Questions from a 5 Year Old


We were driving home from Easter Dinner the other night, and Riley started asking questions… Her most common questions these days are “how do they make XYZ” (to which she quickly throws in “don’t say in a factory!” :-/ ) and “why…?” Why to just about anything.

Somewhat out of the blue came the following two questions:

1) Who did Cain and Able marry?

2) Why did God tell Adam and Eve not to eat the apple… And then as the discussion went on, Why did God put the tree there anyway?

Now #1 seems to be a pretty common question — it showed up in Carl Sagan’s book and movie “Contact,” for example, though I am not so sure how many 5 year olds ask it!. I actually had to go out and do some reading about it as I wasn’t sure of the exact answer, and rather than try to make something up, I’d much rather tell Riley that I’m not sure but I will try to find out.

Some folks may say God had already put other people (other in the sense of Adam and Eve not being their parents) outside of the Garden of Eden, though that is certainly not the “conservative” answer. Most would point out that after the Bible mentions Cain and Able, it goes on to mention Adam and Eve also gave birth to Seth (Gen 4:25), and later that he had “other sons and daughters” (Gen 5:3). The order of things may be a bit muddled as the verses are in the order of Adam and Eve giving birth to Cain, then Able, and then Seth, but that is not necessarily their true birth order. No dates or times are mentioned other then Seth being born when Adam was 130. And even if that is the true birth order, the order of Able’s murder at the hand of Cain and then Cain marrying may be such that Seth and the other sons and daughters were born before the murder and subsequent expulsion of Cain from Eden… At any rate, the answer is Cain married (one of) his sisters… Further explanations as to why that was ok back then vs. why it would not be now are mostly centered around the purity of the gene pull then vs. the mutations since, and the problems such a brother/sister marriage and subsequent children would probably yield due to the current gene pool. But that part is beyond the answer I would give to Riley! 🙂

#2 is a bit harder, and there are a lot of angles to look at it… The 1st part — why did God tell them not to eat the apple — is somewhat easier, though framing any answer for a 5 year old is tough… We put it this way: God puts in an order and outlines the consequences of not following it. Then the choice is up to Adam and Eve. You can talk about love and obedience, and you can talk about consequences for disobeying…

But the 2nd part is harder… Why did God put it there to begin with? I don’t really know the answer, and I tried to be honest and tell Riley that. Was it a test? A test God knew they would fail? Was he deliberately setting them up for failure? (Those are my line of questions based on her questions, not ones she actually asked!)

Now that I have had time to think about it, I would answer as follows, though this is not really an answer for a 5 year old. (And this is somewhat off the cuff as I have not done any research into any theological explanations…) But basically, if Adam and Eve were free to do whatever they wanted in the Garden, and there was nothing they could do wrong, there would never be a true option of choice. God wanted us to have free will, so he had to put (at least) one thing in the Garden that gave them a choice of obeying or disobeying Him.

Framing this to be personally relevant to a 5 year old, I think I would put it as follows. As parents, we are trying to raise you so that some day when you are on your own, you will be able to make right choices without us. So as you grow up and mature, we will give you more freedom, and therefore more chances to make decisions without us (i.e. to choose). We hope that everything we have done to date has led you to the place where you will make the right choices. We do know that you won’t be perfect and that you will make some mistakes, but that we will be here for you.

If anyone has any real theological answers from Bible commentaries, etc., please let me know. I’ll try to find some time to look into it further as well.

1 thought on “Questions from a 5 Year Old

  1. A few quick searches shows that my thoughts are probably right on #2…

    Most go something like this:

    Example 1:

    If God had constructed the Garden of Eden so that there were no rules and no way for Adam and Eve to do wrong, then Adam and Eve would be effectively forced to obey God. In order for us to be free – which in this case refers to the freedom to follow or ignore God – we have to be able to make choices. Adam and Eve couldn’t have chosen to follow God if they literally had no other choice.

    Or more detailed…

    Example 2:

    God put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden to give Adam and Eve a choice – to obey Him or disobey Him. Adam and Eve were free to do anything they wanted, except eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:16-17, “And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’” If God had not given Adam and Eve the choice, they would have essentially been robots, simply doing what they were programmed to do. God created Adam and Eve to be “free” beings, able to make decisions, able to choose between good and evil. In order for Adam and Eve to truly be “free” – they had to have a choice.

    There was nothing essentially evil about the tree or the fruit of the tree. It is unlikely that eating the fruit truly gave Adam and Eve any further knowledge. It was the act of disobedience that opened Adam and Eve’s eyes to evil. Their sin of disobeying God brought sin and evil into the world and into their lives. Eating the fruit, as an act of disobedience against God, was what gave Adam and Eve knowledge of evil. Genesis 3:6-7, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”

    God did not want Adam and Eve to sin. God knew ahead of time what the results of sin would be. God knew that Adam and Eve would sin, and would thereby bring evil, suffering, and death into the world. Why, then, did God put the tree in the Garden of Eden and allow Satan to tempt Adam and Eve? God put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden to give Adam and Eve a choice. God allowed Satan to tempt Adam and Eve to force them to make the choice. Adam and Eve chose, of their own free wills, to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit. The result – evil, sin, suffering, sickness, and death have plagued the world ever since. Adam and Eve’s decision results in each and every person being born with a sin nature, a tendency to sin…..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s