[Moved from Forgotten Prophets]
1. Within the Gates of Eden
God had a plan when he created the universe. He created it to be perfect, but knew it would be ruined. He planned for that, too, and conformed it to his purpose (Eph 1:11). A chess master, then, and more: he controls the universe (Dan 4:35). This is a problem of course, if we give full credence to the idea of free will. There’s Adam in the Garden, staring at the Tree. He’s been warned, but we know how it works out. So did he have a choice? After all, God had a plan. Could Adam really have resisted the temptation? Indeed, wasn’t Eve the one who was really tempted? Adam didn’t even meet the serpent. Let’s consider the question: what if Adam had not eaten of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? – not sinned? – not Fallen?
For clarity, let's remember that sin did not enter the world through the woman, Eve. Only when the responsible head, Adam, sinned did all of creation first start to groan under the Fall. And I maintain that the curse falls through and is passed on by the male. So it is that Jesus was born without sin, since he had no earthly, fallen father to impart the sin nature to him. Mary gave Him a human body, and a human nature, but she could not give him a fallen nature.
We know this also through Ruth of Moab, whose great-grand son was David, king in spite of the fact that no child of Moab could enter the congregation of Israel until the tenth generation (Deut 23:3). The curse did not pass to David from the woman, Ruth. (It may be that six generations are omitted from the genealogy here, after the manner of Matt 1:1 – but the argument stands regardless, given Jesus’ unfallen human nature.) Eve sinned before Adam, but she fell with Adam, her disobedience becoming effectuated by him.
But was the test fair? Perhaps Adam was not just innocent, but ignorant - unqualified, unprepared, unequipped to face a challenge with such eternal consequences? He had intelligence, to name the animals and have dominion and speak with God, but did he have experience to draw upon, or wisdom? We know that Adam was not ignorant of God's plan – he says, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." Such words show an awareness of the social organization to come, as does the command to be fruitful and multiply. Further, he knew what “death” was, since he was warned about it, and was created with an understanding of language. Is God less a parent than we are? What was necessary, was provided – including an adequate understanding of language.
We’re given no time references for
It is no Paradise, however, to be eternally tempted. Is it a fair test, that never ends? If Adam choose to obey on one day, he could still disobey on a later day. Indeed, not a moment might pass without the possibility of Adam's fall. Or so it seems. The fallacy lies here: “righteousness” is not perfection – it is the resolute decision to do right. To an adult, playing the games of infancy holds no attraction. For Adam there should have come a point when obedience was no longer at question, but simply the thing to be done. The decision is made, and that's that. Honest people rarely entertain the idea of stealing. Faithful spouses do not generally consider plans for infidelity – such ideas may flit through the mind, but they are put away as a thing that is just not going to happen. It seems most reasonable that Adam faced a definite period of testing.
Which he failed. We are living the consequences of that failure. Was Adam therefore predestined to fail? Was his a test that could not be passed? No.
God will not allow anyone to be tempted beyond what he is able – with every temptation there is a way of escape (1 Cor ). In fact, frankly, honestly, doesn't it seem that the test Adam faced was, um, really easy? Pretty much a yes/no quiz, with just one question. God said, Don't eat that fruit – that one, right there. See it? Yes, that. Now, Adam, if you do eat it – that one, there, see? – you'll die. Understand? Good – now go do some yard work. There's lemonaid in the fridge.
But the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world (1 Pet , Rev 13:8). That means God knew sin would enter. And sin could enter only through the fall of man. The sin Satan brought with his previous rebellion did not affect the physical universe or the laws of nature (Gen 3:17-19). Indeed, the sins of angels seem to be unatonable (Mt 25:41, Heb ), which is a major difference between us and them. It is man's sin, not Satan's, that is atoned by Jesus, and it is man's sin that ruined the universe, since man was the responsible, the federal head of the universe. And if sin must enter the world by man, isn’t there a contradiction here, between free will and predestination.
