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—” therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
I know that we are uncomfortable with the metaphysics implied here, that there was thus and such mystical tree and that its fruit could be eaten in some literal and plain sense that would give you eternal life. But there you have it. It sits in the craw of modern sensibility, and so it should. Let everyone know: such a tree really stands, and not merely in some allegorical or symbolic sense. Why insist on it? The story is no fable, and our prejudice against the fabulous is wrong. Genesis is fantastical, yes. Fantastical non fiction. But the story is the thing. It’s a historical sort of report – there is no “once upon a time” cue to tell us we are reading fairy tales. So we insist on the tree on its own terms. Scientific, historic, realistic, and mystic. But more than that, it has always had to be this real. All of salvation and eternal life is real. Real in a tangible, tastable, and biteable sense. The tree of life is as physical a piece of wood as the cross. Why? Because our rescue had to be real, for we were real sinners. What if the tree has an allegorical and symbolic truth? Good! That kind of truth does not reject physical truth. In the same way we eat communion and believe the molecular mass of bread and wine holds the eternal ineffable truth of God’s love. The tree stands. No scientific doubt could chop it down. And so does the cherubim with his flaming sword. Or perhaps he sheathed it the day our Savior died. These are the physics of faith. And as real as Einstein’s math. And because that tree had bark, and the snake had words that bite – we have a Savior that bled and died on timber – and rose again from death. Fantastical non fiction indeed. We live and pray and walk with fabulous truths: a God stoops and hears all we say.