Oh, Just Perfect

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.

Perfect.  Flawless.

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.

Perfect.

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.

Advertisements

16 thoughts on “Oh, Just Perfect

  1. Excellent post. I hadn’t thought of it that way before, but you’re right. A perfect being won’t make the wrong choice. But if we go ahead and say that it’s possible anyway, then all bets are off for God as well. Nice.

    I have a similar one I use with the problem of evil and free will. If sin and evil entered the world because of sin (though this doesn’t answer natural disasters and accidents), and sin is simply a result of free will, does this mean we lose free will in heaven?

    Most Christians are loathe to say “yes,” because God supposedly doesn’t want mindless followers. Plus, it seems creepy to think about not having free will.

    But if you answer “no,” then how could heaven be a place without sin? At this point, Christians often say that God “perfects” us or something so that we still have free will but won’t sin. And to this, you just ask, “why didn’t he do that to begin with?” In other words, it comes right back around to the problem of evil.

    I tend to call it “the problem of heaven” 😉

    • It’s a big happy circle. Well said all around 😉

      The problem of Heaven is very real. Perfection is perfection. I’ll have to spend more time in this part of the playground. Lots to do. Thanks for visiting, commenting, and following – cheers!

  2. Ugh! I’ve been having a conversation with a YEC, Calvinist. He seems to believe that God created Adam and Eve, and good and evil, and even willed Adam and Eve to do the evil that he created so that there could BE a cross but that God, himself, is not culpable in any way for the evil done by man. Makes.my.head.hurt.

    • Oh, do I ever hear you – and thanks for following and commenting, by the way 🙂

      I actually had a very lengthy conversation in response to this post that alluded to some of those same theological ideas your *opponent* supported. Of course, my foil was a close friend who was arguing semantics with me, rather than believed concepts, so it was far easier to stomach. I may write a follow up in the next week or so because it really shines a light on the incongruity of the supposed omnibenevolent nature of god against the story of Eden.

      Cheers 🙂

  3. Hello, I stumbled onto your website because I too had many of the same agonizing questions you had with Christianity, specifically such topics you address in your article “Cruel and Unusual – Hell and Punishment”. I always felt the judgment, but not enough of the love and compassion I was seeking. I was seeking love and compassion not specifically for me, but for everyone in general. I have always been amazed at how little we as Christians are allowed to question, as if the entire belief system will come crumbling down.

    I began to search for those who I would consider experts at Christianity. Pastors if you will, who studied the bible and Christian relationships regularly. I wanted to know first, were there a lot of pastors who were not really believers anymore and if so, were their questions the same as mine. Yes there are many, and yes the questions are the same. I have read so many accounts of pastors recalling the day they admitted to themselves they just did not believe any longer and stood face to face with the idea they were an athiest. That is how I stumbled onto your website. I love the way you write, by the way.

    I have continued to search for answers because I really am not there (atheism). I find I still identify with Christianity, not the same way fundamentalists Christians do , but in a way that I feel Christ was important – somehow, his life, what he taught.

    I continued to seek, but in different places than I have before. I joined a meditation group that is vastly made up of Christians who are in the same place I am. During this journey, I ran across the Gospel of Thomas that was not part of the four gospel canon. I read several books written about the Gospel of Thomas and the actual Gospel of Thomas, which are claimed to be 114 sayings from Jesus. Again, I stumbled upon another website: The Gospel of Thomas Fully Interpreted. http://www.gospelofthomasfullyinterpreted.com/. It has made me stop searching dead in my tracks and really focus on this interpretation. This is a long way around to ask you to take a look at this website. I would be interested in what you have to say about this interpretation of the Thomas Gospel and also the other articles here. I am curious as to why this site speaks to me so profoundly. I just wonder if it would to you also.

    Thank you so much for your time,

    Marina

  4. Thanks for the read and the thought provoking questions!! After reading your article my question to you is, can something pure and perfect become corrupt/blemished? According to the scriptures (as you acknowledged) Satan was in the Garden with Adam and Eve. When a pure substance collides/combines with an unclean substance it does create impurity (like water for example). I would love to hear your thoughts!

    Respectfully,

    Luke

    • Luke:

      That is a great comment. Shortly after I published this post, a dear friend of mine, who is an atheist and a very deep thinker, challenged my thinking in the same way. We had a long conversation (on Facebook) that I intend to publish here later once I’m finished with my follow-up thoughts.

      I do believe, in the end, that my point about perfection stands, but I wanted to at least reply and hope that you’ll stick around for when I find time to address your question as fully as it deserves.

      Cheers, and thanks for reading.

  5. When i was a believer, I rationalised it like this:
    If God had not given us flawless freewill, then we’d not have had the option to choose to follow him. When the fruit of our hearts shows that we do choose him, then he perfects our freewill in heaven so we can live on fluffy clouds.
    See, if he only made people that would choose him, then freewill is meaningless. And if he made both people who would and wouldn’t accept him, but didn’t give the option, then we’re as-good-as slaves. So we have to have a messy life before the real show, where we can choose and can choose badly.
    But even then, God still becomes some real tyrant. He could have created a reality where not choosing him wasn’t so sinful; its the most gross ego trip you can imagine. “You’re ‘free’ but choose me coz i’m amazing or else!” And “I’ll make you flawed and torture you for it (and i’m not sorry coz it had to be this way and you have freewill after all)” [really, wtf]. Of course Christians just say that he has a right to be “righteous” and don’t see the predicament.

