I ran across a discussion on another blog site, thanks to a link from my friend Nate at Finding Truth, which revolved around the following questions:
If evil and sin are the result of mankind’s free will, then why is it that people in heaven will have free will, but not sin? God made angels, and they do not sin. Why could it not be the case that God could have made humans that do not sin?
In an attempt to answer, the writer drew heavily on a Christian apologist named Norman Geisler involving an examination of how our ‘freedom’ will be perfected in heaven and giving analogies of what it would be like to truly live in the presence of God. It was a gallant, if insufficient, effort to answer some incredibly complex questions. If you’d like to weigh in on the discussion, the link can be found here.
Unfortunately not addressed were some fundamental concerns I had within the questions themselves.
“God made angels, and they do not sin. Why could it not be the case that God could have made humans that do not sin?”
God made angels, and they do not sin? Yes, yes they did. A third of them. Along with one in particular named Lucifer. They ended up being kicked out of heaven. Down here. Among us.
“Why could it not be the case that God could have made humans that do not sin?”
Quite possibly, he did.
So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply….Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!
I do not believe sin was originally found within the hearts of the first man and woman, created “in his own image”, when God “saw that it was very good”.
Here’s the way I see it: There is a difference between the idea of God making humans that “do not” sin and making us “incapable” of sin, or that we “can not” sin. What is sin other than submission in temptation to do ‘evil’, ‘wrong’, or ‘harm’, either to one’s self, one’s fellow man, or one’s God. What would happen if you were to remove the temptation? You see, I firmly believe we can remain capable of sin yet not sin. Maybe not in the particular world circumstances we’re presently surrounded by, but a little more on that later . . .
Was “evil and sin…the result of mankind’s free will”?
Back to Scripture!!
Genesis 3: 1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
Okay let’s stop right there. What do you see? Has man’s free will been apparent thus far? Yes, in glorious, full-color, living display. Yet, what do we see right here? (And let’s move beyond the believability of a talking snake. If you’ve already read that God created the entire universe, the world, and all living things in six days, out of nothing, then the possibility of Satan being able to take the form of a talking serpent shouldn’t be that much of a stretch. Spoiler Alert! Later on in scripture, there’s a talking donkey! Moving on . . . )
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Again, let’s hold up a second. What is the Evil One doing here (besides lying)? What is he arousing within Eve, and how is that affecting her free will? Well . . . .
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Moving beyond Eve, what do you see in Adam here? Passivity? Submission? Acceptance? After all: He’s. Standing. Right. There! The whole time! It’s not Eve’s decision that causes the fall of mankind, it was Adam’s. The passivity in not standing up; either to the Evil One, or to his wife. The submission and resignation to their fate—choosing to fall into temptation and sin with his wife rather than abide in the word and remain in God. After all, there was a brief moment there when Eve had fallen to sin and Adam had not. Eve was tempted into sin. Adam freely chose it. Free choice. Free will.
Was evil and sin (within man, at least) the result of mankind’s free will? Absolutely.
Was it free will alone? Absolutely not.
Later on in Genesis 3 you read that Eve tried to shift the blame to the snake, and Adam tried to shift the blame . . . to God! There’s a whooooolllle bunch going on here that led mankind into evil and sin above and beyond his free will, all pointing back to one overriding factor: Evil and sin (temptation) were present long before Adam or Eve ever fell victim to them.
Did God create this evil?
Why did a third of the angels choose to follow Lucifer? Free will?
Why did Lucifer choose to rebel?
Are we just pawns and foot-soldiers in this spiritual warfare of good and evil; ultimately played out, not for humanity’s sake, but for the sake of the angels and principalities in the heavenly realms (and below)?
These are questions best left for scholarly minds greater than mine. And I certainly wouldn’t want to poke the bear now would I?? 😉
Personally, I think the bigger question relevant to our discussion here, and a more apt question to ask the apologetic scholar at the beginning, is, “What effect will the absence of Evil and the removal of temptation have to people’s free will in heaven?” After all, this is the world promised to us in Revelation and elsewhere in scripture. In other words, what would the Garden of Eden have been like for Adam, Eve, and all their descendants, without the talking snake?
Genesis 1: 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
For what is heaven but the absence of evil (including Satan and his influence)?
And, what is hell but the absence of good (including God and his influence)?