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Response to Pat Campbell

(God and the Garden of Eden)

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This is really LONG.  I apologize in advance.
Pat, thank you so much for your comments.  Once again, they were eloquently and clearly stated.
I will try to offer some reasonable responses.  But, please remember when you read these comments, I mean no disrespect to you or your faith. 

Pat #1. Being in a state of innocence, Eve did not know right from wrong from experience, but she did know what was right and true from God as the essence of goodness. I believe that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was simply an object lesson, which would require Adam and Eve (A&E) to make a choice—that choice being, ‘do I trust that God loves me enough to tell me the truth.’ In a relationship between to moral beings, love requires that we choose to trust and to commit ourselves in that trust.
  1. How did she know that God was the essence of goodness? The Bible does not say that Eve ever encountered God.  He presented Eve to Adam but there is no other indication that she personally had a relationship with God.  Any relationship is speculative.
  2. If we take this as an object lesson, do we not take the scriptures literally?  Making a decision, any decision requires knowledge of the consequences of making that decision.  “Does God love me enough to tell me the truth?”  Of course.  Why, because he’s never lied to me that I know of. Does the serpent not love me enough to tell me a lie?  Not sure if I’ve never been lied to before.  Has the serpent ever lied to Eve before? (A side note for thought: everything that God made in creation was “good”.  And yet here is a bad serpent. Did God create the serpent and make him evil? If so, did God create evil? If so, does that make evil good?) Do we give Eve and Adam too much credit when they were such primitive creatures?  This is at a time before language, before the wheel, before fire!
  3. Scripturally speaking, the purpose of the tree was to provide knowledge of good and bad (Genesis 2:17).  But the Lord God gave man this one warning: you may eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the Tree of Conscience – for its fruit will open your eyes to make you aware of right and wrong, good and bad.  If you eat its fruit, you will be doomed to die.  (Life Application Bible, Living Bible. Of course there are a myriad of other translations that state this in various ways. That’s why written communication is so inefficient. Just a side note).
  4. How we make choices depends on the knowledge that we have of the options contained in that decision. One cannot make a good decision based on inadequate information.

