God's plan in the fall of man

Yesterday I was at a loss at to what to blog on. A frequent complaint of bloggers. Unless you’re a Tumblr user, in which case original content is never an issue.

Anyway, I was speaking with a friend when he presented me with this interesting statement:

I posit that the Fall was intended: The whole setup was so that humanity has the option of embracing God or denying him. This is because, as I see it, if we were programmed to do nought but Good from birth to death, that good would have no meaning. It’s having the choice to love God or not that makes choosing good matter, and for this to happen there needed to be an opposition.

Did God engineer the Fall?

Genesis 2 :15-17 features the first command in the whole of scripture. A prohibition is woven into the fabric of the experience of humanity, the prohibition against seeking autonomy and self exultation.

The very fact that God did permit such a choice in creation at least leaves the possibility of the occurrence of evil. So, one could say God passively permits the Fall. He wasn’t present when Adam and Eve sinned (Gen 3:6) but apparently felt justified in calling them to account for their actions (Gen 3:11).

So, is there an entity with which God is fighting? An entity whom God can’t stop, but can reprimand those who obey it?

This would make Evil an equal and opposite force. It would necessitate another god.

What if God did orchestrate the Fall?

Immediately one might feel moral outrage at such a notion: Subjecting the whole of creation to judgement for a crime it was set up to commit? All those souls wasted? All those lives lost to sickness and oppression?

Yes, this thought fills us with moral indignation.

How dare he! How dare God do such a thing!

Paul of Tarsus proposed a God who makes decisions to show favour upon one person over another despite there being no difference between the two (Romans 9:11-13). Anticipating moral outrage, he responds:

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Romans 9:14-15)

So if God is totally righteous in choosing Jacob over Esau, is he not equally just in planning the fall of all creation?

As I see it, the Bible consistently argues the nature and glory of God is reason enough for any of God’s actions. He needs no higher motive than himself.

My friend posits that giving significance to moral law is God’s ultimate purpose in the Fall of man:

This is because, as I see it, if we were programmed to do nought but Good from birth to death, that good would have no meaning.

Therefore God’s purpose is to give definition and meaning to justice; to give consequence and structure to right and wrong.

Therefore God exists to serve justice?

If God’s purpose in the Fall was to give meaning to the concepts of Good and Evil, God would no longer be God. Justice would be God and Yahweh would then exist to serve it.

Paul reasoned that God chose Jacob over Esau ‘in order that God’s purpose of election might continue’.

What then was God’s purpose in election?

You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex 19:6)

God chose Jacob, later renamed Israel, so that they would glorify him and serve his purposes.

The Exodus was one act in the great drama of redemptive history. This is the story of God, his revelation to all creation and the display of his glory. In that story, Israel was elected for a specific role: To be priests, set apart to show the world the character of God. Indeed, Peter believed this was the purpose of the Church also (1 Peter 2:9) that through their actions and words they would display the character of God for all the world to see.

If this is God’s purpose in redemptive history, are we to suppose that he only gained this purpose after the Fall?

That would mean God was caught unawares by the Fall and thus make him less than God.

On the one hand we have God as a servant of Justice, on the other his whole purpose is altered by circumstance.

No, for God to be God he must be consistent on one level.

I posit, therefore, that God orchestrated the Fall that his glory might be displayed and beheld. He gave humanity the choice of rejoicing in him or rejoicing in themselves in order that God’s glory might be seen to be the highest good and most wonderful beauty enjoyable. For this purpose to be fulfilled, God deemed it acceptable that creation fall in order that he could show his worth and power.

Finally, if there was no Fall there would have been no revelation of Christ, the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15).

Yes, the Fall set the stage for Salvation. This seems to be the way in which God wants to show himself to us. This is the cosmic drama we find ourselves in.

God was not defeated by Evil at the Fall.

This is deep mystery, that God could permit the unleashing of unimaginable evil at the hands of those who reject God as their only source of security and joy and life and seek to put themselves in his place.

Deeper mystery still, that God could make a full and complete display of his magnificence in such a world as ours.

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  1. Thought I’d add the first mini part of my dissertation here, not sure how many errors are there, if you want to know where the quotes come from just ask. You can always help improve it lol. 😛

    Prohibition – What and Why?

