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The previous post on Kuyper’s Common Grace, volume 1 may be found here.

Now on to the first question of chapter

Genesis 3:22 (ESV)

22 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—”

What then is meant by the statement that the tree from which Adam and Eve were not to eat was the tree of the “Knowledge of Good and Evil.” The obvious answer, at least when we consider the frequency with which it is raised, is that the knowledge is the knowledge of experience. How could Adam and Eve “know” evil without being evil? I could know about arson or embezzlement or any number of crimes, without knowing what is like to commit such crimes. And perhaps the experience of evil would give me a different knowledge of the “good.”

Kuyper says that the held this position until he faced two objections with the explanation could not meet. Before we come to the objections, I would like to stop at Kuyper’s epistemic modesty, “it is fitting that one not begin by rejecting the work of one’s predecessors but by associating oneself with it.” Abraham Kuyper, Common Grace: God’s Gifts for a Fallen World: The Historical Section, ed. Jordan J. Ballor, Melvin Flikkema, and Stephen J. Grabill, trans. Nelson D. Kloosterman and Ed M. van der Maas, vol. 1, Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press; Acton Institute, 2015), 236.

What then are the objections. The first derives from the word of God respecting the effect of Adam and Eve eating from the tree, “they have become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” God cannot have experiential knowledge of evil, therefore, the comparison does not work. Thus, the knowledge cannot mean “experiential” knowledge.

The second objection is that sinning gives us no experience of “good.” But I believe that objection can be met by merely stating experiential knowledge of evil throws experiential knowledge of good (which Adam did have prior to eating) into relief and thus one gains a sort of experience of good with could not be had before.

Kuyper suggests that the knowledge here refers to not the experience of the thing but the choice:

          Let us choose what is right;

let us know among ourselves what is good.

Job 34:4 (ESV) In this passage, choose is parallel to know, as right is parallel to good. He gives as an example,  “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” Genesis 18:19 (ESV) The ESV does the work for Kuyper, because the word translated “chosen,” “For I have chosen him” is the word ydh: the verb commonly translated as “to know.”  The KJV (for instance) has “For I know him.”

This at least makes the argument plausible: that we should understand ydh (commonly translated “to know”) as to choose. The next test is whether that translation makes sense of Gen. 3:22

Kuyper further clarifies this use of “know” for “choose”: I know a thing, I evaluate, I then choose. Does that make sense of Gen. 3:22?  Yes, the human being – rather than accept the valuation of God as to good and evil – has appropriate this power to himself.

Thus, the probation of Adam was, Will you allow God to make the determination of what is good or evil? Will commit moral valuation to me, or will you seek to make this determination yourself.

The tree thus provokes conscience, because conscience can only have play if there is a potential conflict between moral choices.

This leads to an understanding of human psychology. First, there is the evaluation. The evaluation of a thing as good or bad then brings the will to act based upon that judgment. However, that determination is subject to a further judgment of God. Conscience rightly working concurs with God on the moral valuation of a behavior, “Conscience is a conflict between two judgments: the judgment of man himself and that of God.” (242)

Such a determination corresponds well to the use of similar language by Paul:

Romans 1:28 (ESV)

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

The first verb in that sentence, “see fit” comes from a verb which means to test and approve [dokimazo]

δοκιμάζωc: to regard something as genuine or worthy on the basis of testing—‘to judge to be genuine, to judge as good, to approve.’ μακάριος ὁ μὴ κρίνων ἑαυτὸν ἐν ᾧ δοκιμάζει ‘happy is the man who doesn’t cause himself to be condemned by what he judges to be good’ Ro 14:22; καθὼς οὐκ ἐδοκίμασαν τὸν θεὸν ἔχειν ἐν ἐπιγνώσει ‘since they did not approve of retaining the knowledge of God’ or ‘… of acknowledging God’ Ro 1:28. For another interpretation of δοκιμάζω in Ro 1:28, see 30.98.

Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 363.

The word translated as “debased” mind means “not” tested or approved. If you will not evaluate God correctly, you will be evaluated as condemned. By not accepting God’s evaluation of good and evil, we become evaluated as evil (or we have a mind that cannot properly evaluate). This is then matched by Romans 12:1-2

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:1–2 (ESV). Notice verse 2, you will be given the Spirit and thus in this transformation will begin to be able to test things to discern (by testing discern is the same verb dokimazo as used in Romans 1:28.

By eating the of the tree, Adam rejected God’s evaluation and was cast from the Garden. Romans 1:28 explains that having rejected God’s evaluation we are evaluated as debased (or we are unable to judge) and only in renewal of our mind can we begin to regain a right evaluation (by following God’s valuation).