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This question asks how Adam and Eve could choose to sin if they were perfect, and in a personal conversation recently someone stated "They were a little bit depraved. Even 'very good' is not perfect". This prompted my question; do any denominations officially hold that Adam and Eve were perfect before eating the apple? If so, what do they mean by the term, as some might say that a being must be sinless/unable to sin to be called perfect?

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    Almost everyone considers them to be sinless/righteous before the fall, so zero percent depraved. "Perfection" is different, and some might say that they were not perfect as their faith in God was not yet matured.
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 2, 2022 at 3:31
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    @curiousdannii I'd be very surprised if many people thought they were depraved (that simply prompted my train of thought), but curious as to how many think they were actually perfect as opposed to simply sinless. If a group equates sinlessness to perfection for their usage of the term, that would be part of an answer Jun 2, 2022 at 4:01
  • In as much as they were directly created by God they were perfect according to His design. That included their free will which allowed them to fall.
    – Kris
    Jun 4, 2022 at 16:08

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The Westminster Catechism summarised in the Shorter Catechism is the official view of the Church of England. The tenth Q & A of the Shorter Catechism is:-

Q. 10. How did God create man?

A. God created man male and female, after his own image [a], in knowledge [b], righteousness, and holiness [c], with dominion over the creatures [d]. [a] Gen. 1:27 [b] Col. 3:10 [c] Eph. 4:24 [d] Gen. 1:28; see Ps. 8

The 1689 Baptism Confession of Faith, which some Baptist churches subscribe to is v. similar, differing mainly on issues concerning baptism.

Adam and Eve were morally perfect before they fell. If they had not disobeyed they would have stayed in that condition and would have lived forever. Their standing was based on their own obedience.

But they were able to fall.

In the New Covenant of Grace we cannot lose our eternal inheritance because those blessings have been gained by Another's obedience.

So Adam & Eve's blessings were losable, while the Christian's are not.

Hence, Isaac Watts writes those lovely lines:

"In Him the tribes of Adam boast,

More blessings than their Father lost."

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It is the overwhelming view of Christians that Adam and Eve were perfect before the fall. They were completely obedient to God; they were completely in the right relationship with God; they were doing what they were supposed to; they were enjoying what God had given them.

The view that they were not perfect arises from a misunderstanding that because they did eventually sin they were not perfect. This is not the case. If a person does not have the capability to sin, that doesn't make them "more perfect" than someone who has the capability to sin but does not sin. What it does make them is less free. A person who lacks the capability to sin lacks free will.

The key point of the story is that God deliberately created Adam and Even with free will (and thus the capability to sin) Adam and Eve had the choice to obey God or not to obey God. They chose not to obey. Had they chosen to obey they would have remained perfect.

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  • Is their perfection, even if overwhelmingly held, official church doctrine in any denominations? Jun 2, 2022 at 19:07
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I think your problem here is due to a misunderstanding. First, let's look at what "perfect" actually means (source):

  1. Fitting its definition precisely.
  2. Having all of its parts in harmony with a common purpose.
  3. Without fault or mistake.
  4. Excellent and delightful in all respects.
  5. Innocent, guiltless.

I think most Christians would agree with the accepted answer to that question: "existing in a perfect state did not deprive Adam and Eve of Free Will". They were created in precise accordance with God's will (1) according to an optimal Design (2), innocent and without blemish (5), and were declared "Very Good" (4). So, arguing whether or not they are "perfect" must come down to arguing whether or not the capacity for imperfection is itself imperfection (3). Most Christians would argue it is not.

That said, while they were initially without flaw, they obviously became flawed when they gave into Satan's temptation. In the New Creation, humans (at least, those who are saved) will be restored to this original state. What I think is not clear is whether we will also have restored the capacity to Sin, which will be irrelevant because God won't permit us to be tempted, or whether we will be changed in such a way that we will not give into temptation. In the latter case, one might argue that we will be "more truly 'perfect'" compared to Adam and Eve.

In any case, it should be observed that Adam and Eve were exactly as God intended when He first Created them. In that respect, they were "without mistake". (It's important to note that "fault" and "mistake" are not the same. I might deliberately craft something with a fault, which would not be a mistake.)

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  • It's not that the capacity for imperfection is itself imperfection, but there's a difference between one with the capacity who does not sin, and one with the same capacity who does. +1 if you can link this to a specific denomination or group, though. Jun 2, 2022 at 19:06
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How many, if any, denominations hold that Adam and Eve were perfect before the fall?

That will depend on what you mean by perfect! No Christian denomination that I am aware of has ever declared that Adam and Eve were perfect before the fall!

Adam and Eve did not enjoy the Beatific Vision, so true perfection had not truly been acquired. They nevertheless enjoyed certain privileges that were lost when they sinned against God.

Before the Fall, Adam Possessed Sanctifying Grace and the Preternatural Gifts of Integrity, Immortality and Infused Knowledge.

Adam in context means first of all the man, described in Genesis and St. Paul as distinct from Eve. This is the term also found in the documents of the Church. However we do not use the word of him alone but extend it to Eve, in fact apply it to human nature as represented in our first parents.

The expression "before the fall" simply states the fact that Adam possessed grace and the preternatural gifts, without committing ourselves as to when the infusion took place.

By sanctifying grace we understand that permanent gift, which is now given through Christ and by which a man becomes formally justified, a partaker of the divine nature, an adopted son of God and heir of eternal life. In the present order, sanctifying grace is associated with the uncreated gift of the Holy Spirit and such created gifts as the infused virtues of faith, hope and supernatural charity.

The three gifts of bodily immortality, integrity and infused knowledge are called preternatural because they are not strictly due to human nature but do not, of themselves, surpass the capacities and exigencies of created nature as such. In other words, they are not entitatively supernatural.

