The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Part Two – Fear)

In a previous post, I related the story of the Fall in the Garden of Eden and shared what meaning I see in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In this post, I am going to discuss the fear that seems to precede the taking of the forbidden fruit, and that now dominates our world.

The serpent said to Eve, “Assuredly, you will not die. For God knows that in the day you eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, you will become like Him, knowing both good and evil.”

It seems as if, when the serpent spoke to them, fear entered the hearts of Adam and Eve, even before they ate of the fruit: fear that God, who had put them into the Garden, who had given them all the trees to eat of, including the Tree of Life, except only one, and who walked with them in the evening, was withholding from them the best He could give them. Though all they had ever seen or experienced from Him, or in their world, was goodness, they began to fear evil, and so sought the knowledge of it.

This is, I think, a very good characterization of what has plagued humanity ever since: the deep-rooted insecurity, the fear that what is greatest and most powerful, that what is dominant, is evil, nonexistence, cruelty, death, or nothing. It seems to me that much of religion (and much that is not religion) is built around this fear: sometimes it uses it to gain control, but I think its lure is often that people have this fear, and desire some sense of knowledge or dogma to give them some security within it. Thus, fear leads into fear.

Instead of seeking goodness simply for the sake of goodness, doing the good that appears in front of one, men fear and seek not only to do the good they see, but to judge what would be evil and would be good for all, and for all times. Many focus on the text that says that ‘Eve looked at the fruit and saw that it was good both to look at and to eat,’ but what might be noticed is the fact that Eve only looked at the fruit and saw it in this light – or shadow – after she had listened to the serpent and begun to fear that God was not giving her the best that He could. What if the problem is not looking at something and seeing that in one’s eyes it is good, but fearing that God does not give us His best? It was in the shadow of her fear that God was lying to her and withholding from her the best that He had that the knowledge of good and evil appealed to Eve. In the shadow of her fear, she did not realize that God had given her the Tree of Life from which to eat.

It is in that shadow, I think, that that knowledge still appeals to humanity, and it leads into more fear. Thinking ourselves in a hostile world, we cultivate war and fear, instead of life and love (take this generally; I’m not implying that we cultivate only war and fear, that we do not seek life and love at all, or even that all human beings are equally subject to this tyranny of fear – how should I know?).

If we did not fear, what would our lives truly be like? Can we even imagine it? What would it be like not to fear death – not because life is too miserable or seems deprived of light and happiness by some loss, so that it seems as if no death could be worse, not as a tortured man might embrace death, not as a suicide does not fear death, but rather because one is confident that the strongest thing is goodness, that death is no final end to life, that as beautiful and wonderful as this life, this sun, might be, it can only grow better? How much of the evil we do, and experience, is due, in one way or another, to fear?

A lot of people think that, if people were not afraid, they would do even more evil. That might be true of a few, but how many of you would actually want to hurt other people? How many of you might, if you were once not afraid of being hurt, be able to think and feel far more deeply for other people, and love them more, not less? How often might you have withdrawn from another, from knowing, from caring, from loving, from feeling, for fear – fear of being rejected, fear of being hurt in another’s pain, fear of being vulnerable?

It may be that, sometimes, for some people, there has grown a disconnection from reality such that even fear of being punished for evil is an improvement, but fear is at the root of much evil. What is fear, for most of us, but the suspicion that perhaps evil is stronger than good, that perhaps hate instead of love will have the victory? That the universe is not ultimately ruled by love? That the best is weaker than the worse? That evil can have the final say over at least some portion of the world?

It is this fear that makes man enemies with God – the fear that the greatest power is not, in fact, truest good, does not have the truest good of all creatures at heart. It is this fear that is behind the first sin and all sin. It is this fear that is behind much of the evil in creation, and the desire to have a system of knowledge of good and evil, instead of relating to God as a loving, ever-present Father, with whom there is no fear, ever at hand to show and give His children the best.

