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What was God’s role in the Fall (if He had one)? I’m learning about the Calvinist (or perhaps hyper-Calvinist) view of Pre-determinism, and respectfully, it causes me great concern. Perhaps I’m concerned because I misunderstand Pre-determinism altogether. However, if I understand it correctly (which I probably don’t; hence why I’m asking), wouldn’t the Pre-determinist’s natural conclusion of God’s involvement in the Fall be that, because God has willed all events to happen He Himself is responsible for their occurrence? Would the line of reasoning be something like this:

  1. Results of events have been determined (or willed) from eternity past.
  2. The rebellion (or fall) of spiritual and physical beings were events.
  3. Therefore, God determined (or worse, willed) the rebellion of spiritual and physical beings.
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    – agarza
    Apr 17 at 3:20
  • Do you mean predestination? "Pre-determinism" isn't a term I've heard anyone use before.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 17 at 6:50
  • @craig this is probably a stellar question, I just think you need to edit the title and define "pre-determinism" the answers should all come from the same perspective (probably Calvinism and predestination ) but I'm not going to put words into your mouth. Asking about "determinism" itself would be off topic, since that's a philosophical construct - but predestination and the fall is interesting and topical.
    – Peter Turner
    Apr 17 at 14:55

5 Answers 5

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The term 'Calvinist' has a very broad spectrum of meaning. Some use it to denote that someone believes what Paul states regarding election and predestination. However some also apply the descriptor to someone who believes that God simply foresees who will make a choice (rather than God making that choice).

One view of the issue under question is that the Creator was well aware, by his own divine wisdom, how created creatures (both spirit, the serpentine spirit, and humanity, the woman and the man) would behave, given the liabilities of the creature.

No created creature will be as the Creator himself. Only God possesses divinity.

Nevertheless, perceiving, aforehand, the liabilities of the creature, God made provision for all that would occur - the conspiracy of spirit, woman and man - and made provision, purposing full redemption, by the sending of the Son.

Thus, before the foundation of the world, choice was made, in Christ.

And God's purposes (to bring many sons to glory) have not been frustrated.

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  • Using " what Paul states regarding election and predestination" instead of "Calvinists' interpretation of what Paul states regarding election and predestination" is likely to distract from the question.
    – Mary
    Apr 18 at 1:19
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The simple answer is that full, perfect, Divine foreknowledge does not rule out human choice. God is able to foreknow what will occur without necessarily causing it to happen in any way other than the act of creation itself.

Prior to creation God foreknew everything that would ever happen within creation, mechanistic things and actual choices, and then He created. This is why the Bible refers to "the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world".

In our temporal economy we envision an ordering of creation, fall of man, sacrifice of Jesus, salvation through faith, eventual glorification.

In God's eternal economy it is more like: sacrifice of Jesus (this includes not only all who would believe in him but also the justification and glorification of those same ones), creation, fall of man.

Christians are spoken of as having been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) and this choosing, this election, is according to foreknowledge:

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. - Romans 8:29-30

Moreover, the predestination spoken of here by the apostle Paul is unto conformity to the image of Christ. It is not that some are predestined to believe and be saved but, rather, those who do believe and are saved are then predestined (through the indwelling Spirit of God) to Christ-likeness.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, **through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. - 1 Peter 1:1-2

Election is all wrapped up in the very act of creation itself. God, having foreknown every human choice to sin and every human choice to repent and believe, sacrificed His Son (not yet in time but in Divine intention) for those who would believe and then He created. We read Genesis 1:1 as though the creation of heaven and earth was the first thing God did but the larger picture (outside of time) is that God first sacrificed His Son for us and then He created.

God's first act was a sacrifice of love and then Genesis 1:1 happened. He counted the cost and then built.

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Predestination does not say that it was predetermined that Adam would sin. Predestination is the pre determination of who would be saved as a result of Adams sin. Although one could argue a kind of determination in that God knew Adam would sin but created him and his ability to choose that as part of a larger plan for ultimate good.

