Thursday, November 24, 2016

Foreknowing the Fall?

Did God create Adam and Eve knowing that they would fail to meet his standards and behave offensively and disobediently? (Romans 5:18, 19)

Two Pauline scriptures are used to argue that God indeed did that: 2 Timothy 1:9 and Titus 1:2, for both conclude with the phrase πρὸ χρόνων αἰωνίων, which literally means "before times everlasting."[1] The NET Bible has it rendered as "before the ages began" with a footnote saying "before eternal ages." The NIV however has it translated as "before the beginning of time," and the HCSB similarly has "before time began." This makes it appear like God began the redemptive process for humanity before the creation of the physical universe, as in foreknowing that the Fall would happen even prior to physical creation.

However, this would create a theodical problem, a problem affecting God's righteousness by making him party to the disastrous consequences of our primeval parents' fall into sin and death. As the book Reasoning From the Scriptures notes:[2]
Would it be just or loving to condemn a person for doing something that you yourself planned for him to do? ... Jehovah is a God of love. (1 John 4:8) All his ways are just. (Ps. 37:28; Deut. 32:4) It was not God's will for Adam to sin; he warned Adam against it. (Gen. 2:17) ... Perfection did not rule out the exercise of free will to disobey. Adam chose to rebel against God, despite the warning that death would result.
Interestingly, the NWT does not translate either scripture as seen above, but as "before times long ago" (2 Timothy 1:9) and as "promised long ago" (Titus 1:2).[3] Thus, the redemptive process began only when it needed to, thousands of years prior with the first redemptive promise expressed in Genesis 3:15, right after the Fall occurred and not before. The BDAG lexicon concurs with this handling of the Greek text, for it says on page 33 under αἰώνιος in boldface type that it pertains "to a long period of time, long ago," and only offers "before time began" as a secondary, possible rendering in those two pastoral scriptures.

Click to enlarge.

Even if the phrase is literally "before time began," this may be taken as hyperbole.

In closing, ones who think that God created with redemption in mind fail to appreciate that this would include God in the Fall, making him a party to it. Thus, having God create knowing in advance that his crowning creation, humanity, would rebel and offend him does nothing to support theodicy. Claiming that God being omniscient means that he knew in advance that humanity would offend him is ridiculous and assumes that knowing everything means that you know what someone else will do at all times and with all choices.[4] It is an anti-theodicy and is nonsense.

[1] Astronomer and creation apologist Hugh Ross argued like this in this podcast discussing his excellent new book Improbable Planet:

[2] "Adam and Eve" page 29. See also under "Fate" page 142, and in Insight on the Scriptures under "Foreknowledge, Foreordination: Predestinarian view" p. 852

[3] It is interesting that Paul while writing under divine inspiration did not provide a chronological total here from Adam's sin to his day, not even a rough one (as in "about 4,000 years ago" per the 6,000-year interpretive paradigm), but simply left it as 'a real long time ago.'

[4] This explanation is called "Open Theism," which is defined as here at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Recommended video:
Depicting the Fall and Jesus' ransom sacrifice:

Related blog entry:
The Earth that Adam Knew?

Additional reading:

Opening picture from Learn From the Great Teacher chapter 8, seen here:

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