A reflection for Sunday 9th June 2024 by Canon Dean Fostekew

“... the Lord, he gave them the Garden of Eden, and everything that was needed to feed on, except for the tree of the knowledge of life, but he hadn’t reckoned on Adam’s wife!”

Those are words from a song I sang in primary School about 50 years ago! It goes on the tell the story of Adam and Eve’s temptation and the gaining of knowledge they didn’t need to have which led to God’s displeasure and despair of his human creation.

Adam and Eve were very content in the Garden of Eden, until they ate of the tree of the knowledge of life. God had warned them not to do so because he knew that thy would not be able to cope with knowing how the universe functions and how creation happens. The created can never fully know all that the Creator knows as it would be mind blowing and more importantly it would put the creation on a par with the Creator. Although we are made in God’s image, in the image of our Creator it does not mean that we are the Creator or that we are divine.

Once Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree they became plagued by a knowledge of good and evil, guilt and shame and obvious self-loathing, all of which God had sought to protect them from. This knowledge is now part of our human condition. We know both good and bad, joy and pain, beauty and ugliness and we don’t always cope very well with that knowledge as we live our lives.

This morning’s piece from the Book of Genesis implies that we could have lived our lives blissfully unaware of anything nasty or unpleasant, difficult or evil but that the first humans, chose through temptation, to eat the fruit we were not supposed to eat. Adam and Eve freely chose to eat that fruit, even if they were tempted.

We the descendants of Adam and Eve now have to live with the consequences of their free will actions. That is the price of us humans having free will.

Whether or not Adam and Eve actually existed is down to how you choose to interpret Scripture. I see the Creation stories or myths as wonderful allegories that seek to explain how we have come to be as we are, in ways that our brains can comprehend.

I also puzzle and ponder over whether or not I am grateful that Adam and Eve ate that fruit. Would I choose to live a life free from the knowledge of bad things? It is a tempting proposition but actually, I think, I prefer to know the difference between good and evil and to have the free will to choose between the two, rather than to live some sort of hermetically sealed ‘safe’ existence. Even if having that free will means that bad things as well as good things will not pass me by.

What about you?
What would you prefer?

The life we have and the life we live is far from perfect but what we can and do learn from each other join both the good and bad times is, I think, invaluable. In valuable as all knowledge increases our capacity to learn and understand and therefore, ironically, to enable us to cope better with the knowledge gained from the ‘Tree of Life’.

The human capacity for knowledges increases day by day and in person upon person. I wonder what Sir Issac Newton the 18th century physicist would make of the late Professor Peter Higgs or Professor Brian Cox and their phenomenal brains? Much of what they have discovered is built upon Newton’s theories though. Knowledge leads us to knowledge and what each of us discovers over our life times is actually quite phenomenal.

There is, however, a responsibility that goes with this knowledge, a responsibility that Adam and Eve discovered as well. If you have knowledge you have to learn how to use it properly and responsibly. You have to be mature enough to know what the right thing is

to do with your knowledge. For example in the mid-twentieth century we discovered how to split the atom, rather than using that knowledge to good ends alone, our human immaturity led us to create the atom-bomb.

We humans have the opportunity to understand the wisdom of the universe, but unlike the Divine Creator, we can never fully comprehend that wisdom or our human brains could not cope with it all. We can never be the Creator. This is, I think, a good thing for just like Adam and Eve, too much knowledge too soon is painful and can lead us to do things we would be better off not doing.

As human beings we need to remember that there is always going to be a consequence for every gain in knowledge we make and like Adam and Eve, sometimes those consequences might be more that we are actually willing to pay!