Bodily immortality is the converse of mortality, i.e., the possibility of separation of soul from body. Adam was therefore capable of not dying. Yet the gift was conditional, provided he did not sin; it was gratuitous, since Adam's nature by itself did not postulate this prerogative but came from the divine bounty; and it was participated, since only God enjoys essential immortality.

The gift of integrity is equivalent to exemption from concupiscence. It is called "integrity" because it effected a harmonious relation between flesh and spirit by completely subordinating man's lower passions to his reason.

This integrity, it should be noted, did not consist in lacking the natural power to desire for sensible or spiritual bona, nor was it a lack of activity of this power, since all of these belong to the perfection of human nature. Rather it was the absence of certain kinds of acts of the appetitive faculty, namely those which anticipate or go before (praevertunt) the operations of reason and will and tend to continue in opposition to the same.

Stated positively, integrity consisted in the perfect subjection of the concupiscible and irascible appetitive powers to the dictates of reason and free will. As a consequence the will had not only indirect (diplomatic) but also direct (despotic) dominion over the appetite.

Two kinds of concupiscence should be distinguished, the one dogmatic and the other moral. In a dogmatic sense, concupiscence is the appetite - primarily sensitive and actual, and secondarily spiritual and habitual - in so far as its movement precedes the deliberation and dictate of reason and tends to endure in spite of the command of the will. In a moral sense, concupiscence is the appetite - again primarily sensitive and actual, and secondarily spiritual and habitual - in so far as 1) its acts not only precede reason and perdure in spite of the will, but 2) they tend to moral evil. Another name for the latter is inordinate or prava concupiscence.

Our concern in the thesis is with concupiscence in the dogmatic sense, and integrity as immunity from this kind of appetitive drive.

In order, further to clarify Adam's gift of integrity, we may say that he was perfectly sound, entire and integral, in the sense that hedid not experience within himself that division which mankind now understands so well. Our own indeliberate tendencies, we know, often oppose themselves to what we decide or want to do. The life of a man who wants to do well and avoid evil is literally a conflict, more or less violent, between reason which sees and approves the good and wants fewer tendencies. This conflict is variously described as a tension between spirit and flesh, between the interior and exterior man, or simply between soul and body. But in our first parents there was no such internal discord. Their integrity was "the absence of any resistance from their spontaneous tendencies, notably the sense appetite, in the performance of good or avoidance of evil." In a word it was a perfect dominion of animal and spiritual passion.

Adam's *infused knowledge was not acquired, in the sense of natural cognition derived from experience and the reasoning process; nor was it intrinsically supernatural as giving a knowledge of the mysteries, such as the souls enjoy in the beatific vision. It was infused because not naturally acquired, but yet entitatively not beyond the capacity of man's faculties in his statu viae. Theologians commonly refer to three areas of special knowledge possessed by Adam: regarding God and His attributes, the moral law or man's relations to God, and the physical universe both material and spiritual.- God the Author of Nature and the Supernatural Part Two: Creation as a Divine Fact

Some Christian hold that Adam and Eve were clothed in light before their fall. But this simply reflects the special bold between a God and his creation. The time of their trial had not yet ended. Their sojourn in the Garden of Eden was in a sense only meant to be temporary. If they had never have sinned they would have been eventually welcomed by God into the Beatific Vision in Heaven.

To see God within the Beatific Vision is to see God as he is. Adam and Eve never saw God in this sense, for they were not yet perfect. Their first sin proved that!!!

Thomas Aquinas defined the beatific vision as the human being's "final end" in which one attains to a perfect happiness. Thomas reasons that one is perfectly happy only when all one's desires are perfectly satisfied, to the degree that happiness could not increase and could not be lost. "Man is not perfectly happy, so long as something remains for him to desire and seek." But this kind of perfect happiness cannot be found in any physical pleasure, any amount of worldly power, any degree of temporal fame or honor, or indeed in any finite reality. It can only be found in something that is infinite and perfect – and this is God. And since God is not a material thing but is pure spirit, we are united to God by knowing and loving him. Consequently, the most perfect union with God is the most perfect human happiness and the goal of the whole of the human life. But we cannot attain to this happiness by our own natural powers; it is a gift that must be given us by God, who strengthens us by the "light of glory" so that we can see him as he is, without any intermediary. (Thomas quotes Psalm 36:9 on this point: "In your light we shall see light.")[20] Further, since every created image or likeness of God (including even the most perfect "ideas" or "images" of God we might generate in our minds) is necessarily finite, it would thus be infinitely less than God himself. The only perfect and infinite good, therefore, is God himself, which is why Aquinas argues that our perfect happiness and final end can only be the direct union with God himself and not with any created image of him. This union comes about by a kind of "seeing" perfectly the divine essence itself, a gift given to our intellects when God joins them directly to himself without any intermediary. And since in seeing this perfect vision of what (and who) God is, we grasp also his perfect goodness, this act of "seeing" is at the same time a perfect act of loving God as the highest and infinite goodness.

According to Aquinas, the beatific vision surpasses both faith and reason. Rational knowledge does not fully satisfy humankind's innate desire to know God, since reason is primarily concerned with sensible objects and thus can only infer its conclusions about God indirectly.

The theological virtue of faith, too, is incomplete, since Aquinas thinks that it always implies some imperfection in the understanding. The believer does not wish to remain merely on the level of faith but to grasp directly the object of faith, who is God himself.

Thus only the fullness of the beatific vision satisfies this fundamental desire of the human soul to know God. Quoting Paul, Aquinas notes "We see now in a glass darkly, but then face to face" (i Cor. 13:12). The beatific vision is the final reward for those saints elect by God to partake in and "enjoy the same happiness wherewith God is happy, seeing Him in the way which He sees Himself" in the next life.

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