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Adam and Eve, when they were created in the Garden of Eden, were without sin. Because of that, they were perfect and flawless.

However, with that theology in mind, I'm running up against a wall: Why, if Adam and Eve were perfect, did they choose to sin?

Were they not perfect?

If we presume that they weren't perfect, then we have to see that God created them with the imperfection. If God created them as imperfect, would that mean that by creating us this way he caused us to sin?

(Being omniscient, he knew full well that if he created us to sin then we would sin. Therefore wouldn't his act of creation be the cause of the sin?) Finally, if he created us to sin, can God be held accountable for this sin?

Were they perfect?

Or, rather, did God create them as perfect and they chose imperfection? If Adam and Eve chose imperfection, how could they be considered perfect?

My question, in summary

Are there any doctrines that speak to the perfection or imperfection of Adam and Eve (particularly in regards to why they chose to sin)?

If the doctrine claims Adam and Eve were perfect, how do they reconcile this with them choosing imperfection (since that would indicate they were imperfect from creation)?

If the doctrine claims that Adam and Eve were imperfect, how do they reconcile this with the idea that God created imperfect beings? Furthermore, does that doctrine hold that God is partially responsible for the sins that Adam and Eve committed since he knew that they would commit the sin and chose to create them anyways?

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For a complete answer, good definitions are indispensable. There are all kinds of possible implications and meanings in the word 'perfect.' What I think of as perfection off the top of my head might not even be relevant to the question. It's important to notice that the scripture reads, 'God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.' Can you elaborate on exactly what you mean by perfect? –  jnm2 Sep 1 '11 at 1:59
    
And +1 for an excellent question! –  jnm2 Sep 1 '11 at 2:02
    
The only problem is that the word will very easily be used in two different places to mean two slightly different things, which can make a complete answer as difficult as keeping track of all your puzzle pieces when you color them the same shade. In other words, it helps if the terms of the question make important distinctions easy to see. One question I have right away: when you say 'without sin,' do you mean that they had not sinned up to that point, or that they were not predisposed to sin, or that they were in fact predisposed to not sin? –  jnm2 Sep 1 '11 at 2:50
    
I don't believe the bible said that they were 'perfect,' they were probably just as we are today. Plus, the devil persuaded Adam to. –  James Litewski Sep 3 '11 at 1:43
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Probably? Do you base your faith on a series of guesses? The Bible tells us quite a few things about Adam including that he was "very good" (when he created Him) and we can deduce from the fact that his first sin was a big deal that prior to that he had not sinned. What other definition of perfect are we looking for other than being without sin? –  Caleb Sep 3 '11 at 16:48

15 Answers 15

up vote 37 down vote accepted

Existing in a perfect state did not deprive Adam and Eve of Free Will. Genesis 3:4-5 tells us that the serpent firstly modified God's Word by promising Eve that by taking of the forbidden fruit she would not surely die. Second, he enticed her with the promise of knowledge (knowing good and evil).

Genesis 3:4-5 (KJV) And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

You might say that Eve was led into believing that the serpent was showing her a "fast-track" way to become closer to God.

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+1 Excellent! I like that you attack the mistaken assumption that perfection prevents free will. I really think that this is the key to completely answering the questions. –  Richard Aug 31 '11 at 18:21
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Rather, a fast-track way to becoming like God. –  Lawrence Dol Sep 1 '11 at 2:21
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We are taught to be more like God, more loving etc, and not to distrust people. And it's in our nature so the serpent knew exactly how to affect Eve. Reading this makes God seem quite selfish, not wanting anyone else to become no the difference between good and evil. One could argue that if you don't know the difference between good and evil you don't really have free will. –  Jonathan. Sep 5 '11 at 22:48
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This a flawed argument. If Eve were perfect, she wouldn't have been deceived by the serpent. And if eating the fruit would make them more like God, which is perfect, that means they (A+E) werent' perfect to begin with. Although a better question is, why was the knowledge of good and evil withheld from Adam and Eve in the first place? –  user729 Oct 3 '11 at 4:47
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More succinctly, a perfect being cannot make imperfect choices, free will or not. "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit" (Matthew 7:18). –  user729 Oct 3 '11 at 5:03

Nowhere in the bible does it say that adam and eve were perfect. The bible does call them good, and even very good. But nowhere does it say they were perfect, perfection belongs to GOD alone. Apparently to be good or even very good does not deprive one of the possibility of choosing to rebel against GOD. I think the whole issue with how is it that Adam and eve sinned is because we wrongfully attribute them as being perfect, but let us not then call them imperfect either, they were deemed good and very good by GOD.

