Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
In the Garden of Eden, we glimpse some of the clever strategy of the devil. When Satan wants to mislead the people of God, he begins with a tactic that is still present in nearly any human argument. Satan distracts Eve by setting up false conditions and then attempting to persuade Eve based on those false conditions.
The serpent asks the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” What was he going for there? He was trying to get the woman to think about whether or not such a god would be good who would forbid his children from eating of any of the trees in the garden. Of course, God had not made such a restriction, and thus the devil was attacking, not the real God, but a god of his own creation (a straw-man or straw-god I suppose). The devil knew that, could he get the woman discussing whether such a god would be good, he would have her. If the woman had entered into this argument with the devil, he could have drawn her to the conclusion that her god was mean, selfish, unsharing, greedy, etc. This, in fact, is the play he makes later, and it works, but from a different angle.
Noticing that Satan tries this tactic in the garden should help us to think about the ways in which we think about many issues and moral dilemmas today. For example, when a discussion of a persons’ need for Christ is derailed by objections like, “How can I believe in Jesus when Christians have done such awful things in the past,” the devils’ tactics are in evidence. Why would this be an example of the devils’ tricks? Whether or not Christians have been good people in the past has nothing to do with the reality of whether or not God exists, whether or not individuals are under his judgment, or whether or not Christ is the only way to be saved. The truth is, the righteousness or unrighteousness of Christians in the past has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not a person needs Jesus.
Let’s try another. When the discussion of the protection of the lives of unborn children becomes a discussion about a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body instead of a discussion over the fact that a growing child is a living human being whether in or out of the womb, the devil’s first type of trickery is in view. The tactic of the pro-choice proponent is to frame the debate with the woman and only the woman in view. The moment such a debate is bounded by only a look at the feelings and desires of the woman, the pro-choice argument becomes apparently strong (though studies of women who have had abortions make this argument weaker than one might expect). However, the debate should not be framed there. The questions which require answers are, “Is the child in the womb in fact a living human being? If the child is a living human being, under what circumstances should it be acceptable to end that human being’s life?” When those questions become the framework of the debate, the pro-life position rightly stands much stronger.
On and on we could go with example after example of how framing questions can lead people to reach false conclusions because they fail to discuss the true issue at hand. The point, however, that I want to make is that believers should recognize that this is one of the devils’ first and most common tools to mislead people. We need to be careful not to fall prey to these devices. This requires that we be wise logical thinkers who walk carefully in the world.
Most of all, if we are to avoid the dangers of the devils’ schemes in argument, we are going to have to make sure that we have a center of authority to use in any discussion or debate. The devil tried to introduce to the woman outside thoughts and outside voices that contradicted the word of God. IN doing so, he tried to pry her away from the only solid source of truth. In today’s world, the devil tries the same thing. If we are going to think wisely and be faithful, we must recognize that the Bible, God’s written word, is the source of authority and truth that must frame all our thoughts and decisions. Regardless of the issue, whether it be political, moral, or social, we must frame the question and make our response to the issue, not based on the false constructs of a godless world, but on the clear and solid foundation of the standards presented in the Bible.