    • Brandon – well said – it’s sort pulling on the loose thread of the quilt. You keep pulling and eventually it all unravels. Thanks for visiting. Sorry I’m so late in responding.

  6. Hello,
    I found your blog quite by accident but I’m glad that I did. I’ve been struggling with my beliefs for a few years now. Christianity was forced upon me as a child and it took until adulthood for me to learn that they were NOT my beliefs but rather the beliefs of my family and that as a child I was never given the opportunity to find my own way. Thank you for this blog and thank you for helping to jump start my mind into a brand new way of thinking! 🙂

  7. I have been a born again southern Baptist Christian for almost 30 years. The past few years I have begun to question my beliefs. My husband is trying to be supportive, but he’s having a very hard time.
    I have so many questions, and trust me, I know the Bible very well (been Sunday school teacher, VBS, worked with youth) but the more I think about everything I’ve learned since I was a teenager, do not add up.
    I will not go into a full list, but here’s a question that is huge to me…. We have been taught that we sinned because of Satan. He puts lust or greed or envy into our hearts, and therefor when we fail its because of our sinful nature from Satan. We were born into sin. So, Lucifer was God’s most favored angel. Beautiful and perfect, but Lucifer decided he didn’t like giving God the glory, that he wanted some for himself (would that be envy, jealously, or pride?). So he rebelled against God. How is that possible since those sinful urges come from Satan… And at that time, Lucifer was perfect, where did his lust for power come from? Did God create those urges to see if Lucifer would succumb? If so, arent we taught God can’t create evil or bad?
    Thank you for this article, you’re right, If Adam and Eve were perfect, wouldn’t they make a perfect decision and that would be to have obey God?
    I’m am sorry that this is so long.

    • Hi, Sheri: Thanks for your thoughtful response. The question of the origin of evil has been one of the key issues of doubt for me all along. Because evil had to come from somewhere. If you go along with Baptist/Evangelical theology that God has no evil in him and cannot be in the presence of evil and/or sin (which doesn’t make sense when you consider omnipresence, but I digress) then one struggles to understand how corruption can enter the creation of a perfect and perfectly good creator.

      I delved a little deeper into this in a couple earlier articles:

      https://winlb.wordpress.com/2011/11/01/the-birth-of-dr-evil-or-where-did-evil-come-from/

      https://winlb.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/the-devil-made-me-do-it-or-who-is-responsible-for-the-evil-men-do/

      And I really, really appreciate where you’re coming from in your search, and how your husband feels. My wife was the first to shed her belief, probably 7-8 years before I did. It was a terrible struggle for awhile. But somehow, I knew that whatever was true, no good would serve making a battleground of our marriage, and we learned to talk through our differences. It was partially on a search for answers to her questions that led me to reconsider all my doubts.

      I lay out some of that story here:

      https://winlb.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/the-line-between-hot-and-cold/

      Anyway, I wish you peace and clarity through your search. It’s scary at first, when you’ve believed in heaven, hell, eternity, and such for so long. It feels like you’re giving up everything until you have the time to really think it through.

      I would encourage you to keep going and don’t accept answers that don’t make sense. Keep searching for the truth wherever it leads.

      Good luck to you and your hubby. You’ll find your way through 🙂

  8. Greeting Sheri!

    I just read your post and felt lead to respond. I grew up in a similar manner to yours and can completely relate! I went to VBS, worked in Sunday School, and all of that good stuff.

    Your question is a really tough one to answer. One thing I know from my study of scripture is that all authority that Satan has over the earth comes from God. Could it be that God allowed Satan to rebel? Absolutley. The fall of Lucifer led to the fall of mankind. Which lead to the redemption of mankind. This ultimately leads to the freewill of worshipping God or not worshipping God. God does not want robots worshipping Him. He want you to choose Him! He ultimatley wants you!

    Your question is really indepth and I am aware that my answer is only a tid bit compared to how huge of a question that is. When I look at your story, you have been a believer for close to 30 years. Surely, God has done things in your life that has encouraged you througout those 30 years. Keep running! Don’t get caught up in religion. Get caught up in Jesus!! He loves you! I don’t think its an accident that I get to tell you this on this very site. There will always be questions…but look back on those moments that you know you encountered God. Hes still there in the midst of the doubts.

    • Iswanon95: I have to confess I almost deleted your comment. My blog is a place for discussion, not proselytization, which your post was alarming close to doing. In the end, because you at least tried (poorly, I may add, and I’ll explain why in a moment) to address Sheri’s actual question, I approved it.

      In the future, please refrain from preaching and proselytizing on my site. If my doubting visitors want that, they can go to church and get all they want. This is a place for rationally discussing issues of doubt regarding Christianity. So consider this a gentle warning.

      That said, your explanation leaves a lot unconsidered, and the things it leaves are some of the most important things.