Well, first, God is not the author of the Fall. When the King James says God causes 'evil' to befall men (Ex 32:14, Deut 29:21, Josh , 1 Sam , 1 K 9:9, Is 45:7, Jer 19:3), a more accurate translation would be 'calamity' or 'adversity' as judgment. 'Evil' does not mean only 'moral depravity', which God never causes. In any event, God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4). Ezekiel (28:15) tells us that sin was a choice of Lucifer, not placed in him by God, but found in him, like self-mutilation. If we choose to think of sin as a thing rather than as an act or a decision or a relationship, then that thing is manufactured out of self-will, by creatures, not the Creator.
Again, Jesus said “snares must come, but woe to that man by whom the snare comes." (Mt 18:7) The word for snares, or temptations, or stumbling blocks, was used for the spring of a trap, and is the root of our word 'scandal' and 'slander', as well as 'transcend'. Who it is that falls into the trap is not determined. The phrasing Jesus uses suggests only that temptation itself is predetermined, and that the object of temptation is not. The "Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God's purpose for themselves..." (Lk 7:30) – God had a righteous purpose for them, but they chose for themselves to reject it, and so became "ignoble vessels" (Rom ). God made ignoble vessels, but people make themselves into such vessels as well. Another paradox of free will. So, who brings the sin that must come, is open to choice. Just as it is a statistical impossibility for life to have 'just evolved' (yet somehow it just must have, right?), it is evidently equally as impossible that in all of humanity, no one would ever sin.
Well, turns out we didn't have long to wait. First oportunity, almost, and Adam brings the sin that must come. Big surprise. But if he had instead passed the test, he would have been eternally righteous, as the angels in heaven are eternally righteous, having faced and passed the test failed by Lucifer and his minions. Adam might then have had the glory for which we all yearn, and which some of us will attain, come the resurrection. Perhaps Adam, having passed the test, would have eaten the fruit of the Tree of Life and been given a resurrection body – after, of course, he had produced the full number of his children (since those who have a resurrection body are like the angels in heaven, neither marrying nor taking in marriage, Mt 22:30) Or perhaps he would have awaited his Rapture, cf. Enoch. Who can say.
But how would sin enter the world, if not through Adam?
2. Without a Ransom or Redeemer
Adam need not have sinned. But whether or not he had, he would have had other sons and daughters – presumably many (Gen 5:4). He was obedient at least in this commandment, of carnality. These children would have been born whether or not there was a Fall, since it was before the Fall that God commanded Adam to fruitfully multiply. If such children were born to a sinless Adam, they would have inherited no sin nature – they would have been born into the same righteous state that Adam was created. However, each of these hypothetical sinless children would also have been subject to testing. And since sin must come – so the ransom Jesus paid would not be paid in vain – one of them, or one of their line, would have been the first to sin, and so be the father of sinful humanity. Indeed, we do not have to search far along the family tree before we find a likely candidate for sin-bringer. Who else, but Cain.
Is this a solution to the predestined fall of man? What of the implications, of a humanity in which not all men would be fallen. If not fallen, then not in need of a Redeemer. Hm. That Jesus died for men is biblical, no matter interpretations – I see it as for all men. His sacrifice was made, once only, for those sins which resulted from the Fall, as Hebrews () says. It was made for those under the law, as Galatians (4:5) tells us. His atonement is only efficacious for what and whom it is efficacious, however. It was made to reconcile all things on earth and in heaven (
As for fallen angels, they cannot even accept forgiveness for their sins, since rebirth, and so forgiveness, comes only through the quickening of the Holy Spirit (Gal 4, Rom 8), and what accord has Christ with Belial, and what communion has light with darkness (2 Cor 6:14-15)? All creation groans, awaiting and hoping for His glory (Rom 8:19-22), but we read nowhere that Satan or his lot even wish to be reconciled. They anticipate, it seems, only torment and the abyss (Mt 8:29, 25:41; Lk 8:31; Rev 20:10). Fallen angels have no part in the Crucifixion They sinned and are judged and will be damned. Again, Jesus did not come as an angel, to redeem angels. He took on the nature of a man, to redeem man.