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You may be right that we shouldn't call them perfect, but you haven't answered the question. Can you explain why they choose to go from merely being able to rebel to wanting to rebel? –  curiousdannii May 30 at 8:21

I'll take a shot here, as I've thought about this quite a bit. Feel free to point out anything that doesn't mesh with the bible in some way!

As my current belief and understanding goes, God created Adam and Eve as perfect beings in His image, but also with free will. Without this crucial component, no human would have been choosing to love Him, and (to pull from a book I read*) love compelled is not love at all. The true way we glorify Him is, having been given the choice to rebel, we freely choose to submit to His rule and worship Him.

As to exactly WHY Adam and Eve sinned, I'm not sure I can answer that specific beyond a "they were tempted by Satan and made the wrong choice"; Bob's answer covers this aspect quite well. You'll just have to wait for heaven to see if they're there to ask them! (which gives me an idea...)

*=this is the book I was referring to (The Heart of the Chronicles of Narnia). I highly recommend it, as it helped explain to me several key concepts that should really have been obvious in retrospect but I was totally missing up to that point. :)

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I'm not familiar with that book but you may be interested by C.S. Lewis (the author of Narnia) author book Perelandra which is basically a reenactment of Garden of Eden story.... Sorry for the off-topic remark... –  Alexandre Jasmin Sep 1 '11 at 0:08
    
@Alexandre: I've read the entire Perelandra trilogy (if it's the one I'm thinking of, and i'm pretty sure it is) and it's quite good. –  RCIX Sep 1 '11 at 1:56
    
It's the space trilogy. An interesting series of christian science fiction novels. I never read Narnia though. –  Alexandre Jasmin Sep 1 '11 at 2:24
    
@Alexandre: You're missing out on quite a good series then! By no means do you have to read the series to understand the book I linked, but you'll get heavily spoilered if you do. (Not totally sure I'd classify the space trilogy as science fiction, but then I think i have a somewhat narrow definition of scifi >.>) –  RCIX Sep 3 '11 at 18:26

Don't confuse sinlessness with perfection. Adam and Eve were sinless as newborn children are sinless, innocent and without understanding, not having ever actually committed any sins. But perfection implies more than simply flawlessness; it also requires completion.

When Jesus commanded us to be perfect, he said even as the Father is perfect, not as Adam and Eve had been before the Fall. What's the essential difference?

We get at least one part of it from the Serpent's temptation of Eve: God is not like them because God has knowledge of good and evil, and gaining this knowledge was supposed to make them like God. But he neglected to mention the whole "losing your state of sinlessness" part, of course.

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Sin is more than a specific action, it is a state of being -- a corrupt nature. You can't draw a comparison between Adam and babies like that because babies inherit the sinful nature of post-fall Adam. –  Caleb Sep 3 '11 at 19:45
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@Caleb: Where in the world are you getting those doctrines from? John says that "sin is the transgression of the law," in other words, a specific act, not a state of being. And nowhere does the Bible say that newborn children are born in sin. In fact, Jesus himself said (of children far older than infants!) that "of such is the kingdom of heaven" and those who wished to get in would have to become like the little children. –  Mason Wheeler Oct 3 '11 at 4:16
    
@MasonWheeler: David claims he was sinful at birth in Psalm 51 but this could be a mistranslation in the NIV. The same word is also translated as pain, formed, dance, etc... –  styfle Feb 25 '13 at 8:30

Essentially what is being asked here (and, if I may be so bold, reframe the question), is if Adam and Eve were perfect how could they sin? How can beings who are created perfect sin? God is perfect but He cannot sin nor can He be tempted to sin. We infer from Ezekiel (assuming this really is referring to the Devil (aka Satan aka Lucifer?) was perfect in all his ways from his creation (Ezek. 28:15) yet he sinned. The Son of God, the second Adam, became man. He was “without sin” yet He was able to sin since He was subjected to the Temptation. What, then, is the implication upon God if a perfect being can sin? If perfect beings can sin then is God who is, after all, Sovereign, responsible for creating them with that potential?

