The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.” “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knew that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. (Genesis 3: 2-7)
I find “the fall of man” very complicated. Isn’t it a good thing to be knowledgeable and wise? Specifically, it seems that Adam and Eve became self-aware when they ate from the tree (their eyes were opened); couldn’t it be a good thing to be more self-aware?
The idea that knowledge can be sinful is interesting to me. It scares me, and seems like it could be easy to participate in such sin. In studying science, and conducting experiments myself, I understand how studying phenomena, or attempting to explain “that which cannot be explained” could seem like “being like God,” but through science I have found the complexity of God’s creations even more mysterious. I am not sure that is exactly the knowledge Adam and Eve devoured (it could be), but I think Adam and Eve first discovering nakedness is something to consider. Knowledge was gained about the self, and the response was also regarding the self (hiding from God). It was Adam and Eve, not God, who decided not wearing clothes was inappropriate. Perhaps we need to look further into which direction the pursuit of knowledge is leading?
James 3: 13-18 states, “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” This verse is much less confusing than the “fall of man,” and even makes reference to the fall (e.g., good fruits). Thomas Merton once wrote:
Hence the aim of meditation, in the context of Christian faith, is not to arrive at an objective and apparently ‘scientific’ knowledge of God, but to come to know him through the realization that our very being is penetrated with his knowledge and love for us. Our knowledge of God is paradoxically a knowledge not of him as the object of our scrutiny, but of ourselves as utterly dependent on his saving and merciful knowledge of us. It is in proportion as we are known to him that we find our real being and identity in Christ. We know him and through ourselves in so far as his truth is the source of our being and his merciful love is the very heart of our life and existence. We have no other reason for being, except to be loved by him as our Creator and Redeemer, and to love him in return. There is no true knowledge of God that does not imply a profound grasp and an intimate personal acceptance of this profound relationship.
It seems that the focus of knowledge needs to be on KNOWING God, rather than obtaining facts, memorizing bible verses, or becoming self-aware. What does KNOWING God look like to you?
Have there been times in your life where knowledge has been sinful, or your pursuit of knowledge has become misdirected? What are ways we can focus our education in gaining wisdom from above?
By: Harvey Bayliss