When Christians talk about “the Fall,” they aren’t referring to Autumn. The Fall in Christian theology is a reference to the sin of Adam and Eve which resulted in their receiving a sinful nature. This caused a rift between humanity and God that only the death and resurrection of Jesus could rectify. As Paul wrote, “For our sake he [i.e. God] made him [i.e. Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him [i.e. in Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). But this theology leaves a lot of unanswered questions, the first and foremost being, “Why did God allow it to happen?”
Over at the Gospel Coalition website, James Anderson has written a post exploring that issue. Thankfully, he begins by acknowledging that “free will” is not a good answer: “One popular answer among Christians is superficial and deeply flawed. It says God allowed the fall because he wanted to make room for human free will.” He then offers three points as to why it is such a bad answer.
- Having free will does not necessarily entail the possibility of doing evil. God has free will, is morally virtuous, and can enter into meaningful relationships, yet it’s impossible for him to do evil. Couldn’t God have granted the same kind of non-evildoing freedom to us?
- Christians generally agree that God foreknew Adam would sin. But did God foreordain it? If we answer no, because we think human free choices are beyond God’s control, it makes little sense to ask why God permitted Adam’s sin. Any future event God foreknows must be already settled, such that not even God can change it. It’s “too late” for God to either prevent or permit it.
- The Bible makes clear that human free choices are not beyond God’s sovereign control (Gen. 50:20; Ezra 1:1; Prov. 21:1; Acts 4:27–28; Eph. 1:11). It was within God’s power to ensure that Adam freely obeyed rather than disobeyed. Hence, it was within God’s power to give Adam free will and to ensure that Adam did not fall, which means God must have had some other reason for allowing the fall than merely a desire to bestow free will on his creatures.
I agree with all these points and I think that if you think these things through you will realize how utterly void of any meaning “the Fall” is. But the response Anderson does give as to why God let the Fall happened is bewildering. Reasoning from 18th century minister Jonathan Edwards, Anderson claims that everything God does is ultimately for his own glory. And on that basis, we can speculate as to why God allowed the Fall.
One might think an unfallen creation would be preferable to a fallen creation—and all else being equal, that’s true. But all else is not equal, for our world is not merely a fallen creation. It’s a fallen creation into which the eternal Son of God has entered, taking on human nature, perfectly expressing God’s likeness in our midst, living a morally flawless life, making atonement for our sins through his sacrificial death, rising in triumph from the grave, and ascending into heaven, where he continually intercedes and secures for us an eternal joyful dwelling-place in God’s presence.
A world with no fall and no salvation is altogether less God-glorifying than a world with a tragic fall but also a wondrous salvation.
So the best possible world God could have created – one in which he is most glorified – was one where humanity sinned and Jesus came to provide salvation? Are we to believe that all the horror that has been unleashed on humanity from volcanic eruptions that wipe out entire towns to the kidnapping, raping, and murdering of children make the Fall worthwhile because Jesus came? If Christian theology is true, the Fall resulted in millions if not billions of people dying and going into hell to suffer forever. Had Adam and Eve not sinned, that would not have happened. Surely a good God would be more glorious if he did not allow those whom he made to suffer forever.
Wouldn’t that showcase his magnificence?
Featured image: By Raphael – The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=157715