28
Oct

Why Did Adam Sin in the First Place?

indexWhy did Adam sin in the first place? This is a question that many skeptics view as creating a logical problem for believers. After all, if we sin because of our sinful or fallen nature, but Adam had an uncorrupted nature, then what propelled him to sin? 

One skeptic put it this way:

We are not told much about what Adam knew but I think we can presume he know God created him, Eve and Eden. He trusts god and god has told him he will die if he eats the fruit. So, only a complete moron would chose to eat the fruit. And I presume most don’t believe God’s creation was idiotic. So was his choice simply arbitrary?

It makes no sense to me unless he had inside him either a tendency to disobey, or an instinct of curiosity to go beyond Gods rules which were clearly dictated to him by god , directly. If this was the case, he must have been created with the seed to establish all sin. Indeed it would seem that the other activities in Eden were pretty insufficient applications of free will. I suppose naming things requires a choice, but this can be arbitrary (in fact how could it be other than arbitrary?). So what are Adam and Eve to do with their free will, keep choosing to not eat from a tree and ignore the serpent… And the serpent is a whole other problem.

To begin to tackle this question, we need to keep in mind what is meant by “sin” and “sin nature.” Sin occurs when the thoughts or actions of a free will being depart from God’s perfect will. Sin can be serious or minor – at least from our perspective – but all sin has in common the aspect of rebellion against God. Rebellion begins with the recognition that there is an authority at work, a person who is in charge of things and who has the power to enforce his rules. Implied in this is the further recognition of distinctness, of being separate and apart from that authority. Finally, there is relationship, a set of interactions between the authority and the subject which delineate the nature of the relationship. Man is, at present, by his very nature locked in a struggle of rebellion against God. But Adam and Eve were not; they walked in harmony with God, at least initially.

Adam and Eve were, presumably, happy in the Garden. How could they not find “paradise” to be wonderful? But how much they knew of God, how close they actually were to him, is not entirely clear. As time passed, they began to use their intellect as all free-will beings do: they began to question that line of demarcation between God and them. They began to question the rules, to begin to seek advantage in the relationship. No longer content with the many good things God had provided, their minds began to consider what things he was not providing, or what things he created that he forbade them to possess. They wanted to become more like him.

The skeptic presumes that Adam’s uncorrupted nature should have protected him from this temptation. Why was he not immunized to the desire to rebel, contenting himself instead with fellowship with God? Christians believe that all of Adam’s descendants lack the capacity to fully resist temptation, but did Adam lack this also? 

It is, of course, impossible to answer the question with certainty. The only information we have on the subject comes from the Bible, as we have no direct access to details of Adam’s thoughts and actions. And the Bible doesn’t answer the specific question that is raised. 

I think the answer begins with recognition of what Adam and Eve’s nature actually entailed. Though they were uncorrupted, they were not perfect. They did not have perfect knowledge of God, nor were they in some way infallible. Did they know what life “outside” the Garden would be like? Did they have a conception of what toil, painful labor, disease, mortality would entail? Did they have a clear picture of what they were about to give up? Perhaps they did not, and what they did come to realize was that there were things that were being kept from them – knowledge or power that God possessed that they did not. I would not characterize this as a “tendency” to disobey. Tendency suggests that they were pre-built to have such a setting, but this is not required. It may simply be that they questioned, and they didn’t like the answers they were coming up with. Was this an “instinct” to go beyond God’s rules? No, I wouldn’t characterize free will that way, as it implies a lack of control. An animal’s instincts to eat or to mate are not contemplative; they cannot choose otherwise. 

But what Adam and Eve did in the Garden was different. Perhaps they moved forward more purposefully than it initially appears. I think it is noteworthy that the tree in question relates to the knowledge of good and evil. Eating of it would forever change the equation between God and man. Perhaps they felt they could approach God as equals, rather than creator and subject. Why they would give up paradise is a puzzle. They should no doubt have seen God in all his glory as worthy of worship. Perhaps God somehow distanced himself from them, so that (as with us) they could not fully experience him.

In the end, Adam and Eve’s fall came from desire. They saw what they wanted – knowledge and with it power and perhaps even equality with God– and they knew that something – no, someone – stood in their way.  It was neither an instinct nor a tendency to rebel. It was the desire to be like God.  

But again, we can never know for sure. What we can know is that whatever Adam and Eve’s potential, for us here, now, the choice of whether to rebel is no longer ours. Whether to accept God’s forgiveness, and whether to move forward to restored relationship with him, however, is.

 Posted by Al Serrato

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9 Comments

  1. Eddie Milne says:

    Hi Al,
    interesting article… some thoughts on this intriguing question of why Adam sinned.

    Now I do think Adam was perfect in his being, for we know that the works of God are perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4) , but perfection does not have to extend all boundaries including knowledge up to and including the perfection of God as the One who is perfect beyond all limits and who knows all things.

