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“The Triune God’s Answer to Evil,” Part III

June 11, 2011

III.  The Fall as Warlike Rebellion

Though God never intended or desired for sin and rebellion to enter the world, to make love possible, freedom would have to exist, and freedom necessitates risk.  Therefore, evil was a necessary possibility from the beginning of creation.  Though we cannot speculate too deeply in regards to an angelic fall, Christianity does teach that there are spiritual beings which have rebelled against God, and so we may assume that at some point—probably prior to the creation of human beings—there was such an angelic fall.  Likewise, one of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity is that mankind did indeed rebel against God, and through man (Adam) “sin entered the world” bringing forth death (Romans 5: 12).  It is unnecessary to speculate on exactly how sin spreads to all of mankind, or on the extent to which sin is responsible for all the evil in the world.  It is enough that the Christian doctrine of the Fall shows how the freedom, that God must grant man in order to make love possible, was abused, and with that abuse sin and death came forth.

This, so far, is a minimalist response, and so I propose to go a bit further.  Often the fall of man is portrayed more as a lapse of judgment than an outright rebellion.  Whatever we may assume about Adam’s sin, it becomes clear through the history of mankind that as a result of continued sin and rebellion we have waged war on God.  Further, Jesus and the New Testament writers make clear that there is another kingdom and ruler of this world—a principality that also rebels against God.  Paul even writes that when a person places their faith in Christ, God transfers them from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his son (Colossians 1:13).  From this scripture and others like it, it would seem that there are two competing kingdoms in the world—that of God and that of this rebel principality.  And they are at war.  Mankind, fallen from God—and the whole world for that matter—is said to be “under the sway of the wicked one” (I John 5:19).  Therefore the doctrine of the Fall teaches that the world is at war with God, and this is the cause and reason for evil.

Though the doctrine of the Fall as the basis for evil has become increasingly unpopular in philosophical and even theological circles.  In my view, it makes the best sense of the fact that our world looks far more like a war-zone than the good creation of a loving God.  Once we have accepted that mankind (and angels) have not only fallen but have rebelled against God and his purposes and there are now two competing powers in the world, we now have a basis for evil.  If the world looks like a “war-torn” creation, that is because it is a war-torn creation!  The Christian doctrine of the Fall, when given its full gravity, can not only make sense of the presence of evil in the first place, but also the scope and magnitude of evil in all its horror.  However it happened, the world has come under the siege of a terribly malicious force, and mankind has wittingly or unwittingly joined in.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 12, 2011 7:25

    This is great stuff Jonathan. Really enjoying it.

  2. June 16, 2011 1:14

    You state: “Though God never intended or desired for sin and rebellion to enter the world, to make love possible, freedom would have to exist, and freedom necessitates risk.” Obviously, this statement only makes sense when assuming open theism. Do you believe that those who do not assume God’s lack of foreknowledge can give a good account for evil?

  3. June 19, 2011 10:24

    Hey Aaron! Just piping in. If you would like a resource that gives a great scope of open theism, and offers a look into the topic of evil, check out “God of the Possible” by Greg Boyd. It is an introduction to the open view of God, written from a philosophically and theologically intelligent viewpoint, in language that a lay person can understand. It is a quick read, but I think it can give you some of the answers you are looking for. Check it out! 🙂

    • June 20, 2011 12:18

      Cortnij,
      I appreciate the suggestion. I haven’t read Boyd’s book on openness, though I have read some articles by him on the topic. I’ve also read a lot of Clark Pinnock, Swinburne, Richard Rice, William Hasker, etc, so I know the open position pretty well. As much as I love some of the options openness affords, I think it has too many problems for me to buy in. My question was more to probe Jonathan’s personal opinion about the adequacy of other systems’ answers to the problem of evil.

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