While the story of the temptation of Adam and Eve is the story of a choice I’m not sure we ever had, it does raise three questions (one with a corollary) worth our consideration.
First, if knowledge of good and evil is not a primal state of being, but an evolved one … if, in our primal state, we were neither good nor bad because that very criteria was utterly foreign to us, then does this story provide a foundation from which to acknowledge (and celebrate) the highly evolved aspects of our society, on the one hand, while, at the same time and on the other hand, noting how other aspects of life in our culture (many having to do with the knowledge of good and evil) have regressed? And can we do that without obscuring the pervasive implications of such an observation in any simplistic longing for a time when we had prayer in schools?
Second, in the story of a falling into the world as we know it, did we get what we chose or did we simply write what was? And yet, even if the story is not of causal events in history, as a mythic story of deep truth, it remains a story of taking responsibility for the way things are. We make poor choices. Of course, with such an emphasis, it’s less the story of one choice someone else made long ago, and so much more about the choices we face everyday.
Third, how is it possible to know God … to walk with God and to talk with God without knowing good and thus evil? And the corollary: isn’t it interesting how that first disobedience resonates so strongly with subsequent obedience? While acquiring the knowledge of good and evil is initially called death, acting on that knowledge is subsequently called abundant or eternal life. It is the very state of fallenness that allows for redemption. Obvious at one level (you have to have fallen to be raised), but what we gain seems so much more than what we lost—like the broken bone that mends stronger … or the maturing child ever losing more of its (admittedly initially endearing) lack of knowledge and dependence, but gaining unimagined freedoms and opportunities and the possibility of a mutually celebrated interdependence.