Why Did God Plant the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?

     Sin opened the door for all kinds of evils, injustices and sufferings, from natural disasters to tyranny to terminal disease. The skeptic observes tragedy and inhumanity and concludes that God is either unloving or powerless. If God is loving and all-powerful, then why does He allow genocide in Rwanda and Hurricane Katrina? If He is all-powerful, He could stop these things. If He is loving, He would want to. How would you answer the skeptic? Why did God plant the tree of knowledge of good and evil and allow the opportunity for sin and evil and suffering? Theologians and philosophers and other people a million times smarter than I am have pondered this question as their life’s work. So, I am not so arrogant as to believe I have the answer. I do have a suggestion, but it is merely a suggestion.
     Before I make my case, I would like to recommend that you wrestle with the problem of evil and suffering before you find yourself in the midst of it, for a few reasons. 1) When you face profound disappointment and pain, the big-picture answers sound trite and clichéd. When my wife and I lost our daughter, it was not helpful to hear that God had a plan. We knew it was true, but we were not able to accept the reality of it because we were grieving; and we needed to grieve. 2) Our personal experiences tend to breed biases in our worldview. Without answers established before entering suffering, we will likely interpret God’s story in light of our experiences rather than interpreting our experiences in light of God’s story. In other words, we become the starting point for understanding suffering instead of starting with the goodness and love of God. 3) Emotional stress and trauma shrinks our world down to the tragedy we are facing. When we endure suffering, the periphery disappears. All of our attention focuses on our circumstances. When this happens, we cannot see the bigger picture, much less make sense of it. We need to carry solid answers into suffering, not that they will alleviate the pain and sorrow, but that they will guard our faith from being shipwrecked in a sea of confusion and doubt.
     What if God had not planted the tree of knowledge of good and evil? What if He created a universe in which there was absolutely no potential for sin and its tragic consequences? We would enjoy the beauty of God’s creation free of poison ivy, thunderstorms and pollutants. Relationships would be lasting, fulfilling and unbroken. No fear. No crime. No disease. No sin. No need for comfort. No need for justice. No need for healing. No need for grace and mercy. Do you see my point?
I think a world without sin and pain would fall short of displaying the glory of God. Tragedy sucks, but through it we experience God in ways that we never could if tragedy did not exist. It is through suffering that we have the opportunity to learn of God’s great love for us as individuals as He comforts and sustains. Weakness allows us to know His strength. We would know nothing of the merciful nature of God if sin had never gained entrance into the world. Does this mean that God delights in sin and tragedy? Absolutely not. But He does delight in being our comfort. The two are exclusive. I hate it when my wife hurts. When she does hurt, I want my shoulders to be the ones she cries on. I want to be the one with whom she shares her hurts. I hate seeing her cry. I love being the one to hold her until she is done. 
     Sin and suffering are canvases on which God completes His self-portrait that was begun in the perfection of creation. I realize this is probably not the most comforting thought if you are currently hurting. But this life is God’s story, and in your suffering, He desires to display His comfort, His healing and His love.

 

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6 thoughts on “Why Did God Plant the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?

  1. My condolence to you and your wife for the tragedy you suffer. I am thankful your love for God is strong and you two are an encouragement to others going through terrible circumstances. I enjoyed your article, but I am hoping for a clarification. Are your saying that it was God’s design that mankind sin so He could display His mercy and it be understood as such by His creation? In other words, Did God want sin to occur in order to fulfill His larger purpose? Thank you for your consideration.

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    1. Thank you for the question. I would never say that God wanted sin to happen. I would say it is necessary that sin happened. Here’s how I think about it. A couple of years ago, I taught my oldest son to ride his bicycle. Now, I never want my son to hurt. When he hurts it breaks my heart. However, there came a point when I had to let go of his bike and let him ride. By doing so, I pretty much ordained that he would fall…and he did. I hated hearing him cry and seeing his knees bleed, but the falling was a necessary part of the process. Also note, I did not cause him to fall. I merely pulled away my hand. I was rooting for him not to fall.
      Similarly, God did not want sin, but the point of history is the cross, in which the glory of God is most clearly seen. Sin is a necessary part of the story because, without it, there is no need for the cross. If there is no
      cross, we miss the wonder of the marriage of divine justice and eternal love.
      Hope this helps you understand where I’m coming from. And please, feel free to voice your objections. I enjoy thinking through these things.

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      1. Thanks for responding. I replied to this comment this AM, but now I don’t see it, so I’ll try again. To use your son as an example, I suspect, after a measure of training on the bike, you released him to make decisions and allow him to grow in his biking skills. I’m confident that if he did not fall you would still be proud of him and find other ways to express your deep love and concern for him. You would not push him down so you could show him another caring side of your love for him. And, my brother, if it were necessary for sin to happen then why would God tell Adam not to eat of the tree? He provided the tree of Life as a way of obedience and spiritual growth under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit.
        The cross as “historical” is where man meets Jesus Christ and (hopefully) repents and chooses God’s way over his own. The cross as a “principle” is where Adam had to decide if he was going to obey God and be saved or disobey and take responsibility for his own life and destiny. The cross as “principle” is before us each day as we make decisions pleasing to our Lord or against His glory. Jesus put it this way, (Matt 16:24) “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (NASB). The “historical” cross was necessary to placed us in the relationship position that Adam enjoyed and the cross as a “principle” is to position us for intimate fellowship with Him. I will be writing more on this on “whyfather.com” very soon I hope. I have enjoyed your other posts also. Thanks.

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  2. Thank you again for your response. My view concerning the necessity of the existence of sin for the display of the the glory of God stems from my conviction that all of history is God’s story, written by God for the purpose of displaying the glory of God. He created the universe to in all of its vastness, beauty, and intricacies to display His character, His heart, His beauty for His own enjoyment. God is God-centered. God is so committed to the display of His glory that He genuinely loves unlovable people like me. Because God is radically committed to His own glory, I benefit greatly. Second, the fact that things turned out the way they have is evidence that this is what God has willed. He is absolutely sovereign and nothing happens that does not serve His purposes. Whether He actively causes it, or merely allows it, the bottom line is it happens because it carries God’s story forward. That said, I feel no compulsion whatsoever to have everyone agree with me. I am thankful that you are in pursuit of truth, as I pray that I am. I am confident that, as long as we are engaged in this pursuit, God will teach us where we are wrong and confirm where we are right. God bless you!

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    1. Brother I agree with you that God is God-centered, but He calls us to be God-centered also. Your heart seems very sincere and open to the things of God. I’m blessed to have opportunity to communicate with you. You are very committed to what you believe but you will find, sometime in your thirst for more of God, that there is a place that still itches. Your convictions appear to be based on the attributes of God, such as Sovereign, Glory, Love, etc. God has called us to a personal relationship where He would be known to us chiefly as a Person. We speak that language when we confess, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” It is from the Person that all attributes, and activities spring forth. If God’s number one purpose is to show His Glory and He has ultimate control over all events then why are more of His creation going to spend eternity in the Lake of Fire rather than with Him? God has influence over our of decision as He determines, but we make the decision to accept or reject as a free-will choice. If Job did not “choose” stay true to God then the whole argument between God and Satan would have fallen apart and Satan would have won, thus being equal with God. God’s Sovereignty allows for free-will choice. Blessing!

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