Understanding God’s Love and the Sin that Changed the World
ATTENTION: You are reading the 6th chapter in a blog to book series about Genesis (God in the Garden). I recommend starting with the introduction if you haven’t read it yet. If you are interested in learning when the book will be released or discussing anything said in these posts, please reach out through the contact page.
Is knowledge always a good thing? By increasing our knowledge, we can get better jobs, improve our lives, and better understand our universe. Knowledge is the foundation of our modern world. For without knowledge, where would we be? We would probably still be living in caves, without electricity, smartphones, or toilet paper. Who would want that kind of life?
We can all appreciate the advances that knowledge has given us. There’s a sense of beauty in its pursuit that we all recognize. Whether we are Christian or atheist, most can agree that we live in a mysterious and incredible world. It’s breathtaking. From the smallest atom to the deep vastness of space, from creatures we have only recently discovered in the midnight zone to new discoveries about our own brains, there is so much to explore in this world. When we truly encounter the depth of the universe, it’s hard not to be awed. It is a beautiful thing. So how could any creator ever be against us learning and understanding the universe better?
Knowledge Vs. Faith
Some argue that faith is the antithesis of knowledge, but God is not against knowledge or the pursuit of truth, for he is truth. He was the one that created the universe and everything in it. In the beginning, God told us to fill the earth and multiply. He wanted us to discover, learn and explore. Just as there is immense joy in watching your child experience something for the first time, God also takes pleasure in watching us learn and discover the truth. When we glimpse and understand and learn more about his creation, God’s heart is glad as we seek to learn more of him. So then, why did he command us not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge if he wants us to learn, grow, and discover?
In essence, we can’t allow the title of the tree to confuse us. Just because the word knowledge is in it does not mean that it was absolute truth. We have to make a distinction between knowledge and truth. That may seem absurd to some. Isn’t all knowledge truth? One can assume that, but it’s not very hard to see that all knowledge is not true. In our modern time, the term misinformation has become popular. This means incorrect or misleading information. Misinformation can also imply a half-truth or a white lie. Some may take offense to the claim that misinformation is also knowledge, but in the simplest terms, it is. The dictionary defines knowledge as the condition of knowing something. That knowing can include true or false information. The accuracy of the information does not invalidate it being knowledge. For instance, we can have knowledge of all kinds of scientific theories, but without proper evidence, that doesn’t necessarily make them real. Truth and knowledge are not a symbiotic relationship. They do not depend on each other and are not always the same.
Once we accept that not all knowledge is good, that much of it can be misleading, harmful, or a lie, then we can better understand the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Two verses from the New Testament may also help us with this. In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” And in John 8:44 he says, that the devil is the “father of lies.” If Jesus is the truth and the devil is the father of lies, then what is true and what is good are interchangeable. Likewise, what is evil and what is false also are interchangeable. This means the tree isn’t just about the knowledge of good and evil. It’s also the tree of truth and lies. Honesty and dishonesty. Sincerity and deceit him.
We all have an innate understanding of right and wrong. We know murder, theft, lying, cheating, gossiping, slander, and adultery are all wrong. Yet, we all sin. Why? Because we convince ourselves that our actions are not wrong. The ends justify the means. The circumstances we find ourselves in are an exception (we need to take care of ourselves). The lies cloud our judgment and make the simple complex. They make the obvious unclear. We so often interpret Genesis 3:7 (eyes of them both were opened), as they could see things clearly, or that they were no longer blind but could now see. This is false.
Before the fall, God had given us clarity, but as soon as Adam and Eve took a bite of the fruit, the knowledge of truth and lies flooded into their hearts. Their eyes weren’t only opened to knowledge in the sense of absolute truth. Their eyes were also opened to deception. They realized that deception could be used as a tool to their advantage. Hiding in the garden, and passing blame when God asked them why they ate the fruit are both forms of deception.
Adam and Eve thought they could use deception for their gain, but deception is tricky. In opening that door to fooling others, we also fool ourselves. Truth becomes murky. It becomes whatever we rationalize or whatever temporarily serves us best. Truth is no longer absolute. It changes to whatever we decide it is. It’s relative.
Essentially what sin is, is believing the deception. Sin is about accepting a lie. Sin is what happens when we exchange the higher for, the lower. It’s about believing that our feelings are the arbitrators of ultimate truth. It starts when we conclude that we deserve more than others. That life isn’t meant to be hard. That marriage should be easy. That the affair is justified. That our kids don’t need our attention. That our time is our time. That money is the most important thing of all. That we are better than other people. That we have it more together. That it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you do your best. Sin starts when we put our faith in the lies. These lies cause us to sin, but they also distract us from understanding the truth and create misaligned priorities. They impede our journey to seek God by keeping us focused on the trivial (temporal) things in this world.
Without the relationship with God, Adam and Eve couldn’t clearly see the truth. Their eyes were opened to deception, and it muddied the waters. What was true and what was false? Was God for them or against them? Was Satan right? Should they hide? Could they take care of themselves better than God? The answers were no longer evident because it’s only in communion with God that we grow to be more like him (made in his image) and understand the absolute truth. God is truth, and understanding real truth comes only through seeking him. This doesn’t make us perfect. We will still make mistakes, but we are reconciled and can understand the truth as we humbly seek God’s grace. Anything else that we put before God is just exchanging the truth for a lie. It’s trading the greater (God’s will) for, the lesser (our will), or the eternal for the temporal.
