Under Calvinism, men under grace are guaranteed to choose God and be saved.

If God's holy influence is so convincing, that it is impossible for free thinking creations to choose against it, why did something go wrong in the first place?

  • 3
    It's important to differentiate between the Covenant of Works (pre-fall) and the Covenant of Grace (post-fall). The doctrine of Irresistible Grace, which I think you are referencing, is a part of the Covenant of Grace, and doesn't have bearing on the fall itself. Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 1:37
  • @Nathaniel thanks for clarifying, that's exactly what I'm trying to understand.
    – Beestocks
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 1:46
  • Well, God wasn't present when they ate the fruit. Kind of a coy answer, but really, think about it. It does answer the question.
    – user3961
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 0:00
  • To close voters, I don't see a problem here.
    – user3961
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 0:00

5 Answers 5


One prominent Reformed theologian, Louis Berkhof, has written that "[t]he problem of the origin of the evil that is in the world has always been considered as one of the profoundest problems of philosophy and theology." Other Reformed theologians share this assessment. Charles Hodge suggests that given "the feebleness of our powers" and the "limited range of our vision" that it would be reasonable to "leave this question to be answered by God himself."2 Nonetheless, to answer what he sees as false doctrines, Hodge and others strive to provide an explanation.

We should note that this question is closely related to the general problem of the existence of evil. I will attempt to focus on the specific questions asked, regarding the fall of Adam and Eve and the demons.

Reformed theologians make several points: 1) that God is not the author of evil, 2) God's creation was good, 3) that Man and demons sinned voluntarily, and 4) God ordained that sin would come into the world.

God is not the author of evil

The first point emphasized is that God cannot be considered the author of evil. Wayne Grudem writes that "we must clearly affirm that God himself did not sin, and God is not to be blamed for sin."3 Among the many passages cited in defense of this statement is Deuteronomy 32:4:

The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he. (ESV)

Berkhof writes that we cannot "make God the cause of sin in the sense of being its responsible author. This idea is clearly excluded by Scripture."4

Creation was originally good

Berkhof takes time to explain the original states of the angels and of men. Citing Genesis 1:31, "God saw everything that He had made and, behold, it was very good," Berkhof argues that angels had an "original good condition," and notes that the good angels are called "elect" in 1 Timothy 5:21. These, he says, must have received a "special grace of perseverance," which the fallen angels did not receive.5

Regarding man's original state, Berkhof calls it one of "relative perfection," like a child compared to an adult, "destined to reach a higher degree of perfection in the way of obedience." He was endowed with "original righteousness," but he "could lose it and still remain man."6 This original righteousness, according to Hodge, comes from man being created in God's image, and "includes not only his rational nature, but also knowledge, righteousness, and holiness."7

Covenant of Works vs. Covenant of Grace

One thing worth noting here is that prior to the Fall, Reformed theologians teach that Adam and Eve lived under a Covenant of Works, that is, a Covenant under which they were required to perfectly obey the law. The punishment for failure was (obviously) death, but the reward for obedience was eternal life. Under this Covenant of Works, says Berkhof,

[Adam] was not yet raised above the possibility of erring, sinning, and dying. He was not yet in possession of the highest degree of holiness, nor did he enjoy life in all its fulness. The image of God in man was still limited by the possibility of man's sinning against God, changing from good to evil, and becoming subject to the power of death.8

However, the reward for obedience in the Covenant of Works was eternal life. Berkhof calls the time before the Fall a period of "probation, in order to determine whether he would willingly subject his will to the will of God."8 If Adam had obeyed, he and his descendants would have obtained eternal life.

God's relation to Adam under the Covenant of Works is different, therefore, from his relation to mankind under the post-Fall Covenant of Grace, which God made with sinners. In the Covenant of Grace, say the Reformed, there are elect and non-elect, and the elect are predestined to receive grace ("irresistible grace"). Thus, Adam being "elect" under the Covenant of Grace would only make sense after the Fall.

Man and demons sinned voluntarily

Turning then to Adam's sin, Berkhof says that Adam's transgression was "a perfectly voluntary act on the part of man."9 Explaining God's command to not eat from the tree, Berkhof writes:

[I]n order that the test of Adam might be a test of pure obedience, God deemed it necessary to add to the commandments of which Adam perceived the naturalness and reasonableness, a commandment which was in a certain sense arbitrary and indifferent. Thus the demands of the law were, so to say, concentrated on a single point. The great question that had to be settled was, whether man would obey God implicitly or follow the guidance of his own judgment.8

Other reformed theologians are also quick to state that man and fallen angels sinned voluntarily. Hodge says that Adam's sinfulness was "self-acquired," and that the fallen angels "kept not their first estate."10 Grudem writes:

It was man who sinned, and it was angels who sinned, and in both cases they did so by willful, voluntary choice.3

God ordained sin

In light of the previous points, it may seem surprising that Reformed authors continue by saying that God ordained sin to come into the world. Grudem, citing Ephesians 1:11 and Daniel 4:35, writes that God

did ordain that sin would come into the world, even though he does not delight in it and even though he ordained that it would come about through the voluntary choices of moral creatures.3

