How does the Tree of Life fit in EC

As a person who believes in a historical Adam I also understand that there was a literal tree of life and this tree was planted with the possibility of giving humans immortality but due to sin the tree had to be removed from Adam and Eve so they wouldn’t become immortal and sinful and thus stuck in an eternal condition. There will come a time when God will bring the Tree of Life back as told in Revelation 22 when the news Heavens and Earth are established.

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In your understanding would a sinless human who was able to eat the fruit of the Tree of Life receive the same glorified body we are promised at our resurrection or is the glorified body we are promised (post fall, incarnation, death, resurrection, eschaton) different?

Honestly I don’t know and it could really have been either in all honesty. Really if they ate of it before death then they might have transformed into the archetype of what a “superhuman” could be like. But, I don’t know of how the Tree of Life would have acted with them. All that we know from the text is that it gave them the chance to immortality.

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Hey in that understanding (from Sealkin), why not simply forget all this stupid God, sin, spiritual junk and make a tree like that of our own, cause it is just a matter of eating this fruit, right? That is the problem with all of these comic book interpretations of the text, where we are just suppose to do it God’s way because he has the power to force it on us. But in that case, shouldn’t we be fighting back against this alien control freak?

Anyway that is why I am not buying into that sort of magic flora interpretation. The tree of life is a relationship with an infinite God, who naturally is the only one who has what makes an eternal life worthwhile. Most who contemplate simply living forever, see this eventually becoming a hell we will only want to escape from. The flaming sword is this truth, that a never-ending existence without a relationship with God will never amount to life. That is a meaning of the text which doesn’t sound so much like a sci-fi movie to me.


God’s plan of salvation was formed before even creating the earth. Everything in the Old Testament was leading up to Jesus - part of that plan. This wasn’t a case of instantly deciding one day that Jesus needed to die. God took a very long time (in our eyes) to work that plan.

That said, I don’t see why a single action in time wouldn’t be palatable to those who accept change over time? Those of us who accept evolution do so because there is an abundance of evidence that that particular process occurred (and continues to occur) over a long period of time. Accepting that does not mean God can’t do something instantly (the withered hand was healed instantly - I have no problem with that). God could have created everything instantly. We just see that he didn’t do it that way. He could have created everything 5 minutes ago, but I don’t think He did that either (doing so with our memories of before 5 minutes ago gets into the deceptive God thing).

Don’t assume that people think every process must take the same length of time. If you believe creation was instant (or in 6 days), surely you don’t think every single process should likewise be instant. I certainly don’t think that of YEC’s.

As far as the Tree of Life goes, I think the death talked about in the Fall is spiritual death. I do think that Adam and Eve’s action was a single physical event (sin). Through that single event, all humans were subject to spiritual death until the single event of Jesus’s death made it possible for us to obtain spiritual life. We still die physically, even now after Jesus has already died for us. But now we have hope of eternal life. My view on all of that is the same both while I was YEC and now that I’m EC.


What comic books were the Hebrews, fresh out of Egypt, reading?

Revelation 22:1 Next the angel showed me the river of the water of life, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 Between the main street and the river was the Tree of Life producing twelve kinds of fruit, a different kind every month; and the leaves of the tree were for healing the nations — 3 no longer will there be any curses. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will worship him;

The plan is to symbolically live out the future?

Revelation is more like one of Salvador Dali’s paintings. Taking all of that book literally is insane, which means people do so selectively to suit whatever nonsense they want to push. Definitely a favorite book for all the cults. No thank you.

All I see in that story are natural phenomenon with easily found scientific explanations if you want to look for them. For example, a pillar of clouds by day and a pillar of fire by night sounds very much like an erupting volcano in the distance to me.

The plan is for future generations to live in the real world which scientists explore everyday with eyes, ears, and minds all wide open. The plan for us is to live in resurrected spiritual bodies with God (receiving all the endless gifts which He has to give) in heaven or as dead spirit shadows without God in hell devoured by our own sins (self-destructive habits).

I think God is quite capable of bringing to truth what is literal and what is figurative. I am not defending a cult or dogma. Could not the opposite argument be said that it is insane to view it all as metaphor lest we push some agenda?