    With regards to why he sinned, well even though he did sin he did not have to. Whereas we who have a fallen nature do sin even if we don’t want to and even those who are filled with the Holy Spirit will continue to struggle against sin and in fact continue to sin even if it’s not to the same extent of an unregenerate person or even a Christian who is not filled with the Spirit..

    So why did Adam sin? it seems to me it was one or perhaps a combination of these factors… simply acting out of a pure act of rebellion as his sin was not out of some inherent weakness in Adam, the desire of appeasing his wife Eve in eating the fruit and a desire to be like God.
    But again he did not have to sin. this I think makes his sin all the more serious and it’s long lasting effects have changed the world up to the present day. He rebelled against God when he was in complete control not to, in fact he was in complete control I believe not to commit any sin.

    Perhaps to some degree it was like the rebellion of some angelic beings who know the greatness, love and perfection of God. Furthermore they did this even though they had not got a sin nature, but they still choose to rebel against God anyway.

  2. josephine says:

    To say that Adam is not perfect means that God’s creations are imperfect. I believe that God is perfect and His works are perfect, even Adam and Eve. God is omnipresent, eternal, all knowing, omnipotent, to name a few adjectives that would describe how great our God is. The bible says that God created us in His image, in His likeness. Whenever this comes to mind, I get the understanding why we behave like we do and why Adam responded to the forbidden tree that way. It was because of Adam’s likeness to God. He wanted to be like God, because he felt he can be like God, for the reason that he has the qualities of God. I believe that this is the greatest sin Adam has committed because we are commanded to worship only Our God, and glorifying other image (including ourselves) is a sin against the True God. I believe that not only Adam is guilty of this sin. In this modern time, we, at one point or another, also have the same tendency as what Adam had, to desire to be like God. If we will not acknowledge that the skills, the wisdom, and everything that we possess are God-given, then we would be like Adam and we will deny the existence of God and assume ourselves powerful and self-sufficient. I believe that God has given Adam the choice to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree or not because He has given us the intellect to decide. He loves us so much that he made us perfect in His image, but since we are NOT god, we failed and as a consequence, we were punished by God. But sending Jesus Christ on Earth to pay for our sins, is the greatest proof of God’s love for us. Our God is not a God of punishment but a God of Love. Now, we can enjoy an intimate relationship with God again, through Jesus’ death on the cross. I believe that God’s plan for humanity has always been perfect. Even though Adam and Eve sinned, He never abandoned us, He loves us infinitely.
    My prayer is that everybody will accept Jesus Christ in their lives and renew the fellowship with God.
    Thank you for this article. I am convinced that God is a great God and we are made to worship Him, and worshiping Him means having Joy in this lifetime. Thank you Jesus Christ. All glory and honor To Our Awesome and Great God who makes every good Thing and bad thing turned to good, possible.
    Jesus bless you and this website and I pray that more people will be drawn closer to God through this website.

  3. BGA says:

    “they began to use their intellect as all free-will beings do: they began to question that line of demarcation between God and them. They began to question the rules, to begin to seek advantage in the relationship. No longer content with the many good things God had provided, their minds began to consider what things he was not providing, or what things he created that he forbade them to possess. They wanted to become more like him.”

    Thanks for responding. The question is where did the discontent come from? Certainly you’re not saying that Eden was insufficient to keep them content? God would not have designed Eden in such a way as to likely lead its inhabitants to long for more, or imagine what else they could obtain? This was no prison of deprivation, it was Paradise.

    So if it wasn’t the external environment that drove Adam and Eve towards rebellion, what did it? It could not have been their nature alone, as again this was designed by God. I understand you to be saying it was a free choice by them for unknown internal reasons. I think you would have to agree that although the first couple were different than you and I, they must have been very similar. I seem to make decisions based on a mixture or desire and rational thought. I think the problem for the Genesis story is that we would have to accept that any rational thought Adam had, would lead him to never eat the fruit. But something else drove him to decide and either acted independently of his thinking or overrode his thinking. There must have been some kind of irrational desire at least to be curious despite his better judgment. For after all, what kind of good God would expel them from Paradise if they didn’t know any better?

    And now the biggest problem. Do you think we choose our desires? Do you think he chose to want to rebel? If he were fallen, we would accept that such a desire was a relic of original sin, but it could not have been the case for Adam. Now, it’s no good saying that God created him with free will and all kinds of desires and Adam chose to fulfil a negative one. Firstly, because we certainly don’t have all kinds of desires. Some are good, some are bad, but they are limited. And even if all such desires were present, what drove Adam to follow a desire that he knew would violate an obvious rule that was no problem for him to obey and he was promised certain death by God himself for violating it? Did he not also have a desire to obey God too? Did he not have the love of God and presence of the Holy Spirit in Eden? How did the desire to rebel overcome both his reason and desire to obey God.

    It doesn’t make sense to me. Sorry for so many rhetorical questions, I can explain why I do this, but this piece is already too long.