The essential facts (drawing upon Genesis 2 - 3 are that:

  1. Adam and Eve, when they were created in the Garden of Eden, were sinless (without having sinned -- reference to their pre-Fall condition.
  2. God saw all that He had made (that it) was “very good.”
  3. The serpent tempted Adam and Eve with the promise of being like God and having a knowledge of “good and evil”. She succumbed to that temptation. 4 The consequeces were, if Satan’s exact words are to be believed, that their “eyes were opened" and they became “as gods knowing good and evil”. 5 According to God’s word (which is to be believed) “in dying they began to die”.
  4. Following divine judgment pronounced upon them and because they had now become like God (“like one of us knowing good and evil”), they were banished from the Garden of Eden to prevent them from eating from the tree of life and living forever.

In respect of the facts, we can deduce that:

(i) Genesis does not describe A and E as “perfect” but “very good”. Is there a difference? Does the original Hebrew provide any clue here? (ii) God, who in His omniscience knows good and evil, did not want A and E to have this knowledge and forbad them from accessing it on pain of death. Then this knowledge was harmful to A and E

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First, a definition of perfect. Because God did create us perfect:

  • a : being entirely without fault or defect : flawless (a perfect diamond)
  • b : satisfying all requirements : accurate
  • c : corresponding to an ideal standard or abstract concept (a perfect gentleman)
  • d : faithfully reproducing the original; specifically : letter-perfect
  • e : legally valid

Being perfect does not mean that we stayed that way, however. We were created in the image of God (see d). God created us creatures of free will. Indeed, even when Jesus (God made human) was on earth, he had free will (or else his death meant nothing!). Adam and Eve chose to ignore what God said and become imperfect, they chose a shortcut God explicitly told them not to take, killing them spiritually, and separating them from God.

Did God know they would do this? He exists in all of the spectrum of time simultaneously, and Jesus is the lamb slain before the foundation of the world, so I would say yes. Nonetheless, that doesn't mean he's at fault for our free will, in fact, he sent his own Son to die so that we could be saved through grace, because of Adam and Eve's failure.

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I think "perfect" is the wrong word choice here. I think it's important that Adam -- as the first man -- came as a sort of tabula rasa with regards to guilt and sin, but still blew it (so to speak).

It's significant that Jesus is described as a second Adam (1 Cor. 15, Romans 5:14). The implication here, I think, being that given the opportunity, Adam set the tone for mankind by choosing sin, and Christ set the tone righteousness by choosing obedience -- even an obedience that led to death.

Paul goes on to explain how death is found in the representation of Adam (i.e. by choosing to disobey God, and rely on one's own understanding; defining one's own moral standard), but life is found in Christ (i.e. by trusting in God's goodness and His gracious provisions for forgiveness).

As far as "why" this happened, I think this was all part of the grand story of God's grace.

1 Peter 1:20 (NASB)
He [Jesus] was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Revelation 13:8b (NASB)
... everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.

[ETA: the ESV translation aligns a bit better]

Revelation 13:8b (ESV)
...everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.

The gracious provision of Jesus was was the plan all along.

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You're citing Revelation 13:8 wrong. It doesn't say before the foundation of the world, but from the foundation of the world. Also, I don't think the text has gotten an update since this answer was written because the last © year displayed at the bottom for Biblegateway.com is 1995! –  user2428118 Nov 29 '13 at 9:36
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@user2428118: Good catch! Thanks for pointing that out. I'm not quite sure what I did there. I added the emphasis to the matching phrase in both passages, so I likely cut-and-pasted, because I thought they were the same. Interestingly, the ESV version reads "before the foundation of the world," so it could be that I had meant to reference that translation since its correspondence to 1 Peter 1:20 is more verbatim. Sorry for any confusion. –  Steven Dec 12 '13 at 21:11

The DNA in Adam and Eve was perfect. (Think of the number of times dna has been copied from person to person, cell to cell before it has reached you. There is a lot of room for error.) Today it suffers from serious decay, thus our medical nightmares. In order to understand why Adam and Eve sinned we need to look to Jesus.

