What if Adam and Eve had chosen life? Would there have been a fall? Would God have allowed them to remain in the garden with the tree of knowledge after having partaken of the tree of life?

We can only speculate because Genesis tells us Adam and Eve chose knowledge instead of life. They were drawn to the one tree that God forbade them to eat. It dawns on me that the very act of choosing was a sort of an introduction to that knowledge, and I suspect God knew that they would choose it: the one thing He told them they could not have. What is it in us that we are drawn to the things that we cannot have? Why are we drawn to the things we know we should not have, even over the things that we would rather have?

I suppose some people might choose knowledge again, even knowing that life would be forfeited. Even so, one theme of great literature and art over the centuries is a longing for eternal life. The fountain of youth is the coveted grail. Nothing strikes more darkly at the heart than the certainty of death and takes more of toil on the human heart than the loss of a loved one to its clutches.

I am certain that God foresaw and knew the path that His crowning creation would take. We are created in God’s image and for a purpose higher than our own designs. God must have known that Adam and Eve may have chosen (wold choose?) knowledge over life. He gave them that choice, and he must have been prepared to respond to it. In that sense, it seems to me that knowledge was a part of the plan, even if meant that we would be separated from life and separate from God by it.  

Ironic it is that partaking in the knowledge of good and evil would mean loss of fellowship with God and loss of a personal knowledge of God.

It had to be part of God’s plan as, without the ability to choose, and without the knowledge of good and evil, there would be no truly free will, and without free will, no true love. There would be no place for God’s mercy, no reason for Him to extend it. Without the knowledge of good evil and the opportunity to exercise truly free will, people would be one directional beings, not different in kind from every other animal, unable to appreciate God or to love Him fully.

Knowledge, however, could only come with a price. After gaining the knowledge of good and evil, there would need to be additional work done in the hearts of men, work which could not have been done without that knowledge, work that could not have been accomplished if knowledge were combined with eternal life, work that could take root only in the shadow of inevitable death, separation from God and the need for God’s redemptive mercy.

I do not believe that God could have (or would have) allowed the knowledge of good and evil to be gained along with eternal life. Knowledge, alone, puffs up. Indeed, it was the temptation to know what God knows and to be like God that induced Eve to eat. Sin, separation from God, toil, pain and inevitably death remind us that we are not in control, that knowledge, alone, cannot save us from this condition – that we are the creatures and not the Creator.

Knowledge alone does not make us like God. It does not ensure character, heart, mercy, justice, kindness, goodness and ultimately love. Those things must be chosen, and evil must be rejected. The knowledge of good and evil ensures that there is a choice to be made. It cannot be avoided. And in having to make the choice to embrace good, even though the tendency of man is to choose that which is forbidden, is where God meets the heart and does His work.

God placed the trees side by side; He forbade one, but made them both available. God made eternal life available in the Garden, and He makes it available to us still. God put eternity in the hearts of men. (Eccl. 3:11) He gave us the desire for eternal life. God desires that no one perish; and that all come to eternal life. (John 3:16) … but, men must choose. We must choose God, who is good, and His ways over ourselves and our ways. We must choose the merciful redemption of God, embrace the goodness of God and reject our own ways.

In the end, believers will have both knowledge and life, and that life that God gives freely will be given precisely because we choose goodness – because we choose God. The knowledge that was chosen in disobedience to God puts the horrible responsibility on us to choose, and by choosing, to end up with goodness and God for eternity … or  separation from God. It would have been so much simpler and better for us if we had chosen life, instead of knowledge. Instead, it is a matter of life and death.