(Re: Letters to the Editor - Sept. 22, 2010: "It is never too late.")
Free Will and Morality
Morals do not begin or end with the Bible. Neither the Bible nor Christianity has a monopoly on morality. Several moral codes have been developed over the years by civilisations unfamiliar with Judeo-Christian scripture.
God predates all these sources including the Bible. His Spirit was in the beginning; He was in the beginning. His “light” enlightens and elucidates every man and creature. Morals begin and end with God - the Alpha and Omega.
But here is a question for those of your readers more knowledgeable about these matters than I am: if God intended humans to be moral, why did He forbid Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge between good and evil?
I don’t claim to be more knowledgeable about matters raised by Mr. Atherton. I do however have some idea of what he’s enquiring about and I hope my insights will at least shed some light on the issue(s). My answer lies in Free Will and its indubitable link to morals and morality.
Free Will is a broad and complex subject and has become more convoluted, if not more controversial in recent decades. New fields and disciplines such as neuroscience, cognitive psychology and even new branches of the prototypical fields - philosophy and theology - all subscribe and contribute to the discourse and disputations. Because of such complexity, I will try to limit my response to the Biblical context as mentioned in the question.
Free Will - in its connotation of agency of man or freedom to choose between good and evil - was granted to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It’s true that they were forbidden to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, BUT, along with the interdiction, Adam and Eve were allowed and given the freedom to “choose”. In the LDS canon, we find this clear specific consignment of the freedom to choose by God to Adam and Eve:
“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Moses 3:17)
Now before any accusatory scream of heresy is launched and fired, it is well to understand the Bible itself, since it does basically say the same thing - that Adam and Eve were given the freedom to choose. Let’s examine the applicable verses.
“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:16,17 - KJV)
God is essentially - and in a real subtle yet compendious way - saying: “You can do this, BUT not this.” That’s CHOICE right there! In other words, God gave them a choice between two opposite alternatives. Alternatives along with clear and specific consequences also suggest succinctly the possibility, opportunity and ability to choose as individuals.
Again, Adam and Eve were forbidden but were also given the freedom to choose which is tied to our ability to make moral choices.
On a bantering note, I wonder if God was punning when He said to Adam and Eve that they may “freely eat”.