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Sitara:

I see something strange here. I thought Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, and this was already in their human nature. But Paul seems to suggest that it's a future attainment. Why? Is something missing or lost here?

Nathan:

That's an important observation. We'll soon return to it.

Adam and Eve were created as persons of free will who could feel and reason. They were conscious beings in very close relationships with each other and with God their Maker.

They experienced freedom in their daily choices. They enjoyed harmony and fun with each other and with the other creatures. They felt love and intimacy in relationships. They felt fulfillment and growth in exercising their abilities and in discovering about the world as they learned to govern it.

Their faculty of reason enabled them to communicate, observe, understand, and innovate, for example in their assigned task of naming the creatures brought to them. [Note 1 ] As they lived, worked, and learned, it would soon be obvious to them that they had limitations.

God fully honored something in their spiritual being. It was the freedom of their will. He certainly has the power to force their will, [Note 2 ] but he chose to respect its freedom. The exercise of this will was their full responsibility, and so they had full accountability for their choices.

They were finite beings who could never reflect the infinite greatness of God, which even the entire creation could only suggest. It was the character of God that they reflected.

You observed correctly that this image of God in human nature is being damaged, and we need to see why.

We read in the Genesis narrative that God planted a garden in Eden with all kinds of trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. He also placed there the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. [Note 3 ]

Would you please read these verses here?

Sitara:

It says, "The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the Lord God warned him, 'You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.'" [Note 4 ]

It's quite clear that, in the Garden of Eden described in the preceding text, Adam and Eve had no need at all to disobey by eating the forbidden fruit. But the name of the forbidden tree is really weird. What does it mean?

Nathan:

A verse in the Old Testament talks about innocent little ones as "children who do not yet know good from bad." [Note 5 ] So knowing good and evil means moral discernment.

There's also another meaning. God's benevolent creation intention, as expressed in the norms he ordains, is what defines good. Evil is any deviation from his purpose. His will is the moral code for the entire creation because he's the Creator and owner of everything. So God knows good and evil because he prescribes the rules.

Adam and Eve were in their created state of full accordance with the Maker's intention. The presence of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was just a simple and constant reminder of something they had that defined them as spiritual beings. They had the freedom to choose to remain in their perfect bliss and fellowship with their Maker by obeying him.

Sitara:

I read the temptation part, but don't see what they were really tempted to gain from eating the forbidden fruit.

Nathan:

The devil tempted them by suggesting ideas. In fact, this is the primary way he has tempted every human ever since, including Jesus at the start of his ministry. Adam, Eve, and Jesus were fully human with untainted spiritual sensitivity. So they were conscious of the devil's presence and his suggestions. But suggestion is not coercion. The freedom of their will was intact.

Peter reminds us that the devil is working just as hard today. He says, "Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." [Note 6 ] The devil is very skillful at mixing his suggestions into our streams of thoughts.

The deceiver has unmatched skill in mixing falsehood and half-truths with real truths. He challenged the couple's knowledge of God's word and character. He suggested that they reinterpret God's command and question his motive.

Eve responded with a craving for what she saw as wisdom; namely, God's knowledge of good and evil. She ate the fruit, and then Adam did as well.

So they rejected their limitations, tore themselves away from God and from their place in the creation order, and carved out their own realm of separate existence where they could be like God with the power to dictate the rules as they please. They became the center of their own world.

When God confronted Adam and Eve later, they didn't confess their wrongdoing, didn't repent, and instead blamed someone else, even him. This clearly shows that it wasn't a careless blunder, but a meditated and conscious choice.

Sitara:

I just realized something.

We were brought up in a culture that values universal human freedom, equality, and rights. It can't be wrong to break oneself free from any bondage, to become an independent person who charts her own course, sets her own goals, and seeks her own destiny. So casually I felt the couple's choice was a rise of humanity rather than a fall.

But thinking deeper, I realize it's a right idea applied to a wrong case. Our culture upholds the universal values of rights and liberty against an implicit power party that's our equal. They're fellow humans who, in the best case of democracy, are given a temporary license to rule with the best intention for real benefits of the people who consent to the exercise of their power.

Not so in this case, the power party is our benevolent Maker who owns us. He has no need to be satisfied and yet provides everything we need. He alone knows our best interests and has infinite resources for our eternal benefits. We're not equal. Unplugging ourselves from him is really as bad as death.

Nathan:

A very good remark indeed.

Sitara:

Could their responsibility be at least partly excused for not knowing the consequences beforehand?

Nathan:

They knew God's love and his word, and that was enough to obey their Maker. He certainly doesn't want our obedience out of fear of consequences. Our obedience must be out of love and willful submission.

Sitara:

Can we really resist temptation? Are humans doomed to fall when tempted?

Nathan:

The fall was not due to any limitation in the original human nature, but simply a wrong choice made by individuals who had the ability to exercise free will. Jesus proved this. He stood the test in his full humanity after being tempted for forty days in the wilderness. [Note 7 ]

FOOTNOTES:

  1. Genesis 2:19-20. [Back ]
  2. Proverbs 21:1. [Back ]
  3. Genesis 2:8-9. [Back ]
  4. Genesis 2:15-17. [Back ]
  5. Deuteronomy 1:39. [Back ]
  6. 1 Peter 5:8. [Back ]
  7. Matthew 4:1-11. [Back ]
     

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