    • Al says:

      Brian, the discontent came from realizing they were not God and wanting to be more like him. It’s part of the human condition to always want more; perhaps Adam and Eve were no more immune to that they we are despite their higher nature. They were expelled from Eden because they did know better; God had warned them. Their desire to love and obey God was outdone in the end by the desire to be like God, however irrational that may seem. I think this may be the best we can do to “make sense” of what they did. God must have limited his self-revelation in a way that left them, and us, free to make the kind of poor decision that you are talking about.

      You ask insightful and thought-provoking questions for which they can be no definitive answers. I think you probably believe that this disproves the Christian worldview. I obviously don’t think it does, even if there are unanswered questions at the end of the day. I can make use of things like computers and nuclear power even if I can’t grasp the sense in how these things work. I’d be interested in hearing how you answer the questions you raise. You can write to me at al@pleaseconvinceme.com or send me a link to something you have already written. Thanks.

      • BGA says:

        Thanks Al,

        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. But I am prepared to accept it is a weaker contradiction than I had thought prior to your explanation. Thanks, I will email you!

        • Al says:

          Yes, I think it is correct that he made us with the desire to want more. For us to have freedom of will, we would need to be shielded in some fashion from his full nature. He left within us the desire for more (him, in other words) but the freedom to choose ourselves – i.e. to worship ourselves or created things instead of him. The “rule” he made was not arbitrary; the tree was not part of some sadistic game he was playing. It represented knowledge of good and evil or in other words it represented the ability to act against God’s wishes. What tempted them was to be like God, not hunger or a desire for a particular piece of fruit. He didn’t “choose” the serpent’s nature; he gave the devil the freedom to choose. There is no contradiction between a good God and the Genesis account – these were necessary steps for accomplishing the greater good that he had in mind. He could have made us robots or animals, worshiping him and being eternally happy. But he could not both do that and give us free will. That is where a contradiction would lie.

  4. Mr Mike says:

    ” No, I wouldn’t characterize free will that way, as it implies a lack of control. An animal’s instincts to eat or to mate are not contemplative; they cannot choose otherwise. ”

    But even if we ‘contemplate’ things more than animals, we still don’t choose what those thoughts will be in the first place. And we don’t choose what that final ‘deciding’ thought will be, when we ‘act’ and thus ‘make that choice’.

    We’re only ‘free’ to do what we desire to do most at the time of doing the act – which isn’t really any different from animals.

    “”Why they would give up paradise is a puzzle.”

    Well indeed. Either they didn’t like the paradise (which wouldn’t be a choice as we don’t choose what it is we will like or not), or they thought the alternative seemed more desirable (again not a choice), or they weren’t clever enough to realise what was going on (again not a choice).

    They may have technically made a ‘choice’ to eat the fruit, but only based on thoughts that were NOT a choice.

    “They should no doubt have seen God in all his glory as worthy of worship. Perhaps God somehow distanced himself from them, so that (as with us) they could not fully experience him.”

    In which case, that was God’s fault, if they didn’t see him as worthy of worship. If the problem was they were created in a way that they couldn’t see him worthy of worship, or at least couldn’t, if he distanced himself from them, then they couldn’t help but not see him as worthy of worship.

    “In the end, Adam and Eve’s fall came from desire. They saw what they wanted – knowledge and with it power and perhaps even equality with God– and they knew that something – no, someone – stood in their way. It was neither an instinct nor a tendency to rebel. It was the desire to be like God.”

    It could well have been, but whether it was an ‘instinct’, or ‘tendency’ or desire, or whatever variation of the word you want to use, they didn’t ‘choose’ to have that instinct/tendency/desire in them. If God created them, then he created that.

    • Al says:

      Mr. Mike, I was going to thank you for writing in, but if I understand your point, you didn’t really have any “choice” in the matter. But your statement “we’re only free to do what we desire to do most at the time of doing the act” doesn’t make sense to me. I usually don’t do what I desire to do, for a whole bunch of reasons. Instead – and I think this is true of most people who aren’t criminally oriented – I do what I think I ought to do, even if that isn’t what I would rather be doing at the particular moment.

  5. James Welsh says:

    Thank you for your thought provoking article.

    It seems to me that God knew from before He ever made anything, He understood what the problems would be for a free thinking, distinct being. They would always wonder “what if.” They wouldn’t know first hand what the consequences of their disobedience would be. Experience is everything.
    I can’t help but notice that no one has factored in the roll the “serpent”, or the devil, played in all this. He lied and deceived the first couple, leading them to doubt what they remembered God as saying. Maybe they understood Him wrong. He was a liar and a murderer from the beginning, his lie leading the first couple into choices that led to death.

    By all of humanity having to go thru all this awful sin experience, we have each gained first hand experience of what happens when we disobey God. And He provided for the means of redemption, salvation, and restoration of all creation by His own self sacrificial death.
    After the coming of the New Heavens, and the New Earth, we all can live as distinct free will beings in perfect harmony with our God, knowing and trusting, with some experience behind us, that He wants nothing but the best for us, and only withholds that which is of no good to us.

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