Why did God put the Tree in the Garden? image

Why did God put the Tree in the Garden?

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I’m not sure what the hardest biblical question of all time is, but any shortlist has to include this one: why did God put the tree in the garden?

You have a perfect garden, two sinless people, intimacy with God, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, comes the rather arbitrary announcement: ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’ (Gen 2:16-17). Why? Given all the consequences that have flowed from that commandment, wasn’t it a rather odd move on God’s part?
 
In a superb Q&A with David Eisenbach – superb, in part, because (unlike many Christian Q&As) it’s actually moderated by someone who isn’t a Christian) – Tim Keller gives his answer. The following is a transcript:


David Eisenbach:
Here’s something that’s always bugged me. Why did God put that tree in the garden to begin with?
 
Tim Keller:
You know what? Finally, you’ve asked me a question I can really answer well. (Laughter). Because I’ve been acting like all my answers are good, but you know some of them are better than others.
 
What’s interesting about the tree is: there doesn’t seem to be any particular reason to forbid it. Right? I mean, he says, ‘You can eat all the trees in the garden except this one.’ And he doesn’t tell them why.
 
Now, I had a ten year old, my middle son, he was a very hard child to get to obey. And I would say to him, ‘Obey me. I’m your father, I’ve told you to do this, so just do it because I’ve told you to.’ And you know what he’d always say? ‘Dad, I’d be happy to obey if you could just make it reasonable. Just tell me why this is helpful for me, or the human race, or whatever.’
 
And I would say, ‘If you only obey me when I explain it to you, then you’re not obeying me, you’re just agreeing with me. I want you to obey because I’m forty-five and you’re ten. (Laughter). I know a little more about life than you do, and I don’t want to have to explain it to you because I couldn’t get into your ten year old brain.’
 
So God says, ‘Don’t eat from the tree’, and no explanation. The point is, ‘I want you to obey because you love me. Just because I’m God and you’re not. I want you to do something, not because it profits you, not because you know the reason why, but just because I’m Lord and Saviour, and you’re not. Just do it because you love me for myself alone.’ And they didn’t.

 
You can see the whole thing, plus a fairly hard-hitting interview with Martin Bashir, here.

Footnotes

    Hat Tip to Justin Taylor

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