A week later, I was in the New Forest. My wife and I were staying in our grandson’s room. I picked up a book that he was reading. It had an arresting title Repenting of Religion. I started to read (rather, dip) into this paperback and I was hooked. The author Gregory Boyd related his experience in a shopping mall. Sipping his ice-cold coke, he was indulging in the game of labelling the shoppers who passed his table. He too was deeply troubled by his judgmental spirit. He sought to probe its source. He swiftly traced it to the opening chapters of Genesis concentrating on the motif of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The first earthlings were warned not to eat of its fruit. They could freely enjoy eating fruit from all the other trees. Why did Eve eat of the forbidden fruit from this tree, and later gave it to Adam? The tempter’s words were wrapped in a never-to-be missed opportunity: to be all-wise, with limitless knowledge. They could be like God the omniscient one. After-all, what’s wrong with acquiring good knowledge and being wise? Surely, the Creator God wanted them to discern and make correct moral choices. But a closer study of the biblical text, indicates that they wanted to assume God’s role as the supreme judge over good and evil.
Since the fall, you and I have inherited this judgemental spirit. Once a noted evangelical leader was interviewed by a reporter of a secular press. She asked him what he regarded as the greatest sin of “Bible believing” or evangelical Christians. His immediate reply was “We are notorious for creating straw-men, often imaginary opponents; we set them up and then we misquote, revile and tear them down.” I thought of my past – my eloquence in slanging Christians who hold a theologically liberal position and condemning Roman Catholics for their extra-biblical doctrines. I wanted my hearers to recognize me as one who upholds doctrinal purity. Unconsciously, I had elevated myself as a judge and gloried in my additional role as prosecutor!
I shudder to think of our perspective and attitude towards pre-believers (non-Christians) We are welcoming and kind to those who appear to be earnest seekers. We are attracted to clean-cut students from middle-class families. So much like us. If they come to Christ what a great task force, we’ll have for the Kingdom. Now weigh the negative stance and even the crass comments we express towards those addicted to alcohol, drugs and to music that turn us off. We avoid folks struggling with their gender identity; we look down on those who utter swear words and embrace a hedonistic life-style. Surely, they do not appear as likely candidates for salvation and church membership?
When we recruit leaders, we prefer to select those who think and behave like us. Unconsciously, we fall into the trap of selecting “yes” men and women. As members watch our words and behavior and if we are always judgemental, they will inevitably become like us. We re-produce disciples as we are, not what we like to be. It’s not surprising that cliques are formed and easily recognisable in our fellowships. Inward-looking communities do not attract those from outside. That’s why many churches do not grow.
I repent, and I move away from all the values and judgemental ways that I have inherited as a result of eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I turn to the Lord of life and I desire to eat fruit from the Tree of Life. I pray, “Lord, change my lenses. Enable me to see people with your eyes. Lord, they depicted you as the friend of outcasts (tax collectors) and sinners. You declared you came not to judge but to rescue fallen human beings. You did not condemn the Samaritan woman at the well for her infidelity. You offered her the water of life. When proud men wagged their fingers at the woman caught in the act of adultery, you did not use the law to punish and stone her. You set her free and urged her not to cling to sin. You recruited Simon the zealot, the freedom fighter, a man of violence to be one of your Twelve. You included a hated tax collector – Levi to be on that team. Two opposites! Your presence and acceptance, not your finger-pointing and exposure of Zaccheus’ corrupt ways made him a child of God and to make restitution for his unjust gains. When you as the Risen Lord met Peter by the lake-side, you could have imputed guilt on him for his betrayal and false boasts. But you didn’t. You spoke the language of love – loving you and loving others. Lord, give me your eyes of grace and heart of love.”
Our fundamental sin is that we place our selves in the position of God and divide the world between what we judge to be good or evil. And this judgment is the thing that keeps us from doing the central thing God created and saved us to do, namely, love likes he loves. p.17
In this fallen way of life, people and things have worth to the extent that they fill us. Instead of ascribing unsurpassable worth to others because the Creator does, we ascribe limited worth to people depending on our judgment of them. Do these people love me? Do they please me? Do they benefit me? Do they affirm me? Do they agree with my opinions? We are the ones who declare that someone or something is good or evil, for we set ourselves up as the center around which everything is measured.” For man is in the state of disunion” says Bonhoeffer, “good consists in passing judgment, and the ultimate criterion is man himself. Knowing good and evil, man is essentially the judge.” p.71
In Matthew 7, Jesus is doing nothing less than contrasting two mutually exclusive ways of living. We either live in love, or we live in judgment…If we stand in judgement and do not forgive, we ourselves will be judged and not be forgiven (Mt.6;14,15) If we do not show mercy, we will not be given mercy (Js.2:13) If we condemn others, we will stand condemned (Lk.6:37) p.111
Love and judgment represent two antithetical ways of living. We either live out of union with God, and thus with our fellow brothers and sisters, or we live out of ourselves as center, in separation from our brothers and sisters. We live either by God’s righteousness or our own. Which way we live ultimately comes down to this decision: Shall we eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil or not? Shall we let God be judge, or shall we try to be judge? In short, shall we let God be God and honour the boundary he set between us, or shall we try to stand in the place of God? p.112
Adam and Eve’s story is not just a “once upon a time” story. It is also the story of every human being. The beginning of all sin – the origin of all that is unloving – it is a judgment about God. We embrace a picture of God that is less loving, less beautiful, less full of life, less gracious, and less glorious than the true God really is. From this everything that attaches to sin, everything that characterizes life “in Adam” (1 Cor.15:22) and “life in the flesh” (Rom.7:5;8:4-8) follows. When our picture of God is distorted, we can no longer trust God to be the source of our life. It is impossible to trust God if we don’t believe God is love. p.127
from Repenting of Religion by Gregory A. Boyd
Emanation of The Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil?
This year GOOGLE celebrates its 20th birthday. Its motto was “Don’t be evil”. Millions worldwide regard it as the fount of knowledge and consult it daily.
Google remains a remarkable organization that has made astonishing leaps forward in technology in just 20 years. They employ dedicated and talented people, they push the boundaries of innovation, they constantly ask “Why not?”
Google now influences every home in the land. It is present on almost every laptop, phone ad increasingly, our home appliances, making them somewhat omnipresent. Their stated mission is to store all the world’s knowledge, which starts to sound like omniscience. And if we consider in today’s personal information economy, knowledge is power, we could add omnipotence to our list. Such words are reserved for the other Big G. (emphasis mine)
Does this make them an idol? Well, of course nobody worships Google, but you don’t need to. Isn’t an idol simply the authority we turn to most often, the central one we depend on to answer all our questions? In our daily decisions, great and small, I wonder if we genuinely seek God’s input on matters as much as we do on Google’s?
Chris Goswami The Gospel According to Google Article in Premier Christianity September 2018