QUESTION: I just wanted to know why did God put the tree in the garden to begin with? He ultimately knew what decision Adam and Eve would make. So why even put the tree there to begin with, because it makes it just seem like we’re just a big social experiment?
ANSWER1: Let me give a shot at it first. Great question. If you understand… if you look at what the nature of God first, that’s what I go to the nature of God first. And from a Christian perspective, God is a community. There is one God who is one being but three in his personhoods: Father, Son, Holy Spirit… eternally distinct personhoods who share one nature.
Is it easy to grasp? No. Is it comprehensible by finite human beings? No, but it doesn’t go against our logic. So God exists in the Christian mindset as a community. He defines what love and relationship is. He eternally exists in a state of relationship. So you as an effect, He’s the cause… but you as an effect actually crave desire, want, covet and mourn the loss of relationship. It’s one of the key things about human existence.
And you’re the effect. Shouldn’t the cause reflect something about that? And in this case, in the Christian worldview, the cause who is a Triune Being who exists in a relationship actually explains why you, the effect, want it so badly.
How does that relate to your question on the garden of Eden?
God himself is a relational being, and in order to have true relationship instead of a wind-you up automaton, like the monkeys who clasp like this and the eyes bug out and all these things but we just wind up and see where we go, He creates the ability for us to have a choice, an actual freedom to choose relationship.
Because relationship not chosen is not really relationship at all. The relationship chosen is real. Love actually has an existence then in a real sense because love itself is vulnerable.
So He creates this scenario where people can actually choose… the choice is freely given. God’s foreknowledge does not necessarily mean He creates that, He creates the choice that they make, but the possibility for them to make that choice. He does it so that we can have relationship.
You see, the God of the Bible does not lack relationship; He never lacks it. He eternally exists in that state. So why create us? He doesn’t need us for a relationship; why create you or create me to muck it up?
He creates you and creates me not so that He can have relationship; He’s already got it within himself in the Godhead. He creates you and creates me so that you can. It is an utterly selfless act in that sense. He utterly and selflessly creates out of an abundance of his love, out of abundance of who he is as a relational being and that relationship requires choice and a free will that’s there, and that tree allows for that.
And because of that you and I… there’s a fallen nature to human humanity, and that’s there as well but then the redemption comes in and then we are offered it, as Ravi had already said in John 3 16 that God so loved… relational quality… the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever shall believe… and actually given and actually chosen… shall not perish but have everlasting life.
In the beginning we have relationship; in eternity we have relationship and in redemption we have relationship. And the tree actually is the beginning of that.
RAVI ZACHARIAS: It’s a very very good question, sir and I think it actually hinges a little bit also on the previous one. You know, the thing about skeptics sometimes when they ask us these questions… and I’m not saying it’s you because I don’t know what the background from which you’re coming, is oftentimes I wonder whether they realize we ask these same questions.
You know, we struggle with these issues; it’s not like we think these are invalid questions; they’re very valid question. But what does the question assume?
The question assumes something very critical that the answer should be coherent, because a coherent worldview is what you’re really looking for. You cannot be comfortable with incoherence. And the question that was asked earlier, the whole issue of how does one talk to a Stephen Hawking?
The fascinating thing about the talk that Stephen Hawking gave in 1990 at the Lady Mitchell Auditorium which was packed on the question of: Is man determined or is he free? He went through about 25 minutes of all kinds of scientific arguments and so on, and his culminating statement got an audible response of: oh my… is this the best answer we can get?
And what he said at the end is, yes, we are determined. He was under the stranglehold of determinism right from the beginning in a naturalistic framework. He said, “Yes we are determined, but since we do not know what is determined, we may as well not be.” That was his concluding statement.