The scripture‘s doctrine of predestination was established long before Calvin (maybe the first famous adherent to mostly Paul’s references was St Augustine) but as mention it does not actually apply directly to the fall of Adam and Eve as they had a kind of free will that was lost in their fall.

Predestination is the doctrine that God has chosen, before the world was created, those souls who would be drawn to Christ and saved by faith in Him. It simply means it’s not a topic to be relegated to the will of man. The doctrine starts after assuming the fall already happened, otherwise nobody could be predestined to be saved from that fall.

The truth is, although God’s foreknowledge could be part of the equation in God’s determination, as all his attributes are involved in all he does, its not something the scriptures says to mute the difficulty that the doctrine implies. In some sense the feeling of being disturbed is normal. Paul anticipates this natural response:

Romans 9:19-21 English Standard Version 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

We see Paul does not say: ‘don’t worry about it, there is no election it’s actually just God’s foreknowledge at work’. He says ‘who are you to talk back to God? So it is disturbing because it is deterministic being that nothing in time can derail what was determined in eternity.

However, the scripture also teaches that God is love and sent his Son to die for the world. God also commands us to be like Him and love our enemies. Therefore we have what seems a contradiction. God loves those he did not choose.

It‘s less disturbing now (as we have good feelings about love) but human reason hates this seeming contradiction, so we are liable to doubt that love, which would make the devil very happy. Again, Paul anticipates that and says:

Romans 11:33 English Standard Version 33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

In other words no man can understand fully how these two facts (God’s election for ‘some’ and God’s equal love for ‘all’) are reconciled in his eternal counsels but faith can and does believe in both.

When it comes to how God makes his decisions we can trust nothing is left to chance, all is from love and eternal life does not rely upon unreliable human effort, or human choice. That would truly be an uncertain and fearful world.

This darkness to our mind is comfort to our hearts because if we are honest with ourselves we know so very little even about earthly things, let alone these majestic heavenly things that encourage us to worship in the glad tidings heralded to the Shepards. For ’unto you‘ a child is given. This child was given to all.

Eccles 8:16-17 ESV 16 When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one’s eyes see sleep, 17then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.

With regards to the fall, the question is not technically about predestination for those to be redeemed from the fall but rather ’Why did God make mankind, knowing that Adam would fall?‘ That’s a different big question that I am not attempting to answer here as its not the doctrine of predestination. It is usually answered that it is because in some way his glorious goodness was extended by what occurred.

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Like with anything there are many ways to answer this question. There are major differences between how Jews and Christians would answer this and even within their particular faiths there are a variety of different opinions. I can only give what I personally believe in this instance.

First of all we have to ask ourselves why God created mankind in the first place. He created a garden in Eden and asked mankind to maintain and protect it. So, clearly, there was a threat that pre-existed mankind which later appeared in the form of a snake.

Now here we have the first divide between a Jewish and Christian interpretation. In Jewish tradition for example one of the reasons God placed the tree of knowledge in the garden was to give humans a free choice and it was therefore inevitable that they would eat from it because before the fall there was no understanding that it is wrong to disobey God.

Everything was as God wanted because after Eve was created it says that it was very good. Not just good, but very good. The snake was also just a snake which felt slighted because Adam did not choose her as his companion. She therefore deceived Eve to have her revenge on Adam.

There's no connection in a Jewish tradition to Satan with the Snake because Satan is according to the book of Job one of the Sons of God who only does what God asks him to do. God's role in it was simply to provide a real choice so Adam and Eve would be free creatures.

Freedom comes from having choices and God therefore knew that Adam and Eve would have to sin to understand that it was wrong to do so. This choice was then given to each offspring through various temptations they face and there is no such thing as original sin, each human answers for himself. When Cain murdered his brother, it was his own sin and not because of what Adam did, so there was no excuse and he had to suffer the consequences. God's role was simply to provide a free choice, therefore there's also no threat of an eternal hell in the Old Testament.

