The devil first did it in the Garden of Eden. Eve knew the fruit was forbidden. She knew that God had promised certain death if she picked and ate. But somehow the devil got Eve all mixed up about good and evil. Maybe what she thought was bad might actually turn out to be okay–even good. All this time she thought she would die if she ate the fruit. “But I’m getting smarter now,” Eve thought. “ I can listen to this other point of view from this talking serpent. His message gives me hope. I like the sound of wisdom and especially the ability to discern between right and wrong. Maybe what I thought was the absolute truth was not absolutely true after all.”
You know the rest of the story. Eve took a big bite of this subjective thinking and plunged the world headlong into sorrow, disease and death. The ironic thing is that the devil used the ability to discern between good and evil as the bait. He promised her this wisdom to know right from wrong. Did you ever stop to think that this ability to distinguish with certainty right from wrong had been given by God in the very beginning? When God gave Eve the commandment to refrain from eating the fruit of that particular tree, He graciously gave her absolute truth. He presented the choices to her. He told her which choices were good and which choice was bad. He even prescribed the consequence of the wrong choice. When God revealed his wishes to her, she had all she needed to know about right and wrong. She had, in those early garden days, wisdom on loan from God. That’s still how we get real wisdom today…from revelation. “The fear of the Lord is (still) the beginning of wisdom” (Psalms 111:10).
But Eve chose experimentation rather than revelation. She, like an infant with a will to disobey, decided to try the Father and see if he was as good as His word. Experimentation is the basic exercise in proving science. My kids did it in school. You know, first you develop a hypothesis. That’s just a big word for “your best guess at what will happen if…” Then you come up with a test or a series of tests to prove whether or not your guess was right. After enough testing to reasonably show consistency in the results you have proved or disproved your hypothesis. This process is known as the scientific method and all of the real facts in the science textbooks have been proven this way. Sometimes kids still use this method to prove the principles of buoyancy or the laws of thermodynamics. It’s a good scientific exercise.
But what if you heard that the scientists at NASA were spending one million of your tax dollars this month to prove the law of gravity? “Why that would be an awful waste of tax money!” you’d say. “That law has been indisputable for centuries. The law of gravity is no longer in need of being proven. We already know the consequences of jumping from a ten story building. Let’s use that money on some other research.”
And so it is with God’s laws of good and evil. When God revealed His laws to us in scripture, they were not hypotheses. Since they came from the omniscient One, they were just as sure the moment they were written as if they’d been proven ten million times over. We don’t have to read and then test. Men’s hypotheses need testing. God’s laws are inherently right because He is God. But in the year 2016, we have the written infallible Word of God and several thousand years of testing to prove God was right in the first place. And yet we’re still standing under the tree, if you will, taking that big bite of subjectivism and deciding our ways might work out better than His ways. We’re still hypothesizing on our own, questioning His predicted outcomes, and finally (and, all too often, too late) learning that He knew the facts all along. The scientific method need not be applied to God’s spiritual laws. He is the supreme Scientist. He designed every law of nature. He set in motion every principle upon which our universe operates. His rationale, His wisdom, His instruction is far above our human processes of reasoning. When God instructs, we are not about proving. We are about moving.
(The article above was largely taken from a portion of a chapter I wrote for the Fort Worth Lectureship Book at the Brown Trail School of Preaching and the Brown Trail Church of Christ, 2006)