Colossians 1:15-18 NKJV

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

Remember that Jesus is first in all things and that He was the only righteous man to ever live.

Romans tells us that no man is righteous, we all fall short of the Glory of God. This is why God allowed the snake to enter the garden. Because if Adam had not been tested, he surely COULD have been righteous as Jesus.

But because Adam was tested, he showed that he was just a man and he fell short as we always do. They sinned because of their own desires, not because of any imperfection. They sinned so that Jesus could have preeminence in all things.

edit for Richard:

God did not create sin, but He SURELY allows it for this very reason.

Luke 7:47 NIV

Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

God's purpose for us is that we learn to trust Him (faith) and love Him (commanded to love). This is done by allowing us to sin, so that we may be forgiven.

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"God's purpose for us is that we learn to trust Him (faith) and love Him (commanded to love). This is done by allowing us to sin, so that we may be forgiven." That just confuses me even more. It makes God seem borderline narcissist. Sin exists so we can learn to love God? Should I let my daughter be beaten up so that she comes to me running, looking for love? Why wouldn't one avoid her being beaten up in the first place. This really, really, really confuses me. –  Swati Aug 31 '11 at 17:51
    
<Obsolete and unconstructive comments removed.> –  El'endia Starman Aug 7 '12 at 6:59

What is your source for the word "perfect"? Not all Christians necessarily believe this. Here's an excerpt from The Orthodox Church, by Timothy Ware:

Humans at their first creation were therefore perfect, not so much in an actual as in a potential sense. Endowed with the image from the start, they were called to acquire the likeness by their own efforts (assisted of course by the grace of God). Adam began in a state of innocence and simplicity. "He was a child, not yet having his understanding perfected," wrote Irenaeus. "It was necessary that he should grow and so come to his perfection." God set Adam on the right path, but Adam had in front of him a long road to traverse in order to reach his final goal.

He notes later that

According to Augustine, humans in Paradise were endowed from the start with all possible wisdom and knowledge...

Augustine has had an outsize influence in Western Christianity, but the idea that Adam and Eve were perfect beings wasn't universal in early Christianity.

So the answer from an Eastern Orthodox perspective would be, I think, that Adam and Eve had free will and were far from perfect. Adam and Eve were as likely to sin as any one of us is. They were tempted by the serpent; they could have resisted; but they chose not to.

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I don't think that Adam and Eve's act of believing Satan automatically means that they were imperfect. In fact, as paradoxical as it is, it may even prove that they were perfect. In 1 Corinthians 13:7 Paul is giving us a description of love and among other things he says that love "believes all things", however it doesn't, of course, mean that love is imperfect.

Perhaps, the right way of putting it would be this:

Adam and Eve were perfect in that state, in which God created them, which is the state of innocence. However, with the partaking of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they died, as far as the original state is concerned ("... for on that day when you eat the fruits of that tree, you will surely die" - Gen 2:17), and now Adam and Eve in their new state - the one, in which God did not create them - were found imperfect because of the poison that they had within them from the poisonous tree.

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I believe Adam and a woman were created innocent, but not perfect in the sense in which the Lord Jesus Christ is perfect! The Bible says that "first man became a living being" but Christ is the "life-giving" spirit. Christ is the source of life, the creator. They were created beings and as such not equal to God, they were not the exact reflection of God as Jesus was, they were not born of God. Jesus was the only begotten son of God! and only that which is born from above is able to stay away from sinning! They were not capable of staying innocent because it was God's plan for the perfection to be achieved only in Christ! It was God's plan for everything earthly to die as a seed and after that to come a heavenly one ("first man is earthly, second is from above"). I don't know exactly why God determined such a plan and process, but it has to do with His ways and character.
Also, James says that "lust produces sin" and Paul says that "we become slaves to the one we listen to". What did Eve have if not LUST when she first desired a fruit from the forbidden tree? And why did she listen and believe the serpent if not because of something imperfect, incomplete about her ? It is plane to me that there was a natural weakness, or natural inclination to sin in them already.
She and Adam were not born from above, so they were not able to fulfill God's commands! They simply had to slip soon or later, as we all do in our natural, earthly beings. This is not to say that God had some mean motives and that I blame Him, no,no,no but His plan, like it or not, includes the fall. But thanks be to God who provided a remedy from the beginning!