Jesus indicated that Moses was a historical figure. One may be able to deny that Genesis was given to Moses from God. I was just trying to figure out what comic books the Jews in the Exodus would be using to understand the book of Genesis. It is quite reasonable to not compare Genesis with today’s comics and science fiction as Genesis was around thousands of years ago.

I think I will stick with the Word as a plan source and not some current human’s philosophical imagination. Which just avoided the topic that God is not capable of having biological trees that do not fit our biological understanding.

I don’t think God is going to alter reality just to suit the beliefs of some religious people, just to cater to their desire to be right and everyone else to be wrong.

I think we should be very cautious with Revelation and especially wary of a theology that depends too much on interpretations of its content.

You have pulled out that can of rhetoric to no purpose. I believe not only Moses to be historical but made very clear that I consider Genesis to be historical… just not childishly literal, which as I have shown is something Jesus warned against. It is a question of what gives the most meaning to the text. Talking animals, magical fruit and golems of dust and bone are fine for entertainment but have very little meaning for real life because there are no talking animals, magical fruit and golems in real life.

It is not at all reasonable to read them like comics and science fiction, let alone as science or history texts. Thousands of years ago there were no such things and certainly no specialization of things into such modern categories.

I will stick with a reading of the Bible with eyes, ears, and mind wide open to all the uses of metaphor and symbolism (as well as to all the information He sends us in the sky and earth) in order to understand what God is saying to us rather than returning the buried coin like the slothful servant.

Ah yes the “God can do anything therefore He can make my theology true no matter how inconsistent and nonsensical it may be” approach. Not interested.

If that is the case why bring up objections that have nothing to do with reality, but only human imaginations?

I am being accused of just taking everything literal, but not really. I am not changing Scripture to make a point. Metaphors are literally in the Bible as well as literal events and happenings both past and future. I am not even trying to claim to have a handle on how the Bible was presented, and meant to be understood. Yet it seems some have it all figured out, and then accuse me of that very accomplishment.

You asked about why the trees should be treated symbolically with accusations about rejecting reality. So the reality is that the Bible uses symbols and metaphors and specifically treats the tree of life as a symbol repeatedly. It is only in fantasy and comic books where we don’t ask whether such things are metaphors or symbols because the stories have nothing to do with the real world. And in Matthew 19, Jesus explains why God uses such literary devices when it allows people to treat symbols and parables literally and thus get the wrong meaning. So by all means take this God given freedom to get what you want from the Bible.

Well the topic was about the mentioned trees and how they fit into evolution. I assume the Metaphorical view would be that they represent a human condition. Perhaps a higher condition than any previous evolutionary one?

Your objection of the trees being real was partly based on the fact they do not represent any known biological tree, but just a figure of a biological condition humans had just arrived at. But you passed off their reality by comparing them to a “figure of imagination” and not even metaphorical.

I have not seen any proof of your objection. Nor is there proof within the historical time frame that the metaphorical option was attempting to address. Normally a metaphor is an idea that humans can grasp of a reality that has been lost to them. I was curious why you take the extra step by using an even more outlandish reality than even the Bible gives as your objection to the plain reading of the text.

Would you care to reference all these repeated uses of the tree of life? Or is that just a ploy to say that it can only be metaphor? Is the New Jerusalem a metaphor? Is God as a ruler a metaphor? Are the throne, street, and river just metaphors, and if not, why is the tree of life the only metaphor? Would it have not just been easier to say there were 12 trees, and none of them were the actual tree of life because according to some humans such a tree cannot exist period? Is there going to be a literal New Jerusalem or just some new evolutionary process that the physical reality goes through?

I fully admit I do not have it all figured out, but sometimes I think we are all guilty of voicing half baked ideas, just to see what they sound like out loud (metaphorically speaking, of course.)

Back to the title question, my feeling is there is little to nothing in EC that addresses the tree of life, without quite a stretch. Perhaps it is these sort of problems that lead me to feel the garden of Eden stories are symbolic rather than historical. It just stretches reality beyond recognizable limits to fit it in a historical framework.

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I went through all the Bible references to the “tree of life” in my very first post in this thread.

