The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 1


III. Temptation at Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

At the very beginning of life’s pathway in Eden, temptation confronted the first pair. Here is the Bible account: CFF1 47.1

“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Genesis 3:1-6). CFF1 47.2

Eve was evidently passing through “the midst of the garden” when a remarkable talking serpent in the fruit-laden branches of the forbidden tree attracted her attention. Her answer to the serpent’s intriguing question shows that she clearly understood God’s prohibition and the penalty for disobedience. But the serpent flatly denied God’s threat, “Ye shall not surely die,” and continued seductively, “God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” CFF1 47.3

The forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was doubtless suitable for food, for there was no poison in Paradise. It appealed to Eve’s sense of beauty. And it commended itself to the intellect as a tree that, if true to its name, should surely impart wisdom—just as the tree of life imparted life. And this wisdom, according to the allurement of the “serpent,” would lift man’s insight to a parity with that of God. CFF1 48.1

Eve was thus assured that they would attain a more exalted sphere of existence, and enter into a broader area of knowledge—if only they would partake. The serpent was evidently ensconced in the tree, and retribution had not been visited upon it. And the serpent promised an unconditional immortality, whereas God’s promise was conditional on obedience. Would they indeed progress in knowledge, and be gainers by violating the command of God? Would they actually become like God Himself?—and the attributes of God would, of course, include immortality, omniscience, et cetera, with all that such characteristics involve. That was the basic issue. That was the life-and-death question. Man’s destiny was involved in the outcome. CFF1 48.2

Eve, alas, was led to believe the serpent’s words, and thereby to disbelieve and deny the word of God. First, touching the fruit, she did not die. Then she ate of it without immediate death. Then she led Adam to accept and eat. That is the tragic record. CFF1 48.3