We are so accustomed to certain things that we lose sight of how remarkable they are. For example, this short passage in Genesis 2.
“Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
God planted the garden. It’s His. Why does he put a tree of the knowledge of good and evil in that garden? If we believe the Bible, we believe God knows the end from the beginning. He knew that Adam and Eve would eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He knew the sin and suffering that would come from that, knew that the only remedy would be the sacrifice of his Son, that a member of the Godhead would have to become a part of humanity forever.
Knowing all that, God went ahead with the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Why? What can we conclude from that?
I conclude that liberty, the right to make choices, choices that matter, must be very, very important. C. S. Lewis says that God gave to humans “the dignity of causality.” That is, we can make choices that alter the course of history.
In fact, that’s exactly what Adam and Eve did. They made choices that plunged the world into sin, that introduced suffering and death. Real choices. Real consequences.
Having made that choice, all humankind became sinners. That is, we could not longer choose good. All our choices would be evil.
Christ died to restore our ability to choose good.
We can still choose evil. Indeed, every time we sin, we misuse the liberty Christ died to give us, for in him “we live, and move, and have our being.” Again, C.S. Lewis says that every sin is at base an act of sacrilege, because we take something sacred, the power of God that sustains us, and use it for profane ends.
And despite all that God and Christ have done, they still allow us to choose to be lost, to choose evil and death.
Then we have the millennium, where the books of Heaven are opened and we get to audit God’s actions. God allows us to decide whether He was just or not. It’s amazing.
What we see throughout the Bible is that God will not coerce our will, nor will he allow Satan to do so. We may surrender our will to the Evil One– and God will respect that choice.
So I conclude that liberty, freedom to choose and act, is one of the most important things in the universe. If it’s that important to God, if it would lead him to sacrifice His own Son to preserve it, it must be one of the most sacred things in the universe.
When the Declaration of Independence cited liberty as an inalienable right which comes from our Creator, they got it right. The Bible makes it clear that God granted us choice from the beginning, and continually seeks to preserve and respect that right.