Was God a good parent to Adam & Eve?
Why would a responsible parent put his children in jeopardy? In Genesis, God presents to Adam & Eve a prohibition. The consequences are death. Eat of a certain tree and die. Everything else is fine. Just this one tree is off limits. The serpent tells Eve that it’s a lie. She’s not going to die, he says. Your father doesn’t want you to eat this fruit because if you do you’ll be just like him, a god. Of course, we all know what happened. Eve eats the fruit. She doesn’t die. She presents it to Adam. He doesn’t die. God gets mad and kicks them out of Eden. God didn’t lie, per se. They do die – eventually.
No matter how you look at this story, it functions as allegory. Those who like to real the Bible in pure literal terms believe that a real Adam and a real Eve took part in this actual event. I prefer to see this story as an allegory, a simple tale of the nature of parenthood and childhood growth. At issue is the fruit. The fruit is knowledge. But why would a parent wish to withold knowledge from their child? Not just any knowledge. The knowledge of good and evil, no less. Isn’t that what all parents want to teach their children?
Perhaps a parent would want to keep this type of knowledge from their children so that the child is continually reliant. A point of control. My Mom always told me that her job was to put herself out of a job. It was beautifully utilitarian and I respect her for it. The God of Genesis, however, rules by edict. He delivers commands. This leaves open the possibility of the serpent. The interloper. The voice of experience. The serpent comes and brings new information into Eve’s life. She, in her innocence, trusts this new knowledge and eats the fruit. I say it was because of her innocence that she ate the fruit, not because of her sin. She trusted God. Why shouldn’t she trust the serpent as well? Has she ever known distrust? God never told her not to trust the serpent. The narrator of Genesis certainly paints the serpent in negative terms. But God doesn’t address this creature with Adam & Eve. Why not? He might have said – ‘Don’t eat of the tree – oh, and by the way, don’t listen to that serpent either – he’ll try to get you to eat it anyway.’
The answer is simple, says the Christian – God allowed this as a test. He gave us the freedom to fail, if we wish. He knew that we would fail. He knew that he would have to later sacrifice his own son so that we would be saved. He loved us so much that he was willing to have us fail.
However, a good parent doesn’t allow bad things to happen so that he can bail the child out later. It suppose it certainly makes sense from a manipulative point of view. After all, how much more loyal will the child be, having done wrong, once the ‘loving’ father comes to the rescue?
Freedom of choice?
Some believe in pre-destination, which means that God already knows who is going to Hell and who is going to Heaven. There are lists, I suppose. He has them. Still, the choice is simple – either believe in Jesus and go to Heaven or not. If you don’t, you go to Hell. Either you are ‘saved’ or you are ‘unsaved’.
This sounds like extortion more than it sounds like a true choice. If God cared about our free will, there would be an infinite amount of roads to Heaven and Hell would not be an option at all. Or maybe these stories in the Bible have been misinterpreted and God does care. I wonder.
What is the fruit?
Genesis is always pretty plain about the fruit. Some people say it’s an apple, but that’s not it. If it was an apple, there would be a nifty thematical tie-in to the Greek myth of Eris. But, there really isn’t much need for that comparison here. The fruit of the knowledge of good and evil is judgment. It is not sex. It is not sin. It is not anything else but judgment. This is the simplest theme that pervades the entire Bible. Jesus says, ‘Judge not, lest you be judged.’ Karma, baby.