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Evolution and Creation. Where did we come from? How did we get here? What is life all about?

Adam & Eve didn't have free will

Postby Jpeg » Mon Dec 21, 2015 11:12 am

If Adam and Eve had incomplete human consciousness (being that they were without the mental faculties needed to discern good and evil), how can it be said that their choice to disobey God was truly one of free will? I've had Christian friends tell me this was a test from God, but it seems to me that Eve was ill-equipped for such a test. Shouldn't there be a huge asterisk that says Adam and Eve also experienced a form of cognition that is utterly unrecognizable to us? The snake had the knowledge of good and evil and therefore had a significant cognitive advantage when manipulating Eve.

How do Christians justify Adam and Eve being held accountable for their actions? It seems they acted exactly as one would expect them to given their mental state. And does anyone have any ideas about how someone without knowledge of good and evil would make judgements on obedience or morality?

Re: Adam & Eve didn't have free will

Postby jimwalton » Thu Dec 22, 2016 4:03 pm

First of all, it doesn't take complete human consciousness to make free will choices. A dog does, a cat does, cows do. One doesn't need a comprehensive grasp of good and evil to make truly free-willed choices.

Secondly, you misunderstand "the knowledge of good and evil" in the Genesis text. A rather large segment of the Old Testament is rooted in wisdom literature, common to the ancient Near East. "The knowledge of good and evil" was an idiom of wisdom. The Genesis text is largely about order over chaos, and wisdom in the Genesis context is the ability to discern order (God is the center of order). A relationship with God is the beginning of wisdom (Job 28.28; Prov. 1.7). Therefore the tree is associated with mature and godly wisdom (Gn. 3.6; 1 Ki. 3.9). There is nothing wrong with wisdom; God desire humankind to have it, but it must acquired in appropriate ways at appropriate times. What is forbidden to them is to ignore God in their quest for wisdom, and instead pursue it from the vantage point of themselves. They were very competent to make that decision, as it's one of moral autonomy.

There is nothing in the text to suggest that the man and woman had incomplete human consciousness or were ill-equipped for the test set before them. The spiritual being identified as a serpent (I don't think it was a literal snake) was most likely their intellectual superior, but this was not a battle of wits. It was a moral decision of the will, and the man and woman were not only capable of making such a decision, but could be held morally accountable for it.

From the onset man had the power to decide for himself. In the image of God he was created with free will, with every expectation that he would use it. What was being offered by the tree was whether he would use his free will to be self-oriented, or use his free will to be God-oriented—whether he would find his moral ground in self or in the character of God. In order to be what he was created to be, humankind must continue to orient himself to the unwavering reference point rather than to an undependable one (himself). Much like sailing across the ocean, a sailor has a choice to orient to the stars or, say, to the clouds.

The choice presented by the tree is not "Are you going to be a person who thinks for himself, or an empty-headed slave of God," but rather "Are you going to act as if you made yourself and you know how best to govern yourself, or are you going to act as if God made you and you refer to him as the one who knows you and loves you."

Since "the knowledge of good and evil" is a judicial idiom, humankind was being presented with a choice to judge the legitimacy of God's claim upon him as his creator and moral ground. To decide against that was to cut his ties to God and stand alone as his own Master of the Universe.

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