Was the fall of man avoidable?
"When Adam and Eve were created, I think it was fairly clear that they had absolutely no knowledge of evil. It is equally clear that God could have intervened to prevent the entire apple/serpent debacle, thereby preventing mankind's downfall."
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In one of C. S. Lewis' books (Perelandra), he asks whether the fall of man would have been prevented if the elephant had stepped on the snake five minutes before Eve happened by. Certainly, God could have taken the choice away from us. But you are concerned about whether we have free will--an interesting conflict between that, foreknowledge, and divine intervention. The test of free will is whether we have choices which we make. The fact that someone else can predict our choice before we make it is not strictly relevant to that question. For example, whenever my wife is hungry, she expects me to find something for her to eat. It's kind of an "I'm hungry, what have you got?" approach, in which I'm expected to recite anything I have in the house or could easily get which she would like. But I know her pretty well by now, and often I will be able to hit what she wants on the first guess. The fact that I can sometimes predict her choice doesn't mean that she doesn't choose freely; it only means that I understand her well enough to glimpse her thoughts. As I mentioned, a chess master can predict my next several moves, perhaps the rest of the moves I will make in a chess game, although I do not know those moves myself until I make them. Would it be so hard for God to know what we will do before we do it? And if so, how does that in any way limit our ability to make the choice? Even without raising the question of the nature of time, it is clear that God could have perfect foreknowledge of all that will ever happen and everything we will choose. (My conception of free will which is predictable is discussed at length in the letters section of my Temporal Anomalies web site, if you would like to pursue that question further.)
But you will still ask why God did not take the choice away from us if He knew we would choose badly. Theologians certainly have debated this for centuries, and I could not say that my answer is the ultimate truth. However, what strikes me is the necessity of alternatives to the very nature of choice. We are asked to choose God, to choose Him freely; but for us to be able to do so, we must be able to choose something other than God, or there is no choice at all.
I had never considered this aspect of the matter quite this way before. It seems that the choice--choosing for or against God--is one which needs to be made by us individually. It would have had little meaning for Adam to have chosen God in such a way that that choice was then taken away from the rest of us. In a sense, in order for you and I to have the freedom to choose, it was necessary that he choose badly. His wrong choice opened the door for the rest of us to choose, and so for many of us to choose well. We could not truly love God if we could not do otherwise; therefore, we must be able to choose between alternatives. Thus it would seem that God had to sacrifice some to save others, to create a people with true free will able to choose and to love.
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