 

Copyright 2020 Raina Nightingale

6 thoughts on “The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Part Two – Fear)

  1. I would contend-

    1. Before the fall, there is no place for fear, but the naïveté of innocence is capable of deception.
    2. It is important to note that Eve LOOKED at the fruit and gazed upon what was forbidden with longing. She is ravished by the forbidden, and temptation gives rise to lust.
    3. This is actually the method of all occult entrancement. “It will kill you.”
    “No, look at it…feel it’s texture, see how good it is, consider its beauty and nobility. How good a God He is to create such a marvel that can ennoble and inspire the thoughts and aspirations of man, granting wisdom and discernment!”
    “It will kill you…”
    “Behold how good it is to know the truth! To not live in the dark of ignorance!”
    “It will kill you…”
    “Even still…I cannot know life without death…”
    And the bite is taken.
    Thus it is with forbidden knowledge, which by itself would be good in the ha da of those strong enough to wield it, those confirmed in grace and experience. But Eve and Adam were inexperienced, and their friendship with God was not solidified by obedience and confirmation in grace.

    Hence, the descent to the grave.

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    1. If it was the lure of the forbidden, why did Adam and Eve not look upon the fruit before the serpent tempted them and suggested that God’s reason for forbidding it might not be goodness and love but the desire to keep something grand to Himself? It was not as if the serpent was the first to make them notice it was forbidden – as if it was on the other side of something hard to cross and Adam and Eve had never noticed it was there. No, God had explicitly and clearly told them it was forbidden, but that did not make them want to eat it.

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      1. The lure was not of the forbidden per se. One of the things to remember is that Adam and Eve were not cunning in their original innocence, but received the commandment in simplicity. Moreover, you will notice, God commands Adam before Eve is created. Therefore we can safely infer that Adam informed Eve, in keeping with the divine notion of hierarchy and subsidiarity. Therefore, the serpent tempts Eve, not because she is weaker, but because She has less surety in the commandment because she did not hear it for herself. Moreover, the scripture says clearly, that when she gazed upon the fruit, she considered it under the aspect of its beauty and goodness in a way she did not do before it was suggested to her. This is actually a sign of her innocence and Naievete. Nevertheless, she neglects properly circumstance and prefers the beauty of the object and the suggestion of the serpent over her knowledge of the commandment. This is the beginning of lust. And from it, disobedience is born.

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  2. Firstly, the chain of reasoning you state is the method of all occult entrancement in your first reply is most definitely not the thinking of someone innocent and naive. Furthermore, does innocence and naivety believe a slur against the character of one’s Creator who walks with one in the cool of the day? No. Innocence and naivety stands open-mouthed and gaping at even the suggestion of such duplicity.

    Secondly, “divine hierarchy” is a bunch of trash made by sinners, though I don’t know if it originated with people or other fallen creatures. It’s part of the curse of original sin and has nothing to do with the nature of God in Himself, where all is unity and harmony and love. In fact, when Jesus’ disciples were perpetually concerned with their places in the hierarchy, he directed them to little children, who know nothing of hierarchy, and also told them that the highest would be the lowest, the servant of all, which turns all hierarchy on its head.

    Lastly, while there’s no reason at all to think Eve wasn’t sure of the command even if God did tell Adam first (I’m not at all sure the teller of the story in Genesis is at all concerned with such matters of chronology) since God walked with them in the garden, if she in fact was not sure of the commandment she could have asked God. That would be the true response of innocence and, if you must, naivety.

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    1. Care to back up any of these gratuitous assertions?

      What is gratuitously asserted is gratuitously denied-

      You are wrong.

      You can start over from a rational place though and attempt to illustrate on the basis of a universal authority, like reason, or a particular authority, like scripture, how any of your claims have merit. That’s always helpful.

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      1. To some extent, we’ve both been expressing how we see things, and neither of us have proven anything. My intention was not to prove anything, but to share an insight, and you seem to be doing much the same. Why are you claiming that my insights are particularly gratuitous assertions?

        By the way, can you please explain to me what you think innocence and naivety are?

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