I already explained that I am not that interested in the book of Revelation. It is like looking at clouds and inkblots – you see what you want to see. I did look at the reference to the “tree of life” in Revelation in my first post. But I am not interested in the construction of a theology based on that alone separate from the rest of the Bible. So if that is where you want to go with the rest cults then that is a journey behind the looking glass you will take without me.

Oren @Perplexed, as Mitchell notes, it only makes sense if the two special trees mentioned in Genesis are taken as metaphorical & symbolic. But even so, it remains ‘perplexing’ as to the lesson(s) we should take from the Eden story. I readily admit that others on this forum are much more informed than I am in regards to the volumes of scholarly exegesis of Genesis but I cannot help but wonder that if God’s intent is to actually inform humankind of His purpose for us, could He not have made this portion of Scripture less ambiguous? For instance, the obvious metaphoric meaning of ‘The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil’ is that God gifted the newly minted humankind (whether created instantaneously or thru evolution) with a conscience . Why then forbid them to eat its fruit? [God: "See this nice toy? Well you can’t have it!] Eve is said to have seen that obtaining this wisdom would be attractive (G.3:6). How could in NOT be? Only because along with the gift of conscience was the gift of Freedom to rise above animal instinct whenever that selfish instinct was contrary to God’s plan for the long range future. The dark side of the ‘Freedom Coin’ is in knowing God’s Will but acting in opposition. That’s Sin, pure & simple.

What I have italicized above could well be a direct quote from Teilhard de Chardin (except the English translations of his mystical French was never that clear.)

And that brings us to nearly the same question that Jesus’ disciples asked of Him in Matt 13. “Why do you speak to them in parables?”

But with Genesis we have the further complication regarding how this “message” came to us. These were stories in an oral tradition told not just to theologians but to whole families and they served a great varied of simultaneous purposes and the specializations we have in literature today does not apply. In that case it is only natural to speak to people on different levels with one message for children and another for those with a different awareness of the world.

I often refer to the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, which shows that God has no intention of simply handing things to us but expects a little investment on our parts if we really want to get things out of life. And if we fail to do that then we have failed life itself because life is all about handling challenges. God demands that we use all our heart, all of our bodies, and all of our mind to seek God, truth and justice. And what will NEVER cut it (be acceptable) are those looking for the minimum they can get away with putting into things (Matthew 19).

I am reminded of the universal test of adulthood. If we obey our parent in all things when we will always be a child. At some point we have to live our own life by insisting on following own vision. Likewise, we can stick with the literal meaning and think that God wants to forbid mankind an understanding good and evil, let alone a conscience, and thus to simply do what we are told without question. (This makes me think of the difference between a private and an officer in the armed forces.) Only when that will not cut it for us anymore, we will say this is nonsense and God cannot want us to not understand such a thing. Then we will look deeper and try to understand what is really meant. Then we follow hints in such as the words of the snake that some unwise shortcut to being like God is involved.

I don’t think this interpretation of the other tree as a conscience is correct. There is no time in our development when having conscience is inadvisable.

And this idea that animal instinct is inherently selfish is completely wrong. That is a notion that is unsupportable with even the most minimal understanding of animal behavior.

This notion that the choice between good and evil is the essence of free will is also incorrect. That particular choice is frankly inconsequential compared to all the ways of goodness we have to choose between. To be sure having this ability to choose means that we can choose self-destruction. But this is really is no more than an unfortunate side-effect.

Free will or making choices is the essence of life itself because all living things learn and grow – it is part of what living means. Thus the existence of the dark side you describe is a consequence of God’s choice to create life in the first place and certainly not some fall of Adam and Eve from some previous paradise.

I am (mostly) in agreement. A baby does not enter this world with a fully formed conscience. Ideally, as the child advances up the steps of morality (e.g. Piaget-Kohlberg 6 steps) he/she learns the reasons why choosing good over evil is advantageous. But if it is our desire to enter God’s Kingdom, it seems that Matt.18:3 advises us to remain as children. I have trouble accepting the various ‘spins’ that have been given to this passage. I fear that too many Christians are content to remain in Stage 1 of the P/K morality scale: “Be bad, and you will be spanked!”

