"Why Does God Allow Evil?" was a great explanation about why sin exists in the world, I enjoyed reading it and it has been a helpful tool when people ask me about sin and why God allows it to happen. I would like to ask you a question about the tree of knowledge that was put in the garden. Recently my 10-year-old daughter came home from Sunday school and she was very upset at Adam and Eve for “messing everything up for us.” She blames them for sin coming into the world by Adam and Eve's disobedience. She also asked me that if God knows everything He would have known that they would eat from the tree and “ruin things for us.” She asked me why He would put that tree in the Garden in the first place. I honestly didn't have an answer for her. Would you be able to help me explain it to her?
The garden in Eden contained every type of tree that was pleasant to look at or produced good food. In the middle of the garden were two special trees. The first tree was the tree of life. Eating its fruit gave a person an extended life span. The second tree was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam's job was to take care of the garden that God planted for him.
Adam was also given a simple law to obey. "You can eat of any tree in the garden, but you cannot eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." This shouldn't have been too hard of a command to keep. After all, the garden was filled with all sorts of fruit trees. A question that comes up is why would God put the tree in the garden if He did not want Adam to eat of its fruits? Wouldn't it have prevented problems later if God did not put the tree in the garden? Why put the tree right in the middle of the garden and then tell Adam not to eat of its fruit?
The answer is fairly straight forward. God created man after his own image. One of the things that this implies is that man is given a free choice to decide whether to obey God or not. If man is to be free to make a choice, then there must be something to choose between. Without the existence of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, then no choice would have existed for Adam. But notice that something else must also exist for Adam to be able to chose to follow God or to disobey Him. God had to give him a law. Without a law, no choice can exist. Right and wrong always exists, but unless we are made aware of the choice through a law, we cannot be held responsible for keeping or breaking the law. See Paul's comment on this fact in Romans 5:13. What we call sin is when a law of God is broken (see I John 3:4).
Unfortunately, there is a side-effect when God tells us that something is wrong to do. We become aware of sin. If God never mentioned that something was sinful, it is possible that we would never have thought of that sin on our own. (See Romans 7:7-12.) Therefore, the very thing that warns us to stay away from sin gives us ideas of sin that we may not have thought of before. Verse 9 of Romans 7 makes an interesting point. When we are young, we are not aware of right and wrong. We do things because our parents say this is what we should do. We avoid doing certain things because if our parents caught us, we would be punished. At some point in our lives, we become aware of God's laws and understand that certain things are right or wrong regardless of what our parents have told us. As an example, you understand that using God's name as a curse word is wrong. You are trying to break yourself of that habit, not because you are afraid that your father would wash your mouth out with soap; you avoid cursing because you understand that it is wrong.
Every child that is born is totally innocent of right and wrong until they mature enough to be aware what is right and wrong on their own (Deuteronomy 1:39). Even though Adam was created as a full-grown man, he had the innocence of a little child. He was unaware of right and wrong on his own.
Yes, God was aware that if He gave man a choice that man was destined to choose wrongly. That is why He had a rescue plan already in place before He created the world.
"And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God" (I Peter 1:17-21).
"To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him" (Ephesians 3:8-12).
God's "eternal purpose" doesn't just refer to an unending future, it also means it stretches back in time beyond what we can fathom. God had this planned out because it accomplishes His goals. People make their choices but God plans out the consequences. "A man's heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).