: Did God know that Adam and Eve were going to sin? If He did then why did He create them?
: This is a two-part question, so let’s deal with in two parts. The first question asks “Did God know that Adam and Eve were going to sin?” In order to answer this question, we must know what the Bible teaches about God’s knowledge. Orthodox Christian theology teaches that God is omniscient
. This is a word derived from Latin, which literally means “all-knowing.” Does the Bible support the claims of orthodox Christian theology? Let’s examine some passages:
- “For he looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.” (Job 28:24)
- “Do you know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge.” (Job 37:16)
- “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” (Psalm 147:5)
- “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33)
This is just a sampling of the verses that deal with God’s knowledge. Looking at some of the superlatives the Bible uses – “sees everything under the heavens”; “perfect in knowledge”; “his understanding beyond measure”; “the depth of the…knowledge of God” – it seems clear that God’s knowledge isn’t merely greater than our own, but infinitely greater than our own. He knows all things in totality. So did God know that Adam and Eve were going to sin? Yes! Absolutely!
For the sake of argument, let’s assume the answer to that question is “no” (i.e., that God didn’t know that Adam and Eve were going to sin). What logical conclusions can we derive from this? Clearly to assume that conclusion would mean to assert that God is not omniscient. Not only does that contradict the conclusions of orthodox Christian theology throughout the centuries, but it also denies the witness of Scripture. Furthermore, to assert that God is not omniscient is to conclude that he is not God. For God not to be omniscient would mean that his knowledge is not perfect. If his knowledge is not perfect, this implies there is a lack in God’s being. Any lack in God’s being means he cannot be God, for God’s being implies the perfection of all his attributes. Therefore, the answer to the first question must, by necessity, be “yes.”
Moving on to the second part of the question, “why did God create Adam and Eve knowing ahead of time they were going to sin?” This question is a little trickier because we are asking a ‘why’ question, to which the Bible doesn’t usually provide comprehensive answers. Despite that, we should be able to come to some limited understanding of this question if we examine some Biblical passages. To begin, since God is omniscient, we know that nothing can happen outside of his knowledge. So if God knew that Adam and Eve were going to sin and yet he created them anyway, it must mean that the fall of mankind was part of God’s sovereign plan from the beginning; no other answer makes sense given what we have been saying thus far.
Now we must be careful to note that Adam and Eve falling into sin does not mean that God is the author of sin, nor that he tempted Adam and Eve to sin (James 1:13). The fall of mankind brought about by the sin of Adam and Eve serves the purpose of God’s overall plan for creation and mankind. This, again, must be the case or else the fall of mankind would never have happened.
If you consider what some theologians call the ‘meta-narrative’ (or over-arching story-line) of Scripture, you will see that Biblical history can be roughly divided into three main sections: 1) Paradise (Genesis 1-2); 2) Paradise Lost (Genesis 3 - Revelation 20); 3) Paradise Regained (Revelation 21-22). By far the biggest part of the narrative is devoted to moving from paradise lost to paradise regained. Everything the Bible records is in some way, shape or form moving this narrative from paradise lost to paradise regained. At the center of this meta-narrative is the cross. Contrary to some, the cross was planned from the very beginning (Acts 2:23). It was foreknown and foreordained that Christ would go to the cross and give his life as a ransom for his people. We also know from the Bible that the people for whom Christ died were also chosen by God’s foreknowledge and predestined to be his people (Ephesians 1:4-5).
Reading the text of Scripture very carefully and taking what has been said thus far, we’re left with the following conclusions:
- The fall of mankind was foreknown and foreordained by God
- Those who would become the people of God, the elect, were foreknown and foreordained by God
- The crucifixion of Christ, as atonement for God’s people, was foreknown and foreordained by God
This begs the question: Why? Why create mankind with the knowledge of the fall? Why create mankind knowing that only some would be ‘saved?’ Why send Jesus knowingly to die for a people that knowingly fell into sin? From our perspective it doesn’t make sense. If the meta-narrative moves from paradise to paradise lost to paradise regained, why not just go straight to paradise regained and avoid the whole paradise lost interlude?
The only conclusion that makes sense of the above assertions is that God’s purpose in creating the world that exists was to create a world in which his glory can be manifest in all its fullness. The glory of God is the over-arching goal of creation. The universe was created to display God’s glory (Psalm 19:1) and the wrath of God is revealed amongst us for failing to glorify God (Romans 1:23). Our sin causes us to fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). And in the new heaven and new earth, the glory of God is what will provide light (Revelation 21:23). The glory of God is manifest when his attributes are on perfect display, and the story of redemption (i.e., the meta-narrative of Scripture) is part of that.
The best place to see this in Scripture is in Romans 9. Consider the following passage:
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 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?” 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? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? (Romans 9:19-24)
Wrath and mercy display God’s glory and you can’t get either without the fall of mankind. Therefore, all of the above assertions -- Fall, election, redemption, atonement -- serve the purpose of glorifying God. When man fell into sin, God’s mercy was immediately displayed in not killing him on the spot. God’s patience and forbearance were also on display as mankind fell deeper into sin prior to the flood. God’s justice and wrath were on display as he executed judgment during the flood. God’s mercy and grace were displayed as he saved Noah and his family from the flood; and on and on. The cross is the ultimate display of God;s glory as his justice and mercy met. The righteous judgment of all sin was executed at the cross as well as God’s grace in pouring his wrath for sin on his Son, Jesus instead of us. In the end, God will be glorified as his chosen people worship him for all eternity with the angels, and the wicked will also glorify God as his justice and righteousness will finally be vindicated by the eternal punishment of all unrepentant sinners (Philippians 2:11).
The classic objection to this position is that having the fall of mankind foreknown and foreordained does damage to man’s freedom. In other words, if God created mankind with full knowledge of the impending fall into sin, how can man be responsible for his sin? The best answer to this question can be found in the Westminster Confession of Faith
God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established (WFC, III.1)
What this is saying, in a nutshell, is that God ordains future events in such a way that our freedom and the working of secondary causes (i.e., laws of nature) is preserved. Theologians call this concurrence
. God’s sovereign will flows concurrently with our free choices in such a way that our free choices always
result in the carrying out of God’s will (when I say ‘free choices’ what I mean is that our choices are not coerced by outside influences).
Wrapping this up, God knew that Adam and Eve were going to sin in the Garden of Eden. With that knowledge in hand, God still created Adam and Eve because creating them and ordaining the fall was part of God’s sovereign plan for creation to manifest his glory in all its fullness. Even though the fall was foreknown and foreordained, our freedom in making choices is not violated because our free choices are the means by which God’s will is carried out.