Pat: This is where Satan brought his attack: the integrity of God at His word, ‘Yea hath God said.’ The first mistake the happy couple made was that Adam was not protecting his wife—though that may be a sexist statement these days, it is nonetheless true. Eve’s first mistake was to ad words to what God had said, “neither shall ye touch it” (Ge 3:3). God did not say that (Ge 2:17), but her paraphrase of what God had spoken plainly assisted her in being deceived.
  1. Not sexist to me. I’m good with that.  However, it doesn’t say that Adam was present with Eve so could he really protect her if he wasn’t there?
  2. She might not have gotten it wrong.  Remember, God didn’t tell her anything.  She had not even been created at this time. He told Adam.  Did Adam tell Eve? What did he tell her? (Command – Gen. 2:16. Creation of Eve – Gen. 2:22)
  3. The Lord God commanded the man: “You may freely eat from every tree of the garden, (Gen. 2:16. Bold is mine).  We have no idea what information Eve got concerning the tree.  Anything we might suppose would be purely speculation.
Pat: #2. Eve should have mistrusted the Serpent because he contradicted what God had told her (RED FLAG!, like when somebody tries to tell us something that we know is not true); and this was the first issue she brought up in their conversation. Her aspiration to ‘godhood’ was not simply to ‘be like God’, (she already had that likeness), but to be her own god, knowing good from evil. Get that Chris, Eve WANTED to know about evil (though she did not know exactly what evil was, she did know that it was not good).
  1. In the garden who ever lied to her?  A child trusts because they have no reason not to.  Trust is somewhat natural until something happens that causes us not to trust. I give a child candy and the child takes it unless he has been warned by his parents and has reached the age of understanding. Again, God didn’t tell Eve anything.  As far as the scriptures are concerned, he didn’t tell her anything.
  2. And, again, don’t we all want to be like God?  Isn’t that supposed to be our aspiration? If God is good and God knows good from evil then I will be good if I know good from evil. It’s hard to argue that she aspired to be her own god when she had no idea of what a god was.  We give her a lot of credit for being one really smart pre-Paleolithic creature.
  3. Philosophically, we live in a world of opposites.  One cannot know beauty without knowing ugly; likewise, one cannot know bad unless it can be contrasted with good. These are contrasting opposites. The one has no definition or meaning without the other. I cannot know that something is good unless I know what bad is.  If the garden was “good” then she could not recognize bad.  Unless she had previously met the serpent and he did something that was in contrast to good.
Pat: #4. As stated in #1, the tree was simply an object lesson. The reality was demonstrated though their choices—regardless of a tree or not, eventually love and trust (faith) would need to be objectified. Thus, the tree did not possess the quality of temptation, the Serpent suggested that God was keeping something (godhood, enlightenment) from them. Additionally, to be tempted is not a sin, but to yield to temptation is sin. Thus, God did not wound A&E, but offered them the opportunity to demonstrate their love and faith in Him, at which they—even in a perfect state—failed.
  1. According to the scriptures, the tree had a purpose (Gen.2:16). Perhaps it was twofold.  As mentioned above, trust was demonstrated.  She was totally trusting.
  2. God was the reason for the temptation.  He put the tree in the garden. Why? To test the couple?  Why? He already knew what the result was going to be if he is omniscient. Right? Adam and Eve really didn’t have a choice. History had been written by God (discussion for another time). Adam and Eve learned a valuable lesson.  Unfortunately, it was too late.  If my children fail to obey me I usually give them another chance.  This is a demonstration of forgiveness, compassion and love. But we don’t witness this in God’s reaction. God’s reaction is harsh and unforgiving.  The couple is cursed, the ground is cursed and the serpent is cursed. A little vindictive, isn’t it? (I’d put a smiley face here if I knew how so you would interpret this as being said gently and not irascibly.)
  3. The reason for the “sin” was desire.  Eve desired the fruit (Gen. 3:6).  Desire is an attribute or a value that when unchecked by reason (the power of the mind to think, understand and form judgments by a process of logic) is a main cause of undesirable behavior: greed, envy, jealous, etc. (Side note: Buddha taught that desire was the root of all evil.) Desire was given to Eve by God.  It is a value that, as far as we know, is not a conscious determinant in other creatures.  Unless she was able to reason, based on information and evaluation, she had no way of making a decision that was logical (good or bad).
Pat: #5. I’ll throw this in. The Bible says we have inherited a sin nature: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” –Romans 5:12. It is pretty apparent that people have a rebellious nature, even as infants through our teenage years and beyond, we are rebels. The history of mankind demonstrates that collectively we are a pretty evil bunch, and we need a Savior.
Response (please allow me to respond to the “throw in”).
Wow, this statement opens a Pandora’s box of issues. Are infants rebelling? Are they doing wrong intuitively? I cover this issue in my book but it is too lengthy to address here. In short, there is a distinct possibility that we have misinterpreted bad behavior for instinctual behavior that is common to all animals.  There is ample evidence in nature for this proposition. Why do we make bad decisions?  Is it rebellion or a lack of understanding as to the reality of action and consequence?  Do younger individuals, feel that they are immune to consequences? Do they make decisions based on impulse and immediate gratification.  I know I did. Following a lecture on consequences I had a student once who asked, “what if I understand the consequences and still choose to commit the action?” (I love working with teenagers. They are so honest.) You see, until we experience the consequences of our own actions, we really don’t or can’t acknowledge the impact of our actions on our own life and the lives of others.  We are rebellious for several reasons: one, we don’t or can’t comprehend the impact of our actions, and, two, the rebellious attitude is one that is necessary as a part of our breaking away from family ties and developing into mature individuals.  We have an innate desire and need to be independent.  This is evidenced by human and other animal behavior.  I witnessed it with my children and, perhaps, you witnessed it with yours. (For thought) Does a Savior keep us from being evil or provide forgiveness when we are evil? Are we responsible for our own evil (bad decisions).

Pat:#6. “Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin” - Deut. 24:16. Yes, this seems to contradict Num. 14:18 and Ex. 34:7. Here is what is being said. At the time Scripture was being written, even up until just a couple of generations ago, you had several generations living under the same roof (think The Waltons). Often the sins of the father were LEARNED by the children, therefore, if the children committed the same sins, they would receive the same judgement, even to the third and fourth generation. It was a warning and additional motivation for Israelites to teach their children the right way of living: “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons…” Deut. 6:6-7a.

