Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Knowledge of Good and Evil

"Why did God restrict humans when He placed them in the Garden of Eden?  Why didn't He want them to have knowledge?"

I've watched numerous Youtube debates between atheists and believers, and this question has popped up numerous times.  Several answers have been given.  Many of them rather adequate, but none I have heard take the following view.

First, the background text:

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’  Genesis 2: 15-17

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ 2The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” 4But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; 5for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ 6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.  Genesis 3:1-7

Why did God restrict knowledge?

Well, one must be a bit careful in asking this question, because as the story tells us, God did not restrict all knowledge.  He only restricted the knowledge of good and evil.  The knowledge of how things work.  The knowledge of beauty, the knowledge of love, the knowledge of trust, one could even argue scientific knowledge and the knowledge of the earth was open to humankind.   Only one type of knowledge was restricted: the knowledge of good and evil.

So, let's rephrase the question to reflect reality: why did God restrict the knowledge of good and evil?

Well, was there a need for such knowledge?

God had provided the man and woman with food, shelter, purpose, safety, and community.  There was nothing they lacked.  All was taken care of.  There was no need for the knowledge of good and evil.

However, there was need for the ability of man and woman to make a choice.  Without some sort of choice and free will, then there can be no relationship.  God does not desire a forced relationship but one of trust, and He trusted man and woman to obey one simple rule.  "Don't eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil."  You don't need this.  All is taken care of.

I mean, from a practical standpoint, what would our lives be like if we did not have to worry about what was good and what was evil?  What would our lives look like if we did not have to think through the consequences of our actions to see if they would produce good or evil?  How many of us stress over decisions knowing if we get them wrong, there will be negative results?  The knowledge of good and evil--even in the limited fashion we have them now--causes moral, ethical people angst and stress.

God did not want the pinnacle of His creation to bear such a burden; especially in paradise.

But as is the wont of human nature--we are never satisfied with what we have.  There is something that always wants more.  We cannot simply enjoy that which is around us and our situation in life no matter how good or how bad it is.  We cannot simply be satisfied that our needs are provided for--want takes hold.

"Eat of the fruit for then you will be like God knowing the difference between good and evil."

I can be like God.  I can have all knowledge then.  I will no longer be limited or have any boundaries.  I will be truly free.

Well, it didn't exactly turn out that way, did it?  Broken trust.  Broken relationships.  Blame game.

Here's a question I haven't heard ex posited on: if after eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, and knowing that blaming another for one's own actions is evil, why then did the man and woman do exactly this after eating?

Apparently, knowledge doesn't exactly lead to doing.  Furthermore, even if we have knowledge, human minds are limited in their ability to calculate fully the consequences.  We may think one thing seems good, but when implemented it becomes evil.  And something may appear evil but when implemented it brings about good.  Who but God can fully know good and evil?

And so, God kept it from us.  In paradise, we didn't need it.  And now that we have some idea of it, neither can we implement it nor can we fully grasp good or evil fully.

Seems like God was pretty smart in His restriction in that light.

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