God created humans in a state of sinless perfection, but all of that changed when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but 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 surely die” (Gen 2:15-17 ESV). So why did God put that tree in the Garden in the first place? Not only that, He put it right in the middle of the Garden! It wasn’t in some remote corner. Was He trying to set a trap for them?
Would you rather have Dangerous Freedom or Safe Determinism?
To better understand this, you might begin by asking yourself if you would rather hear the words “I love you” from another human being or from an AI computer like Siri or Alexa. One might ask, “What’s the difference? The same audible sounds are coming your way, right?”
Of course, even a child knows and feels the difference to that question, and it touches on God’s intentions in the Garden. Simply put, God didn’t create us to relate to Him like a Siri, Alexa, or any other such robotic creation that responds from a soup of pre-arranged equations. God is love, and He wants genuine love in return (as we all do, if we’re honest). But genuine love cannot be demonstrated unless there is the freedom to choose otherwise (to hate). Hence the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Just before they ate the fruit, did God zap the tree to make it disappear? No, He did not. Could He have? Yes, of course. But that would have violated the very freedom He had given to them, and He would be kidding Himself to think that would solve their heart problem.
Fast forward a few years to the first murder when Cain killed his brother Abel. Before the tragedy, God approached Cain and warned him — pleaded with him — to not do it. “Sin is crouching at your door, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7). Sadly, we see that Cain did not heed the warning. But couldn’t God have zapped the weapon (or whatever means) Cain used just prior to the murder? Sure. But if that had happened, do you think Cain would have given up on his intentions? Human nature makes it quite plausible to surmise that he would have continued looking for another weapon nearby since the murder had already taken place in Cain’s heart. If God had interfered with the scenario, He would have been taking away the very gift He has given to all humans: the freedom to choose.
Freedom to Love Includes Freedom to Hate
If we want to sing “all we need is love” then we must be willing to accept that this is not possible without room to hate. God’s gift of freedom must have a means of testing (e.g., the tree in the Garden). Otherwise we’re back to a “Siri, tell me you love me” relationship. In this life there will always be those who will reject love alongside those who accept it. Despite our best efforts, no amount of social reform can erase these extremes. This is not to say that we should not be involved in social reforms. Quite the opposite! Love compels us to seek the welfare of those around us. But it is frivolous when we see ourselves as the solution and that one day evil can be erased if we just try harder or pass enough laws. The only way out of this mess is to recognize the need to appeal to a higher power – to God Himself. It is pure hubris to think we humans can do this on our own strength. We cannot. And because God gave us the freedom to choose or reject Him, He will not force us to ask Him for help (though He desires us to ask). To do so forcefully would violate His own nature. And so we see the continuation of both love and hatred, as it has been since the Garden.
In one bit of news there are moments of incredible selfless beauty, followed immediately by stories of gross abuse. And yet our penchant is to tell ourselves that we’ll eventually overcome hate by our own strength. Deep down nobody really believes that at the gut level. Do you really think jealousy and envy will be gone forever with enough social reform? That never again will someone curse another in their heart? No, only a total transformation of our hearts can overcome this. Thank God He has given us a Rescuer through His Son, Jesus (Acts 4:12). His publicly attested death, burial & resurrection from the grave prove that He has power over sin & death. But here’s the rub: He leaves it up to you to freely accept or reject His gift (hence John 3:16). As CS Lewis said in the The Great Divorce:
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened”
– C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, in The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics, HarperSanFrancisco 2002, pg. 340.
Divine Restoration Through Christ Alone
God’s heart is always bent on restoration. If that weren’t the case He’d have destroyed us in the Garden. But He didn’t. Death came through Adam, but restoring life has come through Jesus. Now that’s great news! “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom 5:10). So which tree do you choose? The tree in the Garden that exalts yourself as ruler, bringing eternal enslavement and death? Or the tree on which Jesus hung and bled that brings you eternal freedom and life? So simple, yet so costly
Recommended Resources Related to this Topic
If God, Why Evil? (DVD Set), (MP3 Set), and (mp4 Download Set) by Frank Turek
Why Doesn’t God Intervene More? (DVD Set), (MP3 Set), and (mp4 Download Set) by Frank Turek
Why does God allow Bad Things to Happen to Good People? (DVD) and (mp4 Download) by Frank Turek
Hell? The Truth about Eternity (MP3 Set), (DVD Set), and (Mp4 Download Set) by Dr. Frank Turek
Short Answers to Long Questions (DVD) and (mp4 Download) by Dr. Frank Turek
Was Jesus Intolerant? (DVD) and (Mp4 Download) by Dr. Frank Turek
Oh, Why Didn’t I Say That? Is the Bible Historically Reliable? by Dr. Frank Turek DVD, Mp4, Mp3 Download.
Kent Suter was raised in Atlanta, GA and earned his Bachelor’s degrees in Biblical Studies and in Christian Education from Bryan College in Dayton, TN (2002). From there he attained a Master’s degree in Christian Apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary (2008) where he served as student assistant to his late mentor and friend, Dr. Norman Geisler. Following his time at SES, he moved back to Atlanta and served as Youth Pastor for middle and high school students for 15 years at Cornerstone Bible Church. Today he and his wife of 20 years, Brook, and their four children reside in Orlando, FL, where he now serves as a financial advisor with OneAmerica Securities. You can read more about Kent’s story at ksuter.com.