How does the first sin fit with God's Sovereignty?
The information for this summary I obtained from the
to Light Ministry website - an excellent and very comprehensive site with
information on Predestination, other theology, cults, etc..
There are three main explanations given by different Calvinists to explain
God's command in Genesis 3:3 with regards to His sovereignty and foreknowledge
and ordaining of history and 'free will'.
- Some Calvinists say that this command should be regarded just the same as
all other commands spoken by God. God gives us commands to show us His will
and how He wants us to live out our lives. As we are sinners God's commands
are to show us that, and they are a means to bring us to repentance. As Adam
and Eve were sinless the command was to show them what sin was, humanity's
(their) complete need for God in their lives, and that an aspect of their
relation to Him is being under Him - a loving relationship yet He is God and
- Some other Calvinists say that Adam and Eve did actually have a free will
before the Fall (also called the 'power of contrary choice'). They say this
because Adam and Eve were created perfect by God so before the Fall they cannot
have had a sinful nature. But Adam and Eve freely chose to disobey God, having
disastrous effects for both them and all of humanity - they have a sinful
nature. God looked at time after The Fall, saw that all of humanity was sinful
and decided to save some - elect a few to Salvation. Calvinists who believe
this are called 'Low Calvinists' or 'Infralapsarians'.
- The third group of Calvinists say that Adam and Eve's disobeying of Genesis
3:3 was predestined to occur by God. Therefore Adam and Eve did not have a
free will, or at least their will was restricted with regards to eating from
the Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil. This command was just like the
commands we receive from God as described in the first point above. The first
sin was predestined by God to bring into place HIs plan for Salvation. Calvinists
who believe this are called 'High-Calvinists', or 'Supralapsarians'.
I would say that both the second and third explanations are both possible.
I am inclined towards the third, but as yet I am undecided. My reasons for this
are as follows (progressive):
- As explained in my page on The
Fall, a person's will cannot remain in a state of indifference/equilibrium
after making a choice.
- As God created creation perfect, Adam and Eve were righteous, so they were
wholly inclined towards righteousness and all their choices, decisions and
actions before The Fall were righteous and never sinful. Their will was not
in a state of equillibrium because of its strong leaning towards righteousness
- but they did have 'the power of contrary choice'.
- They lived their lives sinless and wholly inclined towards righteousness,
but they were still able to sin - the opposite to the unregenerate now who
are wholly inclined towards sin, but can do some good (but nothing spiritually
good which will result in their salvation).
- God knew they would sin before they did. He was not taken by surprise and
had planned all of earth's history afterwards as a result of their sin. He
did not need a plan for if they did not sin - it was unnecessary as He would
be planning for an occurance which He new wouldn't happen. So the second reason
may or may not undermine God's Sovereignty, on this I am not sure.
- But possibly God fore-ordained their sin (without taking responsibility
for it) as it may be that the plan involving Salvation for our sins through
Christ brings us to the closest and best relationship with Him. If this were
so, then God knew that sin and Salvation would be the best plan in the end.
Our sins bring us to a deep appreciation and love for God when we realise
His Mercy and everything He has done for us. God plan for creation including
the original sin would have been because He knew this would be the best way
to show all of His nature - Mercy, Justice etc - His Glory being best shown
through the way He responds to us as sinners (Rom 9).
The (slight) appearance to me in the second reason of God not being in control,
and (in my fifth point) that God may have planned to allow sin to enter at the
time and in the way it did so that He can be glorified in the best way, causes
me to be inclined towards the third reason. Having the first sin completely
out of God's control not only appears to undermine God's Sovereignty (but again
on this I'm not sure) but it also suggests that Adam and Eve acting differently
then could cause God to be glorified more through His actions in that, different,
history. The idea that God could be glorified more in a different history suggests
to me that God is restricted in how much glory He can receive from creation
(but this is conjecture - I'm certain God would be supreme regardless of what
happened). It is for these reasons that I am inclined towards the third explanation,
but the reasons could be flawed, and Scripture doesn't teach one explanation,
or strongly imply one (as far as I've found). It is Scripture's teaching of
God's supreme Sovereignty and control over creation (including history as God
created time) causes me to think that God was in control over the occurance
of the original sin and its causes. Despite my saying there is a slight appearance
of God not being in control, the second reason, when explained well, can show
God as not being 'taken by surprise' and not in any way undermine His authority.
Yet it is probably very clear that I am not sure on this issue, but inclined
towards the third explanation having the first sin within God's plan.