Did God Know What Would Happen In The Garden?

mnSome of the most fascinating science fiction plots involve time travel. Our minds are naturally intrigued, and ultimately confused, by the concept of how and why things play out the way they do, and what, if anything, could be done to change the flow of history. If we could go back in time, could we alter our present by tinkering with the past, or would a new timeline in some parallel universe result? We will never know.

Sometimes, believers too get caught up in inquiries regarding what might have been. Recently, a believer posed this question about God and his plan for mankind:
Wouldn’t God have known what would happen in the Fall?If he knew why did he go through with making us? With making the tree?

Because limited beings can never fully know the mind of a perfect Creator, the only correct answer to this question is probably “We’ll never know… at least not in this life.” However, considering the attributes of God that we do know and recognize, we can try to make some sense of the state of affairs in which humanity finds itself.

As Christians, we believe God to be omnipotent and omniscient. Stated another way, we believe that there is nothing beyond God’s power or beyond his knowledge. All things that are capable of being done, He can do, and all things that are knowable, He knows. There is nothing doable or knowable that is beyond His reach. Consequently, He must have known of the Fall and that the first two humans would “eat of fruit of the tree.” As limited and temporal beings, our minds cannot really grasp what foreknowledge entails. The passage of time, in the sense that we experience it, is a limitation. We move in one direction only; we see only dimly the past and the future is at best an exercise of our imaginations. While God may be in some sense temporal, time – as we experience it – could not limit His potentiality. For God, all things must exist in an eternal present, which His omniscience allows Him to access without limitation.

We recognize that God has given us “free will,” but what exactly this means is not entirely clear. There are certainly things that we cannot will to do, such as reading another person’s thoughts; there are other things that we have no desire to do, such as living in conditions that are hostile to life; and still other things of which we are unaware, so that willing them is not even contemplated. In short, our will is not unfettered. Whatever limited set of choices He gave us, they are meaningful to Him as it relates to love. Love, as we know, must be freely given and received to have any value. So, if we are to share an eternal loving relationship with Him, we must be sufficiently free to make that choice real.

The tree, whether real or figurative, is obviously one of the choices God gave us that mattered to Him. To “love” Him meant – and continues to mean – to recognize that as God, He is entitled to our respect, our obedience, our worship. When we put other things first – when we put ourselves and our desires first – we sin against Him.

So, knowing where our free nature would lead us, why did He nonetheless create us? Why did He create beings who in their nature could not, on their own, fulfill His expectations? Who needed to be saved by Him, but first needed to be prompted by Him to even want salvation?

The answer has eluded the greatest minds, and no doubt always will. I think the most we can say here is that, consistent with his nature, he had perfectly adequate reasons. My suspicion is that those who are saved are where they belong, having freely consented to the work God eventually does in them. Those, by contrast, who are not saved – who spend eternity apart from God, have freely chosen to die in rebellion against him; they too are where they belong.

In other words, I can only trust that a perfect God has effectuated His plan for salvation in a perfectly fair way.

Posted by Al Serrato

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  1. Lane says:

    Thank you Al, as always an insightful & instructive article. When speaking to someone on this issue, I often bring our finite understanding/knowledge vs God’s omniscience into play in the conversation and ask, ‘how much do you really know, even about the tiny sphere of your life? Ok, now multiply that by 6+ billion. Now multiply that by 6+ billion and God’s omniscience, middle knowledge, etc.’ When things are put into their proper context, it is only reasonable and/or rational to trust the One who is omniscient, the Alpha & Omega. ” Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” Psalm 139:6 Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” Gen. 18:25

  2. Harmony says:

    Maybe it’s just me but I’ve never really struggled with this one. It makes perfect sense to me that a God who’s desire is basically family would create humans with free will and curiosity, knowing both of these would cause us to sin against him.

    I think he knew from the moment he thought about creating the world exactly what his final end-game would be (primarily family – I believe), and the best way to go about achieving that.

    By having an object in the garden which the first humans were told not to eat from, even though God knew beforehand they would, he was able to manage the first moments of fallen mankind in a controlled environment.

    Anyway just my 2 cents. Good article, thought provoking 🙂

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