Unlike the Koran, the Bible doesn't claim to have been written before creation began, so if not all men needed salvation, then the ransom of Jesus' life would be paid only for those who needed it, and scripture would have reflected that. We would have, obviously, a somewhat different Bible. Is this impertinent? The Bible is not God, and could be different. It is the record of man's response to God's plan, and men can choose how they will respond. God, however, always was and will be just exactly as He is, and could never be otherwise, since He is perfect, eternal and unchanging. God, it would seem, is more subject to predestination than we are. In any case, He, like ourselves, is subject to His nature.
If there are unpleasant consequences to the idea that Adam need not have been the sin-bringer, consider the alternative, of his being predestined to fall, and thus without true choice. This would mean God not only allowed sin to come – which He did – but caused it, by allowing no other option for Adam. But if Adam had another option, then he might not have sinned, and so sin would have had to come through another. In this way, a righteous God authors a righteous plan.
Pursuing this line of speculation, one may wonder what would have happened to that supposed unfallen line of humans who were proved righteous. Since there would have been two ways to fall (by failing the test of those who were born innocent, or by being born to fallen parents), it can be assumed, through the analogy of epidemiology, that the 'virus' of sin would very quickly have spread throughout humanity, leaving, if any, only a remnant of the ‘Righteous”.
Would it be thinkable to have a troop of sinless humans living in this fallen world? I suspect, following this tenuous reasoning, that such people would have been in the category of Enoch – who walked with God and was not, for God took him. They would have been raptured and held until the Millennium, perhaps sometimes acting as, though not of course being, angels - coming to earth to perform certain tasks, as did Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration. (Both their bodies were taken to heaven - Jude 9, 2 Kings - presumably because they would be needed). And if taken, these hypothetical righteous people would have become as angels, neither marrying nor giving in marriage, thereby not producing any more 'Righteous Ones'. The Flood would have come, since wickedness would abound among the fallen; and it seems feasible, extending this fable one last step, that by this point the 'Righteous' would have been “caught up”.
All this is not idle theorizing only because it shows that God's plan must go forth, independent of the actions of any single person. All are sinners, up to the present, with the one exception of Jesus Christ. There is no such tribe of righteous men, and if there were, they would only be as we too will be, come the resurrection – not greater than we are, just older brothers. Where we bow down in awe of His gracious sacrifice for our redemption, they would bow down with equal awe at His gracious gift of their very lives.
Lest we speculate too far, I hasten to affirm that not one alone of this pretended, perfect family, nor all of them together, could have been a sacrifice sufficient to redeem the sins of the human race. Only Jesus could ever have made atonement, since only he is God, with infinite capacity to atone. One such righteous person, by laying down his life, could have made atonement for one sin of one fallen human, but that fallen person would still bear the damning guilt of his countless other sins. When we consider that everything not of faith is sin (Rom 14:3), that every sub-nanosecond fraction of every moment not of faith is sin, that all our righteousness is as filthy rags – then we remember that every individual's sin is orders of magnitude beyond any physical hope of atonement. No one death of any (or indeed every) mere creature however mighty can possibly ransom even a single man. But Jesus – no creature, but infinite God – died infinitely; his death was greater than all the contents of space and of time. In death, he was not infinitely annihilated, but utterly "forsaken"; God the Son separated from God the Father, and Son of Man from body of man.
The only atonement for humanity not of Jesus Christ could perhaps have come from Adam himself. How? If instead of deliberately sinning he had remained obedient to God, and if at that crucial moment when Eve had eaten and he had not, Adam had offered to lay down his own life as a substitute for Eve – then his one death might have atoned for her one sin. There was a small window of time when only one sin had been committed by all of humanity – of both humans. At this moment, Adam’s life might have been sufficient. So he would have redeemed his bride with his life, as Christ, the Last Adam, does redeem His Bride with his life.
