The Great Miscalculation
If Adam and Eve would have never sinned, they would’ve still had to cultivate virtue. They weren’t created with it, they were created for it. They were not built virtuous, they were built innocent. Innocence is not a virtue. It can be breathtaking in its openness and simplicity, but when you get to the center of it, it’s really just a nice form of ignorance. It’s living with very little knowledge, which is exactly what we need to flourish, especially the knowledge of goodness—which always includes its absence—evil. This is what the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was for. Adam and Eve were right to want this knowledge, but wrong in the way to get it. They assumed they could obtain it by consuming it in a single moment. God, on the other hand, had already been giving it to them, by cultivating it inside their hearts. Every time they passed the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (centered in the garden) and refused it, they were making a choice, a choice that was shaping their habits, a choice that was chiseling their character, a choice that was actually—by degree—producing that knowledge within them. They’re great miscalculation—and it’s our greatest temptation—using the immediacy of the natural world to gain a supernatural end. They stumbled, not because of what the fruit was, but because of how they went about getting it. Eve, and Adam with her, grabbed for what can only be given, reached for what only ripens. By devouring the fruit they rejected their purpose—everlasting cultivation—our divine likeness growing eternally stronger, brighter, clearer. They vetoed formation, the patient acquisition of virtue. The day-by-day life with God that enables it. They took in an instant what’s meant to be apportioned forever. They forfeited the gladness and contentment of acting out of their own nature. Losing the pure pleasure of being—which for them was always meant to be becoming. And thus went forward into the world shouldering the timeless burden of longing to be good without the power to do it. Beginning as sovereigns, and ending as slaves.