Discourse in the Garden of Eden

“An Apple” by deviantART user Nazegoreng

When I was a teenager, I heard a preacher whose name I’ve forgotten say that Eve fell prey to the Serpent because she tried to reason with him. The preacher’s point was that Eve shouldn’t have relied on foolish things like logical discourse, and should’ve shut the Serpent down the second he dared to debate God’s command at all. Silly women, trying to be all rational and stuff.

While I am still a Christian, I hope it goes without saying that this “check your brains at the door” approach to religion or any other aspect of life goes against everything I now believe. I believe it’s vital to apply critical thinking to everything, even things that come from the people we trust most. Even things we understand to come from God. I believe “Hath God really said…?” is a question theists should ask themselves daily in a sincere search for truth.

But I’ve been thinking back to this long-forgotten sermon a lot lately, and realizing there was a good seed buried beneath the piles of fertilizer. Eve would’ve done well to shut down the Serpent’s discourse from the start, just not for the reasons that preacher stated.

See, the “discourse” between the Serpent and Eve wasn’t really a discourse at all. It’s the tale of humanity’s first bad faith argument. The Serpent didn’t really approach Eve in a desire to verify what God said. His whole purpose in engaging her was to get into her head, get her to question whether she could trust her own sense of reality, and get her to do what he wanted. And it worked. Not because Eve was weak or foolish or amoral, but because she accepted a bad faith argument in good faith. She engaged the Serpent rationally, philosophically, treating his questions like a sincere search for truth when they were really a premeditated attempt to get her to accept a lie.

It gets more interesting when you consider how often Jesus was faced with the same situation, and how he responded to it. There are many times in the Gospels when religious leaders came to Jesus the same way the Serpent came to Eve. They presented a seemingly philosophical question deliberately designed to trick him into revealing himself as a blasphemer, traitor, or fraud. Jesus would respond by exposing them with a counter question, telling a story that he admitted he didn’t expect them to understand, or blatantly calling them out. In any case, Jesus never treated a bad faith argument like a good faith discourse. 

The moral I’m seeing here isn’t one of faith vs. skepticism. I don’t even see this as an issue that specifically applies to people of faith. What I’m seeing is that, if you have every reason to believe someone is only asking you questions to get into your head, gaslight you, trick you into betraying your own principles, or even just troll you for their twisted idea of what constitutes lulz, you are under no obligation to give them a rational answer as though they were asking for a sincere exchange of ideas.

6 responses to “Discourse in the Garden of Eden”

  1. She could have used logic in a number of ways:
    1.) to realize this serpent wasn’t like the serpent that Adam named and therefore it didn’t belong in the Garden of Eden
    2.) to realize that animals shouldn’t be talking and therefore it didn’t belong in the Garden of Eden
    Then again, in some versions of the story, the Serpent was the hero and God was the villain for wanting to keep knowledge from Adam and Eve. Had Eve had the knowledge of Good and Evil, she might have been able to recognize the serpent for what it was; but without this knowledge – she had no way of reasoning her way out of the situation. That said, I don’t for one minute believe that because Eve was deceived, so too all womankind fall victim to deception and only men are immune – no, even men are often deceived and when they preach they can mess up the word with the best of them.

    • Not to mention that Adam was standing there the whole time, so if he was so immune to deception, why didn’t he say anything?

      • Precisely; it’s captured even better in Spanish and other languages where Satan basically asks: “Did God really tell y’all …” But without the plural you in English, the true sense of that question is confused with the single you. Many pastors preach as if she was standing alone, by herself, when the enemy singled her out as the weak link.

  2. Thing is though….the Serpent told the truth. Eve and Adam didn’t die from eating the fruit and their eyes WERE opened. So….

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