The Tree of Life Revisited

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, February 18, 2016 0 comments

by Steve Risner

[This blog post is part of a series. The previous post is here, and the next post is here.]

I am excited to finally begin answering these “10 theological questions no young-earth creationist can answer!” I am, however, very disappointed in the idea of this writing by Tyler Francke. Let me explain: he claims in the title that these questions are impossible to answer for a young-earth (Biblical) creationist. This would mean he's asked them all and I'm fairly certain he has not. In fact, I socialize with a few thousand Biblical creationists online all the time and have not found anyone who was asked any of these questions. It could also mean he believes he understands Biblical creation, which is a laughable idea based on his writings. That seems rather interesting, then. Also, in correspondence with Tyler, he confessed to me that he knew the questions he was posing were not impossible to answer but he sensationalized the title so his post would be read. Now, don't get me wrong—I'm all for making a catchy or interesting title. I do, however, feel led to be honest in the title of my blog posts. And the post itself confirms that he intends to (apparently dishonestly) lead his readers to believe no Biblical creationist can answer these deep theological questions (I say that tongue in cheek). Finally, if you search Google for “What was the tree of life?” (the first question he asks) you will come up with hundreds if not thousands of Biblical creationist responses. Truth be told, I didn't read them all but I browsed several and they all seemed to have good content. Here, when I thought I would be revealing ground-breaking theological responses to these impossible to answer questions, I find they've been answered by many for a very long time. Oh, well. Fame and fortune is lost. That's why you need to be honest in your titles. You get people's hopes up and my hopes have been crushed.

But let's seriously move on to this first question “What was the point of the tree of life?” (See my previous blog post here where I touched on this question.) This actually is a very interesting question. I was excited to read up on this. The tree of life is not only found in Genesis 2:9, but is also found in Revelation 22. To me, when we have this tree in the perfect garden God created for man to abide in and in the new earth that we will live in forever—at the restoration of all things—it provides a very serious issue for the Biblical skeptic (who still is a Christian, I guess). This is because if God is restoring all things to that perfect state but that perfect state is infested with disease and suffering and, finally, death, it doesn't really sound like “eternity” to me. It doesn't really sound like heaven at all. The truth is, the Bible tells us there will be no more death in heaven (because He will restore our dwelling place to be like the original).

Tyler starts with, “The tree of life... is one of the most baffling of the many problems spawned by the literal interpretation of the creation accounts. Literalists often pretend like the purpose of the tree is vague and unclear, but the truth is — unlike many things in Genesis 1-3 — the power possessed by the tree of life isn’t vague at all.” And he goes on to say, “Have a little nibble on the fruit of the tree of life and you live forever.” First, let me say that the “literalist” interpretation has been the leading and easiest one to support and has lasted for thousands of years. He's only inclined to feel this is a hard question because he wants humanism and Christianity to be married. This, of course, is impossible. Blending the Truth of God with the “truth” of humanism leaves us with something that's not true—much like blending fresh water with salt water. You no longer have fresh water but you still have plenty of salt water. Secondly, let me say that even if this was a hard question to answer in a Biblical fashion, it wouldn't really even mean anything. I mean, there are some difficult things we can find in the Bible. It doesn't make it any less true. But he says the purpose of the tree is very clear and that it is to make you live forever. Is that really true? Let's take a look...

Let's first make sure we understand it's impossible that anything, including the tree of life, could undo or overpower the judgment of God. He pronounced death on mankind because of their rebellion. Eating from a tree of immortality that would cause this judgment not to happen would mean the tree had greater power than God. That's a poor position to have, in my opinion.

However, if we look at the Hebrew text in this passage, we'll see something that may lend to our greater understanding of this text. You see, Genesis was not originally penned in English. In fact, Hebrew (the language it was written in) is very different than English, so sometimes translation is difficult. In this case, the word translated as “forever” in Genesis 3:22 can just as easily be translated “a long time” and it is translated that way in other verses of the Bible (see Isaiah 42:14). This may solve the problem right away, but we can go much further. If you feel that “forever” is a better way to translate this Hebrew word, that's fine as well. You see, God's mercy was such that, if this tree could actually give man life forever, he would live that life in a state of separation from God and would never have hope of rejoining Him. God's mercy, then, was to withhold this fruit so Adam would one day be able to walk with his Father again. I'm okay with either interpretation. This just highlights for me how willing Tyler is to disregard information. It would literally have taken him 3 minutes to discover this and this is just one issue with his question that “no young-earth creationist can answer.”

He states, “This presents a huge problem for the young-earth view, because they believe physical death was not part of God's original creation.” This isn't a huge problem at all. In fact, it's not a problem of any size at all and it's striking how much he doesn't really know about this stuff. Death was clearly the result of the Fall. This is why animal sacrifice was started. This was also why Jesus Christ had to die physically. If Christ did not need to die physically to pay for our sins, why on earth would He leave heaven's glory and allow human beings to torture and brutalize Him before murdering Him in one of the worst forms of capital punishment ever devised? Doesn't really make sense, does it?

“If the young-earth theology is correct, then this tree’s miraculous power served absolutely no useful function until after the fall of man.” This is obviously not true since Genesis 2:9 tells us “it was good for food” and not bad to look at as well like the other trees in the Garden. Did it have some sort of special ability to nourish the body? Maybe. Was it “miraculous?” Unlikely. But it was not the giver of life Tyler is making it out to be.

But it was also a symbolic tree. It was surely a real tree, but far more than this it demonstrated that God is the giver of life. This tree was placed in the center of the Garden much like God is to be the center of our lives. It was a physical tree, yet it stood for the blessing of the eternal life with God that He would give to the first couple and their descendants, if they chose to walk in obedience rather than rebellion. We find in the Word of God many “types” (representations) of Christ throughout its pages. The Ark, Abraham and Isaac in Moriah, etc. There are many examples and I believe the tree of life was another. It represents something on a spiritual level but is, itself, physical. Scholar Matthew Henry wrote in the very early 1700's: “There was the tree of life in the midst of the garden. Of this man might eat and live. Christ is now to us the Tree of life, Revelation 2:7; 22:2; and the Bread of life, John 6:48,51.” To reduce the entire thing to a mythical account to teach us some sort of truth makes God to be just a good story teller and His story of Redemption would be based on a fable. Since every reference to creation is in an historical context, I'll just lean on that and accept that the account is factual, accurate, and what God wanted us to know about how He created the universe.

Tyler ends this section of his blog post with another question: Where is the tree now? He answers it for us. If the Garden of Eden endured until the Flood, it was most assuredly taken away in the deluge. There's no way around that. I suppose it's possible the Garden is at the bottom of some ocean or in some cavern somewhere, but I highly doubt it. He seems to think that this tree was immortal which just makes me smile. This guy's theology is just atrocious as well as his logic. It's the sort of theology I'd expect from children. I don't intend that to be a mean comment at all, it's just that his Biblical understanding and his theology seems so naive and so “surfacey” that I can't understand why he wants to write about this stuff.

For an interesting read on the implications of eating from the tree, read Ravi Zacharius here on how far reaching and condemnable the act of disobedience was. Tyler wants to act like God was a big meanie for cursing all of mankind and all living things immediately after the Fall. Again, his theology is very shallow and he seems to think sin is really no big deal.

I personally wouldn't dwell on it too much, but the tree of life was a fruit tree that provided food for man. It was also symbolic of the God-centered life that we should be living—realizing that God is the giver of life. Next week, we get into why animals cannot be saved. Sounds like another fun one. Continue to pray for Tyler and for any theistic evolutionists you may know. They need the truth like anyone else.

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