Life and Good and Evil
Previously, I have explored how the models we hold about our existence will shape the understanding we have about life. (See “Look at the Window”) I then explored one way of exploring life models by looking at three major world views about the nature of human being. ( See the three-part “The Meaning of Being Human”) This blog is about an another view of the models we hold.
I do not see how it could be argued against that all human beings are involved in the activity of evaluating what is good and evil. Whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Animist, or Atheist, everyone is stating what is good and what is evil, how we should and should not behave. The fact that all human beings engage in this activity for as long as we have recorded history tells me this mentality is very closely tied the nature of human beings. It would seem that to some degree this judgement of good and evil is part of any human model or paradigm.
Evaluating good and evil is part of the human experience and most people would say, “So, is not this a basic part of life and should not we seek what is good and avoid evil?” Yes, I would say this is natural and has always been but I would ask, “Is it working”. I really do not see that in my experience and all the humans I know, evaluating and judging what is good and evil has resulted in more good and less evil. In fact it would appear that this judging of good and evil is the source of human conflict because different evaluations are not compatible. Some have attempted to resolve this by putting forth there is no heaven or hell but evening making that statement they are putting forth a new judgement of good and evil.
It would appear that something is missing. The evaluation of good and evil is needed but the activity appears to be lacking something. Something more, something bigger than just making judgement is required. What a surprise when I found a warning against just a model of life of only judging what is good and evil because it would only lead to death.
“In the middle of garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”¹ Here is the Creator laying out that there are really only two basic models for which to evaluate and go through life.
“And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.”² Trees literally provide food to sustain the life of the body and in the middle of the garden were two trees which provided either the nourishment for emotional, relational and spiritual life or death.
The Creator provides a tree, a model for existence which he calls “life”. What does this model of “life” look like? “The Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”³ First, life is a gift. It was a gift at the beginning and is still so today. I did not conceive myself, nourish myself for 9 months, birth myself and feed and cloth myself as an infant. All this was done by another as a gift to me. Life begins as a gift and was designed to evoke gratitude. “He who has the son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”4 Second, life is maintained by a connection with our Creator. Life has a relational basis. Life is not an exercise in isolation but in connection. Thirdly, there is a way life is supposed to function which is good. In the first two chapters of Genesis there is discuss of man-kinds function in ruling over the earth, discuss of a proper diet and discuss on proper human relationships. But all this discuss of how life works is in the context of life as a gift, gratitude and walk with the Creator. “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…”5 The Creator was walking in the garden to meet with his children and explore their life with them.
“…you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for when you eat of it you will surely die.”6 The other model for life is the striving after, understanding, evaluating, and choosing what is good and evil. Sound inviting but the only problem is that the model leads to death.
Why would this be? First, life is more than a knowledge of good and evil. Life is only sustained by a connection with a source of life. Those who thought they were following the Creator ended up seeking a knowledge of good and evil and when the Source of Life came they rejected the Life. “…yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”7 The deception is that a knowledge of good and evil would appear to lead to a good life when it leads to rejecting the Source of Life.
Secondly, a knowledge of good and evil has no motivation except power and punishment. With life there is the motivation of connection, gratitude, love, joy, liberty, and rest. With a knowledge of good and evil there is the motivation of ought, force, coercion, punishment and ultimately death. Alone, without connection to life, a knowledge of good and evil is not sustainable and ultimately culminates in death.
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.”8
What is your model of existence, one of life or a knowledge of good and evil?
1 Genesis 2:9
2 Genesis 2:9
3 Genesis 2:7
4 1 John 5:12
5 Genesis 3:8
6 Genesis 2:7
7 John 5:40
8 John 10:10