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Can you please provide evidence for the claim that Adam and eve "were not capable of staying innocent"? –  curiousdannii May 30 at 8:24

One thing I know for sure is that God does not imprison His children HE created us in HIS image and likeness but! He also gave us a mind of our own He tells you, this is the way, walk in it. If you choose otherwise, that is because you made a conscious effort to do so. That is why the bible says ''you are inexcusable'' oh man!

We know right from wrong, Adam and Eve knew they were doing the wrong thing, and went ahead with it. It was a choice they made

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Adam and Eve were perfect in the state they were created. They sinned because (1) they are not God and (2) they did not have Christ.

There were two trees in the garden, not just one. The second tree was the "tree of life" of which they did not eat (or else they would have not sinned). This tree is mentioned in the book of Revelation (see 2:7; 22:2). This tree bears the gift of eternal life for which is promised by grace through faith in Jesus. Based upon John 17:3, we know that eternal life is the knowledge of God. Adam and Eve, while being perfect in their created state, did not yet receive the fullness of God's purpose for them. This does not mean they were imperfect, however, they had not yet existed in their final state. To illustrate, a caterpillar is not imperfect, it's just not a butterfly.

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Disclaimer - From a Wesleyan-Arminian soteriological perspective:

Although they were both pronounced 'very good' (I will avoid using the apparantly contentious word 'perfect' - although 'good' alone is potentially just as contentious - until addressing it's use after the close of my argument), Adam and Eve's choice to sin was a tragic* inevitability of the interplay between their being granted free will, and God's Sovereign determination to outwork his plan of redemption.

Firstly regarding God's plan, scripture tells us that Christ is the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." (Rev 13:8) - i.e. it was always going to be this way. God acheives his greatest Glory through the plan of redemption by fully demonstrating the two great and quintessential aspects of his nature: His Holiness (Is 6:1-5) and His love (1 Jn 4:7-16). The plan of redemption necessarily involves redeeming - via an extraordinary act of Love - a rebellious people from the consequence of the sin that has enstranged them from the most Holy God. Even though there was a necessity to man's fall, the way it was accomplished did not undermine man's free agency as: God presented an opportunity for obedience or disobedience inherant in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but he neither compelled one nor the other (in fact that disobedience was chosen despite God's command and warning is sufficient testament that man was a free agent). He (God) further allowed another free agent to act as tempter and start the chain of unfortunate events (scripture teaches us the Serpent was animated by Satan to do the particular work - cf. Rev 20:2). That this was foreseen and permitted as working with His plan (as opposed to Sovereignly and irresistably decreeing it) is deduced from his disavowal of tempting anyone (James 1:13)

In terms of the outworking of this plan with respect to the free will of Adam and Eve, it manifested in a different manner (or more accurately, sequence) for each of them:

Firstly, Eve in being deceived, was not (initially) fully culpable. This is born out in the judgment applied to her: she was disciplined for her error, but the death sentence was not pronounced against her. (cf. Genesis 3:16) Adam, however, sinned wilfully and had the death sentence passed against him (it's effect was immediate in spiritual terms - being cut off from God's presence - and eventual in physical terms - he would, after a life of toil, return to the dust). The Romans passage emphasizes that the sin of Adam (not Eve, nor even Adam and Eve) was the cause of the fall. It was he that was barred from the Garden and the tree of life not Eve. But just as Adam wilfully followed Eve's error into sin, Eve wilfully chose to leave God's presence and follow Adam into sin and death after the judgments were pronounced.