      **Your question is a really tough one to answer.**

      It’s tough to answer because it’s very incongruous with the theology of God as perfect and perfectly good, as unable to be in the presence of sin. Going on…

      **One thing I know from my study of scripture is that all authority that Satan has over the earth comes from God.**

      He doesn’t have that authority anymore, though:

      Matt 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

      **Could it be that God allowed Satan to rebel? Absolutley. The fall of Lucifer led to the fall of mankind. Which lead to the redemption of mankind. This ultimately leads to the freewill of worshipping God or not worshipping God. God does not want robots worshipping Him. He want you to choose Him! He ultimatley wants you!**

      I’m afraid you have completely glossed over the actual question. Sheri already knows the theology, Iswanson95. We know that, according to theology, god allowed Satan to rebel.

      The question is, if God is perfect, and he has absolutely no evil in him, and cannot even be in the presence of evil or sin, then how does his absolutely perfect creation, Lucifer – who knows fully, because he’s A-Number-One and lives in heaven in the very presence of God (the condition that we are told will prevent us from ever even thinking of sin again once we get there) even conceive of any sort of evil when evil doesn’t even exist in the universe?

      Since, by theology YHWH is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent, not to mention omnibenevolent, he knows the end from the beginning. So in order to create a universe where rebellion, murder, child molestation, lying, rape, stealing, and all other evils could exist, he had to already conceptualize those evils in his mind. And still, according to theology, he called it good.

      That’s the question you need to dive into.

      **Your question is really indepth and I am aware that my answer is only a tid bit compared to how huge of a question that is.**

      I’m afraid you didn’t actually address her question, but enough on that.

      **When I look at your story, you have been a believer for close to 30 years. Surely, God has done things in your life that has encouraged you througout those 30 years. Keep running! Don’t get caught up in religion. Get caught up in Jesus!! He loves you! I don’t think its an accident that I get to tell you this on this very site. There will always be questions…but look back on those moments that you know you encountered God. Hes still there in the midst of the doubts.**

      In 26 years I had some amazing spiritual experiences that I now recognize as emotional wish-fulfillment driven by the power of suggestion and the drive to belong to a group, and so on. Jesus is religion, Iswanson95, no matter how you slice it.

      I’d appreciate you sticking to the discussion in hand from now on, however. Thanks again for at least dropping in.

      • Iswanson, Thank you for your reply. It didn’t really answer my question, but I do appreciate the attempt.

        Toon hit the nail on the head with this, “Since, by theology YHWH is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent, not to mention omnibenevolent, he knows the end from the beginning. So in order to create a universe where rebellion, murder, child molestation, lying, rape, stealing, and all other evils could exist, he had to already conceptualize those evils in his mind. And still, according to theology, he called it good.”

        and this “The question is, if God is perfect, and he has absolutely no evil in him, and cannot even be in the presence of evil or sin, then how does his absolutely perfect creation, Lucifer – who knows fully, because he’s A-Number-One and lives in heaven in the very presence of God (the condition that we are told will prevent us from ever even thinking of sin again once we get there) even conceive of any sort of evil when evil doesn’t even exist in the universe?”

        I am told that God wanted us to have Free will. I would give up my free will and be a mindless happy God robot if that meant that the horrors of this planet were gone and never existed. To think for me to have free will that rape, mass murder, child molestation must exist is hard for me to grasp.

        I am beyond happy to find this Blog. I feel alone in this journey of mine. I have kept this a secret. I just told my husband last year and now I have given hints to my teenage children. I do not outright say my doubts, I just throw questions out there. I will admit, I am fearful that I am wrong and Jesus is our salvation and I have condemned myself to hell and possibly my children if they follow in my footsteps.

      • **I am beyond happy to find this Blog. I feel alone in this journey of mine. I have kept this a secret. I just told my husband last year and now I have given hints to my teenage children. I do not outright say my doubts, I just throw questions out there. I will admit, I am fearful that I am wrong and Jesus is our salvation and I have condemned myself to hell and possibly my children if they follow in my footsteps.**

        First, thank you. Your comment means more to me than you know. I don’t blog often enough, yet I still find the occasional comment like yours from somebody who just needed some assurance they weren’t crazy.

        Second, I totally feel you here. It was scary at first. And that first moment when I realized that I no longer believed it, I stood on the precipice. On the one hand I had the promise I’d believed for 26 years that I was headed to an eternal paradise, and that in rejecting Christ and the Holy Spirit, I would condemn myself irredeemably to Hell. On the other hand, I had reality. I had all of the things I could see, experience, and understand. I realized that the world didn’t work the way the leaders I trusted said it did. Once I accepted that I wasn’t giving up a real eternity, but an imaginary one, I found the courage to leap.

        My wife, who went through her journey alone, much like you are now, had those same fears, and they would crop up now and then. For her she took the time to keep reading and understanding. She read many viewpoints, including the usual suspects, liberal Christians and theologians, atheists, and so on. It would help her keep the whole of the logical issues in front of her and not get caught up in a particular emotional part of the conversation.

        Just keep searching for yourself and find the truth where it is to be found. And I hope you come visit again 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s