Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Humanity in Sin Part 1 - The Tree of Knowledge of God and Evil

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on his apologetics series on The Fall of Man on 26th November 2006.

Many Christians respect the Scriptures but does not respect the church. Many people respect the holy lives of some Christians but find them not too intelligent. We have not fulfilled the potential in our reasoning. Faith is the return of the prodigal reason to the Truth.

Why would God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden? Why would God put the serpent in the garden to tempt man? Most people immediately look down on the Bible after reading this.

God made man from the dust of the earth and then gave limitation to man that they cannot partake of the fruit. And God also allow the serpent to tempt man. So doesn’t man become toys in God’s hand? This is a difficult question.

Human beings are the only beings that have both the physical and the metaphysical. The position of mankind is the point of contact between material and spiritual. We have dual ability to have relationship with physical and spiritual world.

Confucius says a gentleman would seek after Logos and not material things. This response has an error. It seems to him that a gentleman does not need to eat.

Jesus said that man shall not live by bread alone (but still need bread), but by every word that comes out from the mouth of God. Only when a person finds his value in God would he be truly satisfied.

When God made man, He not only provided for him all material food, but He also spoke to man. The command He gives to man intrinsically also becomes the gift of freedom.

If God does not want man to know good and evil, why would God reveal so much about good and evil in the Scriptures? But then why would God put the tree in the garden? Is knowing good and evil a matter of knowledge or a matter of wisdom? Knowledge is not the same as wisdom. Wisdom is the foundation of knowledge. Knowledge is the content of wisdom. Knowledge should be built upon wisdom.

God commanded man not to partake of the knowledge of good and evil because man needs wisdom behind this knowledge. Hence the purpose behind the command is related to wisdom rather than knowledge. It is the question of wisdom of knowing what sort of knowledge would bring death.

Is it absolute necessity for man to have trial? From general principle, it is of absolute necessity because of freedom is a mark of man’s dignity. But this freedom is constrained because only God has absolute freedom.

We have opportunity to exercise our freedom. Humanity gains perfection through a process. No perfection comes suddenly after receiving grace. So God allows trials and sufferings. These are necessities.

Why would God allow Satan to tempt Adam? God allows the opportunity for the existence of evil. Why would God not destroy the devil and allow him to bring all sorts of horrifying things to the people He loves?

Even the Son of God coming in the flesh did not have special privileges. Every single one of us goes through trials. He allows Satan to continue to demonstrate his errors and through that we see the trustworthiness of the truth of God.

When did the confusion between wisdom and knowledge begin? This is what causes agnosticism and relativity. It all goes back to Genesis 3. At that time, humanity heard both the words of God and the words of Satan. Satan’s question and statement to Eve is the beginning of epistemology. Epistemology is the study of knowledge. It concerns with the principle, the motivation, purpose, methodology, power, and result of knowledge.

“Has God said…?” This statement is very destructive. It planted seed of doubt on God’s motivation. Once Eve doubted, she took the lie as the truth and began to hate God. This method of knowledge is in all culture and is happening every day. When we plant doubt, we make people suspect. Relationships break down.

Does epistemology necessarily have the element of doubt inside? Paradoxically, doubt in itself is the opposite of knowledge. Should we doubt? But without doubt, how can we affirm the validity of knowledge? There are two kinds of doubt. One is the doubt that arises because something is hard to understand. This is healthy doubt. The other one is the doubt that is created because one has decided not to believe. This is destructive doubt.

When our starting point is wrong, the more we know the more confused we get. Eve doubted the absolute command of God and used absolute attitude towards the doubt that Satan plants, instead of doubting that doubt. We are in horrifying situation where most people are taking the epistemology of doubt towards absolute things. We should use skeptical attitude towards skeptical people. This way we can have victory over destructive forces.

When studying philosophy, we should not just look at the content, but also look at the motive behind one’s writing. Today many Christians lose their faith and many pastors are influenced by liberals because they have doubts about the Bible that is absolute, but never doubt those who throw those doubts. It is like allowing any outsiders to come in to search our house.

If we do not rebuild our knowledge from the right foundation, and keep building knowledge based on doubts people throw to us, our faith will go bankrupt.

God’s Word contains a lot of paradoxes. Satan’s words contain a lot of contradictions. Superficially they look the same, but in essence, paradoxes aim at reconciliation. Throughout history, often times right looks wrong and wrong looks right. Hence the Word of God becomes the object of our doubt and the words of Satan become the object of our trust. Absolute is made relative. Relative is made absolute.

After Eve eats of that tree, God no longer explains or gives the command all over again. He continues to allow us to use the freedom He gives us to listen to both His voice and the voice of the devil. The end result is either salvation or destruction.

So we are in a very scary situation. It is indeed very hard to live as a human. We are created between God and Satan, live between life and death, between the temporal and eternal, physical and spiritual. But in this state there is potential for great glory. It is God’s purpose to perfect us through this process.


At 5:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has he ever spoken about why Satan exists ?

Also all these happened because they were planned before the foundation of the earth - has he ever explained why?

At 1:24 AM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

In this series, he hasn't. I am yet to compile the last transcript for the year so I don't know if he will mention that.

I think angels have similarity with humans in that they are also moral beings with freedom to choose.

In that sense, you can extend the principles to view the creation of humans to the creation of angels too.