The question remains "why did Adam choose to sin?", He himself answers - "because of the woman" (v12). Modern eyes may see this as mere blame-shifting, but in the absence of other evidence, (and by adopting a hermeneutic compatible with 2 Tim 3:16) we can assume that this is actually the true reason. Adam chose to follow Eve rather than God's command out of a considered choice motivated by desire. He could not have understood the full implications of 'death' and would perhaps have been unsure what would happen to Eve after she had been deceived and eaten the fruit, but he was fully resolved not to be separated from her, even if it meant the loss of everything else - he was the bible's first idolater (placing as an object of supreme affection, something other than God). This decision was possible for a 'very good' creature with free will to make - he did not have perfect knowledge to see the full implications of his decision, but in his eyes, it was a reasonable decision made with good motives - though he was (self-)deceived in thinking there was no better option, as the glorious plan of redemption was yet hidden to him. Likewise, though in a different order, Eve's decision to leave the garden with Adam and follow him into sin was motivated by her desire for her husband opposed to an implied permission to remain with God. A logical conclusion from her preceding judgment, subsequent action in accompanying Adam and eventual physical death, is that Eve's 'sin that leads to death' (cf. 1 Jn 5:16-17) wasn't in being deceived or even in acting from that deception, but it was like Adam, an act of idolatory in choosing her husband over God.

Summary: The fall ensued even though the actors were 'very good' (sinless, not victims of total depravity and in possession of free moral agency) because they freely chose to play the parts written for them by the Sovereign Lord's intricately crafted tragedian* plot - the necessary counterpoint to his subsequent stunning redemptive revelation.

Regarding the use of the word perfect: as has been pointed out, there is often in it's use - in biblical terminology at least - the sense of completeness or full maturity, and in this sense, it is not legitimately applicable to Adam and Eve, as they were incomplete and lacking in full maturity in the area of knowledge at the very least. That it is not universally used in this sense in scripture is evident from the counter example of Lev 22:21 - many versions do not scruple to use the word here where it has the mere sense of flawless or unblemished (other versions translate the original thus) - which are entirely legitimate synonyms for perfection according to normal English usage. That the corresponding original should not be so translated to perfect in this instance is more a matter of theological preference than an artifact of language. Conclusion: it is not actually wrong to use the word in application to prelapsarian Adam and Eve in a certain sense, but in order to avoid confusion, the term should either be further explained or just plain avoided.


*Tragic more in the sense of Romeo and Juliet, and beyond the sense used when referring to The Scottish play .

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I know this is prohibitively long, but I'm not sure which, if any, parts might be redundant. Perhaps a kind critic could suggest some judicious trims? –  bruised reed Jun 15 at 16:12

only angels are the beings that are perfect because God didnt gave them sense of acquiring or demanding or being arrogant on their belongings etc. Rest were the Jinns and Human, both are different from the angels b/c they have the sense of being a being, they can be arrogant (just like jinns were arrogant to prostrate infront of Adam b/c they thought that they were superior), they have senses of demanding, they require to eat, sleep etc. its not that the Adam was perfect and imperfect, they were given the ability to think. Everytime God let us realise that the best option lies in full submission in Him(God), but we humans try to complicate things and try to find pleasure in something invented by us own, and in the end result is the disasterous

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Lucifer is an angel, is he perfect as well? –  Sklivvz Aug 31 '11 at 18:09
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So, you're saying that God created us as imperfect? Would that mean that by creating us this way he caused us to sin? (Being omniscient, he knew full well that if he created us to sin then we would sin. Therefore wouldn't his act of creation be the cause of the sin?) –  Richard Aug 31 '11 at 18:15
    
@Sklivvz Wasn't Lucifer the only angel created with free will? (Did I read that somewhere or am I entirely mistaken?) I think free will might be the key to this question. –  Richard Aug 31 '11 at 18:23
    
@richard God created us that way to judge us, though he created us this way even then there are people who abstain from sin, and even if they sinn; the sin doesnt become an integral part of life, God already has created a framework and guidelines to repent, the more you sin the more you repent and become pure. –  Firdous Aug 31 '11 at 19:40

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