It was the original source of “whole foods”-a lush preserve with vibrantly colored fruit trees and shrubs. Plump grapes hung from sagging vines. Blushing pears and enormous peaches called out from low lying tree branches. A young man worked in the garden raising a variety of vegetables, including corn so sweet even Paula Deen would have no need for butter. Besides raising vegetables the man and his wife had a special way with the animals that roamed the nature preserve. Neither of them had degrees in zoology and yet they just knew how to care for an endless variety of wild animals. They smiled while they worked, sometimes pausing to hold hands or talk. They even took walks accompanied by their boss who they obviously adored.
They were vegan, and kind of the granola type. This couple would have been the first to hold up a sign declaring, “Save the planet” but there wasn’t anything to save- that is until that one day. That fateful day the woman, Eve, took a bite from an off-limits tree and shared it with her husband, Adam. Through a single sin this one couple, and later all of humanity, gained knowledge of good and evil. That fateful day their eyes were opened.
Initially the concept of having one’s eyes opened to anything seems like a positive thing. When a student’s eyes are opened to the world of space exploration, for example, we may gather he is understanding for the first time the life an astronaut or the immense size of the universe. A typical response of someone whose eyes are opened to something new is awe and wonder. In contrast Adam and Eve’s response to their newly gained knowledge of good and evil was shame. They went into hiding. They covered themselves with leaves they somehow sewed together. They knew God was good and their act of disobedience was evil. Period.
Since that day in the garden mankind has suffered the effects of original sin. As King David once said, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” Because of Adam’s choice all have been born into the world with a sin nature. It would also make sense all of mankind would have a natural skill set to differentiate right from wrong per Adam’s choice to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Why is it some people do not appear to have such knowledge of good and evil?
What is Evil?
One hundred years ago one would have been hard pressed to find someone who would disagree with the “goodness” of separate schools for white children and black children. Fifty years ago most would have said the idea of gay marriage was evil. Thirty years ago it was considered evil to live together outside of marriage and twenty years ago young people thought the institution of marriage itself was good.
The ideas of good and evil are also diverse around the world. In some cultures humans hunt one another. (Think End of the Spear.) Caste systems in places like India are culturally acceptable and keep people in generational poverty and enslavement. Child marriage is “good” in parts of the Middle East and Africa. It seems the definition of good and evil is in flux. If this concept is truly universal, why do social norms change?
Going back to the Genesis passage it is clear Adam and Eve knew goodness. All of creation God himself had declared “good,” so they learned goodness directly from Him. What they did not have knowledge of was “evil.” The Hebrew word for evil used in the description of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was — ra‘— which has the sense of misery, woe, grief, or harm. The word means evil, and perhaps more. It points to something extremely sorrowful — so we can rightly understand eating the fruit of this tree would reveal knowledge of good and misery. From the moment of their first sin Adam and Eve knew what it was like to suffer the effects of separation from God. They knew shame. (Creationtips.com)
So perhaps they did not have a highly developed sense of right and wrong simply by eating from the fruit of the Tree. So if such knowledge did not come from the apple, maybe Adam and Eve learned right from wrong via their built-in consciences? They like us, were born with a conscience.Wikipedia defines the conscience as “an aptitude, faculty, intuition or judgment that assists in distinguishing right from wrong.” It is very adaptable and changes as cultural norms change. Adam and Eve had the blessing of having God create their social norms.
It is the pliability of the conscience which appears to explain why the definition of good and evil changes over time and varies from culture to culture. If we assume humanity is approximately 6000 years removed from Adam that is a long time for humans to define and redefine right from wrong. The Tree told man he was a sinner miserably separated from God, but it takes the Gospel for modern man to know the remedy. True knowledge of right and wrong is a unique gift to Believers in Jesus Christ. The Bible provides the knowledge and instruction to guide one’s life (2 Timothy 3:16.) In addition Christians have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not merely a beefed up conscience; He is a person who dwells within us. His nudges and coaxing are consistent with Scripture and are not dependent on social norms. The Holy Spirit and Truth of the Bible open our eyes in a new way. From them we learn right from wrong, but more importantly our blood shot, shame-filled eyes finally discover God’s gift of healing grace.