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.