This post is part of a series walking through the first volume of Abraham Kuyper’s Common Grace.
After giving a short summary of everything he’s covered so far, Kuyper now askes the question of just what the serpent meant when he tempted Eve in the Garden. Specifically what did he mean when he said that we would become “like God”?
As a bit of an aside (and showing us that he was very much a man of the late 19th/early 20th century), Kuyper tells us that we see something of how Satan used the serpent in the practice of hypnotism. In this, we can see how people can be used as sort of ‘conduits’ for the thoughts and words of others, sometimes even without their own knowledge.
We also get a short aside about what might have happened had Eve resisted (though C.S. Lewis uncategorically tells us that we’re not given this kind of revelation, only to provide it himself in The Magician’s Nephew). Kuyper thinks that life would ahve just gone on as normal in the Garden, with whatever “normal” meant in an unfallen world.
Moving back to the main point, Kuyper notes that what the serpent said had some truth to it. On eating the fruit, 1) Adam’s and Eve’s eyes were opened; and 2) they did become like God. In other words, new knowledge became available to man, though this is knowledge that Adam and Eve may have gained had they not fallen. That is, they might have known good and evil from God’s perspective, rather than trying to fabricate the knowledge by their own standards.This, then, is Kuyper’s interpretation of what ‘being like God’ meant– it is man’s attempt to re-define good and evil, rather than accepting by faith God’s revelation of good and evil. Had Adam and Eve resisted, life and joy would have been theirs in fellowship with God. Instead, we now have to judgments of conscience, which could not have existed prior to sin:
“But now, instead of that blessed experience of high, holy matrimony, the breach of conscience entered into them. For what is conscience in us other than the manifestation of the majesty of hte Lord with which he, as God Almighty, maintains the true moral world order over against hte dishonest conceit of the sinner? It is a manifestation that could not exist as long as, before the fall, the moral life was still only instncitve and emerged spontaneously from the participation of the human heart. [This manifestation] will fall silent again when the breach has been removed from our heart forever.But it had to come as soon as, and must continue as long as, the lie that exists in the moral realm persists in our heart, and when God reacts within us in a holy manner against us with his truth.” (233)
We see this strike Adam and Eve in their shame and their flight from God. They felt the pangs of coming judgment…