Are we punished for it?
Published: 5 September 2015 (GMT+10)
Many people are confused about why people today are punished for sin, and how this affects each of us personally. J.B. from Indonesia asks:
I have a question about one specific part of the Bible. I was a Catholic until I was 9 and then I reread the Bible and thought, "Why would God not allow Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge?". This must mean that God is restricting free will and Adam and Eve were punished for gaining knowledge and learning something new.
As a curious 15 year old who questions everything that seems illogical and incorrect to my beliefs that one should be allowed to think and challenge beliefs when they see fit this seems fundamentally incorrect.
In this website you provide evidence provided by scientist that are learning something new. How do justify the fact that in the literal sense, God disallowed the gaining of knowledge but yet you are using knowledge that you apparently found out and inferred from ideas you created.
Does this mean you are moving away from the words of god by learning new things?
Please respond. I would like to debate about the morals and beliefs of the bible
Lita Sanders from CMI-US responds:
Your question assumes that knowledge in and of itself is always a good thing. But a little bit of reflection will reveal that this is not so. For instance, it is not good to know what a broken leg feels like, because even though you have gained knowledge, it comes at the cost of intense pain and damage to your own body. It is not good to know what it feels like to hurt another person for the same reason. We know all sorts of things that we wish we didn't, because of the pain, embarrassment, and the moral guilt attached to it.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were morally faultless; they were in a perfect environment where all of their needs were met. They had pleasant work to do and best of all, they were in a perfect relationship with their Creator. They had no reason to question His goodness or truthfulness. He told them not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil because it would be fatal for them. The Serpent spun it a different way—he claimed God wanted to keep something good from them (which, by the way, is the way you're reading it, too).
The sort of knowledge gained in science or academic study is fundamentally different: God wanted Adam and his descendants to have dominion over creation—that likely included learning about creation and harnessing it for human good. That means that science is well within what God intended us to do.
One of the fundamental assumptions that the Bible makes about God is that He is good, and He displays this goodness in His relationship with His creatures. And the Bible shows that this is true over and over again. So when God forbids something, that means that the thing He forbids is bad for us. And when God commands something, that means that the thing He commands is good for us. And while these commands might seem "illogical and fundamentally incorrect" to some people, we are called to trust God based on what we know of His goodness and holiness.
I want to challenge you a little bit though: you're 15 years old, and you claim the right to challenge what you perceive as "illogical and fundamentally incorrect". But at your level of education and life experience, you're very ill-equipped to judge these things. You need to spend more time in serious study before challenging anyone to a debate.
But most of all, do not read the Bible as if what the serpent was saying was true. God was not trying to withhold something good from them—and even when they disobeyed, God mercifully clothed them and promised that the offspring of the woman would defeat the serpent. And the fulfillment of that is Jesus’ sacrificial death to pay the price of our sins in our place. See our Good News article.
Stephen C from the US writes,
I have a question that's been bothering me for a while.
If the curse imposed by God was a punishment for the rebellion of Adam and Eve, then why must we, the descendants of Adam and Eve, suffer the punishment from what only Adam and Eve did? Why must we have an inborn tendency to sin for what Adam and Eve did? Why must we suffer death for what Adam and Eve did? Why must we be subjected to diseases for what Adam and Eve did?
If "each one shall bear his own load" (Gal 6:5), and God "will render to each one according to his deeds." (Rom. 2:6), then why are we suffering a curse for what someone else did? Why not just limit the curse to just Adam and Eve? Am I missing something?
Lita Sanders from CMI-US responds:
Thanks for writing in. There are really two elements to understanding why we are affected by Adam's sin, and why we are judged for sin.
First, when Adam sinned, he was acting as the federal head of all humanity. We are an individualistic society, but we still have the concept of federal headship. For instance, when the leaders of a nation declare war on another nation, all the citizens of that nation are now ‘at war’, even if they did not agree with the declaration. They are all affected by that decision. When Adam sinned, he 'declared war' on God not just by himself, but on behalf of all people.
Second, we participate with this ‘declaration of war’. None of us is sitting around saying, "Oh, I wish I didn't have to sin, but because Adam did I have to … Rather, we like and seek out sin, at least certain sins, which differ from person to person. All of us fail to live up to whatever moral system we endorse, and all of us try to justify ourselves. We are justly judged for our individual sin.
However, if "each one shall bear his own load" and God only rendered "to each one according to his deeds" in the way that you understand those verses, salvation would be impossible because it involves Jesus bearing the penalty for our sins as a perfect, willing sacrifice. We deserve judgment, but through Christ we receive forgiveness and adoption. So, since God has opened a free way of salvation, no one can object that God is unjust, because He is absolutely just, but even better than that, He is exceedingly merciful to those of us who don't deserve it. Read our Good News article.