Sep 21

Contra Genesis

The creation account in Genesis is quite obviously a confused myth. However, there are a very large number of people who still believe in its literal truth. Here are three short, simple arguments for those people.


1. Adam and Eve did not deserve their punishment.

Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.”

Genesis 3:17 (NKJV)

Theists will generally agree that in order to have moral culpability, you must have moral knowledge. For this reason, it is not wrong for a lion to kill a gazelle. God punished Adam and Eve for making a morally wrong choice (disobeying his command). Yet, they would have no way of knowing it was wrong without having the moral knowledge they gained by eating the tree. This means that God could not justly punish them since they were not culpable.


2. A lack of moral knowledge is good.

Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.

Genesis 1:31 (NKJV)

As part of the free will defense to the problem of evil, theists say that God wants us to knowingly choose good over evil. This apparently is morally preferable to God, which is why he couldn’t create us with no desires to kill or harm. But here we see that, according to Genesis, God did not create Adam and Eve with the ability to knowingly choose good over evil. They could freely choose, but there was no knowledge of good or evil, as we saw in the previous point. Not only did God not create us this way, but God said it was very good.


3. A lack of natural disease and death was good.

“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis 2:17 (NKJV)

Another argument about evil is the problem of natural evil. Would a good God, for example, allow so much (or any) natural evil, like disease? The responses are generally along the lines of saying there is some higher order good that is brought about by the natural evil. Some responses have been that it is necessary for the higher order goods of soul-making (Hick), the need for knowledge (Swinburne), character building, etc. Death, disease, and the like did not enter into existence until Adam and Eve ate of the tree of knowledge. We saw in the previous section that God considered the existence prior to death and disease existing to be good, and even clearly seemed to prefer that earlier state of affairs. Therefore, death and disease are not required to make a good existence in the eyes of God.



So, we have three popular claims about God that conflict with the Genesis creation account:

  • The claim that God is completely just.
  • The claim that we have to knowingly choose good over evil in order to live a good life in the eyes of God.
  • The claim that death and disease bring about higher order goods in the eyes of God.



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  1. Roi des Faux

    I’d like to add another popular claim that conflicts with the Genesis account: The claim that the serpent deceived Eve.

    Genesis 2:16-17 “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

    Genesis 3:4-5 “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.”

    Genesis 3:22 “And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil…” [Note also: on that day they did not die.]

    God lied to Adam and Eve, and the serpent spoke truth.

  2. Ryan


    In response to point 1:

    The Christian might argue that the aftermath of their choice to eat the fruit was simply a necessary consequence rather than a punishment. Certain language in Genesis 3 (particularly :16, which addresses painful childbearing), however, strongly suggests punishment delivered directly from God.

    Or perhaps the Christian could argue that Adam and Eve always had potential knowledge of good and evil such that God’s commands could inform them. By eating the fruit, they gained actual knowledge without God’s direction, but they were still responsible for the initial disobedience. This plays into the argument that those who have not heard of Jesus are still responsible for their actions because we all have inherent, actual knowledge of good and evil following the eating of the fruit.

    Roi des Faux,

    That depends on how you interpret the passage. The Christian might argue a difference between “in the day” and “on the day.” If Adam and Eve were immortal in their original state (is there any evidence for or against this?), then they accepted the possibility of death by eating the fruit. From this perspective, “in the day” could refer to a new era in which mankind is fallen. Or the Christian could interpret death in these passages as some kind of separation from God or moral death.

    In both of these interpretations, the serpent, which is described as crafty, deceived them with technically true language that masked God’s actual meaning.

  3. Roi des Faux

    True, by reinterpreting words one can make a passage say anything they want.

    In both those interpretations, God deceived them with technically false language that masked God’s actual meaning.

  4. Ryan

    Interpretation is the name of the game. Don’t hate the player, etc.

    I do think that the distinction between “in” and “on” in this case is significant enough to give the Christian a break, but I’d be dismissive of any claim that “death” means something unusual here unless the Christian could find some loss or error in translation. Of course, the possibility of mistranslation is itself a problem for popular Christianity.

    So, if we go by a strict definition of death and want to maintain Biblical consistency, then we would be forced to conclude that God simply meant that death would become a part of the human experience upon eating the fruit, which in turn implies that they were indeed immortal beforehand.

  5. Mike

    One problem of applying a very loose interpretation or one that requires bringing in a lot of stuff not in the text is that it runs counter to the while literalists approach. They don’t always buy creative interpretations.

  6. Ryan

    Right, so interpreting “death” loosely is not very persuasive. But the in/on distinction seems typical of the apologist’s approach. How else might a literalist resolve the problem?

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