Thursday, January 11, 2018

Knowledge of Good

Here is what really happened when Adam ate of the tree. It is not that he, as we so often think, came to know the fullness of good and evil; if that were the case, he would need have been a perverse man indeed to have chosen evil. No, when Adam ate of the tree, he gained the knowledge of evil and lost the knowledge of good as he understood just how far he could fall away from God.

This point is perhaps theologically thick, but it is very important. 

Good is the only thing that actually exists. When God looked at His creation at the end of that final day, He declared it to be "very good," and very good it was. There was within it no evil, for God did not create evil nor could the presence of evil be considered "very good" if God is who He says that He is.

What evil is, what evil always has been, is a failure of goodness. Evil exists only where goodness is not chosen. Shadows exist only because of the light. If there were no good, there could be no evil, for evil is merely a perversion. When Adam ate the fruit of the tree, he came to know evil because, and only because, he had done what was not good.

God had made perfectly clear what "good" was - it was to be obedient, it was to listen to the Word of the Lord, it was to walk with God in the Garden, and it was to not eat of the forbidden fruit. Eating of the fruit, then, was a perversion of good; it was evil in itself.

And then, for this very brief moment, Adam feels the tension between good and evil in the context of his own nakedness. What was once "very good" - his unclothed beauty - has become with new eyes "evil" - shame. Herein lies the most dastardly outcome of the entire episode.

Shame became the most real thing.

The darkness became heavier and more tangible than the light. All of a sudden, it was the shadows that made the candle dance and not the other way around. Confronted with both his shame and his Lord, Adam chose his shame, for he could no longer see how his Lord was any good at all. Not in the face of his nakedness.

And this is the story now that we all live. This is the story we are trapped in because of the Fall, because of this one bite of fruit that turned the entire "very good" creation on its head. 

Because of Adam, we understand God's goodness only in contrast to evil. We understand His grace only in contrast to our shame. We understand His mercy only in contrast to our guilt. What seems most real to us, what we are most prone to believe, what we are most likely to live by is no longer the light; it is the shadows. Goodness, we say, is merely the absence of evil. It is the anomaly. It is the odd man out. 

For evil, through and through, is what has become the most real thing to us. 

It's a lie, of course, but then, evil has always been a lie. It has to be, for it only exists as a perversion of truth. Yet here we are, this side of Eden, and we are absolutely convinced that darkness is real and light but a fleeting blessing, a goodness that comes or goes at its own whim, a candle that dances in the unseen winds of the shadows. And we say that God is good, but it means so very little to us because no longer is God inherently good; He is good only because we do not find in Him any trace of the evil that currently rules our lives. 

Do you see this? Do you see how the tables have totally turned? We have gone from a people who knew evil only because it was not good to persons convinced that good simply is whatever is not evil. We can't understand grace. We can't understand mercy. We can't understand promise and hope and eternal life because these things feel like but shadows to us.

We cannot understand God any longer, for in this fallen, rebellious world, it is is He who seems perverse.

This is what our "knowledge" has done to us.

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