Monday, March 19, 2007
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil
During a Karl Barth discussion at Starbucks on Friday morning we were talking about the reality of evil in the created realm, and I got thinking about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. Someone was summarizing Barth's point which said that for God to create people who could appreciate His glory and His goodness then those people would have to have at least an awareness of non-goodness and non-glory. To know God as God we would have to have some concept of not-God.
The question then raised was: So does that mean we'd have to sin? That seems wrong.
That is where the tree of knowledge of good and evil comes in. I often ask myself why God put it there. After all, it really ended up ruining things. And that's when a thought hit hit me. Perhaps the tree, even before it was eaten from, by its very presence and its forbiddenness, already provided knowledge of good and evil (in an innocent yet very real way).
After all, they had knowledge of good all around them: Created life as creatures in right relationship with their Creator. They had knowledge of evil right in front of them. You could disobey if you wanted to. You could have created life as creatures in wrong relationship with Your Creator. There was God or not-God; life or not-life; good or not-good. To use Barth's words, there was Yes or No; Light or Shadow.
And so there is the tree. Just be being there it gives humankind the freedom they need to have to actually love God and experience good. Just by being there it also gives them responsibility. Trust and obey God or not. Perhaps when they bit the fruit, they already 'knew' good and evil, but now they 'knew' it in an intimate way. Interesting that a couple chapters later Adam knew Eve, and the idiom means they had sex with each other.
Fast forward many millennia. In Revelation 22 we have one tree in heaven: the Tree of Life. There is no tree of knowledge of good and evil. The Tree of Life is everywhere, all around the River. Its leaves carry healing for the nations. In our discussion at Starbucks it was asked whether there would be anything in heaven to remind us of that concept of not-good and not-life.
I found the suggestion that was made to be incredibly interesting: Perhaps that is why the resurrected Jesus still had his wounds.