4
Nov

Why A Good God Allowed Adam and Eve To Sin

indexNon-believers often look for contradiction in the pages of the Bible. They rightly conclude that an intelligent creator would not build contradiction into his inspired word. Imperfect people, by contrast, could easily fall into error which is detectable to later generations.

Some skeptics see a contradiction in the Genesis account of man’s fall. Why would God create Adam and Eve with a desire to have “more” when they were already in Paradise? As one non-believer put it:

 

“I would say that if ‘always wanting more’ is part of the human condition, then on the Christian world view you subscribe to we would have to accept that God created them with this desire to want more than the paradise he provided them. This is worse when you realize that he did not have to provide them access to “more” but he did and he made it a rule for them not to access the “more” on pain of terrible sin and generations of sin nature and the evil we experience. He put the trees in the garden and he put in the serpent as well and he chose the serpent’s nature too.

 

I think this is a contradiction between an all good god and the stated facts of the Genesis account.”

What underlies this challenge is an assumption that God acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner. He made man, filled him with the desire to act in a certain way, made up meaningless rules to trap him, and then pounced when Adam and Eve did the unavoidable. If this were the case, Christians would be foolish to love and worship such a being. But is it true?

Christians believe that God is the ultimate perfect being. As St. Anselm expressed it, God is that being a greater than which cannot be conceived. Most of us don’t spend much time contemplating what that entails. Consider for a moment that aspect of human nature we see with fans that are “star struck” by celebrities. These “stars” are fellow human beings; indeed, they are in fact strangers, people flawed in many ways, yet their mere presence can cause a fan to be speechless.  Most people don’t experience this extreme, so consider instead what infatuation feels like, how overwhelming a response one has at times to someone they want to know more intimately. Or, by contrast, think about the agony people go through when a loved one is lost. These examples are all but a shadow of what interacting with God would be like. So I think it is fairly apparent that God must shield himself – his utter perfection – from us in some significant way. Otherwise, we would be in such awe of him that we would be unable to function.

Why would God do this? Why create us knowing that we are incapable of interacting with him? Because he had a plan by which we could, eventually, enter into relationship with him. That is the Good News of the Gospels.God, it seems to me, desired from us something more than just worship; he could have created us as robots, or as animals, filled with programming and instinct, content to bask in the glory of a perfect being. But instead, he built us for relationship; he programmed us for love, and we find our greatest fulfillment in meaningful, loving relationships with others. How many “successful,” but isolated, people are truly happy? How many people, on their death bed, think of what more time they could have spent at the office, instead of the relationships they shared, the loved ones they are leaving behind, and worst of all, the broken relationships in their wake.

So, the skeptic responds, we were built for relationship with God. Why doesn’t he just show himself and be done with it? Because of the nature of God. For any relationship to be meaningful, it must be entered freely. One has to have some knowledge of the other, and the ability to stay or leave. If love is forced, coerced, or bought, it is not love. Consequently, we, as God’s creations, need to be shielded in some fashion from his full nature. We would, otherwise, find him irresistible. He gives us enough knowledge of him that we are without excuse; we know he is there, and we know from morality that we owe him something, even if we disagree among ourselves as to specific cases. But God does not overwhelm us. Instead, he leaves within us the desire for “more,” but in our imperfect state, we confuse created things for what that “more” really entails – reunification with God. He does not force this; instead, he gave us the freedom to choose ourselves instead – to worship ourselves or other created things. He formed the bubble around us that gives us enough information to know he is there, but not so much that our free choice is eliminated.

Eventually, we are called upon to decide. We either assent to the gift he has offered us, through the actions of Jesus; or we die in our state of rebellion. He honors either choice. But our assent is not the end of the story; it is the beginning. As with any loving relationship, taking things to the next step requires consent. With our consent, we allow Jesus to “make us perfect.” This work is not done by us. Indeed, we are utterly incapable of being in relationship with perfection. But the work of transforming us – a work that Jesus has both the power to do and the love to desire – won’t be done against our will. If we wish to spend eternity isolated with ourselves, he will grant that wish. But if we want to “come home,” he will prepare us for interaction with “the perfect.” 

