Our standard theological understanding of the so called Fall in the Garden is that the event damaged the relationship between God and Adam and subsequently all of humanity. It is assumed that before Adam gained the knowledge of good and evil that he and God had the perfect relationship, the one God preferred and always intended to be.
Seemingly, if the relationship between God and Adam before the Fall was perfect, then that perfect relationship required Adam’s ignorance of moral and ethical precepts. In other words as long as Adam stayed in a childlike state of moral obliviousness, then God was satisfied with the kind of interactions He and Adam could have.
It sounds much like the relationship human parents have with an infant, enjoyable, but not one that is designed to last forever. Yes, we parents do sometimes feel a desire to halt our child’s growth and development so that we can prolong the simplicity and satisfaction of nurturing a totally dependent and attached infant or toddler.
But that is not the plan; and we ultimately come to realize that a much deeper relationship can only be achieved when two individuals interact in ways to better understand and react to one another. Deep relationships require intimacy, the sharing of thoughts and emotions, acts of mutual support.
In other words a relationship between a mature and a yet immature person can only be worthwhile if the less developed person is encouraged to mature. The more developed person should promote that maturing in his own best interests. To deny or restrain that maturing process would serve to destroy rather than maintain the relationship.
The Bible is clear on the point that after the Fall, Adam had increased in his nearness to God in ethical and moral understanding. He had become godlike in potential moral discernment and therefore more able to engage with God as one who was more fully aware of reality as viewed by God. Adam’s increasing knowledge and awareness can be seen as a step forward in his ability to relate to God.
Adam was already in the image and likeness of God before the Fall. He possessed a form of the divine nature and essence. Was it God’s intention that Adam should never grow and mature as a divinely endowed creature? Could Adam actually grow while in ignorance of the requirement to order one’s physical life in accordance with certain essential principles? Could the God of creation be eternally satisfied with the inherent shallowness of a relationship with an infant? These questions are all very pertinent to any inquiry into our understanding of the early Genesis account.
The real conundrum of the Garden was the fact that the ethical awareness that Adam required in order to have a more mature and meaningful relationship with God was a two-edged sword. On the one hand that awareness provided essential guidance for Adam’s personal life. On the other it made it possible for Adam to engage in unethical and immoral actions in a misguided attempt to control the behaviors of other humans. The Knowledge of Good and Evil pulled him in opposite directions. Only a strict alertness to the potential downside to this newly acquire ethical awareness could prevent Adam and his progeny from a destructive form of “righteousness”.
Thus we have the story of world religions ever since. How do we know what is right and proper? How do we maintain our own propriety? And what is the proper way to encourage others to behave properly?
I have to believe that God is committed to a deep relationship with mankind. That relationship is integral to the creation process; it is the very reason we exist. It is unimaginable to me that The God of Creation would ever be content to retain infants when He could enjoy fellowship with adult children. Whatever else the biblical narrative is about, the story of mankind’s growth in spiritual maturity is logically an essential part.