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Question 18

Hi, Father According to a book I read by a Greek orthodox theologian called Francopolous,he states that people who do not believe in the devil's existence fall into his trap and this is a way he leads them into perdition. Another saying goes that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to fool the world into believing he does not exist. In light of the above was it fair for God to allow Adam and Eve to be tempted by Satan without warning them beforehand that they had an enemy??     


Answer to Question 18


When God created Adam, He made him according to His image and likeness. We understand by this that the image is man’s spirit, the soul, which is endowed with intelligence, with thought, wisdom and prudence, so as to be able to discern good from evil. It is man’s sovereign state and free will to choose his own destination: to choose between knowing and having communion with God, or to separate himself from God. To be in the likeness of God is the ability to acquire the grace of God: to be deified by the Holy Spirit and become a god. In other words, to be united to God through our own free will by accepting God’s will and making it ours. We acquire this likeness through God’s help and by our own efforts. If we make proper use of our free will, we can reach the ultimate aim for which man was created, to be a god by grace.


Adam was created immortal, that is to say, as long as he lived in God’s will and likeness, he would live forever. He was as yet innocent and sinless, one can say almost perfect, except for his knowledge, which was only theoretical. We say theoretical because by nature, Adam possessed theoretical knowledge of good and evil, i.e. it was innate and natural to him. This knowledge was included in the “according to the image”, which was his wisdom and prudence, his gift of discernment. “Adam could discern both these things [good and evil]”, says St. John Chrysostom, and “it was impossible for him not to know what was good and what was bad”, for “God from the very beginning in creating man placed within him natural law”. Thus man knew from the moment of his creation what was good and what was evil; what was beneficial and salutary and what was harmful and destructive. But this knowledge was theoretical. He possessed knowledge but not experience. He knew that his aim was to reach perfection and union with God, but perfection could only be achieved through practical and experiential knowledge.


God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden and gave him Eve, whom He created from Adam’s rib, to be a companion for him. God gave them a commandment that they may eat of all the fruit of the trees except of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and on the day they eat of it they would surely die. Many people speculate on what this forbidden fruit might have been. In truth it doesn’t matter what the fruit was. The reason for the commandment was not to deprive them of the fruits of paradise, but to give them the opportunity to exercise their free will, either to follow God’s will or to reject it. It was a simple command, which gave them the opportunity to practice and advance in obedience, virtue and sanctity, an opportunity to gain the much-desired experiential knowledge.  But to test their free will they had to have a choice and this is where the Devil comes into play, to offer them another option. Thus God allowed the Devil to do his worst because Adam and Eve had the discernment of what was good and evil and should have recognized the Devil as evil and rejected him. 


The Devil, appearing in the guise of a serpent told Eve that if they eat of the tree “ye shall not surely die. For God knew that in whatever day ye should eat of it your eyes would be opened, and ye would be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3: 4-5). Eve was guileless and innocent, and did not immediately recognize that the serpent, the most cunning of all the beasts on the earth, was evil. She struck up conversation with the serpent and with great trust she listened to the Evil one slander God and allowed herself to be led to the precipice of evil. Indeed Eve was as St. John Chrysostom says, “puffed up with the hope of becoming equal to God and imagined great things for herself”. Thus the tree, which she had seen many times before and only identified it with God’s command, suddenly looked different. She looked upon it as for the first time and saw that the tree was good for food and that it was pleasant to the eyes to look upon and beautiful to contemplate. Believing therefore the serpent, she ate of the fruit and gave to Adam also with her, and they ate. At first glance one might say that their intention was good because their one desire was to reach perfection, but they sinned because they disobeyed God’s commandment [not to eat of the fruit]. They freely chose not to follow God’s will and this destroyed or distorted in them the likeness of God.


The significance of their action has a much deeper meaning for by doing what the seducer suggested, man appeared to be saying to God: I have no need of you. I shall live by myself, self-sufficient and independent. I don’t need your guidance and protection. I’m able by myself to live and to achieve great things. Indeed man’s original sin revealed his unbelief in God, his egoistic rebellion against the Divine Majesty, his thanklessness and ingratitude toward the beneficent Creator and Father, his contempt, insult and blasphemy against the Holy and Heavenly King.