Thursday, October 20, 2016

If Adam was Born Free from Evil and Sin, Why did he Sin?

I was searching the Internet, and came across the above video on YouTube by Ligonier Ministries, published on February 25, 2015, in which the Evangelical theologians Sinclair Ferguson, Steven Lawson, Russell Moore, and R.C. Sproul answer questions on various theological issues. It is labelled: Questions and Answers #1. The first question asked by a questioner was, “If Adam was born free from evil and sin, why did he sin?” To this R.C. Sproul (who is possibly the foremost Evangelical theologian of our time) gives the following answer (transcribed from the video as best I could):

“I don’t know! That was easy! I am not kidding. I mean there are … I can give you twenty theories if you want to hear them, but none of them work. So that is I think the biggest mystery we have, … is how a creature made in the image of God without any predisposition to evil, without any inclination to evil, would ever choose to do evil. And that is where I put the mystery. Other people say that the only answer to that is that he was created with an evil inclination, and they have to deal with the problem of how that squares with the integrity of God’s judgment upon them. And they say, well that’s … they don’t believe that God is the author of evil, even though he created Adam already with an inclination to sin. And how that can be squared is a mystery for them. I don’t like their mystery. I choose mine. … 

“I have to tell you … I will tell you about this. I was asked that question once. This is 40 years ago in the presence of John Gerstner. And I said that ‘I don’t know, and I don’t know of anyone who does know, and I know that I don’t know, and I know that this side of heaven I will never know.’ And he really jumped on me. He said, ‘That was a very arrogant statement!’ I said, ‘Arrogant? I was trying to be humble! … I was trying to say, I am not going to untie this knot which nobody else has been able to do.’ And he says, ‘Well, do you think that you have already reached consummation of all knowledge that you could ever acquire in your lifetime?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Well, you might learn the answer tomorrow, so don’t be so arrogant today.’ But 47 years later, he knows now because he is in heaven, but I still don’t know.”

Well I have good news for him. I am going to give him the answer before he dies! And this is an answer that actually works. It is not like the other answers he has found that don’t work. Before answering that question, however, I would like to ask him (and other Evangelical theologians) a few questions first. Sometimes Jesus answered questions with another question. That is the best way of answering questions sometimes, so I am going to follow that methodology in answering this particular question. I have three questions I would like to ask before answering that question:

Question 1: Why did God put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden in the first place? What useful purpose did it serve—apart from killing people who eat from it? That would be like putting a bottle of poison in the fridge, and telling your kids not to drink it. Why would you want to do that? If the tree served no useful purpose than just killing people who eat from it, why would God want to put it there in the first place—and then tell Adam and Eve not to eat from it?

Question 2: What is wrong with knowing good and evil? Would you want to be deprived of your knowledge of good and evil? We all have some knowledge of good and evil. Our knowledge is not perfect. We make mistakes sometimes. We think something is good, when it turns out to be evil; or we think something is evil, when it turns out to be good. We learn by our mistakes. But in general, most of us have a pretty good idea of what is good and what is evil. Even God knows good and evil (Gen. 3:22). If God knows good and evil, it can’t be such a bad thing after all. So what is wrong with knowing good and evil?

Question 3: The whole purpose of scripture is to teach us to do good, and avoid evil. The primary purpose of scripture is to teach us about God. The second most important purpose of scripture is to tell us what God wants us to do—which is to do good, and avoid evil. He has even set aside a day of judgment to judge us according to our “works,” whether they be good or evil—and be rewarded accordingly. The whole of scripture in fact can be summarized in those two terms. Here are some typical examples:

Psalms 34:

14 Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

Micah 6:

8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Matthew 5:

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Galatians 6:

9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

1 Peter 3:

10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:
11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

James 4:

17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

These verses summarize the whole teachings of the Bible. God wants us to do good, and eschew evil. How could man comply with that requirement without knowing good and evil?

In John’s first Epistle we are told the following:

1 John 3:

2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

To be saved means to become like Jesus Christ; and Jesus is somebody who knows good and evil. It is impossible to become like him without knowing good and evil; which means that it is impossible to be saved without knowing good and evil. To purify himself means to do good, and abstain from evil—which would only be possible if one knew good and evil. So how could partaking of the forbidden fruit be such a bad thing, if having a knowledge of good and evil is actually necessary for our salvation?

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If this was a normal conversation with R.C. Sproul et al, at this point I would wait for them to give me a response before proceeding. Since in a blog that is not possible, I will proceed with the answer anyway, and let them join the conversation afterwards if they want to (I am not holding my breath that they will).

