Thoughts on The Fall of Man

A good friend of mine emailed me some thoughts of his on the topic of "The Fall of Man." He wanted my opinion. I loved what he wrote so much that I asked him if he wouldn't mind me sharing his thoughts with others. He said I could as long as I did it anonymously - so that the glory would go to God.

So the following is from an email from an anonymous Christian brother:

At a friend's prompting I have memorized Romans 3:19, which says:

"Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God."

This verse, in its context, says God has arranged things so that all the world may become guilty before him. Why does God want a thing like that? I have been musing recently on the notion that perhaps God intended man to fall, and wondered whether it might be so. This verse certainly seems to say he did, and in meditation on these things, the following has surfaced. I hope to polish it some day but this is the best I have, given the time I have allotted to typing.

If the universe is a man-centered place, and God's chief end is to benefit man, the fall is the greatest tragedy to ever happen to man, certainly the greatest tragedy to ever occur to God, and truly a victory for Satan, who was going to be damned anyway, but was able to take out the Son of God on his way to hell.

If the universe is a God-centered place, if what God treasures most highly is himself, not man, if instead it is man who exists to glorify God, the fall is very different. God is the one who slew Christ, and it pleased him to do so. He slew him before the foundation of the world, not afterwards as a reaction to a shrewd enemy's quick thinking. The pattern in scripture is that Satan is God's errand boy whom he dispatches to accomplish his purposes at his whim, whom he controls utterly, who can do nothing without his permission, who is held together by the word of his power, who was created by him, and for him, and for his own glory. Satan is not God's archenemy, the evil counterpart to God in the universe, who rules the armies of darkness in the fight against God who rules the armies of light. Satan is a creature, like a dandelion, or a newt.

If this is the case, Satan's role in the garden of Eden would similarly be that he was there with God's permission, and by God's design, to accomplish whatever purpose God intended. God is pleased that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before him. God placed Satan in the garden and allowed the very first man to fall so that all the world would become guilty before him; and this glorifies him. Because all have sinned, all will be in one of two categories at the judgment:

  • those on whom he has manifested the richness of his mercy,
  • and those on whom he has manifested the glory of his righteousness in judgment.

If we examine the place of God in the universe, that he is the center of the universe, that he created it with a few spoken syllables, that he holds it together by the word of his power, that he created all things, including Satan, by him, and for him, and for his pleasure - created Satan for his pleasure - then there are no tragedies for him. Everything glorifies him. He is glorified as judge when men sin, and he is glorified as gracious when he saves men. The fall was not a tragedy for him. The crucifixion was not a tragedy for him. It was the greatest demonstration of his character that he ever performed in the sight of man. In light of God's passion for demonstrating his power and the excellency of his glory, of course he designed the fall. Men are not the ones longing to look into the mystery of never falling like the angels; rather, angels are the ones longing to see into the glory of the fallen receiving salvation. Of course he designed the fall - to the end that he might glorify himself in salvation and judgment.

In so doing, he receives the glory for every man's destiny, whether it be in heaven or whether it be in hell. If he did not design the fall, he does not get the glory for most men's destiny, for most go to hell. Rather, Satan would be honored. Satan maneuvered God into such a fix that God's best counter maneuver of designing salvation was so meager that he would only be able to save a few from Satan's clutch, and even to do that he had to sacrifice his child - an amazingly effective military tactic against God, particularly since Satan was already going down and pulled this off before he received his final judgment. If Satan designed the fall, the demonstration of God's righteousness in damning men to hell is not out of God's love for displaying his glory, but something Satan forced him to do by manipulating God into this role of Judge and Damner of men, which God never wanted to do.