How then would Adam have been resurrected? His righteous choice might have made him an acceptable sin offering, and Eve might have been redeemed from the claim of death by his sacrificial blood, but how would Adam himself have been ransomed from the fact of death? The offering still ends up dead, for all that it is spotless. Jesus indeed raised himself (Jn ,21; – proving incidentally that death is not annihilation, as some cults would have it), but Adam had no such power, and in himself possessed no claim to resurrection. Any putative resurrection of lonely Adam would have had to come by the justification and example of the man Christ Jesus, the Firstfruit from death. Christ’s resurrection was the victory over death by a man, for all that he was also God. Death needed to be conquered by a man, but Adam was not sufficient to win victory over even his own death.
However, Adam might have been raised after the manner of Isaac, had he been slain – Abraham's understanding was that his obedience would result in Isaac's resurrection (Heb ). If so, Adam would have been raised as Lazarus was, in a 'soulish' body of flesh and blood so he could still father children, father humanity – and not into an immortal, bloodless, spiritual (as opposed to 'soulish' – 1 Cor 15:44), flesh and bone resurrection body such as Jesus had (Lk 24:39, Eph 5:30; compare with the use of "flesh and blood" in Mt 16:17, Jn 1:13, 1 Cor 15:50, Gal 1:16, Eph 6:12, and Heb 2:14 with its past tense).
Returning to the larger theme, what shall we make of God's cursing the very ground, matter itself, because of Adam's sin? If not he, but someone else, had sinned, would there have been any cursing at all? – even of the serpent who tempted Eve? And if some cursing, would it have extended to all of creation? Genesis (3:14) implies that all beasts are cursed, the serpent most of all. Because Adam was the responsible head, and sinned, all creation suffers (Rom , 22), and waits now with expectation and hope. But could it be that independent of Adam, the serpent (as a sort of representative) earned futility for itself and for creation also? If so, it would have been Satan, not man, who brought sin into the world, so the man Christ Jesus could not have redeemed it (only an angel Jesus) – clearly an unacceptable proposition. Clearly, it was after Satan’s fall - not because of it - that the beasts and the ground were cursed, and the Fall was actually brought into effect by the sin of some man. That man happened to be Adam, but might have been some other. And that other man's household, what he was responsible for, would have been cursed. And that cursed ground would have polluted the rest of the world, as corruption always spreads– a little will leaven the whole lump (Mt 13:33). The Fall, the introduction of entropy into the universe, would have spread like infection, rather than descended as a curse.
This speculation intrudes far into the land of “what if”, but my point is that if any other redeeming were needed, not Adam nor any mere creature would have been sufficient. Ultimately, any conjecture must give way to the fact that there is no ransom from the penalty of sin save by the blood of Christ.
My, frightening isn’t it. So much thought about things that never happened. Well, that’s what it’s like to be inside my head – like the universe itself, mostly hollow, a few bright spots and lots of darkness. But I’ve got one final thought. Why did Adam do it? Why did he disobey? He wasn’t deceived. He knew the cost, yet went ahead and ate. Deliberately. Having been warned, and aware of the effect. So why did he take that fruit from Eve and eat it?
Well, he’d been alone, hadn’t he. He’d been without Eve. He’d known solitude. Walked with God in the cool of the day, but it wasn’t enough. He needed Eve. God did not complete him. Eve did. And when Adam found Eve, her face sticky with juice … imagine his horror. His blood ran cold. It is then, and not after, that he lost everything. Because she was everything. And he could not bear to see her die, and he could not bear to live out eternity alone, without her, sleeping in Sheol as she would. And she would be alone. So he reached out his hand, and took the poison from her grasp, and raised it to his lips and ate. He joined her in death, deliberately.
Adam’s sin wasn’t in eating the fruit. It was in loving Eve more than he loved God.
But isn’t that all of us.