The Lord God commanded the man,
“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman,
“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
What was the first school lecture, or first doctrine taught by God to humanity? Relative to how we read our Bible, the first might be said, to be ontology (referring to God creating) or to epistemology (God is “revealing” that He is created all things). However, what I am referring to is what is relative to humanity (represented by Adam and Eve). That is, when God stops and gives the first personal lecture to humanity, what is this about? Or, when God’ holds the first school class for all of mankind, what does God teach in this first class? God does not contradict Himself, for He is the Logic (Logos) itself. God cannot lie. God is super smart. He literally is the source of all knowledge and treasure of all understanding and wisdom. When the King of Ages gives the first lecture to man He created, what is this pivotal knowledge? What is the opening lecture that sets the stage for all other teachings afterwards?
The first lecture is agreeing to what God classifies as true; or that is, the first lecture is about faith. God creates all things. God even created categories that do not exist and from scratch, designs them, creates them and then places created things into His own created rules (or order) and categories. God even created the invisible mind of man, and the invisible thoughts and invisible knowledge of man (Romans 2:15). If only Plato could have turned from shadows dancing on a cave wall, to the King of Ages, then he would have found the source of all categories that he was looking for.
In one way, the Scripture is heaven’s dictionary or encyclopedia for mankind. After God creates all things, all categories and sustains them by His power, God then publicly gives descriptions or definitions to what He created. God points to the thing He created and says, “this is its definition, engage with this created thing with the definition I give it.” God considers a particular point of reality and says, “this is its category, this its name, and this is the reason I created it.”
Normally, if I were to start with a systematic theology, I would begin with epistemology; however, for this topic we start with metaphysics because of the context. The reason we normally start with epistemology is that if knowledge is not possible, then knowledge about creation, categories and the nature of faith does not exist. Without knowledge, there is no point in teaching about the knowledge of metaphysics and the knowledge of ethics. There would be nothing to say and nothing to think about. Once knowledge is possible in a system-of-thinking, then we can move on to knowledge about reality and knowledge about ethics. For this essay, we will assume epistemology (for more see, Vincent Cheung, Systematic Theology and Ultimate Questions).
On one hand, “faith” just makes sense in the context of the Christian system in a pragmatic way of looking at it. If God created all things, then He gets to define the things He created as He so wishes. Thus, if we do not interact with God’s reality with His correct definitions, then our interaction with reality will be defective, unsuccessful and unreliable.
However, there is more to it than the ontological interaction, for there are moral definitions and consequences in this reality God created. For example, faith is itself an ethic, because God commands faith. Even with the gospel of Jesus Christ Paul says in Acts 17, God has commanded all to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. Ethics is what you ought to do. Faith is what you ought to do; thus, it is an ethic. All ethics are from God’s command. Therefore, we need to quickly go over what is an ethic, and what is responsibility.
As with ontology, there is nothing more basic than God Himself. Thus, a doctrine of privation is a blasphemy to describe evil, because it makes something other than God more foundational in regards to existence and causality. If evil results from the privation of God (and God is good), then God is not the most foundational ontology in existence. The same is with responsibility. If God Himself is responsible, then God is not the final authority. It would mean if you take the Christian God away, there is another God behind God. God would not be God. Responsibility presupposes an “authority over you.” There is no one over God by definition and by revelation of Scripture. God is therefore not responsible for anything He does. Therefore, Moses says, “All God’s ways are just,” (Deut. 32:4). If God moves His pinky finger, then it is by definition a just and righteous action. God is said to be just because He is faithful to His promise and revelation. However, God is consistent in this way not because He is being held accountable under a higher authority; rather, God’s Nature itself makes it impossible for Him to lie (Hebrews 6:18). Its like saying God’s nature is a circle, and a lie is a square. A square-circle is a contradiction; it does not exist in the mind or in reality. It has no being. God is truth, and so, He cannot lie.
God created all things, even categories themselves. He upholds His own creation by His power, within the categories He created. He has revealed to man what He has created and why He did so. God cannot lie, and so, what He has revealed is a precise and correct explanation of reality. God will sometimes change things in His own creation; He might get rid of some types of categories and make new ones. However, He has promised that all things necessary for life and godliness has been revealed to us. Therefore, all important ultimate questions about reality, and their changes if so, God has revealed to man in the Scripture. For example, there were no seasons before the flood, then afterward God changed it. God did it by unstoppable force and power. He then pointed to this new aspect of reality, and He revealed to us precise definitions of it. The same is with the old Mosaic covenant, and new covenant made in Christ’s blood. God points to this specific aspect of reality and says, “this is the correct definition for it.”
How painfully obvious is the pragmatic effectiveness, success and certainty if we interact with creation by God’s definition of it.