Now in the New Testament we learn that the world is ruled by the devil, the God of this world. Satan is the adversary of God and there was a battle in heaven where one third of the angels rebelled and sided with Satan. They lost the battle in heaven and were cast down to earth and since then ruled the earth. As Paul says, we're not fighting against flesh and blood, but principalities and powers of wickedness in heavenly places.

In Christianity it therefore was not God's will for Adam and Eve to sin but to rule over Satan yet he knew that Satan would find a way to deceive them because free choice was required. Satan in the form of a snake deceived Adam to eat of the tree of knowledge and from then on became their God. Here it is a legal transaction where Satan rightly took ownership of the human race because of Adams sin. This sin defiled the whole human race from which no offspring could escape (original sin). Mankind was enslaved from then on and God had to find a way to trick Satan to legally regain control over the world and finally defeat him.

As we can see, in Jewish tradition God's role was simply to ensure that mankind was free to make their own choices and to learn that disobeying him brings consequences that makes their life more difficult. If you obey God, you do well, and if you don't obey God you suffer consequences here on earth. There's no eternal hell, but a resurrection for the righteous to eternal life (although it's not exactly clear if that is forever or just a very long time in the messianic age).

In a Christian tradition it is more complex as God is involved in a huge war against the forces of Satan who have taken control over the earth and mankind. In order to defeat Satan, God needed mankind to be able to make a free choice in choosing Him so they could rule over Satan on earth. However mankind sinned and sided with God's enemy through their disobedience and because of this they deserved to be punished in hell for all eternity. Yet because God is love he found a way to save some of mankind by giving mankind His son to die on the cross, thus buying them back for his possession if they choose Jesus as their Lord.

Now this is just my opinion the way I understand God's role in it, but there are many things in it I still struggle with understanding completely.

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  • I realise I didn't exactly address the Calvinistic viewpoint in my post, however it is addressed indirectly because Arminianism is more rooted in Jewish thinking that the free choice has never been taken away from mankind, while Calvinism sees mankind as being depraved caused by Adam's sin and therefore incapable of making a free choice. Only God's grace will lead them to Christ. The problem with Calvinism is that Adam before the fall had no idea what it meant to disobey God. God didn't create Adam with knowledge of good and evil, they learned it through disobedience.
    – Tasso
    Apr 17 at 10:49
  • Thank you for your thoughtful answer, Tasso!
    – Craig A
    Apr 17 at 13:50
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There are two distinct philosophies on the subject (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 105, 222). On the one hand, there is the doctrine of divine providence, sometimes referred to as the Divine Decree, whereby all things happen according to God’s will, whether directly controlled or passively permitted (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 100-102, 165-169). In which case, the suggestion is that man fell through the approbation of God’s permissive will. Willing that man should sin, but being unable to directly compel man to sin without having some responsibility for the act, God simply orchestrated events to guarantee its certainty. He then turned a blind eye and permitted it to happen so his will would be accomplished (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 105, 108).

On the other hand, most Christians, regardless of denominational upbringing, instinctively reject the idea that the fall was God’s will, or that he had any hand in it whatsoever. Let no man say when he is tempted that he is tempted of God (Jms. 1:13). Although we believe that God knows everything, and that nothing happens outside of God’s will, a part of us still maintains a vague, idealistic conceptualization of the whole affair somewhere in the back of our mind, where man ate from the tree completely against God’s will while God was busy taking a bath or something. And boy was he mad when he found out!

For most, this is usually enough, even if it defies what we know about the power of God. They take it on faith that he had nothing to do with the fall, and they are no more interested in trying to figure out the particulars of the glaring inconsistencies than they are in trying to articulate them.

For the knowledge-seekers who ask the difficult questions, the scriptural reality is that God was there (Jer. 23:24; Ps. 139:7-10; Job 34:21; Prov. 15:3). He knew what was happening, and he absolutely had the power to stop it. These facts lead them to the difficult and uncomfortable conclusion that the fall must have been God’s will, else it wouldn’t have happened.

