Back to the Garden

apple-3721206_1280This month, my blog enters into its second year. It’s readers come from 20 countries on every continent except Antarctica. Thanks to all who have read, liked, shared, and commented on my articles. The more feedback, the better.

Over the year, we have made several trips to the Garden of Eden. In light of the last few articles, I want to go there at least one more time.

When Adam sinned, he did so from a condition of perfection.

Before Adam sinned, he knew nothing of sin. His nature was unfallen. He had no experience with disobedience nor any modeling of it from any source within his culture. The only interpersonal relationship he had on a regular basis, other than with Eve, who also was perfect, was with God himself – the Lord of all Creation and the archetype of righteousness.

Of course, Adam’s culture changed when Satan – himself a novice at the temptation of humans, though inexpressibly and universally successful on his very first attempt – made his appearance in the Garden in the form of the serpent.[1]

Even with such a nature and inheritance of righteousness, upon the first opportunity to express his will in a case calling for a moral decision, seemingly without hesitation or argument, Adam chose to reject the very God who created and nourished him. Even though he possessed an unfallen nature and derived from an uncorrupted environment, when given the choice, Adam chose personal pride over personal perfection and rebellion against God instead of the righteousness of God.

With his eyes wide open to the consequences of his actions, Adam found it impossible to exercise his free will in the direction of righteousness when left to his own devices and apart from the direct influence of God.

Yet today there are those who insist that salvation ultimately turns on a man’s expression of his free will. God may only offer the gift of salvation. Man will determine the effectiveness of the offer by the exercise of his free will.

This is the same man whose nature, unlike that of Adam’s, is already corrupted by sin from the moment of conception. This is the same man whose environment and culture, unlike that of Adam’s, are equally corrupted as a result of the Fall. This is the same man who, unlike Adam, is surrounded and nurtured by people of the same corrupt nature as himself.

According to this doctrine, man’s salvation is dependent upon his making a free will decision in favor of righteousness – a decision that, by its very definition, cannot be directly affected by any external constraint, including that of God.

God may bring positive and righteous influence into the man’s life. He may have him born into a Christian family, surround him with Christian friends, and manipulate the events of his life so that everything brings the man to the very brink of a decision for salvation. Yet God is powerless – by nature or by design – to move the man past that point. God’s will is thus effectively blocked by the free will of man.

For God to intentionally and willfully and unilaterally move the man from a condition of certain eternal damnation into a state of eternal life would be immoral – and therefore sinful – on God’s part if such a move was in violation of the man’s will.

Since God is perfect and cannot sin, then the free will of broken, corrupt, and condemned man is effectively equal to or more powerful than the will of an infinite, holy, and righteous God. If such an assessment is true – if the power of man’s will is equal to or greater than the power of God’s will – then God cannot be omnipotent.

Yet, God is omnipotent.

And in spite of the apparent contradiction, there is a solution.


NOTES

[1] Note that Adam never had a conversation with the serpent – with Satan. Satan never attempted to deceive Adam. Adam never bought into the lie that the fruit would make him wise or that he would become like God. Adam ate of the fruit with his eyes wide open to the consequence of death that awaited him and Eve for doing so. His sin was not so much that of pride as it was of idolatry where he was the object of his own worship. He listened to the voice of his wife over that of God.

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