If the word, ‘our’, in the above refers to humankind arising from the primate, Homo sapiens, then the acquisition of a conscience is essential in the definition of humanity. If, instead, the ‘our’ refers to each of us as individuals, then I consider a person at the P-K Morality scale 1 to have a conscience very little above, say, an elephant’s.

You have set up a straw man here. I certainly do not believe that animal instinct is inherently selfish, but much of the evidence Dawkins cites in “The Selfish Gene” is unassailable. If you give any credence at all to Darwinian evolution, you must agree that the survival of an individual’s genes depends (to a great extent) on their “selfish behavior” (where ‘behavior’ is perhaps a misnomer, since no freedom of choice is involved.) In the important cases of “group survival”, such as the eusocial groups of insects, success comes about thru biological imperatives; i.e. there is no freedom involved. Only in the animal kingdom where kinship selection plays a role, do we see the glimmerings of the characteristics we like to attribute to God–love, empathy, sacrifice.

While I agree most emphatically with the last sentence in this quotation, I am puzzled by the sentence I have italicized. For me, the word “learning” MUST involve some level of Mind and Choice. For the first 2 billion years of life on earth, ‘learning’ was simply ‘survival’. If a species survived a challenging environmental change, it 'learned’. Learning involves the transfer of information, but for those long ages the information was coded in DNA in genetic reproduction. No freedom; no choices.
wishing you the best,
Al Leo

I just checked 29 different translations and NONE of them says “remain.” The word used is “become.” You must become like little children. So this is NOT telling us to never grow up. It is about going back and starting over – even to be born again. Childhood is the learning stage of our lives. It is like His comment about pouring new wine into old wineskins.

I refute this. Primates and elephants are social creatures too, and that means conscience is already in play. That is not the difference that makes us human. And I don’t think that school year is any kind of measure of morality development.

Hardly… I think many of the books Dawkins wrote are excellent but this is not one of them. His biological reductionism is no more rational and supportable than his moral reductionism.

Incorrect. Much more of the choices and learning is on a species level to be sure, but everything they do IS a product of choice. There is no doubt about that. We too are programmed by our choices and thus some have taken the measurable results of this as evidence that we have no free will, and you are making essentially the same error.

And therefore this is NOT a significant difference between animals and humans.

Doing things for its own reasons is the very essence of life itself. It is why we say something is alive.

And perhaps this is why I am not a fan of your noosphere terminology. It makes too much of the difference between the biology and the mind, as if these were two completely different realms of existence and in that it is too much like Plato and NeoPlatonism. In my view these (biology and mind) are the same process of life, just in different mediums. The difference I see is only quantitative not qualitative. The learning of the mind is certainly on a shorter time scale, and the limitation to no inheritance of acquired characteristics is completely done away with.

Incorrect. Survival and natural selection is only a filter. The driving force of evolution is variation, ergo the creative element in the development of life. This is why evolution is a rapidly branching tree to the point where we have over 350,000 species of beetles alone. This isn’t just about survival.

It is just a different way of encoding information for storage and transmission, DNA versus language. The latter is proven superior by the fact that we can use language to describe and explain how DNA works. So yes what we have in language and the mind is definitely more and better, capable of reaching a degree of awareness and response to the environment which surpasses that of biological achievements. But different ways of encoding information doesn’t make it a completely different process, because it isn’t. It really is the same thing. It is just life – and I even think it is a mathematically describable process – the same for both biology and mind.

So you make too much of DNA just as Dawkins did. Saying there is no freedom because it is coded in DNA is nonsensical because that coding came from a learning process by the living species itself. And furthermore it is an exaggeration to put all the behavior of primates and elephants down to DNA alone. They may not have language but they do have communication and they do pass information to the next generation to guide their behavior. This is demonstrable in birds let alone primates and elephants.

Touche! But why is becoming childlike preferable in God’s eyes?

IMHO, at least for theological discussions, the statement that “childhood is the learning stage of our lives.…” makes eminently good sense, especially if we realize that is the stage when we are able to learn at the fastest rate. To then apply the word “learning” to the evolutionary process of survival of genetic instructions, (which can be taken back in time at least to the Cambrian) can only be confusing, if one is examining how science and religious faith interact. Again IMO, to bring up the concept of (human) Free Will prior to the Homo sapiens acquisition of Mind and Conscience makes little sense since that event defines the human person. In theory, the difference in this regard between us and the elephants may only be qualitative, but it is so huge that it provides a practical differential.

