A meme about the tree of life

confused tree of life meme

Young-earth creationists believe all living things — from people to pinworms — were completely incapable of physical death until two people named Adam and Eve disobeyed God in a place called the Garden of Eden. The Bible doesn’t clearly teach anything remotely like this, but they find support for their idea by, for example, wildly extrapolating from New Testament verses like Romans 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 15:21.

Of course, the literalist exegesis runs into all kinds of problems way before you get to Romans, not the least of which is the tree of life. If the story must be taken literally, then the text explicitly explains what the tree does: It grants immortality (“Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—'”).

Which raises the puzzling question: Why, exactly, would God make a tree that grants immortality in a world where everyone and everything are already immortal anyway?

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  • Jordan Peiffer

    Tyler Francke,

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, although this is my first post here. I very much appreciate its existence, as I am a Christian who holds the same view of evolutionary creation, although I’ll also agree with your confession that you aren’t always the most diplomatic sort. 🙂

    Still, I think it serves a good purpose, and makes for a good reference and resource.
    Introductions aside, the reason I’ve chosen to start with this meme is because of a possible answer that I haven’t seen anyone offer yet. Even though I disagree with a literal interpretation of the account of Creation, I like to be fair and consider the possibility.

    So, I’ve heard the Tree of Life mentioned a few times, and the thing is, what if the tree is the reason Adam and Eve were immortal? What if they had to eat from it consistently (even if it’s only every fee hundred years) to maintain their immortality?

    Then again, I think I may have just undone my own argument as I’m writing this. I mean, if the tree is the source of immortality, then where does that leave the animals (supposedly immortal as well) elsewhere in the world, far from Eden? But then, what if the tree’s purpose applied to humanity alone? Why it would be so, though, I don’t know.

    I’m a defender of evolutionary creation myself, and it’s somewhat contradictive to start out this way, but every time I hear about the tree, I feel the desire to point this out. 🙂

    • Hey Jordan! Glad you like the site, brother! Thanks for your comment. Sorry it took me so long to respond 🙂

      It’s a fair point, and one I’ve heard people discuss before. There are two main problems that I see with it. First of all, the young-earthers are very explicit that they believe Adam and Eve’s sin is responsible for all physical death in the world, including animals. In other words, nothing could die, until Adam sinned; before that, death was impossible.

      Now, if the tree of life was the reason Adam and Eve were immortal, that would invalidate this entire doctrine, and the young-earth crowd would have to go hunting for a new answer to the problem of evil. If Adam and Eve were created mortal, and it was only by their access to the tree of life that they were made immortal, then sin is not really responsible for physical death, after all.

      Of course, I, personally, don’t even have an issue with this idea, since I don’t hold to the notion that physical death has much to do with sin. But the young-earthers would howl about it.

      The second problem with this possibility is that the text itself seems to rule it out. Remember verse 3:22 again: “Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—’” It seems to clearly describe the man eating from the tree a single time, and consequently, living forever.

      • Jordan Peiffer

        And thanks for the reply, brother! It’s always nice to discuss evolution with someone who sees it in the same light as you.

        Yeah, I see your point. Although, do Creation scientists think they understand everything about their own ideas here? I would think their ideas change over time, and that they don’t pretend to understand it all perfectly.

        Still, I see what you mean there. If they think the Bible defines physical death as an evil, then my idea would mess that up. And if eating from the one tree had a permanent effect, (well, other than the rectification of Jesus’ sacrifice) it makes sense that the other should be the same. And it’s true, the text certainly doesn’t say otherwise.

        You know, I’m also curious how the Creationists see the snake. I mean, if the snake represented Satan, then did God really punish snakes for what Satan did? Unless they find the whole section where God curses the snake to be metaphor. And yet, not the curse as applies to Adam and Eve…

        • That’s a good question. I haven’t studied that particular issue really in-depth, but my understanding of the AiG position is that they do believe it was a real snake who was possessed by the devil, and that both the snake and Satan were punished for their actions. One article I read by AiG compared it to the betrayal of Judas. Scripture indicates that the devil possessed Judas to do what he did (John 13:27, Luke 22:3), and yet Judas appears to have been punished for it (John 17:12).

          • Jordan Peiffer

            Hmm, interesting.

            It kind of reminds me of the time King David was influenced to take a census of the people, which for some reason God was angry about and punished him for it (1 Chronicles 21).

            I like the way you reference the Bible so much. You’re pretty good about that. It also reminds me of this meme, which I think you’ll love, although knowing you you may have seen it before:

          • LOL! I like the glasses.

  • batmanfanforever08 .

    I would like to point out that it was the Tree of Knowledge that use of was forbade by God. The Tree of life wasn’t forbade by God until after Adam and Eve were banished from Eden. But I do find the humor in your meme. I am a Christian that doesn’t support the YEC community, but I do support the OEC community, so maybe you should take a look at the Reasons to Believe website (http://www.reasons.org/) headed by Dr. Hugh Ross, he’s just as smart, if not smarter than Bill Nye. In my opinion he should be the next creationist to debate Bill Nye, so the mainstream can hear from creationists that aren’t as stupid as Ken Ham and AiG. I don’t get those morons. I mean Genesis obviously doesn’t support a young earth, Amen, God Bless.

    • Hey Batman fan, thanks for your comment. I do generally appreciate Reasons to Believe and Hugh Ross. Though we ultimately disagree about evolution, I am far more supportive of their work than the likes of Answers in Genesis, and I think they offer a much better witness.

      As far as the tree of knowledge and the tree of life, it was the period after Adam and Eve were banished that this meme is referring to. Young-earthers claim that Adam and Eve were immortal before they sinned, because they believe sin is responsible for all physical death, and thus, they had no use for the tree of life at that point. According to YECs, they didn’t have any need for such a tree until after sin rendered them mortal, at which point, God immediately forbade the use of the tree. Therefore, “the only time it could have served any useful purpose was also the only time God forbade its use entirely.”

  • jtheory

    I always got the idea that it wasn’t living forever that was the problem, it was living forever with the knowledge of good and evil. He didn’t want them to live forever with that knowledge anymore. So he forbade them to eat of the tree of life after they’d eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

    Now since I take all this as metaphor and I honestly don’t know what it all means, I really have no idea, and this is all conjecture. But that’s what I’ve gotten from how I was taught growing up in Church, and still being a more liberal Christian now.

    • Hey jtheory! Yeah, I agree with you: Living forever with the knowledge of good and evil was the problem. That’s not the issue I have. My question is, why the heck did God make the Tree of Life at all. A tree that grants immortality is useless in a world where nothing can die anyway. According to the young-earth proponents, humans were not capable of death until after Adam’s sin, so this was the only time the Tree could have served a useful purpose, and also the only time God forbade its use. Seems like an all-knowing, all-powerful God would have just foregone the tree from the very beginning and saved himself some trouble, right?

      Ultimately, I believe this inconsistency just points to the fact that the young-earth guys are interpreting the Bible wrong. It does not teach that physical death came as a result of a single act of disobedience. It has been appointed from the beginning that mankind would die once, and after that comes judgment, just as Hebrews 9:27 says.

      • jtheory

        ah now i see where you’re coming from! yea, that doesn’t make sense at all!

        does work better as a literary device in an ancient myth representing some deeper truth about humanity than “this literally happened”.

  • John

    First let me correct you on your unnuanced view of YEC, lumping everyone together into a group of your own stereotyping, misrepresenting many if not most of your rival. Rather of your brothers and sisters. YEC’s do not all believe that death and decay in every sense, such as food digesting, did not happen until the Fall.

    Can you tell me anywhere in Scripture that teaches death came from anywhere else than Adam? Your position is one of conjecture from a Biblical standpoint, and argument from silence. At least there are texts that talk about man’s role in death and decay, there are none that indicate where death and disease and decay came from if not man’s sin.

    But my main point. Your question is a good one, if man was created to be immortal why a tree of life. But you have an equally difficult question to answer: if man was not created to be immortal, what does Romans 5:12 mean? Whatever twisting you do to the plain meaning of the text I’m going to use that same logic for the ‘tree of life’ text. In other words, ‘tree’ and ‘life’ and ‘eat’ and ‘forever’ don’t really mean what you think they mean in that verse so voila there is no problem for YEC!

    and by the way, only man was going to eat of that tree, not ‘everything’.

    • Can you tell me anywhere in Scripture that teaches death came from anywhere else than Adam?

      I believe scripture does not teach much of anything about where animal death comes from, although numerous passages in Job and Psalms and the like, which seem to show God taking great pride in the carnivorous qualities of certain animals, would seem to indicate that these are not punishment for some ancient human sin.

      As for human death, sure. Romans 8:21-22, which speak of creation’s “bondage to corruption” cites God as the responsible party: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Who was the “Him who subjected it”? It cannot be Adam. Adam had no power over creation; if he is responsible for its plight, it was only indirectly, and this passage clearly implies direct action. Also, Adam certainly did not do what he did “in hope” that the creation would be set free from the “bondage to corruption”…that he supposedly caused by the same action. It makes no sense. No, obviously, the passage refers to God, subjecting the creation to a temporary existence — not as a punishment — but in the hope that he would ultimately reveal something greater through it.

      Also, Hebrews 9:27 says it was “appointed” that men should die once, and after that comes judgment. In other words, this is the way God set it up. Physical death is just an inherent part of the created order — again, not a punishment. We die once, then we are judged.

      There is also a very strong (IMO) theological argument that could be made against the idea that physical death is a punishment for sin. Obviously, as Christians, we believe Christ took the punishment for our sins on the cross: all of th epunishment. Everything that we deserved, he accepted in himself. But if that is truly the case, then Christians should never have to physically die. There’s just no way around it; if physical death is part of the punishment for sin, and Christ absolved us of this punishment by accepting it in himself, then anyone who accepts this sacrifice should be functionally immortal. The fact that you and I will both die sort of throws a monkey wrench into the idea. Bottom line: Either Christ’s sacrifice was not wholly sufficient to pay the price for human sin (which I think is both biblically and theologically untenable), or physical death is not part of that price.

      But you have an equally difficult question to answer: if man was not created to be immortal, what does Romans 5:12 mean?

      I believe Romans 5:12 describes spiritual death, not physical death. Even the verse itself implies this. Read it closely: “…death spread to all men, because all sinned.” If it’s referring to physical death, then it would be saying physical mortality spread to all people because they sinned. In other words, we are not capable of physically dying until after we sin. Which is, of course, ridiculous. That would mean that those who are not yet capable of sin, like babies for example, would be unable to die.

      We know that many times that Paul talks about “death,” he is not referring to physical death. For example, in the same book and the exact same context (a discussion of the consequences of sin), Paul writes, “Once I was alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.” (Romans 7:9). The apostle was not dead when he wrote this passage, so clearly, he is talking about a different kind of death here. I believe he was also talking about a different kind of death in Romans 5.

      Whatever twisting you do to the plain meaning of the text I’m going to use that same logic for the ‘tree of life’ text. In other words, ‘tree’ and ‘life’ and ‘eat’ and ‘forever’ don’t really mean what you think they mean in that verse so voila there is no problem for YEC!

      I presume you will say that I am “twisting” the text by interpreting Romans 5 as referring to spiritual death. I would ask how you make sense of the “plain meaning” of Romans 7:9? Perhaps the apostle Paul was a zombie, a reanimated corpse? Or maybe he wrote the Epistle to the Romans from beyond the grave, through a medium of some kind?

  • Pearl

    Why did I look? I swore I’d never come back, but here I am. Tyler you keep saying YECs think this and YECs think that and then you make claims no YEC I know would ever make. You are dishonest and your research of what YECs believe is shoddy.

    • LOL. You’re saying young-earth creationists DO NOT believe that physical death for both humans and animals is a result of the curse for Adam’s sin? Because I can show you plenty of places in YEC organizations’ statements of faith and writings that would prove you wrong.

      It’s not my fault that these groups teach ridiculous, contradictory, unbiblical things, and I think I’m hardly the one to blame for simply pointing out HOW ridiculous, contradictory and unbiblical their teachings are.

      Welcome back by the way. Hopefully, we can get through a discussion this time without you blatantly plagiarizing your entire comments from creationist sources.

  • The Mouse Avenger

    Well, since certain parts of the Bible are explicitly talking about spiritual death as a consequence of the Fall Of Man, it is clearly obvious that the Tree Of Life pertained to that kind of death alone. Furthermore, I believe God was using the actual tree itself as part of a test to see if Adam & Eve would obey or disobey him. Of course, we all know Adam & Eve failed the test miserably in the end…Anyway, that’s my two cents on the matter. If you wish to discuss them with me, feel free to do so! ^_^