Get away from that apple! Eat it and die!!!

Question: What was really going on in the Garden of Eden? I can’t believe God would actually condemn Adam and Eve just for eating an apple from a forbidden tree!

temptation of Adam & EveAnswer: Your instincts are correct. There was more going on in this story than meets the eye. First, let’s look at what God created: He created Paradise – a perfect world, and he basically told Adam and Eve that it would remain perfect as long as they followed what was true, in other words, to do what God told them: “Follow me, and you’ll be fine!” What was the name of the tree they could not eat from or even touch lest they die? It was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Whether or not it was an actual tree or simply a metaphor really doesn’t matter. What matters is what God was telling them. In effect, he was saying, “Don’t try to decide for yourself what is right and what is wrong. You can be wrong; I cannot! I am all Goodness, all Beauty, all Truth. I am perfect; you are not. Listen to me and do what I tell you and everything will be perfect.” But Satan, in his war against God, decided to try to get back at God by harming us. He knew that it would hurt God tremendously to see his children suffer. Any parent will know that feeling. It is far worse for a parent to watch their child suffer pain than to suffer that pain themselves. So Satan starts with a lie: “Did God really tell you not to eat the fruit of any of the trees in the garden?” Eve answers correctly: “We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ’you shall not eat of it or even touch it, lest you die.’” God was not forbidding them pleasures. Some people like to think that if we are enjoying something it must be sinful. (Harold Camping used to say that.) There are many legitimate pleasures that God gives us to enjoy. He is not trying to make our lives miserable.

Satan then drops the big temptation: “You surely will not die! No, God knows fully well that the moment you eat of it you will be like God yourself, knowing right from wrong!” In effect he was telling Eve that God was the one being deceptive. The only way God could keep them under his control – so said Satan – was by telling them not to follow their own hearts and minds. If they did, they would no longer need God. He successfully convinced them that God was the liar, that he was merely trying to control them and keep them from breaking free from under his power. So they ate the fruit – they listened to their own minds and hearts and not to God. And with that “their eyes were opened” and did they discover that they knew right from wrong on their own? No! They saw that they were naked! They saw their shame. And Satan didn’t respond by saying, “Gee! I thought they’d know right from wrong! I guess I was wrong!” Of course not! He knew very well what the result would be. By disobeying God they gave Satan his entrance into the world – and that’s why we have all the evil we do in this world! Original Sin brought it in!

Now, how many times do we hear people say, “Why do you think you have to listen to everything the Church teaches or parrot every word the Pope says? You have a brain; think it out for yourself!” (I actually had someone ask me that very question once at a wedding!) What are they telling us to do? They are telling us to commit Original Sin all over again! Our hearts and minds are not infallible. You and I can be mistaken, and just because we feel it or think it doesn’t make it right. Only God’s word is truth. Therefore, those who tell us that God’s teaching through the Church is wrong because “they don’t feel there’s anything wrong with it” are committing Original Sin all over again! They are buying the devil’s lie; they sucked it in hook, line, and sinker!

What we see from this is that God’s law is not subjecting us to him; that was Satan’s lie. Rather, God’s law is freeing us from error. It is the truth that we can follow with confidence. God’s way is not always the easy way, but it is always the right way. So, by following God’s law, we are not so much subjecting ourselves to him as sharing in his power! Sin enslaves; God frees! When we follow God completely, we are free from the errors of sin – we are truly free!

Jesus, the New Adam, reversed Original Sin by His total obedience to God. He showed us that obedience to God brings salvation, just as Adam showed us that disobedience to God brings suffering and death.

So the lesson we learn is simple: don’t try to decide for yourself what is right and wrong. Don’t merely follow what you think or feel because you can be wrong. Follow what God tells you at all times and you will truly be free!

True Strength

Do You Want To Go To Heaven?


“Do you want to go to heaven?” Anyone who believes in God would almost certainly answer that question with a “yes!” No one who believes would desire anything else. So why, then, do we have to worry about going to heaven? Some people mistakenly hold that, “since God is all-loving, what loving God would want us to burn in hell for our sins rather than be with him in his kingdom? He wouldn’t deliberately condemn any of his children; therefore, everyone will go to heaven!” Unfortunately, that’s not a correct read on God, as they leave out one very important element: free will. Yes it is true: God desires the salvation of everyone. His death and resurrection made that possible for all of us. But in order to enter heaven, we must follow him. That is up to us.

Imagine if you will a ship that has come to rescue people who were tossed overboard in a shipwreck. The ship anchors and sends a ladder down into the water for everyone to climb up to safety. Many people do, but others, for whatever their reason, refuse to climb the ladder. Maybe they are enjoying the water and see no reason to get on the ship, or maybe they’re expecting the captain to jump into the water and drag them out personally. They argue, “The captain doesn’t want us to drown, so he’ll jump in and pull each of us out of the water.” And so they stay treading water waiting for the captain to save them. The ladder is still there and the captain is saying, “Come on! Grab onto the ladder and climb up onto the ship!” but the person says, “No, I don’t have to because I know you’ll come down and get me!” Well, what happens? Glug! Glug! Glug! The person drowns. Did the captain deliberately drown the person because he refused to climb the ladder? No, he is very upset by the fact that the person drowned, but it was the person’s own fault. So those who were saved were saved because the captain threw down a ladder to make their rescue possible. As for those who weren’t saved, it was their own fault!

It is the same way with God. By becoming man and suffering, dying, and rising for us, he made our salvation possible. But you and I have to freely avail ourselves of what he offered in order to enter heaven. Remember that, while we often think of heaven as this big banquet going on in heaven, theologically speaking, “to go to heaven” means to be perfected, to be perfectly formed in the image and likeness of Christ, to be totally present to him. What needs to be perfected? Our muscles? No. Our hairdo? No. Obviously, it is our will. Original Sin occurred when Adam and Eve said no to God and yes to sin. Our salvation is when we reverse that, when we say no to sin and give our full assent to God’s will. Now, if God were to force us to follow him, that would not be our free will, our own consent; it would be coercion. So God cannot drag us by the hair into heaven whether we want to enter or not – he can’t force us to be perfected. He will help us, but it has to be our own choice. Hence, anyone who is saved is saved by the grace of God; anyone who is not, it is his own fault! God saves those who are saved; the condemned man, by his own refusal to follow God, condemns himself!

So therefore, no one can sit back and rest on his laurels thinking his salvation is in the bag. We must work on it every day by following God’s law. Yes, he desires our salvation and he helps us in a thousand ways every day to walk the path, to climb the ladder out of the waters of death, but we have to walk, we have to climb. He cannot do it for us.