I had an interesting conversation with my friend John today over coffee. Actually, I was talking over coffee, John was talking over water, to be more clear. John asked me if I ever thought about what might have happened if Adam and Eve didn’t eat the fruit from the Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil in the garden. What if they didn’t listen to the serpent? What if, instead, they chose differently? What if they chose to listen to God’s only command to not eat of the fruit of that one tree?
To be honest, I’ve never spent any time thinking about this. I’m not even sure if there is much value in speculating, but it was interesting to think about the choice. This thought exercise presumes that the choice was real, of course. I know there are many people who believe that there was no real choice, that God knew they would fail, that this story we find ourselves in is one that God has plotted and planned from the very beginning. That we are living in God’s plan right now. That being the case, I actually think the speculation is worthwhile, because it causes us to interact with the fact that the choice to listen to God or not was actually real. That there was a possibility that Adam and Eve could have chosen not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil. That their actions weren’t predetermined by God.
Imagine that the story of creation, that our stories, are like a choose your own adventure book (this idea is Greg Boyd’s, not mine). Not one like I read when I was a kid though, which had choices that led to different endings, some good and some bad. Rather, imagine that this book is one that has all sorts of possibilities, and that with each choice you make at each decision point, a new path opens up towards the same ending. The ending is fixed, its known, its unchangeable, but the way in which we reach that ending is full of choices and possibilities.
Imagine that the ending looks like the one which the prophets in exile spoke of as a banquet with wine and food and everyone is invited. Or, that it looks like the one imagined by John (the apostle, not my friend) in Revelation in which there is no death, or pain, or tears, where God is at the center of the city giving it light, and the gates of this city are never closed. Eden is restored. The wolf no longer eats the lamb, but they rest together. Weapons of war are fashioned into tools for harvesting crops.
Imagine that this is the plan that God has had all along. Imagine that he started this story good, very good in fact, and that humanity had every possibility to forever live in that very good creation. With that in mind, if the first humans in that very good creation had chosen not to abandon God’s plan for their own plan, the beginning would have very quickly led to the ending. It’s possible that, because of the choice of the first humans, we have been taken on a long tangent towards the ending, full of real choices, possibilities, and outcomes. Its actually the most likely scenario, since we are all living in those choices every day.
I believe this is why, in Genesis 3, the story goes that God banished the first humans from the garden. There was another tree in the garden called the Tree of Life. The story tells us that God did not want the first humans to eat from this tree after breaking with his original plan and live forever in their brokenness. Our brokenness. Imagine that God, who knows the beginning and the ending, knew that it would not be possible for the ending to come about if we lived forever as broken people. So he eliminates that possibility, because he is the author of the story.
And its a good story, because its leading to a good ending. We choose whether or not our “adventure” is one that leads further from or closer to that ending. We can choose to walk paths that lead to life, or paths that lead to death. Because God is not controlling the outcomes, but he has set the parameters for our collective stories so that they will ultimately lead to his good ending. The real question is, will the way we reach that ending allow us to enjoy it, or hate it? Because the ending is set. God is making all things new. All things.
If life is like a choose your own adventure book, then we really do choose whether we will live life in ways that align ourselves with that good ending. And that way, the best way, is the one that Jesus showed us.