So the basic questions that need to be answered are, (1) If knowing good and evil does not appear to be such a bad thing after all, why was partaking of the fruit forbidden? (2) Why was the penalty of death imposed on partaking of the fruit? (3) Why was it a sin to partake of the fruit? The correct answer to those questions (not given in the same order) are as follows:

Partaking of the fruit was a sin because God had forbidden it. If you do something that God has told you not to do, that is a sin. So why did God tell them not to eat of the fruit, when knowing good and evil doesn’t appear to be such a bad thing after all? The answer is that there was a cost associated with it—a cost for God as well as for man. The cost for man was that he would be exposed to death, sufferings and pain of various kinds—as well as to temptation and sin. Death was not a penalty for partaking of the fruit, but a necessary condition. It was not a punishment, but a requirement. The Book of Mormon provides the explanation:

Alma 42:

5 For behold, if Adam had put forth his hand immediately, and partaken of the tree of life, he would have lived forever, according to the word of God, having no space for repentance; yea, and also the word of God would have been void, and the great plan of salvation would have been frustrated.

God did not tell Adam and Eve, “If you eat of the fruit, I am going to punish you by killing you.” He said, “You shall surely die.” Death had been assigned to partaking of the fruit as a necessary precondition, not as a punishment. Adam had to die (for his own good) after partaking of the fruit, partly so he could experience good and evil; and partly so he could have an opportunity to repent of his sins, and be redeemed from them:

Alma 12:

18 Then [after the resurrection], I say unto you, they [the wicked] shall be as though there had been no redemption made; for they cannot be redeemed according to God’s justice; and they cannot die, seeing there is no more corruption.

Repentance, forgiveness, remission of sins, and redemption is only possible within the allotted time between birth and resurrection. Without that intervening period assigned, redemption will not, nor would have ever been made possiblehence the need for death as a necessary prerequisite for partaking of the fruit.

“Evil,” in the context of Genesis 2:9, 17, has a broader meaning than just wickedness or sin. The word “evil,” in the biblical narrative, also means adversity, hardship, suffering, pain, punishment—as well as wickedness or sin. Here are some examples:

Isaiah 45:

7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.

Jeremiah  19:

15 Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words.

In these verses “evil” means adversity, suffering, pain, hardshipusually as a punishment for sin. It means something that is unpleasant and undesirable to have, as opposed to what is desirable and good. The fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was not meant to just give them a theoretical knowledge of “right and wrong,” but an experiential knowledge of good and evil—in its widest sense of the term—meaning being exposed to adversity and hardship—as well as to temptation and sin. That is something that needed to be experienced; and they couldn’t do that while they were living happily ever after in the Garden of Eden. So God placed the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden (assigning death as a necessary prerequisite for partaking of it), and permitted man to partake of it if he chose to, because knowing good and evil is not in and of itself a bad thing. He was forbidden to partake of it because it entailed a heavy cost—for God as well as for man. For man it involved a cost of experiencing death, pain, and sufferings of various kinds, as well as being exposed to temptation and sin. It also entailed another cost: some of Adam’s descendants would not be saved, because by their own volition they would choose evil rather than good, and fail to comply with the requirements of the gospel to be redeemed. For God it entailed a very heavy cost of atoning for man’s sins, which is what Jesus had to accomplish.

The Book of Mormon tells us that there has to be an “opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11). Everything is known by its oppositelight with darkness, good with evil, truth with falsehood, happiness with unhappiness. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden were surrounded with, and experiencing only that which was good. They had no experience of evilusing that word in the widest sense of the term, meaning adversity, hardship, and unhappiness; not just wickedness or sin. That means that they could not really appreciate the good that they had because they had no experience of its opposite. They could not appreciate happiness, because they had not been exposed to unhappiness. They could not appreciate the virtue of righteousness and holiness, because they had not been exposed to the consequences of unrighteousness, unholiness, and wickedness. The purpose of them partaking of the forbidden fruit was to give them that opposite experience.

This does not mean that people have to sin in order to appreciate the virtue of righteousness and holiness. It means to be exposed to the consequences of those things. Jesus never committed any sins; but he was exposed to the consequences of those things as a result of our sins. He had to “learn obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb. 5:8). He was made “perfect through sufferings” (Heb. 2:10). And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:9). “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted [i.e. tried, tested], he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:18). We all have to go through those experiences, but on a lower scale than Jesus didand learn good and evil in the process. Jesus had to learn good and evil (meaning to experience them), and so do we. That is how he “learned obedience by the things which he suffered,” and was “made perfect through sufferings”and so do we. That is one of the purposes of mortality, and it was made possible by the Fall. 

