Non-believers often look for contradiction in the pages of the Bible. They rightly conclude that an intelligent creator would not build contradiction into his inspired word. Imperfect people, by contrast, could easily fall into error which is detectable to later generations.
Some skeptics see a contradiction in the Genesis account of man’s fall. Why would God create Adam and Eve with a desire to have “more” when they were already in Paradise? As one non-believer put it:
“I would say that if ‘always wanting more’ is part of the human condition, then on the Christian world view you subscribe to we would have to accept that God created them with this desire to want more than the paradise he provided them. This is worse when you realize that he did not have to provide them access to “more” but he did and he made it a rule for them not to access the “more” on pain of terrible sin and generations of sin nature and the evil we experience. He put the trees in the garden and he put in the serpent as well and he chose the serpent’s nature too.
I think this is a contradiction between an all good god and the stated facts of the Genesis account.”
What underlies this challenge is an assumption that God acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner. He made man, filled him with the desire to act in a certain way, made up meaningless rules to trap him, and then pounced when Adam and Eve did the unavoidable. If this were the case, Christians would be foolish to love and worship such a being. But is it true?
Christians believe that God is the ultimate perfect being. As St. Anselm expressed it, God is that being a greater than which cannot be conceived. Most of us don’t spend much time contemplating what that entails. Consider for a moment that aspect of human nature we see with fans that are “star struck” by celebrities. These “stars” are fellow human beings; indeed, they are in fact strangers, people flawed in many ways, yet their mere presence can cause a fan to be speechless. Most people don’t experience this extreme, so consider instead what infatuation feels like, how overwhelming a response one has at times to someone they want to know more intimately. Or, by contrast, think about the agony people go through when a loved one is lost. These examples are all but a shadow of what interacting with God would be like. So I think it is fairly apparent that God must shield himself – his utter perfection – from us in some significant way. Otherwise, we would be in such awe of him that we would be unable to function.
Why would God do this? Why create us knowing that we are incapable of interacting with him? Because he had a plan by which we could, eventually, enter into relationship with him. That is the Good News of the Gospels.God, it seems to me, desired from us something more than just worship; he could have created us as robots, or as animals, filled with programming and instinct, content to bask in the glory of a perfect being. But instead, he built us for relationship; he programmed us for love, and we find our greatest fulfillment in meaningful, loving relationships with others. How many “successful,” but isolated, people are truly happy? How many people, on their death bed, think of what more time they could have spent at the office, instead of the relationships they shared, the loved ones they are leaving behind, and worst of all, the broken relationships in their wake.
So, the skeptic responds, we were built for relationship with God. Why doesn’t he just show himself and be done with it? Because of the nature of God. For any relationship to be meaningful, it must be entered freely. One has to have some knowledge of the other, and the ability to stay or leave. If love is forced, coerced, or bought, it is not love. Consequently, we, as God’s creations, need to be shielded in some fashion from his full nature. We would, otherwise, find him irresistible. He gives us enough knowledge of him that we are without excuse; we know he is there, and we know from morality that we owe him something, even if we disagree among ourselves as to specific cases. But God does not overwhelm us. Instead, he leaves within us the desire for “more,” but in our imperfect state, we confuse created things for what that “more” really entails – reunification with God. He does not force this; instead, he gave us the freedom to choose ourselves instead – to worship ourselves or other created things. He formed the bubble around us that gives us enough information to know he is there, but not so much that our free choice is eliminated.
Eventually, we are called upon to decide. We either assent to the gift he has offered us, through the actions of Jesus; or we die in our state of rebellion. He honors either choice. But our assent is not the end of the story; it is the beginning. As with any loving relationship, taking things to the next step requires consent. With our consent, we allow Jesus to “make us perfect.” This work is not done by us. Indeed, we are utterly incapable of being in relationship with perfection. But the work of transforming us – a work that Jesus has both the power to do and the love to desire – won’t be done against our will. If we wish to spend eternity isolated with ourselves, he will grant that wish. But if we want to “come home,” he will prepare us for interaction with “the perfect.”
The Genesis account is an explanation of this dynamic. The “rule” regarding the tree was not arbitrary; the tree was not part of some sadistic game God was playing. “But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” (Genesis 3) In other words, it represented the ability to act against God’s wishes, by trying to displace him or at the very least share in his nature. What tempted Adam and Eve – and us as well – was never a physical thing.
There is, therefore, no contradiction between a “good God” and the Genesis account. God could have made us robots or animals, worshiping him and being mindlessly happy. But he could not both do that and give us free will. That is where a contradiction would lie.
Posted by Al Serrato