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Free Will

The Garden of Eden.  Most people are somewhat if not very familiar with this story whether they are readers of the Bible or not.  For those of us who hold that it is an historically true location and event, we may differ on how we view the Garden in our minds.

I, for one, always pictured it as a little forest teeming with animals of all kinds.  In the center of this little forest was a large beautiful tree plump with juicy fruit that was practically begging to be eaten, despite the fact that it was forbidden by God to do so.  Since, the Bible doesn't specifically mention any other fruit in the creation story, it never occurred to me that there was any other.  And, though it's irrelevant, I also always pictured this forbidden fruit to be an apple.  What a poor rap for the apple.

I blame my distorted view on the many illustrated accounts that I have seen over the years.  It's not to say that these illustrated accounts are wrong.  It's just that they only typically illustrate the tree, fruit, serpent, Adam, and Eve.  The context is completely left out.  What were the surroundings like?  What was the garden really like?

Let's take what we do know and work from there.  God gave us free will.  The Bible is chock full of commandments to choose right from wrong, good from bad, and righteousness from evil.  It never mentions the phrase "free will" but the ability to choose and the responsibility and consequences of those choices is made very clear throughout scripture.

Some argue that God set us up to sin ever since the Garden of Eden.  They'll take this argument to the extreme and say that an all powerful, all loving, benevolent god (APALB god, herein) would not have placed the tree in the Garden nor would he allow "bad things" to happen to people throughout history.

The argument is a logically good one, I admit.  However, the problem with this argument is that it assumes one of two things:  that a free creature can be created to always choose the will of this APALB god OR that a free creature can be created and have all their "poor" choices thwarted by this APALB god.

The obvious problem here boils down to the assumed contradiction.  There is no such thing as freedom without choice.  It's a square circle.  It's a logical impossibility.  One cannot be free to choose if there are no options in which to choose.  One cannot be free to make a choice just to have that choice changed by an external force at the last moment.  The problem of the argument is not in the logic, but rather in the assumption that the logic is built upon.

I've heard debates go on and on about this and I have heard atheists never "hear" the answer.  They accuse of avoiding the question, but it's not an avoidance.  They simply don't want to understand the transfer of responsibility.  They want to illustrate with the question that God is responsible for sin since he created Adam & Eve and the scenario in which they found themselves.  Their logic points to this blame and is only secured by their understanding of God being an APALB god.  And, they're not the first to blame God in this manner, rather Adam was the first to use this logic when he blamed God for creating Eve.  But, notice that God didn't say "Well, would you look that?  Adam, you're logically right.  It is my fault.  I see that now.  Thanks for being so astute."

While God is all powerful, all loving, and benevolent, He is not self-contradictory.  He created a creature with free will and thus must allow said creature to make its own decisions despite the consequences.  Does this make God the object of blame when the creature willfully chooses against the will of its creator?  No.  The responsibility falls on the agent of free will that chose to do that which was explicitly forbidden by its creator.

We understand this very well outside the realms of theology.  Employers are not punished for the actions of their employees.  Lawmakers are not held accountable for the ones who break the laws.  Yet, many people battle internally with the theology of original sin and the problem of evil.

Coming back around full circle, I don't believe that the Garden of Eden was a little forest with a huge beautiful tree in its center enticing the inhabitants of the Garden with it's appealing fruit.  I believe that the Garden of Eden was very large and was full of wonderful and life sustaining fruit of all kinds.  I believe that the forbidden tree was probably sickly looking and small.  It might have only stood out in the sense that it was probably the only tree that didn't look good.  Though, let's not forget that God, Himself, must have pointed it out on the Garden of Eden tour.

But, why did God put it there, you ask?  He put it there out of love.  If God had never provided Adam and Eve the ability to sin, He would not have made them free.  They would have been no more than flesh wearing robots.  They wouldn't have loved God intimately and they would have never known God's intimate love.  The tree was inherently necessary.  And, today, though having been born with a sinful nature, we can all know God's love intimately, too.  But, not until we choose to be reunited with Him, redeemed by Him, and reconciled to Him.  Just like the taking of fruit from a tree, the choice is simple and made available to us all.

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