[quote=“mitchellmckain, post:38, topic:40999”]
I refute this. Primates and elephants are social creatures too, and that means conscience is already in play. That is not the difference that makes us human. And I don’t think that school year[?] is any kind of measure of morality development.

[QUESTION: Did you take my abbreviation, P-K stage 1, Piaget-Kohlberg, as an academic, not moral, level?]

Since I am comfortable with evolution, I agree with the above. I am rather surprised, however, that I don’t see the concept of “exaptation” discussed on the Forum (or did I miss it?). When the “beetle niche” appeared in the environment, and so many genetic variations could take root and thrive, there was no ‘mechanism’ in evolution to tell it: “enough already; turn off the spigot.” And a plethora of beetle species resulted.

I believe there is some evidence In the primate line, about the time of Australopithicus, that one or more mutations favoring a larger brain appeared that allowed these ancestors of ours to better solve the problems they faced in a rapidly changing environment. If the problems associated with larger brains ( childbirth) were not too great, the neural circuitry grew at an exponential pace until, in the case of Neanderthal and Homo sapiens, it provided the ‘hardware’ suitable for a supercomputer. Clearly an EXAPTATION.

All that was needed to become us was the proper Operating System and Programming. And somehow, Homo sapiens acquired these. Welcome to the Noosphere, Adam & Eve.

Speculation? Sure! Outlandish? Maybe not. Someday we may deduce a reasonable biological pathway that may ‘explain’ it. And God will be smiling and wondering: “What took you so long?”
Al Leo

Acquisition of mind? Yes. The mind being a self-organized structure of language.
Free will? No! Free will is the essence of the phenomenon of life itself.
Conscience? No. That is simply a product of tension between the needs of the community and the needs of the individual. Therein likes all the ingredients required for Freuds superego.

That is the problem with so many antiquated philosophies, they put too much on the mind until it becomes something that doesn’t agree with the science.
Mind as something non-physical or supernatural is the mistake of Neoplatonism.
Mind as a completely different order of existence is the mistake of Cartesian Dualism.
Your idea of the mind as as the basis for free will and conscience is just as scientifically unsupportable.

In a way this conflict we are having is a good thing because we are getting at the real differences between my view of memetic-genetic life versus your/Teilhard’s noosphere-biosphere view. Despite superficial similarities they really are not the same thing at all.

The mind is a physical living organism and difference from biological organisms are only quantitative. These qualitative differences are just a matter of semantics giving our own version of these things a special name. It is a lot like saying that just because someone is black then none of the human capabilities count anymore. It is like the articles of remonstrance which says that good deeds only count if you are Christian. I have to reject that kind of semantics as BS. To be sure there are differences, but the absolute lines you are drawing between man and animal is a mistake.

It is the only thing that came up when I did a search to try figuring out what you were talking about. Frankly a lot of this Kohlberg morality stages looks like language out of control, applicable only to human beings with no attempt to look at living organisms in general. Therefore I think your attempt to make this a difference between humans and animals is as superficial as skin color.

The evolutionary algorithm like other learning processes all follow the pattern of randomly trying things out and finding out what works. It is anything but directed and controlled. It is frankly most often just a toddler sticking a fork into an electric socket – blind and stupid. But in addition to catastrophic failures like the toddler, there is also the serendipity of unexpected windfalls… ergo exaptation is a routine outcome. Though applying that to the evolution of human intelligence is a little strange on an EC website.

Of course, it is helpful when we can put limits on the creative/exploratory aspect of the learning process and we definitely see this in evolution, just as parents will put safety devices on the electric sockets to keep their toddlers alive.

The hardware is traceable to primate evolutionary development, and to be sure the non-theists would attribute the rest to a human social evolution. But others like myself believe that God played a role – that the breath of life in Gen 2:7 was a communication from God, giving us an inheritance by which we could be called His children. In the objective perspective this basically translates to Adam being inspired with an idea that had particularly far reaching effects and implications.

Explain what??? I am not looking for a biological explanation of our humanity, because I don’t equate our humanity with a biological species.