Richard from Manhasset, New York, writes in to ask: “Pastor John, since Christian Hedonists believe humans are joy-seekers, and will always make decisions based upon what brings them the most pleasure, how did Adam and Eve sin when they experienced perfect, unbroken communion with God — the greatest pleasure? Doesn’t the first human sin, in fact, reveal that perfect delight in God is not strong enough to overpower the allurement of temptation?”
I would say no, I don’t think that’s what it reveals. What the first human sin reveals is that God did not preserve, in the hearts of Adam and Eve, perfect delight in him. He let them be lured away from that perfect delight in himself, and that is precisely why they found the tree more compelling than God.
In the moment that they chose the forbidden fruit, they were not delighting in God more than in the fruit. They had been tricked. That is the point of Genesis 3:1–6. Let’s just read it and watch how Moses, the writer, is helping us understand why it is that they caved. So here is what he says:
Now the serpent was more crafty [key word] than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, . . .
So he is trying to get her to stop being satisfied in the trustworthiness of God.
“Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, . . .’”
But we have no record that he said it was in the middle.
“‘. . . neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
We have no record that he said you should not touch it. So what we get here is a little clue that Eve is starting to feel like maybe God is holding out on her: “The tree is in the middle and we can’t even touch it,” which God had not evidently said — at least there is no record of it.
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.”
This is a blatant assault on God’s trustworthiness and character.
“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
In other words, “God is holding out on you. Stop finding your full delight in God, because he is holding out on you. He is not really giving you what is best for you.”
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, . . .
In other words, when she was persuaded in the moment that God was not all-satisfying,
. . . she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
So I don’t think there is anything there that contradicts Christian Hedonism. If we find our fullest pleasure in God, we will, in that moment, not choose what is sinful. But if that satisfaction in God wavers, then we become vulnerable, and that is where sin comes from. Sin is the preference of anything that God has forbidden. We will never prefer that. We will never prefer what God has forbidden as long as God himself is our supreme satisfaction.
Secure in the New Covenant
One of the differences (and this is something that they didn’t ask, but I think is so crucial) between Adam and Eve, on the one hand, and the children of God in Christ today, on the other hand, is that God has committed himself, in the new covenant, never to let his children utterly fall away. They can backslide, but he convicts them and brings them back. Jeremiah 32:40 says,
I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.
Oh, I love that promise! God commits himself to holding on to us. We just sang last Sunday “He Will Hold Me Fast.” I love that song; it’s a beautiful song. This is a great improvement over the arrangements in the Garden of Eden. And we owe it to the blood of Christ, the blood of the new covenant.