I have heard a few sermons preached on the situation that took place in
the Garden of Eden. Eve being tempted by the snake, Adam standing by and
also partaking in the forbidden fruit. The questions of Adam’s fault or
Eve’s fault seem secondary to the question why let the #&@% snake in the
garden to begin with?


Your description is colorful, but it is a very good question. What this
comes down to is the question of free will. Why did God give us a
choice? I am cutting and pasting below a little section on free will from
an article I published recently. Bottom line, God gave us freedom of
choice of whether to do good or evil. The way I understand it, God gave
Satan the same choice. For reasons which are beyond my ability to
understand, Satan chose to rebel against God. His rebellion has
repercussions even today. The actions of Satan and indeed all evil in the
world is very disturbing to me. I am guessing it is disturbing and hard
to understand to you. Nevertheless, as a parent and as a person made in
God’s image, I understand that the real giving and receiving of love
requires choice and choice implies the possibility of evil.

John Oakes


One of the causes of suffering, although it is an indirect one, is the
existence of free will as a factor in the human condition. Remember that
this essay is on the biblical theology of suffering and evil. If we are
going to discuss free will, it is worth noting that the phrase “free will”
is not found in the Bible. In fact, there is little if any discussion of
what we call free will in the Bible. Having said that, I believe we can
make a strong case that the idea of free will is very much a biblical
one. Free will is, by definition, the possession by a conscious
individual person of the ability to exercise their will freely in order to
make choices about the direction of their lives. Does the Bible show us
conclusively that human beings possess this freedom of will?

In Deuteronomy 30:15-20 God tells his people through Moses that they are
being given a choice between life and death, blessings and curses. At the
end of this emotional appeal, God pleads with his people, “Now choose
life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the
Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” Similarly, at
the end of his life, Joshua left this charge with the people of God, “But
if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves
this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served
beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are
living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua
24:15) Jesus seems to agree that human beings are given free choice
whether we will serve God or not. He did not try to force people to
follow him. Instead he appealed to their hearts, their minds and their
consciences. “If anyone chooses to do God?s will, he will find out whether
my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” (John 7:17) “If
anyone would come after me he must?” (Luke 9:23)

There is some biblical evidence that in certain special situations, God
will step into a person?s life temporarily when his sovereign will trumps
that of the individual. This seems to be the case when God hardened
Pharaoh?s heart and when he urged Judas to do what he planned to do
quickly. In each case God temporarily violated a person?s free will in
order to bring about his sovereign will: the salvation of his people.
However, in both situations, God was moving a person who was already
inclined toward evil. I also believe that ultimately even Pharaoh and
Judas could have repented. God?s sovereign will did not remove their
ultimate choice. What we are left with is the clear biblical teaching,
which seems to be confirmed by our own experiences; God has given his
creatures freedom of will to do good or to do evil.

Would we fault God in this? Would we prefer to live in a universe in
which conscious beings do not have free will? Is lack of freedom of
choice an improvement? I say that love?true love?gives choices. Does the
one who chooses to criticize God prefer to live in a world in which they
are automatons? Consider the case of parents who dramatically
over-control their children, removing almost all freedom of choice. Is
this a loving way to treat our offspring? Loving parents, like a loving
God, train their children to make good choices. They influence through
example, love and discipline, but they do not manipulate or remove choice.

It was God?s will to create persons who, of their own will, reciprocate
his love of them by rejecting pride and selfishness; freely choosing to
love and to serve God. Is this an evil thing? Let each person reach
their own conclusion in the matter (but be thankful for being able to
reach your own conclusion!). The question is whether God is both
all-powerful and loving. I say that God is so loving and so powerful that
he created beings who have both the capacity and the freedom to love or to
not love their Creator.

Let us look at it from God?s perspective (if that is possible). God took
a huge chance in us. He created us in his image. He gave us emotions,
the ability to create, and a freedom of will not unlike his. In the
person of Jesus, he even laid down his life so that we would have the
opportunity to be forgiven of our shortcomings. This was very risky.
Consider Adam and Eve. God took a risk with them. Most of their
offspring did even worse than they did. “The Lord was grieved? and his
heart was filled with pain.” (Genesis 6:6). Is this because God was not
powerful enough or not loving enough? Anyone who pours their life into a
person with free will risks being rejected and hurt. Those of us who have
been parents understand this. Parenting is an extremely risky activity.
All of us who choose to bring children into the world risk pouring our
lives, our energy and our love into our offspring, only to have them
reject all this sacrifice. For all we know, our children can become drug
addicts, felons or simply very bitter and angry people. Why do we take
such risks? We do this because in this sense we are like God. We want to
give and to receive love freely.

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