Is God Responsible For Human Sin? (Weekly Word)

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.


5 thoughts on “Is God Responsible For Human Sin? (Weekly Word)

  1. Well Yes, God did create sin. Since God created all the Universe and everything within it–didn’t He HAVE to create sin?
    He created Lucifer the most beautiful creature of all time who danced upon the coals of fire to worship God. And we know how that turned out.
    Yet there was a purpose in that also. God had to have an adversary to ‘prove’ each of us.
    Now when you back off and think about all of this; you see that the entire battle from before Gen. 1:1 to eternity is over one hill on Earth.

    1. I guess we’ll agree to disagree. I think there is a big difference between creating and allowing sin – just as there is a difference between allowing a child to fall while learning to ride a bike and pushing her over. If God created sin then God is responsible for all evil and suffering, then God is really the devil.

  2. The problem is that God put the tree and the serpent in the same garden with Adam and Eve. And perhaps the couple’s disposition to be dissatisfied with Eden would be the third piece to the initial sin puzzle. If we are to grant God both omnipotence and omniscience, then it seems he might have created conditions less likely to result in disobedience.

    These errors might be more easily forgiven if the penalty at the end of time were less dramatic: eternal torture.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I’d suggest that under your interpretation of Genesis 2-3 even if God is at fault for Adam and Eve’s sin, this does not say much for the rest of us. In other words, I am not interested in blaming Adam and Eve for when I screw up. And as I’ll try to say in my next post, I think there is a large difference between God allowing and God causing sin.

      Either way, I do think we miss the fact that knowledge is a good thing. It is not that God did not want the first humans (and we are laying aside the question of whether there really were first humans or if this story functions more as myth) to taste knowledge. I think God’s hope was for humanity to eat from the tree of knowledge. Adam and Eve’s sin was not taking God’s path to acquiring that knowledge. To use an analogy – I have a stove in my house, like most people. I also have a 4 year old daughter. I told her not to touch the stove. (Am I at fault if she does? I mean, like God, I put the object of temptation in her presence…) But I do not want her to never touch the stove. There will be a time when she matures that she is able to cook. That’s how I see the fall – a straying from the path, a shortcut that then ruined them (as my daughter would burn herself if she touches stove).

      As for hell, I hold to the annihilation view so while I agree with you in terms of eternal torture, that is not relevant to my argument.

      1. Right. The story of Adam and Eve is an allegory to help make sense of why God’s Earth is less than a paradise. And the tree is literally allegorical, being given the name for what it stands for.

        And as a secular Humanist, I can take no official opposition to annihilation since that is what we all expect. We believe in “death after life”. 🙂

        I continue to appreciate the moral values brought to society by Christ’s teachings even though I dismiss the miracles and theology.

        I just popped in because of the “determinism” tag. The supposed “versus” between free will and determinism is the illusion of a paradox. There is no actual logical conflict between someone making a choice for himself and that choice being the deterministic result of his own reasons, feelings, beliefs, values, etc.

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