I had a very interesting (read: frustrating) exchange with a theist this evening. To say he was intellectually dishonest would be a gross understatement.
The theist in question made this basic claim:
God created humans perfect and gave them ability to follow laws. Humans were without flaw till they sinned.
My answer to him was that his statement was self-contradictory and therefore nonsense. My guess is I don’t actually need to explain this to most of my non-believing visitors. But for any Christians who might read it, let’s talk it through anyhow. I’ll include some further exchanges with said theist, because it got rather nonsensical from there.
As this theist is specifically a fundamentalist, literalist, creationist (Young Earther, I’d bet, but I don’t know that for a fact) Christian, it’s clear that he is referring to the creation of Adam & Eve in a literal Eden.
So, per the biblical account, Adam & Eve are created – perfect and flawless, Elohim’s ideal, in-his-image beings.
Then Satan comes in, the Tempter, the Adversary, and tempts Eve into disobeying god. *Crunch* The apple (pomegranate?) is eaten and man falls, becoming mortals bound for death. God’s angry, then there are fig leaves, angel, flaming sword, and so on.
So what’s wrong with this picture?
According to Christian theology, Adam and Eve were perfect until they sinned.
So I asked the question: How does a perfect being sin?
If Adam and Eve were perfect beings, with the ability to obey laws (a clarification specific to this conversation with this theist) then how can they, being perfect, make a decision that is imperfect? If they are perfect, then their ability to reason, consider, and decide will be perfect, and being perfect, they will not make an imperfect choice. Their reasoning, and therefore their choice, will be flawless.
Well, they had the freedom to choose, and they made the wrong choice.
How can they make a wrong choice? They’re perfect, therefore every choice they make must be perfect.
No, then they would be robots without a brain.
Which was, of course, his way of asserting the “free will” portion of the theology.
Keep in mind that this singular event is central to all of Christian theology. Without this “fall,” the entirety of Christian theology will be void. This fall is what makes human beings “dead in their sin.” It’s why, according to fundamentalist evangelical theology, humans are born disconnected from god, and can only restore this union with god by being “born again.”
But rather than get into an entire separate conversation on free will, I’d rather stick with the current topic. So I asked: Does that mean God is a robot without a brain?
The primary disconnect is that somehow the application of freedom to choose will somehow override a being’s innate perfection. Either way one looks at it, that’s ridiculous. On the one hand, perfection will result in perfect outcomes, even in the face of temptation. If a perfect being is faced with the devil/snake insisting that god told them something that wasn’t true (you will surely die) that perfect being will make a perfect evaluation of the claim against what he knows about god, and come to a perfect conclusion (not to sin, and therefore, not to eat the apple.) All freely chosen, of course.
In the same vein, let’s look at the other perfect being in the equation, God. If it is possible for a perfect being to make an imperfect decision, for the purpose of preserving free will, what assurance does anyone have that god, despite all his supposed perfection, won’t eventually make an imperfect decision? After all, if the hallmark of free will is the ability to make wrong choices despite personal perfection, then god himself would not be immune to this potential outcome, being himself free willed and perfect.
The bottom line is: you can’t have it both ways. Either Adam & Eve were perfect, in which case the entire story of the fall of man falls apart, since perfect beings beget perfect choices, or Adam & Eve were not perfect, in which case they were created flawed, and therefore not at fault for making the imperfect choice they were designed to make.
Regardless of which way you view it, the story cannot pass logical muster on any level, and therefore deserves to be rejected out of hand.