If, in light of the role of Satan in the universe, we ask whether God intended the fall or if he simply reacted to it, we cannot conclude that the glory of salvation from the fall was something as trifling as God just being more shrewd than the very shrewd devil in the politics of the universe. If God did not engineer the fall, Satan is glorified. If God did not engineer the fall, then he intended all men to live perpetually in a garden of Eden and none to be damned, nor for his Son to suffer his wrath. Satan would be massively glorified in this case because he was already damned but look what he perpetrated against God on the way! How he has embarrassed God! He destroyed God's plan for man and earth and Eden. He made God curse man, whom he loved, and ultimately dragged the vast majority of mankind to hell with him. And look what he did to Jesus! God's only reaction to Satan's attack was to kill his Son, which was a puny plan at best because it only saved a minority of men! What an embarrassment, that God's best counter to the evil mastermind's attack was to kill his Son to save but a few. But Satan is not glorified, and God designed the fall.

Consider the words of the Westminster Confession, Chapter V, paragraph V.

The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave, for a season, his own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.

This paragraph states that God withholds his grace from his own children with the intent of letting them sin, for his various purposes. It is evident in the phrasing that this is not done out of malice toward his children, but for his own glory, and out of love for his children. God withheld his favor to accomplish an end in the garden of Eden as well. Just as the quote above describes, God did this for his own "just and holy ends". Is he unrighteous to send the world into sin and curse it, damning the majority to hell? But who are we to hold the potter accountable for how he has made his pottery? We have no claims on him. He owes us nothing. The only thing man deserves from God is wrath. The injustice is not that some do receive wrath, but that some do not. That those who go to hell go after several decades of rebellion and millions of hateful acts toward God instead of after only one single sin, demonstrates God's mercy and longsuffering on even those who despise him. He is not unjust or unrighteous to engineer the fall.

Scripture says God has arranged things so that all the world may become guilty before him, and that seems necessarily to imply he designed the fall. He is glorified by all men falling and being guilty before him because: it exalts his position as Creator, who is right and just to do with his pottery as he pleases; it exalts his position of power over all things; it magnifies his mercy on those he saves; it magnifies his justice on those whose damnation is just; it places all men in position of dependence on God; it demonstrates his power over Satan, who is also a useful piece of pottery in God's plans for glorifying himself.

If God did not initiate the fall, then Satan initiated it. (Man participated in it, but he did not initiate it.) If it was Satan's plan, he struck a blow against God that God never fully recovered from. God would not get all the glory in the universe; for Satan would get some. He stripped most all of the humans God loved right out of his hands. He tricked God into having to be the one who condemned the humans he loved. He put God in such a bind that he had to slaughter his child to even get back the few humans he rescued. All the rest of eternity, the presence of most humans being in hell is a testimony to Satan's overall successful thwarting of God's plans. The eternal nail prints in the hands of Christ will be a testimony for all eternity that on his way down to hell, Satan was still shrewd enough to scar the Almighty and leave his permanent mark in an otherwise perfect heaven.

Scripture teaches God made all things for his pleasure, including the serpent. God says he will not give his glory to another. He is God and he has no equal. Satan did not take Christ's life from him - Christ laid his life down voluntarily. Scripture says there is no counsel or wisdom or understanding against the Lord. Scripture says our God is in the heavens, and he does whatsoever he pleases. Satan has no power against God. God and Satan are not counterparts, two powerful generals competing in a great war. God is not competing with Satan. God created Satan, like he created the rest of the dust, and he does with him as he likes. Satan does nothing without Gods permission, like a four year old boy who has to ask his mother for permission to play in the back yard.

Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.

To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him? The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains. He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved. Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.

Isaiah 40:12-24

But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.

Habakkuk 2:20

Like I said, pretty good stuff to think about!

In addition to my friend's email, I offer the following two Scrpiture verses:

"According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved"

Ephesians 1:4-6, emphasis mine

God planned to redeem us each individually before the foundation of the world, which means, "before the fall of man." God willed the redemption before the need for redemption ever materialized.

"Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him"

Isaiah 53:10

It pleased God to punish Christ. This was God's first-choice, not the desperate act of a god who was fooled by Satan. God's first will came to pass in the cross. Or said another way, there is no "plan B."

© 2018, the Sohmer family