Genesis of Evil

My prior post about Gen. 3 and how (and why) Eve and Adam realize that they are naked has generated a lot of excellent comments. Please do be sure to read them all. A number of comments are addressing the origin of evil and I wanted to remind folks of my earlier post from two weeks ago on this topic. I realize that my somewhat unorthodox reading may have been lost within the post since it is a sermon (short homily really) so I have re-presenting the cogent bits here.

… In presenting Adam and Eve with the opportunity to demonstrate their love and obedience to him, God also created the opportunity for sin. Sin did not exist in the Garden prior to this moment but the potential did.

Gen. 3.1 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’?”  2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;  3 but 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.’”  4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die;  5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  6 So 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.  7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

We all know the story well, but consider two key points: the serpent does not (strictly speaking) lie and yet God seems to do so. The serpent craftily uses words to persuade Eve (and Adam “who was with her”) that when God said that they would die in the day that they ate the fruit that they would not, but rather they would “be like God, knowing good and evil.” After God discovers their transgression and curses the serpent, the woman, and the man, notice what he says.

Gen. 3.22 Then the LORD God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—  23 therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.

God confirms what the serpent said, they have indeed become like God, knowing good and evil,” but the man and the woman don’t die on that day! Clearly God is a liar!

Now many will justify God saying, “They do die ‘in that day’ because they may no longer eat of the tree of life and live forever.” But I think this misses the real point, the momentous event that occurred. In the moment that Eve and Adam ate of that fruit the potential for disobedience became the reality of sin. And in response the justice of God was meted out and so too was his mercy.

Just as the actions of the man and the woman brought about the reality of suffering and death into the world it also brought about God’s mercy and grace. So long as they were obedient, they could do anything in the Garden they liked! just not eat of that one tree, so long as they were obedient, God did not need to show mercy and grace. When tested we humans succumbed to temptation and when tested God responded with mercy.

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