We also have this interesting scripture from the New Testament:

1 Timothy 2:

14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

Adam strictly speaking didn’t sin. He was presented with a fait accompli. After Eve had partaken of the fruit, Adam was faced with a choice, to either abandon Eve to death and destruction—alone; or else to accompany her, to fulfill God’s commandment to multiply and replenish the earth; and endure the pains and hardship associated with the Fall and mortality for a higher purpose. He violated a law which carried certain unpleasant consequences; but it was the lesser of the two evils he was faced with. It was also a violation which entailed certain blessings in the long run, which could not have been obtained in any other way. Paul thinks that he made the right choice. That is the implication of 1 Tim. 2:14. And I agree with Paul. That is the correct answer to R.C. Sproul’s question.

Another mistake that R.C. Sproul (and others) make is that they assume that sinning necessarily implies some kind of innate predisposition to sin. That need not always be the case. One can also be deceived. In the case of Eve, it is evident that she was deceived. When God created Adam and Eve, he did not immunize them against all possible kinds of deception. Only God knows everything and cannot be deceived. Man can be; and all of us have been at one time or another.

Another thing that can cause people to sin, without necessarily having an innate predisposition to sin, is pride. They want to do what they want to do, rather than what somebody else wants them to do, including God. Why did Satan (and the angels who followed him) sin? (2 Peter 2:4.) Were they created with an innate predisposition to sin? If so, why didn’t they all sin? Why did some angels sin, and some didn’t? Did God create some angels with a predisposition to sin, and others without? If so, how does that square with the integrity of God in punishing them for sinning? Satan (and the spirits that followed him) fell through pride. Isaiah 14:12–16 explains how that happened. He became proud and rebelled against God. He wanted to dethrone God and take over. God didn’t manufacture him that way. He had the innate freedom to make that choice for himself, and he did. Calvinistic false doctrine of predestination and predetermination causes huge theological problems which Reformed theologians can’t solve and don’t even want to look at. God made man (and angels) “free, to choose liberty and eternal life, … or to choose captivity and death, …” (2 Nephi 2:27). If they decide to choose the latter course, that is their decision, not God’s.

Here are some interesting theological perspectives on the subject from modern LDS scripture (punctuation revised):

Moses 5:

4 And Adam and Eve his wife called upon the name of the Lord; and they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden speaking unto them; and they saw him not, for they were shut out from his presence.
5 And he gave unto them commandments that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks for an offering unto the Lord; and Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.
6 And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam saying, Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him, I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
7 And then the angel spake saying, This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.
8 Wherefore thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son; and thou shalt repent, and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.
9 And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son saying, I am the Only Begotten of the Father, from the beginning, henceforth and forever; that as thou hast fallen, thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.
10 And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth saying, Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.
11 And Eve his wife heard all these things and was glad saying, Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.
12 And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.
13 And Satan came among them saying, I am also a son of God. And he commanded them saying, Believe it not, and they believed it not, and they loved Satan more than God; and men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish.
14 And the Lord God called upon men by the Holy Ghost everywhere, and commanded them that they should repent;
15 And as many as believed in the Son, and repented of their sins should be saved; and as many as believed not, and repented not should be damned. And the words went forth out of the mouth of God in a firm decree; wherefore they must be fulfilled.

2 Nephi 2:

11 For it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore if it should be one body, it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

12 Wherefore it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes; and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.
13 And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness, there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness, there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not, there is no God. And if there is no God, we are not, neither the earth, for there could have been no creation of things—neither to act, nor to be acted upon. Wherefore all things must have vanished away.
14 And now my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are—both things to act, and things to be acted upon.
15 And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet, and the other bitter.
16 Wherefore the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.
17 And I Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God.
18 And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind. Wherefore he said unto Eve, yea even that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all lies; wherefore he said, Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die, but ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.
19 And after Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit, they were driven out of the garden of Eden to till the earth.
20 And they have brought forth children, yea even the family of all the earth.
21 And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore their state became a state of probation; and their time was lengthened according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost because of the transgression of their parents.
22 And now behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever and had no end.
23 And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence; having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
25 Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.
26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall, they have become free forever, knowing good from evil, to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.
27 Wherefore men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men; or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

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