When God didn’t want Balaam to curse the Israelites, his curses came out as blessings (Num. 22:1-24:25). When God wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh, he sent a tempest and a large fish to swallow him (Jon. 1:1-3:3). But while God has intervened in many things throughout the ages, he chose not to intervene here. He could have warded the tree of the knowledge of good and evil with thorns and thistle, or set his angels to guard it, as he did with the tree of life (Gen. 3:23). He could have hidden it. He could have left the tree out of the garden altogether, seeing that he’s the one who put it there to begin with (Gen. 2:9). But he didn’t. Man was clearly permitted to fall.

However, the thought that God wanted or willed man to sin and die never sat well with me, and I’m sure that most Christians would agree with that sentiment. Sin and death were not, are not, and never will be his desire (Ezek. 18:23, 32, 33:11). The Bible teaches that God is love, and that he wants none to perish (1 Jn. 4:8, 16). He wants all to be saved and come to repentance and the knowledge of the truth (2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4). Most of us would also agree that God would never make man sin, directly or indirectly. Responsibility for sin is entirely on us according to our own decisions (Isa. 50:1. God here charges Israel with direct responsibility for her own bondage and divorcement as a result of her transgressions and iniquities. See also Isa. 30:1 and Ezek. 18:13, 20, 31).

Neither would God orchestrate a circumstance where sin was unavoidable. In the first place, he will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to endure (1 Cor. 10:13). In the second place, deliberately causing a thing to happen is no different than doing it yourself. Christ made it clear that intent is equivalent to the act (Matt. 5:27-28). David put Uriah in harm’s way on the front lines at Rabbah, believing he would be killed, and with the intent to effectuate it (2 Sam. 11:14-15). According to the prophet Nathan, this made David guilty of murder, though David himself did not physically wield the sword. He slew Uriah “with the sword of the children of Ammon.” (2 Sam. 12:9; Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 108. This scriptural principle rules out the notion that God, for holy reasons or otherwise, “renders … sinful acts certain,” as some theologians suggest. With the Law being holy, just and good, it is a contradiction to say that God would behave contrary to his own law in effectuating sin.)

In light of God’s character, his desires for righteousness, and his hatred of sin, it’s ridiculous to conclude that God’s will was for Adam to commit sin and die. It’s even more ridiculous to believe that God controlled Adam’s actions, overtly or covertly, or did anything to guarantee the certainty of the original sin. This would make God guilty of the transgression, however clever the argument to the contrary (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 105. Berkhof here describes sin as a certainty orchestrated by God, but without any interference of the finite will; viz. all of man’s finite choices are irrelevant in the vacuum of God’s intent to see him sin and fall).

Relative to the broader collection of scriptural facts, it’s clear that the fall was not God’s will. Rather, God’s will was that man should have a choice, and that he should decide for himself whether he fell or not. Allowing Adam to sin was the unfortunate consequence God had to bear in surrendering his own sovereign will to the freedom of man’s choice. For good or ill, God so greatly esteemed that free will choice that he preferred to stand by while man destroyed himself, rather than compel him to serve mindlessly.

Understanding it in this way clarifies two issues at once. Any and all responsibility for Adam’s sin belongs to Adam alone, not God, and the errant notion that man managed to resist the will of God, or defy it without God’s knowledge, are eliminated. The moment man exercised his free will and made a choice, God’s will was accomplished.

Then as now, life and death were placed before mankind, and it has always been up to man to choose, which is the very definition of free will (Deut. 30:19; Josh. 24:15, etc.). God wants us to choose him, and to choose righteousness (Deut. 7:7-11, 30:18-20). He doesn’t want empty worship (Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:8-9). He wants our voluntary love (1 Jn. 4:7-21). We all have a choice in what we do, and to be judged accordingly (Eccl. 12:14; Rom. 2:16).

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