Monday, April 13, 2015

Back to the Basics: Building Blocks for a Sound Theodicy, Pt. 4: What Genesis Teaches Us

We’ve spent the last few posts covering divine sovereignty and human responsibility, and how these two elements are essential building blocks for a sound theodicy. In other words, you can’t defend the righteousness of God in a theodicy if you don’t take into account divine sovereignty and human responsibility.

In this post, I’m back to put Genesis chapters 1-3 into perspective for us, as we proceed with our discussion. What can Genesis chapters 1-3 teach us about the concepts of divine sovereignty and human responsibility? How can we appropriate these chapters into a sound theodicy – which then makes its way into a sound theology?

We can learn a few things from Genesis 3 about divine sovereignty and human responsibility:

·      God’s sovereignty remains intact – the Lord, as sovereign, comes to the scene of the sin and punishes all parties involved (Adam, Eve, and the serpent). At the same time, however, He proclaims hope in that, despite the sin and stain upon humanity and creation, the seed of the woman (Jesus) would crush the head of the serpent (Satan), Gen. 3:15. Notice that the Lord refers to “He” when discussing the seed of the woman and the “you” and “your” when referring to the serpent. Scripture tells us that Satan is “that serpent of old” (Rev. 12:9). The seed of the woman refers to Christ, “The God of peace” who will “crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20). God’s sovereignty can also be seen through the fact that He expels man and woman from the Garden and places a cherubim angel with a flaming sword to guard the Garden.

·      Man’s responsibility remains intact – despite man’s sin, he must still cultivate the ground, even after he is expelled from the Garden (Gen. 3:17-19, 23). Man does gain the knowledge of good and evil in the encounter, but he must now encounter evil – something that hadn’t happened prior to Genesis 3. All the consequences that occurred in the Fall were bad, and man must now live with these consequences while still having to work the ground, produce childbirth, and live in marriage.

·      Man is the author of Sin – Sin enters the world and stains creation because of man. Although Satan was in the Garden that day, it is not Satan (the serpent) who is blamed for the Fall; rather, the ground is cursed “because of you,” which was God’s response in making Adam responsible for it (Gen. 3:17). In addition, the Lord tells Adam that he disobeyed the divine command: “because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’” (Genesis 3:17) God’s statement to Adam shows that the Lord is absolved of guilt because He forewarned Adam about disobeying Him, and Adam listened to the voice of his wife against the word of God (which makes Adam guilty all on his own).

·      Divine sovereignty comes back in full force, even after human responsibility fails – If Open Theists were right, God would have claimed ignorance after Adam and Eve sin in the Garden. Instead, the Lord tells the serpent that, not only will he crawl on his belly for the rest of his life, but that his head will be crushed by the seed of the woman. We know from progressive revelation that this refers to the cosmic battle of the Lord over Satan and his demons (cf. Luke 10:18; Romans 16:20). In the end, the Lord will rule over all, and He would claim the victory over Satan through His death and resurrection on the cross (Colossians 2:13-15).

·      Death enters the human family – It’s a sad thought indeed, but Adam and Eve’s sin brings death into the human family. The Lord had forewarned Adam of death (“the wages of sin is death,” Paul said in Romans 6:23), but Adam decided to disobey God in the face of the divine warning. The sentence for not just Adam, but all of mankind, is death (Romans 5). I mentioned in the last post that the Lord forewarns of death despite the fact that death didn’t exist with mankind prior to the Fall, but it reminds us that the Lord, while being the Giver of Life in Genesis, always had the power to take life, too.

·      The environment is cursed because of the fall of man – “Cursed is the ground because of you,” the Lord says to Adam in Genesis 3. Adam’s decision to sin affected not only Adam and Eve, but also their descendants (Romans 5:12) as well as creation, including the ground (Romans 8:19-22). In other words, we see the implications of the Lord making Adam and Eve to “rule over the earth”: their sin would result in the curse of all creation, not just themselves and humanity. Adam and Eve could not have foreseen that their sin would impact their children (Cain and Abel), as well as the remainder of humanity. By the time of the Flood, sin had so pervaded humanity that the writer could say “the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). In response to the evil, the Lord could say, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth” (Genesis 6:13).

Even Noah’s name was linked to the curse of the ground: “Now he [Lamech] called his name Noah, saying, ‘This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed’” (Gen. 5:29).

When Jesus dies on the cross, Matthew notes that creation responds to the Lord who made it: first, darkness falls upon the land (Matthew 27:45); then, the earth shakes and the rocks split (Matt. 27:51). This was to show that the Lord of creation was dying on the cross and that the Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection would have an impact on creation.

These lessons gleaned from Genesis show us that Adam and Eve’s decision to sin had far-reaching impacts that the couple could never have foreseen in Genesis 3. Man’s rule over the earth plunged the earth into the curse when man disobeyed God.

I’ve gone through some basics of divine sovereignty and human responsibility as provided in Genesis, but we’re not done with basic building blocks for a sound theodicy just yet. Next on the list is omniscience, and I’ll start my investigation of this component of a sound theodicy in my next post. Stay tuned.

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