How history’s first temptation relates to us

With some light editing, I wrote the following reflection on Genesis 3:5 in my ESV Journaling Bible, Interleaved Edition.

3:5: “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”: It’s as if Satan were saying, “What God is asking of you is both unfair—because why should you deprive yourself of this delicious fruit?—and not in your best interest. And it isn’t even ignorance or naiveté on God’s part—as if that wouldn’t be bad enough! No, God knows that he’s harming you.”

In other words, Satan is attacking God’s character!

At this point, Eve should have said to herself, if not to Satan, “No, it can’t be that! God loves me and wouldn’t harm me or work against me. I must misunderstand the command if it leads me to this demonic conclusion. God is only good. If he’s issued the command it must be for my good. Regardless—and this is most important—who do I think I am in relation to God that I should second-guess him? How could I possibly know what he knows? Therefore I’m going to trust him, even though I don’t understand him.”

Satan tempts us in a similar way today: to believe that God’s Word (as revealed in scripture) is unfair, unwise, or harmful; to think that we “know better” than what he’s told us. And our skepticism about the goodness of God’s Word, we reason, is based on what we think it reveals about God’s character. “If the doctrine of hell is true, for instance—as scripture seems to teach—then that would make God less than loving”—as we understand love. If hell exists, something would be wrong with God; he would possess a character defect.

Of course we’re too pious to believe that. But now we don’t have to! We have recourse to a different idea! We can instead believe that a particular scripture is wrong, that it doesn’t reflect God’s true character or will, that the human authors who wrote it down got it wrong.

One reasonable alternative—that God is infinitely wiser than we are, so we shouldn’t be surprised that we don’t always understand his ways, especially since he tells us in Isaiah 55:8 that “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”—apparently doesn’t cross our minds.

And neither does this: Why couldn’t an all-powerful and all-good God ensure that his written Word is telling the truth?

4 thoughts on “How history’s first temptation relates to us”

  1. In the same vein, a local Methodist pastor who has a little column in the paper on Saturdays is bemoaning the fact that some people question gay marriages in churches and pastoral participation of gays because it is “unloving” and “discriminatory”! Hopefully your denomination will stay the course!

    1. I hope so too, Tom. Next week, the UMC General Conference is having a specially called conference to try to “resolve” the issue. Tensions are high all around our churches. We’re facing a possible split.

  2. Recently I have become aware that a disagreement as to whether or not humanity is inherently good or broken is a sticking point underlying the sexuality debate. But then there is also another premise that the local pastor uses frequently: We are imperfect sinners incapable of getting everything right. As Timothy Tennent recently stated, what has been clear for 2000 years has all of a sudden become unclear either because we are now inherently good or we are inherently imperfect.

    The Bible is full of admonitions not to trust your own judgment.

    1. Yes. If you haven’t already, read Dr. Tennent’s most recent blog post on next week’s UMC General Conference. Profoundly good.

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