The Problem of Evil: Part One.

In his first epistle, the apostle John wrote that because of our faith in Christ, “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). But why is this so, and how did Satan, the evil one, acquire this power?
Genesis 2:7-9 relates that “…the Lord God formed man of the dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.
And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
Even though both trees were created in the beginning by God, and both were pleasant to the sight and good for food, the consequences of partaking of their fruit were very different. Moses, the author of Genesis, continued the story in chapter 2:15-17, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 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.’”
God gave this instruction to Adam, the first man, before he brought forth the first woman, Eve. “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’…So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:18-22).
The creation story tells us in Genesis 1:31 that when God saw everything that he had made, the man and woman, all the animals and plants, and all the trees of the garden including the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God said that all he had brought forth was not just good, but very good. But if everything that God made during the six days of creation was very good, why did he instruct Adam that he and Eve were not to eat from one of the trees in the very midst of his perfect garden? We know that the trees were beautiful to look at and good for food, so what could have been the problem? Why did the fruit of that single tree come with a warning that included certain death? Let’s take a closer look…

At the beginning of chapter three, a new character enters the story: the serpent, who was more cunning than all the other beasts that God had made. This reptile was so remarkable that it could speak, and it said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” (3:2). Eve corrected the serpent, recounting that no, God did not say that she and Adam could not eat of any of the trees in the garden, just the fruit of this particular tree. In fact, Eve clarified that God had said that she and Adam should not even touch that tree. Or its fruit. Or even go near it. They were to stay away from that tree, or they would die.  But the crafty serpent responded, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:4b-5).
And Eve, who had just recently been created and had no experience with smooth-talking reptiles, took another look at that tree: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise [this fact, remember, had been told her by the serpent] she took of its fruit and ate, and also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (3:6). Adam and Eve already knew that the tree was pretty to look at and that it probably had delicious fruit, just like all the other trees. But suddenly, another element had been added to the equation. Now they not only saw the fruit, but they desired it, so that they could become wise. The way they saw God, the tree, and the way they saw themselves, had changed.
Genesis 1:27 states that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” And verse 2:25 says that “…the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” They had already been created in the image of God, and in that perfection, had nothing to hide. But the lie of the serpent crept into their minds and convinced them that they were not really created in God’s image, and that they lacked wisdom. As with all the lies of the devil, this was partially true. Children are created in the image of their parents, but they are not yet ready to shoulder adult responsibility. And no matter how intelligent they may be, children do not yet have the experience necessary to develop wisdom. Adam and Eve were in the state of “already, but not yet.” They were created in the image of God and were already like him, but they were not yet mature.
Of course, God knew this, and he brought forth all of creation to give his children the opportunity to work, learn, and grow. He instructed Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (1:28). And had they followed this course, they would have matured over time, in paradise, and eaten of the tree of life.
But because the lies of the enemy caused them to doubt the word of God, and to doubt themselves in relation to God, they instead chose to eat the forbidden fruit. Sin had entered the garden, and with sin, came death. And death could not remain in Eden. “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (3:7).
The narrative relates that when God arrived to fellowship with his children, they were nowhere to be seen:
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (3:8-13)
The deed had been done, and Adam and Eve had changed. They were no longer surrounded by the shining garment that is the glory of God in their original innocence. They were naked, and aware of their sin. And the serpent, too, was lurking nearby, as God pronounced his decree over the three of them:
The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
    cursed are you above all livestock
    and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
    and dust you shall eat
    all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
    and you shall bruise his heel.”
To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
    in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
    but he shall rule over you.”
And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.”
The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.  And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. (3:14-20)

God had given Adam and Eve dominion over his creation, and when they sinned, death entered Eden. James, the brother of Jesus, described it like this: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:12-15). And the author of Romans wrote that the wages of sin are death (6:23). Therefore, God clothed Adam and Eve in dead animal skins, to symbolize that they had exchanged their birthright of eternal life for mortality. This explains the birth of original sin in humankind. From this point forward, every human being, except one, Jesus Christ, would be born bearing the stain of Adam and Eve’s sin.
Romans 6:16 states, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” When Adam and Eve believed the lies of the devil and chose to break God’s only command, they placed themselves and God’s creation under the enemy’s dominion. They had become slaves to sin. 1 John 3:8 states that, “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.”
Therefore, because the man and woman had entered the enemy’s domain, they could no longer remain in Eden:
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man [and the woman], and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:22-24)
And on a fallen and broken Earth, the curriculum for the study of the knowledge of good and evil had begun:
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering,  but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:1-7)
Please stay tuned for Part Two.

All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation.