The Serpent’s Lie

    I’ve heard it over and over again, when people are considering some new capabilities or technological power:

    “This is just a repeat of the Serpent’s lie, You shall be like God!

    The reference is to Genesis, where the Serpent tempts Eve by promising her that the forbidden fruit will make her like God. Eve believes the lie, eats the fruit, and there goes the future of the human race.

    There’s just one problem.

    That’s not what the Bible says. 

    Biblically speaking, all the people who have made the above statement about the “Serpent’s lie” were actually calling God a liar. Because just a few verses later, God himself confirms the Serpent’s claim that Eve had become like God.

    In fact, the Bible makes it clear that God’s whole intention for the human race was that they be like God. The very first thing that the Bible says about humans is that this is what God created them for. As I’ve described elsewhere, this is why God plants the two trees in the Garden of Eden—both of which would make humanity more like God.

    The New Testament takes this farther, describing Christianity as the call to be like Christ, the human being who is perfectly “like God”.

    The Biblical claim is that humanity was made to be like God, that humanity is already somewhat like God, and that humanity is intended to become more like God through the imitation of Christ.

    Of course, the Serpent does tell a lie—It’s just not about being like God.

    The serpent said to the woman, “You shall not surely die.” (Genesis 3:4)

    The Serpent was right that humanity was made to be like God, and would become more like God through eating of the Tree of Knowledge. The Serpent was lying when it claimed that this expanded set of capabilities was free of risks and responsibilities.

    The biblical story insists that expanded, God-like knowledge carried with it an incredible set of risks, and that refusing to face these risks has led to devastating consequences throughout the checkered history of the human race.

    That is why salvation comes through Christ, the human who does surely die, facing all of these risks and responsibilities, and taking their consequences on himself. And this is why we are called to imitate him.

    The Serpent’s lie was that we could take on God-like power, without taking on God-like responsibility. This is why Eve was deceived. She wanted to be like God in one area, and shrink from being like God in another.

    The truth is that Eve needed to become more like God than she ever imagined. Because there is nothing more God-like than accepting and acknowledging your power, while being willing to bear the responsibilities that come with it.