When the archangel fell and opposed God, he is called Satan (the Opposer).

I think it's not very accurate to say all happened because they were 'planned', because God is not the author of sin.

A better way to describe is that the freedom God gives to His creation like angels and humans truly has the potential of crisis/danger, but whether they oppose Him or they obey Him, God in His Almighty power, wisdom and sovereignty, is able to override all things for His glory, without doing any violence to the will of His creatures.

At 8:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even if it is NOT planned, but God knew. So the question becomes, 1. Why did He create the archangel? 2. Knowing that human will be tempted and fall, why did He not solve the problem of the archangel first? 3. Salvation, Christ's death and redemption were planned before the foundation of the earth - implies that 1,2 above were planned or allowed. What is Pastor Tong's or your thought on this?

At 8:33 PM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Hmmm, I think it's been explained. The very nature of things are like THAT.

Your question is kinda asking when we design a knife, why don't we prevent it from being able to cut? Of course it must be able to cut to call it a knife. Knife and sharpness must come together. That's the very nature of thing.

Although knife can be dangerous, it has its purpose. If used for the purposed it's not designed for, it will destruct, but if used properly, it's useful.

Similarly, the very nature that we are as human beings (or the archangels), is the endowment of the gift with morality, and that means, we can obey or rebel.

Of course freedom is a dangerous thing, but the Designer has His purpose. If we use it properly, it's glorious. If we misuse it, it's destructive.

Things of value come with them their potential for glory, but also their danger. It's just the way things are. We can't separate the two, just as we can't say we want to design a square, but without 90 degrees angle between the sides.

Now if there is both potential for great good and danger, why God choose to create and risk it, rather than just let go?

I cannot tell the full reason why, but one thing for sure, eventhough human beings understand that it is more dangerous to be intelligent than to be stupid, because intelligent people can do more harm if their heart is evil.. yet nobody ever wish their kid to be stupid to avoid such possibility. In that sense, we naturally still desire the good gift with great good potential, although we are aware that there is potential danger if misused. So is that a wonder why God still create beings like us?

So, He knew the nature of things are like that, i.e. there's potential for good and bad, and He chose to create nevertheless.

Next, not only the nature of things are like that, He also knew we would fall. For this, He had Jesus Christ as our Redeemer planned before the foundation of the world. So He already had in mind to fix the problem.

This answer is a combination of my thinking and part of what Rev.Tong himself shared. Hope that helps.

At 8:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comment is rather vague?

To use the analogy of a knife design is not appropriate - in this case, the situation is more akin to knowing that the son you love will kill or hurt himself with the knife, you still give it to him. That is the question you have to address - not whether a knife is sharp or not.

And Jesus being planned before the foundation of the earth - is more similar to knowing that your son will cut himself, you have prepared a doctor/bandage for him.

So - the question is - WHY?

At 2:20 PM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Is a blind person a qualified judge of the visual world around us?

When we have fallen, are we capable of making judgement over the state of things before the Fall, and even question the wisdom of God behind it?

We know and understand only by His mercy and revelation. In our fallen state, even our questions can be problematic. God's Revelation might not include exhaustive reasons to His every decision, but He reveals what He deems necessary for us to know.

Apart from what I have shared earlier, I know that God has created nature for men, but God has not created men for themselves. He created man for His glory. Therefore He made us. Thus far is my current level of understanding.

At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

May be you could raise the question to Rev Tong - has he got an answer or "opinion" on the 3 questions I raised?

At 8:28 PM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Hi Anonymous,

Chances are slim to post the question to Rev.Tong because he is always busy, except during Q&A sessions, which he held periodically. But there would be too many questions written, so my question might not get turn to be answered as well.

However, the question you raised has standard answer in the orthodox confession, Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 3 on God's eternal decree, with Scriptural proofs.

Read it with care and reverence, though. This is what John Calvin himself said to be a terrible decree. My head spins whenever I think of double predestination. Human hearts cannot but tremble in humility before the awesome and Almighty God.

At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

May I help....Hai Lin, how are you? I am back.

God didn't create evil. Man has freedom, if man without freedom, what would you think will be happen?

We are become robot not man, and that's why freedom come. God doesn't want to create robot, he wants to create man with wisdom of choice.

Man choose to be sin, that's the biggest regret from God because of creating man.

On angel side, I don't think I am quite agree with you Lin, I have to go and seek for the scripture, but my opinion for now is that angels do not have freedom as human did. They are doing what God asked them to do. Human has freedom to do and not to do God's order.

The mortality is the other different from angel and God.

At 9:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correction..sory...the mortality is the different between angel and human

At 4:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your summary. God has been showing His mercy to us, to me, as I have been reading this summary again and again..
(I'm in that state - dark night of the soul, I guess)..

As I wake up in the morning until I go to sleep in the late of night, I heard stories..many stories..I listened to the stories..but, if I dare enough to call myself as a 'Christian', Whose Story is truly True? Is it true that I believe in the Grand Story?

But, once again, He has been showing His mercy..and remind, to ask, to give me opportunity (grace), to truly ask my heart..the bottom line, "Do I trust God? Because God asks us unconditional trust of mine in HIS Unconditional Love"

May He keeps continuing to show mercy for the wickedness of men (me)

Keep writing and God bless you, sister in Christ :)


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