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Is Knowing Good and Evil Such a Bad Thing?

"Man has become like one of us."

Genesis 3:22a (ESV)

Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.”

First off, the, “like one of us,” is perfectly clear in the Hebrew. The Hebrew word for “one” (ehhad, where the hh is a hard, throat-clearing, h sound) is in there, and the “us” is definitely plural. There is broad agreement in how this is translated.

The “us” agrees with the Trinity Doctrine, but can also be interpreted as including a heavenly audience (such as the angels).

That’s the easy part. The tough question is, “What happened to man?” Becoming “like one of us” is obviously significant, but what does that mean? Unfortunately, scripture doesn’t give us a simple answer.

We are told that Adam and Eve were changed by eating the fruit. Their eyes were opened, and they suddenly knew good and evil. In one way, they were now even more like God than before.

This is best understood in terms of the difference between us and the animals. When we think of how we are created in the image of God – and different from the animals – one obvious trait is our creativity. No animal exhibits a tenth as much creativity as a typical 3-year-old. It’s why restaurants give crayons to children. We are like the creator in that we are creative.

Now we add another trait – the knowledge of good and evil. People have a universal sense of right and wrong, which also exists innately in children. This is spelled out in detail in two books by CS Lewis – The Abolition of Man and Mere Christianity. Animals show no signs of being like that. All their behaviors are just conditioned responses. That’s why dogs are housebroken, not taught about the moral failings of peeing indoors.

But why not just create man knowing good and evil to begin with? Why go through all this drama?

Well, you can ask that about every event in history. Everything has a purpose, which we may or may not understand. This plot line gives us the backstory of a fall into sin that defines us. It seems at first glance to be a series of unfortunate events, but what do we know?

It’s all up to God, and it’s all for His holy purposes.

We need to think and pray more broadly about good and evil and what God wants us to do about it. As servants of the Lord, we should think strategically. Yes, it’s all about seeking his will and doing it, but we tend to seek the Lord’s will in short term decisions, rather than think about what he wants our goals to be.

Look around you. What needs to change? What parts of this broken world are calling you to get involved?

So, how can you make a difference? What are your aptitudes? What skills might you be able to add that would complete the package needed to have serious impact? Is it time to start working on the problem, or is it time to focus on training?

Ask God for clarity in this. Ask Him to call you in a specific direction. Pray for doors to open (or close) in clear ways so that you’ll know how to proceed

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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