Does God keep us ignorant?

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes his covenant known to them. –Psalm 25:14

Dear members and friends of the Swedenborgian Church,

Some people seem to think that God in the Bible prefers humans to be dumb and uneducated, thus they would worship God faithfully and unchallenged. In a way, the revolt against religion – especially God of the Bible during and after the age of Enlightenment – might have stemmed from the notion and belief that God fears humans becoming knowledgeable and thus more capable. To a degree, the Bible has a number of stories that could be interpreted to mean that God is against the progress and advancement of humanity. Over the coming three weeks, I would like to briefly reflect on this topic with a few stories from the Bible.

The first and the most famous story is that of Adam, Eve, and the serpent. The mysterious serpent suddenly appeared in the garden of Eden, according to Genesis 3, and began talking to Eve. In convincing Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of good and evil, the serpent insisted, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:4-5). I have read many interpretations of this simple story. Many insist that it is about the inevitable loss of innocence by gaining the necessary knowledge of what it means to be a human as we grow into adults, which is just the natural progress of being a human. Indeed, life is much simpler and easier when we are just children, and becomes significantly more complicated and burdensome as we become adults. However, if we were to believe that the Creator with infinite wisdom intends to teach us about the natural progress of human life by means of this simple story, wouldn’t this be projecting our image on to God while avoiding the possibility of seeking and finding God’s message to us?

Knowledge and the passing of knowledge from one generation to another helped humans advance much faster and more efficiently than any other creature on earth. In general, most of us are convinced that more knowledge and more advanced technology is good. But, if we were to take a closer look at our history since the birth of human civilization, we may be puzzled to discover all the troubles and disasters caused by the most knowledgeable and advanced people and nations. Of course, knowledge and technology itself is just neutral. The key is the mentality of those who are in possession of knowledge and technology. One warning from God in the story of the tree of knowledge is that what is in the core of our intentionality eventually manifest into our actions, and thus result in outcomes that match what was within all along. In other words, a self-centered and arrogant mentality will result in disaster or trouble to oneself and to the people around, no matter what.

Next week, I would like to reflect on the story of Cain and Abel.

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee