Doctrine of Man (Part 10)

November 17, 2013     Time: 00:17:15

In our lesson we have been talking about the Doctrine of Man, and during the first part of the lecture we looked at man as created in the image of God. Now we’ve completed a section on the nature of man and I defended a dualist-interactionist view of man as composed of soul and body. Now we want to come to the third subsection which is on man as sinner.

Man as Sinner

Doctrine of the Fall

Biblical Data

We want to look now at some of the biblical data concerning man as sinner. Let’s look first at the classic doctrine of the Fall – the Fall of man. We will look at the three passages concerning the Fall. The first is from Genesis 3:1-7:

Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.

Then the remainder of the story goes on to tell of how God then laid certain curses upon man and the woman for their disobedience in the garden.

The principal passage in the New Testament which reflects on the Fall of man is found in Paul’s letter to the Romans 5:12-21. Paul writes,

Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned— sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Then, finally, go over to 1 Corinthians 15:21-22.[1] Paul writes, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Those are the three critical passages, I think, in the Scriptures that speak to the doctrine of the Fall, both in the Old and New Testaments.

Attempts to Systematize Data

Let’s talk now a little bit about some of the attempts to systematize this data. Traditionally, the doctrine of the Fall is taken to be the doctrine that man was originally created in what is called the state of integrity. But following the Fall of man into sin through Adam’s fall, man loses the state of integrity and falls into the state of corruption. So the original state of integrity and sinlessness was lost through the fall and we now find ourselves in a state of corruption. The state of integrity is what man was created to be like. The state of corruption is man in contradiction to what he was created to be like. So in one sense, the truly natural state is the state of integrity. The state of corruption is an unnatural state contrary to the way we ought to be that is the result of human fall into sin.

In the state of integrity, man possessed a set of perfections – both the so-called major perfections which were perfections of the soul, and then also minor perfections which are the perfections of the body. Among the major perfections – the perfections of the soul – we find the knowledge of God, sanctity of the will (we will what we should and ought to do), and the purity and harmony of man’s desires. In the state of integrity, the body possesses certain perfections as well. These would include immortality, freedom from harm, and being the lord of the earth. All of these were considered to be lost in the Fall; both the major and minor perfections were lost in the Fall and so we now find ourselves in a state of corruption in which we no longer possess these perfections.

Let’s say a word about man in the state of perfection with respect to his ability to resist sin compared to the state of corruption. In the state of integrity, man had the ability to not sin. In Latin this is written posse non peccare – able not to sin. He was able to not sin; he had the ability to resist temptation, to do righteousness, his passions were in harmony with his will, the will had integrity, and therefore he had the ability to not sin. But, in the state of corruption, man loses the ability not to sin so that he can only commit various kinds of sin. So in the state of corruption, we have a state in which non posse non peccare – that is to say, he is not able to not sin. He has lost the ability to not sin so that man now, in the state of corruption, is still free but he is free only to sin. He can choose various sins to commit but he is fallen and therefore unable to not sin – non posse non peccare.

As for the origin of sin, where does this come from? Well, the origin of sin could be thought of as due to creaturely freedom, either through Satan or through human beings.[2] With respect to Satan, Satan was usually thought to be some sort of an angelic creature who fell into sin, whose will was no longer directed to God as the greatest good, but he sought lesser goods and therefore fell away and became opposed to God. So Satan is essentially a fallen angel. Or we could think of the origin of sin as being through the creaturely free will of human beings – that Adam and Eve had the ability to choose right or wrong and through choosing poorly sin entered into the human race.

On a deeper level, however, it might be thought that in one sense the origin of sin is due to God’s own decree. Here, one refers to a doctrine called Supralapsarianism. This is the idea that God’s decrees have a certain logical order in them and that God’s primary decree was the decree to redeem mankind through the cross. He wanted to provide the cross of Jesus Christ as a redemptive gift for mankind. But in order for that to happen, that presupposes the fall into sin. So, as a result of decreeing the cross, the Fall has to be decreed as well. So, the cross is not so much thought of as a remedy for the Fall into which man has tumbled; rather, quite the reverse. Logically, in order to have the act of the cross, you need to have a state from which man can be rescued and redeemed. So the difference here between Infralapsarianism and Supralapsarianism concerns the order of God’s decrees. Infralapsarianism would say that first the Fall occurs and then God decrees the cross in order to reconcile man from the Fall. Supralapsarianism would say, no, God decrees primarily the cross and then decrees the Fall in order to have something to rescue man from. But in either case, the actual agent of sin will not be God; it will be creatures themselves who freely misuse their will – which is a good thing, a God given thing – in order to rebel against God.


Question: I was curious about this view of not able not to sin, or perhaps even Supralapsarianism as well. How do they reconcile with the idea that ought implies can? Or, how about this, did the early church fathers believe ought implies can – did they try to harmonize that with non posse non peccare?

Answer: It seems to me that one could defend this view by saying that one is responsible for having gotten himself into this situation in the first place. It would be like a heroin addict who is no longer able to resist mainlining drugs. He has lost his freedom to resist because he has become addicted to this. Yet, he is still responsible for these acts that he can no longer resist because he got himself into this situation in the first place by his free will. So there is still an ought there that implies an ability but it would be the initial ability.

Question: So are the people after Adam born able not to sin and then become not able not to sin? That is the question.

Answer: That is the real question and I didn’t talk about that yet. The question here is the doctrine of origin sin. Is this inherited? Is it heredity of a tendency to sin? A corruption of the will? Or is it an actual imputed guilt that we bear and are culpable for in light of Adam’s sin? We will talk about that later on. But right now we are just talking about the idea that man is no longer in this state of integrity and is now in this corrupted, fallen state. But those are good questions that we will come back to.[3]

Question: Along the same lines the last questioner was asking, man’s inability to not sin, I think, Romans clarifies this is that it is because of the sting of death. In the Fall our desires changed and so to not fulfill your desires, the power of death you feel in the subconscious as well as the conscious level. The Law makes you more aware of that. So in one sense, suicide is an escape from trying to die but you can’t really commit true suicide because the sting of death is too great.

Answer: OK, anybody else?

Let me just contrast this very briefly with the more modern view of the Fall. As I say, this is the traditional view but for many modern theologians the idea of the Fall is basically, in a good sense – I don’t mean this negatively – a myth. That is to say, it is a sort of symbolic telling of the condition of every man. Every individual falls into sin and therefore finds himself in this state of corruption. Adam is a sort of symbol or representation of all humanity who find themselves guilty before God. So the Fall, on the more modern view, is not so much a historical event in the past as it is a symbol of man’s condition in general.

We will want to give, next time, some evaluation of how we ought to understand the Fall – either historically or in this purely symbolic sense or in some combination of the two. That is what we will look at when we meet next time.[4]


[1] 5:04

[2] 10:12

[3] 15:10

[4] Total Running Time: 17:15 (Copyright © 2013 William Lane Craig)