God and Knowledge
That is why God is not against true knowledge. He’s not anti-science, anti-thought, anti-truth, or anti-learning. He never was. God is anti-deception, anti-lies, and anti-misinformation. His goal was always to teach Adam and Eve to grow and be more like him, but they decided they wanted more. They wanted it faster. They wanted it on their terms. The same lies that controlled Adam and Eve back then still haunt us. We tell ourselves that we can’t trust God. We can do better than him. We deserve more than he has given us. This sin is small, or it’s not that big of a deal. We can handle it, or what will it hurt? And so the cycle continues, just as it was at the very beginning. The difference is, we never knew anything different. Adam and Eve had. In their relationship with God, they had experienced absolute truth. It was simple and easy. It wasn’t hard. Maybe that was where the first seeds of their sins started. For in knowing God, they missed out on one crucial point. Real wisdom, truth, goodness, mercy, and love were inseparable from God. These weren’t things they could acquire on their own (we might mimic them in some form, but they don’t compare to God’s ways). A relationship with God was crucial to have them. But Adam and Eve mistakenly thought these things were easy to attain because, in their relationship with God, they were.
When they tried to be like God without him, they immediately realized their mistake. Suddenly everything looked twisted. Adam and Eve had awakened from a dream into a nightmare (a corrupted version of their old world). Their eyes had been opened to deception, and the truth was no longer clear. Instead of seeing one true path, suddenly, there were many. The guilt must have been overwhelming.
Unfortunately, many people today identify with Adam and Eve in a prideful way. They see them as mythical heroes. They stood up against authority and claimed knowledge for themselves. Without their courage, where would we be? After all, knowledge is everything. We built our whole world upon it. No pursuit is more important or holds greater value. It deserves our worship. It needs it. If we don’t worship it, then there is the danger of falling back into the dark ages, back into ignorance.
This seems to be the dominant viewpoint of our age. Yet, it ignores the fact that all knowledge is not infallible. That all knowledge is not good. That knowledge can be misused to cause great evil. We only have to look at history to see that it is true. Wars, slavery, and genocide were repeatedly perpetrated at the hands of men. All of these evils started with lies that people interpreted as truth. Flawed and prideful people. For when we put our trust solely in the pursuit of knowledge, without any regard for God, we are putting our faith in our own flawed, sinful nature. The same mistake that Adam and Eve made back in the garden.
Today many believe that knowledge is God and faith is its polar opposite. They are pitted against each other. The unseen and seen don’t have to be at odds, though. Science and faith are flip sides of the same coin. Science points to the reality of the observable world, while faith points us to the truth of the unobservable world. God wants us to discover and enjoy both.
When we fail to value both types of truth, then we create problems for ourselves. Faith without reason becomes superstition, and reason without faith leads to relativism and nihilism. We can say we value truth, but without God, it becomes whatever we decide. In our obsession, we argue a lie until it seems like a fact, but no amount of effort or consensus can make a lie the truth or vice versa. Reality doesn’t change based on what we rationalize. It doesn’t depend on our prejudices or self-constructed values. It doesn’t matter how much progress we have or how far we come. Believing that we are somehow better than our ancestors because of the age we live in disregards the very nature of the heart of man and woman. To think we are somehow morally superior or better because of where and when we were born is not only foolish but dangerous.
Without faith, we, in essence, become a walking contradiction. In dismissing God’s truth, we dismiss all truth. In worshiping science, we breed ignorance. In denying the unseen, we become blind. In running away from God, we inadvertently stumble into another dark age. Pride comes before the fall.
The Great Exchange
Ultimately, we live in a breathtaking universe. It’s easy to become enamored with it. Instead of appreciating and honoring the gift giver, we become consumed with the gift (even Christians). We don’t even acknowledge the gift giver (who has far more value). In our obsession with the gift (knowledge, the universe, etc.), we lose sight of the truth (Romans 1:25).
There is nothing in this world as incredible, beautiful, or awe-inspiring as the one who created it. When it all comes down to it, all sin is a lie. It’s us exchanging the truth for a lie. It’s us exchanging the greater for, the lesser. It’s us exchanging the light for the dark. Our eyes may be open, but our vision is clouded. There are so many lies in this world that it’s impossible to see clearly without God.
- God always wanted us to discover and explore. He gets excited seeing us learn things, just as parents love seeing their children experiencing something new for the first time.
- Knowledge and truth are not always the same thing. Knowledge can also be deceptive.
- If Jesus is the way, truth and the life and the devil is the father of lies. That means good, and truth are interchangeable. Evil and deception are interchangeable. The tree of knowledge wasn’t just about the knowledge of good and evil. It was also the tree of truth and lies.
- Essentially sin is believing the deception. Sin is exchanging the truth for a lie (we can do better than God). Sin is what happens when we trade the higher (God’s will) for, the lower (our will).
- Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened to deception. They thought they could use it to their benefit but quickly learned that in opening the door to deceiving others, they also deceive themselves. They could no longer see God’s truth clearly. It became murky. Our eyes may have been opened, but our vision became clouded. Without God, it’s impossible to see clearly.
- Before the tree, Adam and Eve knew one clear path (union with God). After eating the fruit, suddenly there were many. Their eyes opened to possibilities, but they lost clarity and direction. Without clarity, it’s hard to understand God’s truth. We end up distracted by the trivial things in this world.
- God is not anti-knowledge. He’s anti-lies.
- Adam and Eve wanted more. They wanted it faster. They wanted it on their terms. The same lies that controlled them still haunt us. We tell ourselves that we don’t need God. We deserve more than he can give us. Whatever we have to do to get what we deserve is justified.
- When we trust solely in the pursuit of knowledge without regard for God, we are putting our faith in our own flawed, sinful nature. The same mistake that Adam and Eve made.
- Faith and science are flip sides of the same coin. They are not polar opposites. Science points us to the reality of the observable world, while faith points us to the truth of the unobservable world.
- Finally, we need to value both types of truth, or we become a contradiction. If we dismiss God’s truth, we dismiss all truth.