As for human ethics, God points to man and says, “this is your definition, act like it.” God does the same thing, for example with a fig tree; however, the fig tree has no mind, so there is no relative level ontology to describe here in relation to a mind. As for man, even though God controls directly and absolutely all things, even man’s mind, God interacts with man on the relative level. God tells man, “this is my definition for you, interact and move within this description.” As for the fig tree, it has bark and leaves and does (if the scientists are right) the process of photosynthesis because it is the definition God gave it. The tree does not think about its own definition, because it has no mind. It was not made in God’s image. This does not mean, such things as trees are not accountable. Jesus found a fig tree with no fruit and cursed it. The tree was accountable for the sole reason that it was not free, but under God’s authority. The same is for man. However, man made in God’s image is able to think about reality and the truth about it.
Because God has commanded faith in His revealed definitions, man is not merely to think about reality; rather, man ought to move and behave within the definition that God defined man with. Mankind will be held accountable to this, because man is not free relative to God’s authority and command over Him. Even the concept of what is value, if it is something man ought to value or not ought to value is an ethic, because it is about what we ought to do. That is, it is about God giving us a definition about some aspect of reality and commanding us to interact with (x) as something valuable or not valuable. It is based in God’s commandments.
This leads to a point of caution. The category of ontology/metaphysics is not the same category of ethics. The category error, of equivocating these two distinct categories, is the favorite pastime of many theologians. A description about metaphysics cannot logically/validly deduce into a conclusion of ethics(ought). It would not logically follow. It would not be an application of knowledge. Now, there is some connections between these, but they are not the same, and there is a logical order to the structure when thinking about them. Christian ethics work within the order of God’s sovereignty over all things, His revelation to man, His definition of man, and finally His command to man. God’s command is not only a definition about aspects of reality, it is a definition about God’s creation called mankind, and that God will hold man accountable to operate within this definition.
The Garden of Christ
This was the first school lesson for mankind. God gave His correct and precise description about what mankind is, to Adam and Eve. God said they will be accountable by His authority to interact within this definition. Satan comes along and tempts them to not agree with God’s definition. Satan in essence says, “Even though God created and controls all reality, should you trust His definition of it?” “Did God really say that about (x)….?” Satan appealed to things like lusting for more of something and pride; however, those were the symptoms, or additives. The foundational issue was about faith in God’s definition about His reality.
One. God’s definition was correct, and Satan’s a lie. Just because someone says something in a sentence does not mean it is intelligent. I can say, “Do you really have to exist, in order to deny your own existence?” I could say that as a snake, your pastor or a Greek philosopher, but the result would still be the same self-refuting nonsense. Adam did not have the Scripture, but he did have innate knowledge (God’s laws), that was not suppressed by sin. In order to overcome man, Satan, attacked his enemy with deception and lies.
Second. The foundation of Satan’s lie used a starting point of empiricism rather than God’s revelation. Adam had self-awareness. He knew he was created as an adult, and preinstalled with all the knowledge, logic and understanding by God’s power, and not Adam’s.
And so, Satan first injected doubt about God as a starting point. “Did God really say.” This is a negative apologetic attack, against God as an epistemology. Then Satan does a positive apologetic for empiricism. “YOU, look at how attractive this fruit is to benefit you.” Satan encourages man to start knowledge with “man,” and “how man sees and observes such and such.” Or for a simple contrast, The kingdom of God, versus, the Kingdom of self. It is God’s revelation, versus, man’s speculation.
Paul in contrast to what Satan said, says the opposite, “we live by faith, not by sight,” (2 Corn. 5:17).” Paul further says in 1 Corinthians 1 that man by his wisdom did not know God. Next in Chapter 2 verse 4 Paul says by the power of the Spirit He gave a deduction (“demonstration”) (obviously from Scripture), so that the Corinthian’s faith, is in God rather than man. Major premises started from God’s word. Next, the Corinthians applied themselves to God’s revelation. The Greeks, which according to Paul, “seek for (human) wisdom,” could not discover God. The Greek philosophers had two main epistemologies (3 if you include the self-refuting skeptics): Plato as a rationalist, and everyone else (From Socrates to Aristotle) where empiricists. All these Greek epistemologies had one thing in common, they all started with “man as a starting point”. The only honest one was Plato who admitted that by his rationalism, he could not get to the realm of the categories(forms/logos).
So, whether in the first days of the Garden or in a New Testament Church, God is constantly teaching and reteaching this subject. We are to start with God’s revelation and believe His words; we are to do this over all human starting points (or non-God starting points). Seeing this is the foundational attack of our greatest enemy against us, should we not take time to consider it and make preparations to withstand it? Should we not practice with our divine armor and weapons so as to defend and defeat our foe?
Yet, it seems even preachers take more time in a sermon to explain why Jesus did NOT REALLY SAY, “I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will have it,” (Mark 11:24). Their exegesis is mostly about, “Jesus really did not say that.” It makes one think who side these preachers are on?
Here is the real issue. It is about deductions from the Scripture as our only epistemology. It is starting with God’s Revelation rather than man’s speculation. It is to say, “Yes, Jesus did say,” rather than to hiss out, “Did Jesus really say that”.
