If Adam Had Perfect Reason, How Could He Choose Against God?

My thoughts, as of late, revolve around this question. We, as a western culture, place so much value on human reason and in the rational facilities of the educated. In Genesis 3, we read a story of a man who knew God and learned all things from God. Before the Fall and the curse of mortality that Adam brought on himself and on all his children (including mankind today), his reason was un-fallen and his rational facilities were good, according to God’s standard of good (which must be perfection). Why then would Adam, with his good rational facilities, deliberately choose to disobey God?

Honestly, I am more humbled by this question than disturbed by it. Even with perfect reason, Adam chose to sin. Now, our reason is fallen and many of us are so pompous as to believe that we can actually arrive at good and right knowledge by our own faculties. Let us consider the text:

“Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden?’’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’’ ‘No! You will not die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ And he said, ‘I heard You in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’ Then He asked, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?’ Then the man replied, ‘The woman You gave to be with me — she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate.’ So the Lord God asked the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ And the woman said, ‘It was the serpent. He deceived me, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, you are cursed more than any livestock and more than any wild animal. You will move on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.’ He said to the woman: ‘I will intensify your labor pains; you will bear children in anguish. Your desire will be for your husband, yet he will rule over you.’ And He said to Adam, ‘Because you listened to your wife’s voice and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, Do not eat from it: The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it. For you are dust, and you will return to dust.’ Adam named his wife Eve because she was the mother of all the living. The Lord God made clothing out of skins for Adam and his wife, and He clothed them. The Lord God said, ‘Since man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.’ So the Lord God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove man out and stationed the cherubim and the flaming, whirling sword east of the Garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life.”[1]

Reason before the fall

There was an obvious use of reason even before the fall. Adam and his wife both made decisions regarding their action and decisions require an ability to reason. For our purposes, we will consider mankind’s reasoning ability before the fall as good or perfect. This would mean that there was no ill use of reason and that information gained was rightly connected within the minds of both Adam and his wife. Reason, then, we must conclude always led to right action and right thought. If we claim any differently, then we claim that God did not create good what He explicitly saw as good. We also claim that mankind, being made in God’s image, represented a God whose rational facility was less than perfect. I’m convinced that this cannot be the case. God, if he is God, sets the standard for all perfection, meaning that His rational facilities set a necessary standard for a perfect ability to reason. There is simply no other option assuming the reality of a Creator.

Knowledge and reason

            Reason is a conscious connecting between ideas or thoughts.[2] Knowledge, for our purposes is any information, factual or theoretical, beheld by the mind of any one individual. Considering these definitions, there is an obvious correlation between knowledge and reason. Reason is our reflection on the knowledge that we have gained. For pre-fall Adam, there would have been no false knowledge, and we might even question the existence of theoretical knowledge (knowledge concerning ideas about reality that had not yet been proven to him). Wisdom, then, is the way in which an individual applies reason to draw a conclusion, allowing that conclusion to manifest in speech or in action.

Why Adam might have fallen

            Now, there are several theories about why Adam might have chosen to deny God. One is that God created him “good” and not perfect.[3] Another is that Adam, because of his perfect love for his wife, rebelled because he was willing to follow her even into sin.[4] If Adam sinned for love, then we must still answer as to why Eve’s perfect reason would allow her to sin. This leaves us with the same problem and fails to answer any question concerning the Fall. The problem with the former reason is that God, who is a standard for perfection, measures reality based on his own nature and by Himself as the standard. The labeling of “good” by God necessarily must mean that what He has called good is good according to His character and according to Himself as the standard. There can be no incrementation of goodness and badness. Something is either good or not good. This is precisely the reason that no one person can ever earn salvation or an eternity with God. God’s declaration of the created world, and mankind as “good” necessarily means that mankind was perfect. I am unimpressed, and unconvinced by either of the two answers explaining why Adam might have sinned. Is there anything else, though? Why, in a perfect existence, would mankind sin against a good and holy God?

There is one instance in the creation account when God saw that something was not good. In Genesis 2:18 God said that it was not good that man (Adam) was alone and that he had no compliment. So, God created woman (Eve), and together, the man and the woman were the image of God. What God saw as “not good” was a part of his creation that was incomplete. It was not imperfect, God simply had not yet created the woman.

In Genesis 3, we see the serpent challenge the goodness, and the honesty of God. His claim was that the tree contained the knowledge of good and evil, and that God forbade the tree because He did not want mankind to become like Him in knowledge (particularly the knowledge of good and evil). At this point, mankind’s reason had to be perfect. His wisdom would have also been perfect. His knowledge also would have had to be perfect, or good. Here, we see the claim made that mankind did not know good and evil. Here, I think, is the answer to our question. Perhaps Adam, though he was perfect in his knowledge, had a knowledge that was incomplete. He knew God, which means he knew good. What he did not know was evil because he had not yet been exposed to something that was not of God.

This incomplete knowledge might have allowed for Adam to choose against God, even in perfect reason and perfect wisdom. He had no reason to distrust anything or anyone. Neither Adam nor Eve had a reason to distrust new information, because, as far as they were concerned, it was good. Besides that, Adam knew he was created to be like God anyway. Why would God not want him to have this sort of knowledge?

What the fall did for us

For what it’s worth, the fall did something good for us. It took Adam’s naivety, and transformed it into a broader, more comprehensive knowledge of reality. Mankind’s knowledge base could now resemble God’s, enabling mankind to become the fuller image of God that he was created to be. The Fall actually glorifies God because men and women can now be better image bearers, which is both humbling and satisfying. The negative affects of this event, though, are that mankind takes part in evil and that both his reason and his wisdom are fallen. He buys into false information and connects that information in fallacious ways, causing him to let that information manifest in wrong or evil speech and action.

Restoration of reason and wisdom

This is one of the reasons that God will restore mankind. The fall was just one step in God’s establishment of His image on the earth. Though men deserved death for making a choice to rebel against God, God sent His Son, the messiah, to pay the penalty of death on mankind’s behalf. Now, for those who put their faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9), God begins a work of restoring their reason and wisdom, while still increasing their knowledge of all things. The only hope for human reason is in Christ. Eternal life is also in Christ!

“The Lord who made the earth, the Lord who forms it to establish it…”[5]

[1] Genesis 3 (HCSB)

[2] <http://www.ditext.com/runes/r.html&gt;

[3] <http://www.godofevolution.com/creation-in-genesis-1-2-very-good-definitely-perfect-not-so-much/&gt;

[4] < http://creation.com/did-adam-sin-for-love&gt;

[5] Jeremiah 33:2a (HCSB)

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