The Genesis account is an explanation of this dynamic. The “rule” regarding the tree was not arbitrary; the tree was not part of some sadistic game God was playing.  But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” (Genesis 3) In other words, it represented the ability to act against God’s wishes, by trying to displace him or at the very least share in his nature. What tempted Adam and Eve – and us as well – was never a physical thing.

There is, therefore, no contradiction between a “good God” and the Genesis account. God could have made us robots or animals, worshiping him and being mindlessly happy. But he could not both do that and give us free will. That is where a contradiction would lie.

Posted by Al Serrato

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4 Comments

  1. BGA says:

    My identification of the contradiction comes from a place of concluding that the story is fictional and not well-thought out, like most origin myths. I do not think God acted arbitrarily, I do not think there is a God.

    You had earlier identified that you believe Adam’s decision to rebel came not from sin-nature but a desire to want more, which I interpreted to mean more than God’s rules permitted him to know. I suggested that giving him that desire and putting the forbidden tree in the garden seemed like a setup.

    You now seem to be saying that the desire is to know God. You also state that Adam was separate from God. This makes no sense. Genesis is clear that Adam would not know death before eating the fruit and that God was present in the garden. It says God walked in the garden. He and Adam have direct communication. There was no sin yet separating them. Adam desired “to be like” a god, not to better know (a) God.

    I further do not see how actually presenting himself denies free will. I mean he actually came to earth and hung around with the disciples. Presumably this did not take away their free will. He appeared in a vision to Paul, did this force him to be a Christian?

    • Al says:

      Brian, I’m not sure I can make it clearer. Yes, God has appeared to men in the past. My position is that he has not fully revealed himself (“no one has seen the Father” as Jesus said) and I think the reason is that a limited being could not withstand proximity to perfection. I think we would be unable to function in the presence of such a being. Consequently, God shields himself in some fashion; he distances himself so that we can function without coercion from him. That’s how it would deny free will – we would have no choice but to worship such a being if fully in his presence. By the way, I’m not saying they wanted to know God better; I’m saying they wanted to know what God knows, be what God is – they wanted to displace him as the proper center of worship and worship themselves instead. Final thought: you should keep in mind that if you begin with your conclusion – i.e. there is no God – you will inevitably engage in circular thinking.

      • BGA says:

        “I’m saying they wanted to know what God knows, be what God is”

        Again we are back to the difficult question of where this desire came from. I see how you must interpret it that God provided Adam with free will and curiosity to know God and be like him, but that you think, even absent sin nature, he freely chose to disobey. You think that God gave Adam just enough curiosity and desire to want those to be like God, but enough mental capacity to chose to obey.

        I just think that in that circumstance, either Adam didn’t have enough information to make a rational choice about obedience, or that if he did, he must have had a God given nature that overrode that reason. I don’t think your interpretation is reasonable.

        • Al says:

          Brian, I see you want to place the “blame” on God and think that you have identified an inconsistency. The problem is that you are viewing free will as if it were a quantifiable capacity. For example, God defines good running as 30 mph but man can only run 20 miles per hour, so God condemns man for not running fast enough to please him, even though God limited man’s speed in the first place. Free will isn’t a quantifiable capacity. Either you have it or you don’t. Animals and machines don’t; we do. We wouldn’t if we were in full contact with God; his perfection would overwhelm us. But free will is necesary for true love. Consequently, God separates himself from us. We develop and use our free will. Our natural inclination is to rebel, but God reaches out with an enough grace to overcome that, but not so much that it is forced. If we assent, he does the rest of the work necessary to make us ready for union with him. You are free, of course, to reject this interpretation. But dismissing it as “unreasonable” says more about your preconceptions – i.e. you have already concluded there is no God – than it does about the worldview or the millions of other intelligent people who view it as reasonable.

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