It seems that what is being said is pretty literal.  The interpretation is what is at issue. My understanding is that the scriptures are for all generations.  If we say that some scriptures are exclusively meant for a specific generation then identifying what is intended for what time period becomes problematic.  Deut. 24:16 claims that a person is only responsible for their own actions. I think this is pretty straight-forward. 
In regard to Ex. 34:7: We still learn from our parents far beyond the third or fourth generation. Do we not suffer the same judgment farther down the line? And what happens if I don’t commit the same “sin” as my parents?  Am I still held accountable for their sins?  This is what the scripture says.  (Exodus 34:7)
He graciously loves thousands,
    and forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin.
But he does not leave the guilty unpunished,
    visiting the iniquity of the ancestors on their children,
and on their children’s children
    to the third and fourth generation.” (ISV)
If we disregard the contextual literality of the verse and allow for interpretation, then we can pretty much make the verse mean whatever we want.  However, taken in context, we must agree that the first part of the verse speaks specifically concerning punishment – visiting the iniquity (sins) of the ancestors on the children. Remember the situation where Jesus encountered the blind man and his disciples asked him if the man’s blindness was a result of his own sin or that of his parents?  Even Jesus believed that there was a generational ripple effect from sin. The contradiction in the two verses seems implicit.  Please do not take this as an insult because I am speaking in generalities when I suggest that sometimes all of us are prone to interpreting writings in a way that we have been taught or from a certain biased perspective rather than looking at the work objectively.  My points are made in an attempt at understanding what is being said, both literally and interpretively, from an objective point of view. Objectivity can lead us to a more accurate understanding of an issue.
Pat: Regarding justice, ordinarily each person would have to pay for one’s own sins, which as finite beings having sinned against an eternal being, we could never sufficiently pay for our crimes/offenses: it would take forever.
I realize this is getting beyond lengthy and I apologize, but there are so many issues in all of this discussion.  Here is one question: do we sin against God or other humans?  This is a discussion for another time.  I realize the Bible says that we can.  However, in the New Testament when the man was offering his penitence at the temple, he was told to go and ask for forgiveness from the one who he had wronged. 
And, if we do sin against God, isn’t that the reason for forgiveness? Once we have been forgiven, our sins are separated from us as far as the east is from the west.  No payment is due.
Pat: How could God pardon the guilty, and at the same time remain true to His just and holy nature? (see Romans 3:26)
Pat, this is a big one. According to his holy nature, he should forgive, shouldn’t he? But here’s the really big issue: according to the scriptures, unless God’s definition is vastly different from our own, he is not just.  In fact, there is hardly one story in the entire Old Testament that illustrates God being just.  It is said often, but hardly ever exemplified.  Once again, if we are told by someone who we believe knows more than we do that God is just and they are able to bend the stories to rationalize or justify certain behavior then we might be convinced that God is acting justly.  But if we examine God’s actions without prejudice, God is not just in his actions.  I know this claim will infuriate some, but conflict is not my intention.  It is simply a self-evident, scriptural fact.  Certainly, I can give quite a number of examples, but it would make this response unbearably exhausting (as it probably already is).
Pat: Atonement would be necessary, which is where the whole tabernacle/temple sacrifice system came into play. Ultimately, if there was a perfect, sinless member of the human race, he, under no obligation of his own, could of his own free will choose to substitute himself in our place. This is what Jesus did. He essentially ‘bypassed’ the inheritance of the sin nature through the virgin birth, lived as a man, never sinned even once, and on Passover offered Himself as the ultimate Passover Lamb, to take away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29). Having no personal guilt himself, Death had no legal claim on Him, therefore He could take His life up again through the resurrection, live forever, and offer complete forgiveness to anyone who will trust him Him. That is the Gospel. Trust in Him Chris, you’ll never regret it.
I must apologize again, but the sheer volume of issues in this last statement makes it impossible for me to address them all in this post.  A few of the issues it evokes includes the virgin birth, the status of Jesus, what is justice, the plausibility of the resurrection and a few more.  I will not bore you with my background except to say that my father was an amazing Baptist preacher for over 49 years and I myself was in the ministry for several years. In fact, it was my extensive study of the scriptures that led me to search for truth in religion and write the book, Are We Being Deceived. I do not instigate discussions for the reason of creating chaos or antagonistic debate. Even though I am convinced that I am closer to the truth now than I have ever been, I am always seeking to grow by listening to the opinion of others.  Unfortunately, I fear that Facebook is not the venue for such in-depth examination of such complex issues. 
I thank you for your input and your eloquent discussion. Your compassion and sincerity are obvious.
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