This summer I am going to dedicate each Friday to questions that students have asked me about God, faith and such. Some of these questions come were forwarded to me from Christian students or their skeptical friends. Others are questions that I have been asked in some way, shape or form many times. I do not claim to offer the final answer on any of these questions, though I do hope to offer something helpful.
From Luke – In a discussion with an atheist, one of the things he said was that God created sin (and the question of free will comes ect.)(The irony was the person contested that God did not create, and yet he just said he created sin). How would you as a pastor instructed in God’s Word respond to that? Thanks
Thanks Lukas I am glad to hear you are having meaningful discussions that lead to good questions such as this one. As I look at what you wrote, I imagine your friend was saying that his understanding of Christianity ends up with a God who creates sin. He is not saying that he believes in God, only that the God of Christians, as he understands what Christians are saying, would be culpable for sin. Perhaps this is a reason why this person rejects God?
What may be surprising to you and your friend, if not a bit disconcerting, is that this is a question that the Bible never directly answers. To go to the creation story in Genesis it appears that Adam and Eve were given the freedom to choose to obey or disobey God. The author of Genesis is not concerned with how such freedom relates to an all-powerful and all-knowing God.
This leads to what I think is an important, and not often cited, point – the Bible writers are not always answering the questions we are asking. They lived and wrote and worshipped in a different culture with different ideas then we do. On that note, it wasn’t really until the early Christians, specifically Paul in Romans, began writing that the story of Genesis 3 became one of the entry of “sin” as some sort of corrupting object , into the world. If Adam’s sin was so ground-breaking and earth-shattering, it is interesting to note that Adam is not really mentioned much in the rest of the OT. Of course, this does not mean that the sin of Adam, the fall of humanity, as understood by Christian theologians is wrong (we do include Romans in the Bible!), it is just to say that our first stop ought to be understanding what the story in Genesis means on its own terms.
Another way of looking at Genesis 3 that I find quite intriguing is to see it more in line with Wisdom literature. If you read Proverbs you see clearly there are two paths put before the person – the way of wisdom and the way of foolishness. The way of Wisdom leads to life while the way of foolishness leads to death. We see the same thing in Genesis – Adam and Eve rejecting wisdom and choosing foolishness, and dying. It is also helpful to read Adam and Eve as the beginning of Israel, for it was Israelites who first wrote the story. Israel had experienced many failures in their own pursuit of wisdom and of obeying the Law. For them, the Adam story illustrates that their people have always struggled with this. Or, the other way around, Adam’s choices foreshadow Israel’s later choices.
Above I said that the Bible writers are not necessarily answering the questions we are asking. I think if we look at the creation story, in light of the rest of the Old Testament, we see a focus on the importance of personal choice. In other words, humans are culpable for their sins. The path is laid before us – like it was for Adam, Israel and the man in Proverbs. Will we choose the way of life or the way of death? We cannot blame God (or the devil).
With that out of the way, I want to take a shot at offering the actual question you were asked. But that will have to wait till next week.