The Point of the Tree

Dearest Rachel –

I have a lot of questions for God.

And this is despite the fact that I know that I have no more right to ask them that Job did. Actually, probably considerably less right, given that even God himself referred to him as ‘righteous,’ which most likely could not be applied to me apart from whatever righteousness was granted to me by Jesus’ sacrifice on my behalf.

But the Lord gave me a brain, for whatever unknown purpose, and sometimes I use it to come up with questions that I simply can’t answer for myself. So isn’t that partly His fault?

Now, I don’t know if I should apologize to you for the fact that those questions have nothing to do with why you were taken away from me. For all the speculations I could make about some things, your departure – or more to the point, the timing of it – isn’t one I tend to concern myself with. We are all born, and we must all one day die. That is the way of things since Adam and Eve. Granted, it sometimes bothers me that I’m not sufficiently upset about your departure – shouldn’t I be worked up over the fact that you were taken from me? If nothing else, I do sometimes worry that I might be no better than the devil claimed Job was after his first test: “Skin for skin! A man will give all he has for his own life.” My lack of concern for what happened to you may simply be because it didn’t to me.

It’s not a conclusion I’m prepared to accept about myself, and yet, to my shame, it’s not entirely implausible.

Which may well be something that I should address another time. But right now, I have a question about some of His other, larger-scale plans and intentions.

This is actually as a result of an observation someone made on Saturday at our men’s Bible study, and my memory refreshed Tuesday night as I met Jeff, one of the study leaders, for supper (as his wife was out of town for the week, and he’s been getting together with friends each day throughout):

What was the point of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?

More to the point, why plant it there, in the middle of the garden of Eden, and tell Adam not to eat of it? As long at it is there, it stands as an enduring question of “what if?” From a purely mathematical perspective, as the time the two of them spend in the garden approaches infinity, the chance that tree goes untouched approaches zero, doesn’t it?

(Which, of course, begs an entire series of questions: Adam is said to have lived 930 years: did the clock begin on Adam’s life from the moment he was formed out of dust? Or, since he didn’t begin to die until after eating from the tree, did it start from the time he and Eve were kicked out of the garden? And what about what we in our mortal state consider as the “circle of life,” wherein things grow old, die and decay, and thus serve to nourish and sustain future generations of life? Was none of that even a thing prior to the Fall? Imagine, for instance, the idea of a mosquito existing for years while Adam and Eve tend to the garden, blissfully inattentive to the Tree’s existence prior to the temptation. Granted, said mosquito would have theoretically neither need nor desire to bite and draw blood in order to lay their eggs in this static state, but the idea of such ephemeral creatures having a virtually indefinite lifespan prior to the Fall is difficult to grasp.)

And of course, there is the fact that God himself knew from the very beginning what was going to happen. I mean, this is what happens when we’re dealing with an all knowing being. So basically, He was perfectly aware that mankind was going to fall right from the beginning. None of what happened next took Him by surprise.

Including the fact that the vast majority of humanity would refuse – or not even being aware of – the path that He created to spare them from eternal condemnation. He literally created most of humanity simply for them to be destroyed and sent to Hell. Do I understand this correctly?

And yet, there is that verse in 2 Peter wherein it is said that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Now, Pastor Joel tells me that I’m taking this out of context; that the point of the larger paragraph in which that verse falls (chapter 3, verses 8 and 9) are essentially about how God is taking His time as he waits for everybody to come to Him. And I get that; the fact that He exists outside of the dimension of time renders the assertion that His clock runs differently from ours – and that’s not even considering the possibility that, given that He exists in infinite space, even the natural laws like that of relativity would demand such a difference exist: consider the effect of time dilation on a Being that can cross galaxies in what He perceives as an instant relative to our own perception of time.

So fine, He’s giving us all time to come to Him. Except, no. We don’t. And He knows this. And I’m not even suggesting that this is because we’re not given enough time to do so (although a mere seventy years, on average, seems awfully short to absorb the wisdom of the ages – to say nothing of fifty): we would never, thanks to our fallen state, come to Him on our own in any event. And again, He knows this. And yet, it says that He is not willing that any should perish, but all should come to repentance. Am I misunderstanding the meaning of “any” and “all”? They seem pretty straightforward.

Now, I get that I’m accusing God of being unfair, which, again, I have no right to do. And while that’s actually technically true, He is being unfair in our favor by allowing us entre into heaven at all. Giving us a way out when He didn’t have to, by paying our penalty, is just a way for Him to show His benevolence – indeed, His omni-benevolence – to humanity as a whole.

And yet, was it necessary for Him to even start this process, thus condemning the vast majority of us to Hell, a place of punishment that wasn’t even created for us in the first place? Just leave the tree out of the garden, and we would have, as a race, stayed true to Him, and none of this trouble would have had to happen. The idea that He would put it there in order to create trouble seems to fly in the face of our idea of a good God.

After being confronted by God in the whirlwind, Job’s speech of repentance begins with the admission that “surely, I spoke of things I did not understand; I talked of things too wonderful for me to know.” Let me start by saying I don’t even need God to show up like a hurricane to make such a statement. The fact that I don’t understand is why I’m asking the question in the first place.

Maybe it’s foolish of me to try and understand why a supposedly all-good Deity would create the opportunity for evil to exist. Maybe it’s that I don’t quite understand what is truly “good” as opposed to what is “evil.”

In which case, do I need another bite of that fruit?

I wish you could enlighten me, honey.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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