It is a point of confusion among reformed people regarding the nature of Adam and Eve; specifically regarding their will. Many consider that Adam and Eve were the only truly free people and in fact had libertarian free will. I would like to explore this option and determine if it is in fact necessary to believe such an assertion and what it can potentially do to the nature of God, either positive or negative.
In order to better understand the will of Adam and Eve, I think it is first necessary to explore the nature of God Himself. God has many attributes and we must filter our belief in the will of man through the lens of the nature of God. We must resist doing it the opposite way even if it makes our argument a tidy one. When I refer to God’s attributes I can sum them up in the words “Im’s” and “Omni’s”.
- OMNIPRESENCE – God is everywhere
- OMNISCIENCE – God knows everything
- OMNIPOTENCE – God is all powerful
- IMMUTABILITY – God is unchanging
- IMMANENCE – God is In the world
- IMPECCABILITY – God is perfect
- INFINITE – God has and always existed
There are other attributes but these are the keys to understanding where Adam and Eve stand regarding libertarian free will.
Let’s define free will since there is quite a bit of confusion regarding this issue. No thoughtful Christian rejects that man has a will. The controversy over the will of man is if it is autonomous or not. Autonomous free will is generally defined as libertarian free will. In other words when given a choice, man has the ability to act otherwise. Meaning all options are open for man to choose without intervention from outside influences. Certainly this cannot be true, given that it would remove the attribute of omnipotence from God and He cannot remain sovereign. The other form of will, generally accepted by Calvinists, is free agency. An agent still contains a will but the will is constrained by the person they represent. In other words, a Christian represents God and is therefore constrained by the will of God. This argument fits nicely with the attributes listed above because it leaves man with a will but a will constrained by God and therefore God’s attributes stay intact..
So what do we do with Adam and Eve? Are we to assume that Adam and Eve had libertarian free will? Them having such a will would leave some major problems given they are a pivotal part of the history of mankind and God’s plan for redemption. Had Adam and Eve not fallen, the most glorifying point in history, the redemption of man through the cross, would be foiled because God could not intervene in their decision. God would be left with a need to react to the will of man which would not make him immutable (unchanging). Not only does this lend credence to Arminianism but it also creates a slippery slope toward Open Theism.
Open Theists hate immutability because it seemingly destroys their argument that God controls the universe by working with or through the will of man. They must not only remove God’s omniscience from the equation, they must also allow Him to change His mind to react to creation’s actions. Their desire for consistency leaves God as a shell with little to no control over His creation. Is this not the same thing if Adam and Eve are given libertarian free will? I can see no other alternative but to say absolutely.
When God finished His creation He spoke the word “and it was very good”. He uttered these words in a state of omniscience. He was well aware that man would fall and still uttered these words. Why? Though there is not direct scripture stating why God uttered “it was very good”, I think that it can be postulated that it’s because God created everything for His glorification. He saw the fall of man as leading to the glorification of himself through his creation by redemption and this was “very good”. He saw the fall as a necessary action for His glory. The other position leads to Open Theism, even if it’s for a short period of time and only affecting two people in history.
There are other major problems with accepting the argument that Adam and Eve had libertarian free will. First, what does this do to the attributes of the Trinity especially considering the dual nature of Jesus? Had Adam and Eve not fallen would it not be consistent that man could continue in the state of sinless perfection? Would this not mean that Jesus would not need to enter into His creation as the God Man? This is a major problem for the position. Accepting that Adam and Eve had libertarian free will eviscerates the nature of Jesus as both God and Man. Why would Jesus need a human nature at all? In fact what would be the point of the Trinity at all since both Jesus and the Spirit directly interact and intervene on behalf of man? Would not a Unitarian God be all we need? If man stayed in sinless perfection these attributes would not be necessary and the Trinity appears useless. If you believe that Adam and Eve had libertarian free will you have a Trinitarian problem since we know that the Father, Son and Spirit existed before Adam and Eve’s free will decision to sin. We are left wondering why they exist at all. One might state that God knew what Adam and Eve would do and had they not fallen God would have used someone else. That’s a great Arminian argument but there is little room for that in Reformed Theology. The other alternative would be accepting a Molinistic philosophy that God only actuated the universe into existence that would give Him the highest probability of a successful plan. Heresy aside, this argument points to God’s apparent middle knowledge and their is no biblical evidence to support such a claim. A further point is that the roots of Molinism are from the Roman Catholic Jesuits who created the philosophy to combat against Calvinism to hold on to libertarian free will. It simply makes me uncomfortable to use an argument meant to combat my position to prove my argument.
Lastly, it should make all Christians uncomfortable that Adam and Eve’s free will makes the cross into a contingency plan. Generally speaking Christians use the statement “God never intended the world to be this way (sinful)”. What then did He intend? Since He couldn’t intervene in the free choice of Adam and Eve, His intent could not have been written until He knew what Adam and Eve would do. Even if He remains omniscient, He would still be dependant on Man’s will. This means that God’s intent was in fact foiled by His creation and the cross was also not part of His intent – initially. So why Jesus then and why the cross?
In conclusion, the acceptance of Adam and Eve’s libertarian free will leaves you with no cross, no reason for the Trinity and a powerless non sovereign God who could not execute His plan until man acted in a particular way. We are left with a form of Open Theism/Unitarianism.
This begs the question as to why we must accept that Adam and Eve had libertarian free will at all? I believe this comes from a misunderstanding of God’s intention in His creation. Since we know that God uttered that His creation was “very good”, we must assume that this statement applies to the created for a moment in time. So God’s initial creation was “very good” but everything after that was not good? We can’t wrap our minds around the fact that God uses evil to glorify Himself as much – if not more – than in the good things. We point to the “creation” and call it good as opposed to the “creator” who is in fact very good and holy. If we assume that the creation was good, we must reconcile this with a creator who gave man the capacity to sin but didn’t intend for it to happen or God loses Impeccability as an attribute because he created a flaw. If on the other hand, we assume that God is uttering the words “it was very good” as meaning in the overall execution of His plan, then we have no need to assert the will of man into the argument. He created Adam and Eve for the very purpose of falling so God can be glorified through it and that is “very good”, right and holy. It is our assumption of the meaning of with word “good” and our desire to place ourselves into the plan of redemption that causes confusion and inconsistency in our theology.. I see no need for this.
There are two points of contention in my argument that should be addressed. First, it can be stated that my argument depends upon assuming the attributes of God and that I am not necessarily proven them. Though this is true that I lack proof in this document, it doesn’t mean that proof doesn’t exist. I have simply for the sake of expediency left them out. I can in fact prove them from scripture if necessary. Secondly, and more problematic, is any argument that is seemingly new to Christianity that overrides thousands of years of Christian tradition. I would agree such a premise is dangerous however this argument is not new. Granted there is little from the church fathers on the subject but this is largely because the sovereignty of God was not in question. In other words, it wasn’t until the American Arminian church became the majority view that these types of questions were addressed in further detail So the same can be said about the opposing view. Why did it, and not my position, override thousands of years of Christian tradition on the sovereignty of God? Why is it that in order to prove a reformed theological position one must first prove the opposing view – Arminianism – and potentially even prove heretical views like Open Theism and Unitarianism?
My conclusion is quite simple. It is simply problematic to make the claim that the will of man has changed since the first man and woman. Like with many theological point one must desire to work toward consistency and in this point a large number of reformed theologians are simply acting in an inconsistent way and that creates a large number of slippery slopes.