    The first questions to be addressed are, what specifically is the prohibition and why is it given? Little information is given on these issues in the text and for Humphreys this lack of information causes concern that must be addressed in order to fully understand what is happening. He writes, ‘the narrator’s silence about Yahweh God’s motives and ha’adam’s reactions at this point leaves us with nagging questions and uncertainties. We cannot too readily dismiss the impression that the command seems arbitrary, a demand for unquestioning obedience to a prohibition for which no reason is given, one that on the face of it makes no sense ’. No reasoning is found behind the prohibition in the biblical text, the only hint is to be found in the name given to the tree. The ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ (2:9,17) was placed in the garden and Adam was forbidden to eat from it, no more description is given as to the properties of the tree apart from the serpents assertion that ‘your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’ (3:5) Hartley writes, ‘“good and evil” often have a moral connotation, the issue at stake was moral knowledge…the prerogative of determining what was good and what was evil’ . The tree in this view point neither contained anything unique nor had transformational properties in itself, but was prohibited to provide a situation in which humanity would decide if they would create their own moral guide or adhere to their creator. Brueggemann comments, ‘there is a prohibition (v.17), nothing is explained. The story has no interest in the character of the tree. What counts is the fact of the prohibition, the authority of the one who speaks and the unqualified expectation of obedience . Brueggemann agrees here with Hartley’s viewpoint that the prohibition was the important point, though he does not draw any significance from the tree, or the name of the tree. For him, the prohibition should not be separated from the vocation and permission found in the passage but should be held together displaying a paradigm for humanity. This view is further developed by Kidner who writes, ‘For his spiritual awakening, since he is made in God’s image, he is given a divine word, double-edged…The animals with no such capacity and no such charge, are in contended bondage to their surroundings, their behaviour a product of inborn and incoming urges…his yes or no could be motivated by love . God has given humanity a choice that was not given to the animals, they are given access to a multitude of fruit and trees but one exception exists. Through this humanity were able to provide a demonstration of their commitment to God, showing the love that exists in the relationship. Hartley writes, By giving humans such a prohibition, God was mercifully providing them a tangible symbol of their moral nature. Some people argue, however, that the presence of this tree made it impossible for humans not to sin, given the human proclivity to do what is prohibited . The tree is set in the garden to enable a true relationship between humans and God, allowing them to choose their own destiny. The mercy of God and the love of humanity are both found as part of the prohibition that is found with permission and can be seen as the motivation behind the existence of the prohibition, giving an opportunity for the tangible manifestation of both. Though some say that it was impossible for humans not to sin, this standpoint is not supported through the Genesis account. Ross sums up this prohibition stating, ‘[God] set them in a beautiful garden to be his obedient servants, warning them that if they disobeyed his word, there would be death ’. God has provided abundantly for humanity and in return asks for obedience and love.

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    • I think you’re spot on with the meaning of the tree and the fruit. I have a vague recollection of Firth also advocating this view. We may get this mystical, almost magical understanding of the fruit of the tree from pagan mythology, when it seems in the Bible and even in the Old Testament mindset, the action or experience was the essence of the matter. By this I mean that the fruit has no power in itself, but in the act of eating in humanity experiences and thus knows good from evil.

      It is perfectly plausible that the Fall might not have happened. The story in no way forces humanity to sin, though in their sin I see God’s design and overarching intention for that action.

      Is that a dualism? I don’t think it is.

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  2. I think there is something here that rings untrue. Or at least smells suspicious.

    There is no mention of ‘fall’ in the actual Biblical text. We have assumed that the change of relationship between God and man so well expressed by Patrick is one from perfection (perfect is another word not used) to imperfection. What if it was simply a development in an ever unfolding story between Creator God and humanity? What if there is no intention on God’s part but to simply be alongside their creation?

    If this development had not happened, it does not necessarily mean Christ would not have been invisible God made visible, for could God not choose to be visible even more so had we maintained a healthy relationship with him?

    Whether or not Christ would have suffered and died is another matter. I have a feeling that at the time he would have preferred not to.

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    • There is no mention of the ‘Trinity’ in the Bible either. Are we to say that God is not a Trinity because of that?

      Paul said we are ‘Dead in trespasses and sins’ in Ephesians 2:1. Genesis 3 sees the introduction of death and suffering and futility to the creation, a theme picked up on in Romans 8:20.

      If creation were not ‘fallen’, why would Christ refer to the ‘renewal of all things’ in Matthew 19:28 or ‘Behold, I am making all things new’ in Revelation 21:5?

      So to call the change in relationship between humanity and God in Genesis 3 ‘a development’ is something of an understatement!

      And if God’s sole intention is simply to be alongside his creation, how exactly is he God? Surly to be God he needs to be sovereign.

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