Those who question, “Did God really say that,” do not have a valid deduction from Scripture to say this. Instead they seek for a sign, or for human wisdom. But as Jesus says, an evil person seeks for a sign. They say, “physician heal yourself,” and proceed in informal fallacies of ad- hominem attacks. God is the foundation of theology, not man. God is the only first principle of Knowledge. There is no knowledge from observations. Wait? Who was the fool that told you that knowledge comes from human observations? Because God is the foundation of theology it is a non-relevant point if a person does not do what the Scripture says. If God says, then that is the only correct definition of reality.
They say, “Oshea heal thyself.” Or, “history for the past 1,500 years, “heal thyself.”” I have experienced some success in healing ( and I know others with better success), but that is not even relevant in a logical argument. It is an ad-hominem fallacy. What does God’s revelation say? They seek a sign that God’s word is true. They read in God’s book, “…God did say…,” but then they seek a sign for God to prove it. However, Jesus said even if someone from the dead comes back to preach to them, they still would not believe. Jesus did give these a sign. It is a book called the Scripture. Jesus stands before these sign seekers (reformed, traditionalist, non-faith-ers) and throws a book at their feet. Jesus points to it and says, “read and believe it and live. Disbelieve it and burn in hell fire.” Of course they hate this, because they want a sign to prove the book is true. And so, it is foolishness to them. Yet, the fact is, they have their sign. The issue is whether they will say, “yes, God did say,” or “this is what I observe and say.” Their sign seeking would make the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day blush with envy.
They say, “I do not see this.” Or, in the past a bunch of pastors got together and said, “WE do not see these miracles or healings Jesus promised, and so WE come together to publicly say, ““God did not really say; He meant something different; this something different is what WE see and observe, and calculate.”” These are David Hume, empiricist sluts. They seek wisdom the same way the Greek philosophers Socrates and Aristotle did. Their starting point for knowledge is a human starting point. They produce major premises to deduce from, by what they observe or by what other men in history observed. It is a kingdom of men, a kingdom centered on self. Jesus’ wisdom to these, is the same for the sign seekers. Jesus stands before these human wisdom seekers and throws a book at their feet. Jesus points to it and says, “read and believe it and live. Disbelieve it and burn in hell fire.” This of course is foolishness to them, because they seek a human starting point, not a God starting point. God is not the foundation of their theology. And so it is madness to them.
The Garden of Eden was Great, But Yahweh’s Garden Is Better
In Jesus, our garden is the very Garden that is in Yahweh’s house. In this garden are all sorts of promises and fruits to partake. The golden apples in the Garden of Hesperides cannot compare. Let us sample some choice selections.
Jesus replied, “Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit , you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” (NLT). John 15:6-8.
Yes, Jesus did say.
Jesus did say you can pluck this fruit and partake of its sweetness. And in return it becomes fruit in your own life, that proves you are a disciple.
Psalm 103:2–5 (LEB) “Bless Yahweh, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits: who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with loyal love and mercies, who satisfies your life with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
Yes, God did say.
God did say you can pluck this fruit and partake of its sweetness.
“And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins ⌊he will be forgiven⌋. Elijah was a human being with the same nature as us, and ⌊he prayed fervently⌋ for it not to rain, and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the earth produced its fruit.” (James 5:15–18 LEB).
Yes, God did say.
God did say you can pluck this fruit and partake of its sweetness.
“Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” ( Acts 2:38 NLT).
Yes, God did say.
God did say you can pluck this fruit and partake of its sweetness.
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, he will have what he says. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will have it.” (Mark 11:22-24 NIV)
Yes, Jesus did say.
Jesus did say you can pluck this fruit and partake of its sweetness.
Will you partake, or will Satan continue to lead you to seek more signs and more human wisdom?
 Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1
 Vincent says this well and has taught me on this subject. He says, “… This exposes the dangerous implication of the idea that evil is the mere privation of good. That is, if evil is the mere privation of good, and God is good, it would mean that evil is ontologically more basic than God himself. Since evil is necessarily associated with an entity, it could even suggest that Satan is more basic than God. Therefore, those who use this principle as some kind of theodicy or to distance God from evil not only ends up with a version of dualism, but also ends up with Satan as the supreme entity instead of God. It ends in blasphemy.
God is ontologically the most basic entity, and he is good. He is always good and righteous, and therefore it must be “good” that there is evil (although evil itself is evil, and not good). …
Vincent Cheung. “Evil and Privation.” From, The Author of Sin, 2005, pg 45.
 Gordon Clark and Vincent Cheung first taught me about his subject. Here is Vincent saying “… If God says something is wrong, then it is wrong to do it, regardless of the context or choice, and regardless of freedom. In fact, the Bible says that the non-Christian is unable to obey God’s law. If sin presupposes the freedom or ability to obey God’s command, or to not sin, then all non-Christians are already sinless, since all of them are unable to obey God, and they would require no salvation. However, it is precisely because they are sinful and unable to change that they need Jesus Christ to save them…”
Vincent Cheung, http://www.vincentcheung.com, “Homosexuality and the Wrath of God.” Emphasis added by author. Sermonettes Vol.5 chapter 20.