How did God identify the two trees to Adam? Did the trees have any distinguishing features? Was there something supernatural about them? Did Adam develop a sense of trust in the trees as a result of the properties of the fruits themselves?
This could not be the case. The function of the trees was sacramental. They were signs and seals of the promises of God, not supernatural agents in themselves. They did not function ex opere operato. God sought to test and prove Adam’s faith and obedience to his word by means of these two alternative sacraments. “Eat this tree I promise you will live forever, eat the other tree and I promise you moral knowledge but I will kill you.” Cornelius Van Til writes:
If the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had been naturally different from other trees it could not have served its unique purpose. That the commandment might appear as supernatural the natural had to appear as really natural. The supernatural could not be recognised for what it was unless the natural were also recognised for what it was. There had to be regularity if there was to be a genuine exception [Christian Apologetics (Phillipsburg, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1976) p29]
Van Til applies this principle to only one tree. It applied to both. The two trees in the midst of the garden could have no supernatural properties by which to prejudice the test of faith and obedience in God’s promises. Adam was to trust in the word of God alone.
In my next blog, I’ll comment on how the traditional reformed covenant of works treats the two trees unequally in this respect.