The natural follow-up question to this is, "why?," which gets into the general problem of evil. I'll briefly mention, however, Hodge's answer to this question. He argues that the glory of God is the ultimate purpose of creation, and that "there could be no manifestation of his mercy without misery, or of his grace and justice, if there were no sin."11 Citing Romans 9:22-23, where Paul discusses God's creation of vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy, Hodge concludes:

Sin, therefore, according the Scriptures, is permitted, that the justice of God may be known in its punishment, and his grace in its forgiveness. And the universe, without the knowledge of these attributes, would be like the earth without the light of the sun.11


Ultimately, Reformed theologians admit the difficulty of the problem, but hold these points as the clear teaching of Scripture and thus accept them. Hodge recommends that we "rest satisfied with the simple statements of the Bible" and "with the assurance that the Judge of all the earth must do right."2 Similarly, John Calvin closes his treatment of the problem of evil by saying that "[o]ur true wisdom is to embrace with meek docility, and without reservation, whatever the Holy Scriptures, have delivered."12


  • I know this sounds silly but did the covenant of works apply to angels as well? Commented Aug 14, 2019 at 2:57
  • @AngelusVastator The "covenant of works" is the terminology used for the covenant with people. I suppose it's possible to think about another similar covenant existing with the angels, but I've not heard of such a thing. Commented Aug 14, 2019 at 21:15

In order to know the answer to the question, we need first to know the difference between the pre-fall and fall of Adam.


Adam was created with the ability to choose life or death (Genesis 2:17).


Adam was unable to choose life except by the influence of God (John 6:44).

Ergo, despite of the fact that God's holy influence is so convincing, that it is impossible for free thinking creations to choose against it, something went wrong in the first place due to the fact that something was allowed to happen in the first place.

But all of this is in conformity with God's sovereignty:

Ephesians 1:11 (GNT)

All things are done according to God's plan and decision; and God chose us to be his own people in union with Christ because of his own purpose, based on what he had decided from the very beginning.

  • Why is Adam unable to choose life when he was gifted with Original Holiness & Justice, can you include some details on this as your answer is simply good but adding the reason why Adam fall despite of the gifts might make your answer even more convincing. Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 23:55

1 Peter 1:18-21 The Message (MSG) -- Eugene (RIP) Peterson

"Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought. Even though it has only lately—at the end of the ages—become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you. It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God."

Based upon the above quote, I would argue the question of WHY the fall happened is scripturally self-evident. Unfortunately I offer no explanation of HOW the fall happened.

  • You refer to a passage in scripture, but you then don't cite it. I've tossed on the passage from 1 Peter in a quote block. Keep the portion of that passage that support your answer, or as much of it as fits. Just a caution here: to entitle an answer with a scriptural passage (18-21) and then use your own words is both confusing, and in the eyes of some folks, possibly offensive. Please edit this answer again if the citation is too big to fit the point you are making in your answer. Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 22:40

In Calvinism, God is the primary author (not the secondary "author" as-in the "doer," but the author as-in the planner) of sin. Calvin points out that those who think God didn't plan and arrange the fall are straining the gnat of Adam while swallowing the camel of Original Sin, which he attributes to God's doing in us, not nature or inheritance (Institutes III.xxiii.7) As for the problem of sovereignty and responsibility, Gordon Clark resolves it quite simply: God is good no matter what, and we are responsible because he holds us responsible, and no one holds God responsible, not because we have free will. No paradox, no mystery, no problem.

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    – agarza
    Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 18:48

Why would Adam and Eve be different from anyone else?

To the best of my knowledge, Calvinists do not say that "God's holy influence is so convincing, that it is impossible for free thinking creations to choose against it". Where do you get this statement from? Is that a quote from a Calvinist? My understanding of Calvinism is quite the opposite: Calvinists say that sinners by their nature rebel against God, his authority, and his holiness.

On this point Calvinists don't really differ from other branches of conservative Christianity. They all say that some people reject God for a variety of reasons: They may not want to follow God's rules. They may not believe there is a God. They may be angry at God for things that have happened in their lives. Etc. The difference is that the Calvinist says that God in his sovereignty decided before you were born who would turn to him and who would not, while believers in free will say that each person can choose. (Note that Calvinists agree that you choose: they just say that the choice you will make is predetermined.)

  • Bad logic. Many (most?) Christians believe Adam was elect. Yet he "fell away" from a state of grace. Satan must be non-elect, yet can't he be considered to have been in a "saved" state before he fell?
    – Bit Chaser
    Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 14:37
  • 1
    @disciple You're getting in to a different question: Can a saved person lose his salvation? Those who say that you cannot lose your salvation say that we, as humans, can often be fooled about another person's state. Someone might "talk the talk" but not really be saved. And so if someone appears to be saved and then falls away, he must never really have been saved to begin with. This makes the theory impossible to test objectively, arguably it's just an "easy out" for cases that appear to contradict the theory. But that doesn't prove it wrong.
    – Jay
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 13:15

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