The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk: Forbidden Fruit

Rather than responding to a reader question, this week’s Ethics and Religion Talk column begins with an essay on “Forbidden Fruit” by the Rev. Sandra Nikkel, head pastor of Conklin Reformed Church. The essay comes from a book she is writing.
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids, Michigan /Kiran Sood Patel

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

The familiar saying, “You are what you eat” proves to be true even in the Garden of Eden. Adam & Eve chose to ignore God’s warning to not eat from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the entire human race suffered for it. God had warned them that the day they ate from this tree they would die. As you know, they did not die—not in the way we thought and not immediately; but from this point on, Adam and Eve began a process of spiritual and physical decay that led to their separation from God and eventually to their death. There is a connection between the natural realm and the spiritual realm that we cannot afford to ignore. Everything we do in one realm affects the other one. The Bible says that “when the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it” (Gen. 3:6). Even though God’s wisdom was available to Eve she chose to act according to her own wisdom. She chose the fruit that promised to help her know (on her own) the difference between good and evil. She coveted the knowledge that would allow her to know on her own and decide for herself what was right and what was wrong. So, she ate the forbidden fruit and gave it to her husband as well. This act constitutes a declaration of independence from God and it marks the beginning of sin as we know it today.

The consequences of their choice not only changed them, but its effects went far beyond what they could ever imagine. It affected and infected every human being who came after them—including you and I. Ever since then, slowly but surely, humanity has gone from relying on God to relying on Self. The worship of Self is evident everywhere in our present society, but unfortunately, it also evident in the Church. Self reliance, self resolve, and self confidence are often promoted in the teaching and preaching of the Church. This has catapulted the Church into pluralism, humanism, relativism, and materialism. And as the world mocks her claims on healing, new life, miracles, signs and wonders, the Church does not realize that the reason that she is weak and ineffective is because she is having a love affair with Self. It is not Satan but Self that stands in the way of her doing the greater works that Jesus talks about in John 14:12: ‘Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.’ It is not the devil but Self that blocks the Church from experiencing the abundant life that Jesus promised in John 10:10.

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

While the Bible is not considered to be a part of the canon of Hindu sacred literature, over the past couple of centuries it has been studied and commented upon by several Hindu scholars and mystics. The account of the creation and fall is one that has attracted much attention. Many educated Hindus have a fair grasp of the account. In fact, when men of lower consciousness (regardless of religion) in India behave toward women in the same way some American construction workers do it is referred to as ‘Eve teasing.’ This underscores the fact that while a great story on many levels it has led to centuries of oppression of women.

The Hindu sees the book of Genesis as a myth; but this is in no way meant in a pejorative sense. As the 4th century philosopher Sallustius wrote, ‘Myths are things that never happened but always are.’ So to our way of thinking, the story of the temptation is something that happens to each of us daily. This idea is not foreign to some Jewish and Christian thinkers as well. It is understood that each character in the story is a part of us. Yahweh represents our highest, godly nature. The serpent is that force which attempts to keep us from realizing that purity. Adam stands for stereotypical masculine qualities where logic is uppermost. Eve is feminine nature where, as an archetype, emotion or feeling is uppermost.

When these qualities are not balanced we make poor decisions. Eating from the tree of good and evil indicates that due to identifying with the lower self, or ego, we lose sight of our essential unity with God and nature alike and live with the sense duality. We feel both pleasure and pain; feel both heat and cold. Thus, suffering enters.

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.