Rules Without Reasons

If I’d been in the Garden of Eden, it would have been a bit like this:

God: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Me: “Why? Why would I die from that? This seems like a really dumb rule that doesn’t make any sense at all. Explain to me your thought process here and I’ll gladly obey. But I don’t obey dumb rules that don’t make any sense.”

Satan: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?

Me: “Yes, he did. And then he didn’t explain to me why. He just said don’t do it. Which doesn’t make a bit of sense to me. “

Satan: “That’s because God is holding out on you. He didn’t want to tell you the whole story because he is trying to rip you off. You saw right through it, oh, wise one. You don’t have to follow dumb rules that don’t make any sense. If God really loved you then He would tell you everything.

Me: *chomps down on forbidden fruit*

I’d have chomped on that fruit because unless you explain the full reason for the rule and I agree with it too I’m not going to just obey. But that really was the point of the tree in the Garden.

There is a question that often lingers out there when we tell kids the story of Creation and the Fall. At some point we all ask the question. Why in the world did God put that tree there in the first place? If it was so important not to eat from it, then why in the world even have it there. If he didn’t want them to eat of it—then why even create the thing? Why give an opportunity?

But that’s really the whole point of the tree. They didn’t have to understand all the intricacies of the tree in order to decide whether or not they should obey. They didn’t need to deliberate about whether or not it was wise for them to obey. They simply should have obeyed because God knows best and He is a good Father. If he says don’t eat, that should have been the end of the story. But my late ancestors had the same heart that I still find in myself—they weren’t going to just obey.

If I’m being honest there are some things in the Scriptures that I simply do not get. I do not understand why God set things up the way he did. As an example, I believe the Bible teaches complementarianism. And I’m even one of those out-dated people who believe the pulpit is reserved for men. That’s how I read the Scriptures. But I’m a bit uneasy with the complementarian position. Many of the reasons some people give for why God set things up this way seems to me to be a bit demeaning towards women. But I cannot get around the Scriptures and so I hold a position which makes me a bit uncomfortable.

There are other positions of which I’m convinced are biblical but they make me a bit uneasy too. I simply do not understand why God set these things up the way that He did. But I’m asked to obey them nonetheless. And it feels a bit like I am back in the Garden of Eden with God saying something like, “Don’t eat the fruit…if you do you’ll die” but not really giving me reasons for the rule.

And I don’t like rules without reasons. I was taught to call such a thing legalism. And I think for the most part that’s true—but I also believe on occasion God does just that. He gives us rules and commands without fully explaining why we can or cannot do a certain thing. It might not make a ton of sense to our fallen or finite sensibilities but the command is still there.

So I’m confronted daily with the same choice as our first parents. Am I going to say, “Well, that’s a dumb rule” and go about pretending like I’ve got the power to change reality? Or am I going to stop pretending like God’s Word is made of wax and simply obey even if I don’t really understand why I’m obeying?

I get this as a parent. There are times when I simply cannot explain everything to my children. And I don’t need to explain everything to them. At that moment I need their obedience and their trust. Maybe we can talk about it later—but at that moment we don’t need to deliberate or decide if daddy’s rule is a valid one.

So I wonder if some of those theological conundrums are our own forbidden fruits. Has God given us enough in Scripture to hold a position—even if uncomfortably—but not enough for us to really know exactly why he set it up that way?

Perhaps He is still asking His children to trust that He knows best. I’m convinced we are called to take God’s Word as it is. We aren’t called to decide whether or not we like this particular rule or that particular path of obedience. We are called to just obey. Some day it’ll make sense—but that isn’t for now. Now is time for trusting our Father and walking in obedience.

Yes, obedience just because He said so. 

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