Since God is not the author of evil, where did the first inclination to sin come from? Today, W. Robert Godfrey discusses the Bible’s revelation about the fall of Satan and the fall of mankind.
NATHAN W. BINGHAM: We’re recording live from Ligonier’s 2021 Pittsburgh Conference, and I’m joined by Ligonier’s Chairman, Dr. W. Robert Godfrey. Dr. Godfrey, where did the ultimate desire to sin come from?
DR. W. ROBERT GODFREY: That’s a fascinating question, and I’m not sure I have a fascinating answer. The origin of evil is a mystery in a profound sense. God is not the author of evil. And I think it is useful when trying to answer theological questions to put certain limits, because sometimes we can see the parameters of an answer more clearly than we could see every facet of the answer. So, one of the things the Reformed theologians have been adamant about is God is not the author of evil.
Of course, that then runs into a problem because God is sovereign. If He’s not the author of evil, how can there be evil in a universe where God is sovereign and good? And so there is a mystery there. But what the Scripture does teach us is that man was created by God with a freedom to turn away from God. And that’s what we see in the garden of Eden with Adam. That Adam and Eve were created good and holy, and yet they came into contact with the evil one, and they listened to his word. And that word of the evil one planted desire for that which was not good in their hearts, and they pursued that, and it led them into the fall in sin and death as God had said would happen when He warned them about the need to pursue truth.
In a sense, the key temptation is the temptation to be God. To replace God. To take the place of God. That seems to be what led Lucifer to fall as an angel. We might well think—properly—that being an angel, a great angel, would be a great thing. But there, too, the desire to be more than we were created to be seems to have led Lucifer to fall and led Adam and Eve to fall. And so that’s a great warning for us that we need to pursue a contentment with the ways and will of God and to remind ourselves that if we were God, we’d do a terrible job.
I think there remains something of a mystery for us. How could this be a realistic temptation for Adam? But it should remind all of us, I think, that temptation is subtle, and the evil one knows our chinks. There shouldn’t have been chinks in Adam in his created state. But nonetheless, there was this hubris, this pride, this desire to be God. And that led him astray and led us all into the mess we made. The real mystery in history in a sense is not really why did we sin, but why did God bother to redeem us? And that’s what we have to be thankful for.
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