Did Eve have a “Moral compass”?; and the “120 years” of Genesis 6:3
Our two chosen feedbacks this week are both answered by Lita Cosner—the second one being about the 120 years of Genesis 6:3. But first, Joshua B. from Australia asks how to answer a skeptic’s objection:
An atheist said this to me but I really don’t know if this question was a trick question? What should I say to this:
Christians believe that we have a moral compass inside of us given by god to tell right from wrong.
Why was Eve’s moral compass defect? Wasn’t the tree called tree of knowledge, when one eats the fruits one receives the ability to know good from evil? So clearly Eve did not have a moral compass before she ate the apple. So it was the fruit that gave us the moral compass, not god. Why does god punish an entire species for one deed of a woman who couldn’t know good from evil?
My intended response (did not say this to him yet—your input on this would be truly helpful):
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
So Eve had known that this was wrong and morality was in effect! Good and Evil became known from rejecting God and knowing they can reject good and embrace evil.God bless,
Lita Sanders answers:
This atheist is making three major assumptions. First, he believes that because Eve was able to sin, her moral compass was defective. Furthermore, he believes that eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (to give it its correct title) was the solution to this defect. Third, he believes that it is wrong for God to judge someone with a defective moral compass.
Now, if it is immoral for God to judge people who are able to sin, there could be no judgment for sin at all, but we know that God must judge sin, because He is eminently just. So either this man’s definition of a defective moral compass is wrong, or his assumption that God cannot judge people with defective moral compasses is, or they both are (hint: it’s the last option).
First, all of us, since the Fall, have a defective moral compass where the needle is ‘pointed’ toward sin, to go with the analogy. None of us can consistently avoid sin; we know this from hard experience after salvation as well as before, though the process of straightening out the moral compass (sanctification, to use the theological term) begins simultaneously with salvation (though they are two distinct works). But God, who is just, judges us for our sin, even though our defective nature makes it certain that we will sin. The judgment is just—because we cooperate with sin—we like sin, in our fallen nature.
But this didn’t apply in Eve’s case; her compass (as well as Adam’s) was ‘perfectly balanced’, to stay with the metaphor. She was able to recognize God’s command, and discuss with the serpent exactly what the command was, and to evaluate whether or not to keep that command. She was able to sin, but she didn’t have to, like we do now. That is, Eve (and Adam) had the power of contrary choice, lost at the Fall.
When it is decided whether someone is competent to stand trial, we ask whether the person is able to understand that what they have done is wrong; if committing a crime in and of itself was proof of incompetence, no one could ever stand trial for anything!
So what exactly was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? (By the way, the Bible doesn’t say it was an apple tree.) I would suggest that “knowledge of good and evil” is a figure of speech called a merism, where two opposites are used to suggest everything between them. For instance “I looked high and low” means “I looked everywhere. So really, a loose paraphrase could perhaps call it the “Tree of All Moral Knowledge.” Now only God has that kind of knowledge, but note that the serpent claimed that eating from the tree would make them to be ‘like God’. Ironically, it was eating from the tree in deliberate definance of God’s command that warped the image of God and broke their moral compass, as well as ensuring that all their children, i.e. the entire human species, would be born with a broken moral compass.
But it won’t always be like that. Those of us who believe in Jesus, the only one with a “perfect moral compass”, look forward to the day when our own moral compasses will be perfected, so that we will not be able to sin or rebel against God; in this respect we will be like the unfallen angels, in Heaven. This will be an even better state than Eden, because there will be no possibility of another Fall.
Creation Ministries International
Chris D. wrote in with a question about Dr. Carl Wieland’s article, Living for 900 years. That article prompted him to wonder whether he might not have understood Genesis chapter six correctly:
After reading Dr. Wieland’s article ‘Living for 900 Years’ it caused me to ask myself some questions I’ve never thought of before, and it reminded me of a bible verse:
Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.”—NIV
Other Bible versions seem to say about the same thing with more or less specific wording. I guess I’ve read this and believed for a while that “Oh, I guess it must be impossible for anyone to live after 120 once God said that.”
It seems to me that people lived much longer than 120 years after this was said. Examples are in Genesis 9 and 11. I think Dr. Wieland also gives some examples in ‘Decreased lifespans: Have we been looking in the right place?’. So I’m not sure what this verse means. I believe in the inerrancy of the Bible so my first assumptions are a lack of understanding on my part, which is why I am seeking help. Thank you for taking the time to consider my question.
P.S.: As a side note I’d like to thank CMI for the work that they do. I try and find a different article to read about every day, and have done so for about the past 5 months. The information I’ve learned here has gotten me more excited about the Lord than I have ever been, thank you.
CMI’s Information Officer, Lita Sanders, replies:
I believe the 120 years was the time from Genesis 6:3 to the Flood, possibly beginning when the sons of God began taking wives from the daughters of men. I.e. from the time of that utterance by God onwards. In a sense it is like God saying, “Mankind’s days are now numbered”—and starting the countdown from there. Some have assumed that this would reasonably correlate with the time when Noah was warned of the coming deluge, which would give him (and his family and whatever workmen he was in a position to hire) 120 years to build the Ark.
If it referred to human lifespans, we would not expect anyone to be able to live past that age, and as you point out, it took a while after the Flood for lifespans to decrease below that.