I’ve often taken issue with the fact that the downfall of humanity, according to the Bible, was the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Not hatred or envy or selfishness or pride, but knowledge. Really? No wonder Christians have a reputation for being stubborn and outdated.
Not too long ago, while mulling over this quandary, a new thought occurred to me: Knowledge wasn’t the problem. The problem was the tree.
In the days before sin, God walked in the garden with the creatures He had created. After they ate the fruit, Adam and Eve recognized the sound of their Creator’s footsteps. His gait was familiar to them. It was within their power to speak with God Himself, the source of all wisdom and knowledge, as dear children. Even their own minds bore His likeness.
Could they not have asked Him anything they desired? Would He not have taught them, gently and in order, in a way that their still-growing minds could comprehend without breaking? Would He not have led them to maturity in time?
Yet when they desired knowledge, the first people did not seek it at its source. They did not even rely upon their own God-breathed intuition. They listened to an animal. They ate from a plant. They acquired their knowledge secondhand. It was natural that they should desire wisdom and to be like God–God designed them to be like Him (Genesis 1:26). But it was a mistake for them to seek knowledge from a tree and a serpent when the counsel of the Maker Himself was theirs for the asking.
I wonder sometimes if this is part of why our modern world feels so disorderly, in spite of unprecedented access to the collective understanding of our race. The internet in particular is a spectacular tool for learning. But we have grown so used to Google searches and backlit answers, we are so overwhelmed by arguments and counterarguments and two thousand versions of the secret to a better life, that perhaps we are forgetting how to analyze and to listen.
I once saw a friend turn away from a meteor shower to look up the size of meteors on his smartphone, killing his night vision for the next several minutes. How many times have I felt unwell and looked up symptoms on WebMD, ignoring my body’s own knowledge of its trouble, only to come away with confusion and fear that only a hefty doctor’s bill could placate?I do not mean to say that this kind of thing is sinful, but it does not sit well in my spirit. There is disorder in it. We trust doctors and preachers and robots and salesmen, but we do not trust ourselves. Certainly we do not trust God.
I believe that the human race was designed to be marvelously bright and quick and curious. But I also believe that we were designed to have access to a higher source of knowledge and wisdom than this mortal world can offer.
Call it a New Age streak or world-weariness or common sense, but I think we could learn a lot from closing our eyes and turning our phones facedown and re-training ourselves to listen when we pray–the way small children listen before they “know better” than to expect a response. Perhaps it’s time we stopped hanging our hopes on things so much smaller than us.