The Biblical Fall of Man Examined in light of Occam’s Razor
Occam’s Razor is a philosophical theory stating that given the same outcome, the simplest reasonable path to it is probably the correct path. The path with the least guesses is the most reasonable path.
The Fall of Man has many paths to reason how and why it occurred. The Biblical description has given us a story of how it happened. The Serpent beguiled Eve and she ate of the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. She gave to Adam and he ate. Scripture tells us that Eve was deceived but Adam was not. So Adam knew the penalty and decided to disobey anyway.
Three characters, Adam and Eve and the Serpent take part in this drama. We are not told the genealogy of the Serpent, only that he tempted Eve. When I say no genealogy, I mean that there is no mention of any other morally answerable free agent in the creation account. No mention of the creation or fall of any part of the angelic host on a particular day in the seven day creation account.
In fact, the pre-existence of Lucifer and his fall which included a third of the angels in heaven is a theory made up to explain their Biblical presence. That theory wraps the Serpent in Eden, Satan, Lucifer, and all the fallen angels into a neat package that explains the presence of evil in the world and gives Adam a fig leaf of temptation to explain his sin.
This theory is all guesswork; guess built upon personification, built upon plausible deniability, built without any real attention to the Plan of God for His Creation, and denies His absolute power over it and His perfect purpose for it.
So the first step in applying Occam ’s Razor is to eliminate all the guesswork we can and see if there is another path to the same Fall of Man.
First, the Serpent tempted Eve to sin against God. What explanation is there for the Serpent that is not a guess? A step back is in order here. Scripture states plainly that it was through Adam that sin entered the world, not Eve and not the Serpent. It was through the federal head of Man. In tempting Eve, a sin was committed by the Serpent and yet it was not charged as the gateway for sin.
Another step back: Adam was created of the dust of the ground and into him God breathed the breath of life. Eve was created out of Adam. She was the only suitable mate/companion for him in all of creation; bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.
Lets begin at the beginning: Ex nihil, nihil fit! From nothing, nothing comes. So: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Scripture asks us to answer this question: Hath not the potter power over the clay; of the same lump to make one vessel to honor and another to dishonor? God does not need our permission for anything. He does not require our understanding for anything. God is the potter. He had a plan for His creation. That Creation is proceeding according to that plan. Before he knitted us together in the womb, He KNEW us; each and every individual who has ever existed. It takes no guesswork to accede to that fact.
Reason does not create the path of truth. Reason can certainly create a path to falsehood when improperly applied. There is an organized cosmos that demands of us that we recognize its first cause. God.
Without His revelation to us we could know that He is but we could infer little to nothing of His purpose. The Cosmos points to His Power, Glory and Wisdom but says nothing of His ultimate goal. His revelation to us is that we were created to be His children by adoption. He has only One Begotten Son.
His revelation to us gives an account of creation taking place over a period of six days. It then tells us He placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We consider such a place to be paradise. They were placed there to tend and enjoy it. Only one thing was forbidden: Adam must not eat of the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. No such restriction was placed on anything else, even the Tree of Life was not forbidden him.
Here is where Occam’s Razor should make its first cut. God had pronounced His creation “very good”. To pronounce something good is not necessarily a statement of moral rectitude. We can pronounce something ‘good’ in terms of its usefulness for a specific purpose. A wrench is good when it achieves the desired result of removing a nut from a bolt, for example. Not so good when it slips off and skins your knuckles! But in neither instance is it an assessment of moral quality. That is a purposeful assessment. To guess that God’s pronouncement of “very good” was a moral assessment; that Adam was created with a nature that must be tempted from an outside source, does not fit the facts of The Fall; insertion of the Serpent into the account, notwithstanding.
The genealogy of the Serpent is not complete. As such, a simpler explanation for it must be sought. To understand the Serpent, one must understand what a tree of knowledge is. Any tree consists of roots, trunk, branches, leaves of some sort, and fruit of some sort, sap, reproductive methods, etc. So a tree of knowledge is a mental construct of all the details that can be known on any given topic as well as the interrelationships of all those details. The tree of the knowledge of a grain of sand would consist of all that one can know of its chemical and physical structure, electrical charge, etc and how they interrelate to form that grain of sand and make it an entity unto itself.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, then would consist of all that can be known of the moral consequences of any given action, not only in the immediate but in the extended; its ripple effects. Since God had already determined what was righteous and good morally, for His creation from beginning to end, the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil would belong to God alone. For man to assume for himself the ability to pronounce the moral weight of his actions is to defy God’s ownership of His creation and its purpose; to usurp the throne of God itself. Is that not what Adam did in willfully disobeying this specific law of God?
Occam’s Razor demands that we cut away the guesswork that constructs a fall of angelic beings before the fall of man, a destruction before the creation, a reconstruction before The Fall of Adam, and whatever else is conjecture, to reconstruct a narrative of The Fall that aligns with the Biblical Narrative more than an extra-Biblical tale built upon the assumption of a creation before the Creation. Shoehorning that narrative into the six day creation account or saying it is unnecessary that God directly reveal it is, to me, not reasonable given the way the creation account is structured.
If we view The Serpent in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil as the pride of Adam that comes to the fore as he asserts his dominion over the Creation of God. The personification of the prideful nature of Adam fits every detail of the Story of the Serpent; that same nature with which we are heir, as his offspring through the generations. He listened to his pride instead of the command of God. What we lack is an intimate understanding of the true power of the sin nature in its corporate sense that is described as principalities and powers, spiritual wickedness in high places. I keep referring to Adam because Scripture is clear: Eve was deceived, Adam was not deceived. He sinned against God knowingly and willfully.
“The Fall” as a description of the moment Adam sinned against God is also a misnomer. It suggests that there was something accidental or unplanned or not really meant to be a willful act of treason against the Creator God. It was nothing of the kind. Adam had been told in no uncertain terms that to partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would result in death. Adam chose death. Not for himself alone, but for all his children. To think otherwise is to give him the benefit of a misplaced doubt. To believe otherwise is to deny that you would be party to the crucifixion of Christ. To believe otherwise is to lay the real blame for personal sin on someone else. The Devil made me do it.
Why? Why would God create a being who would sin against Him as soon as he was given the law? To answer this we have to go to God’s revelation to us. Is God perfect or did He make a mistake? Is God’s creation the best possible way for Him to fulfill the ultimate plan for it or did it somehow go awry? Adam could not have sinned against an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God unless God had a good reason for him to do so. Therefore Adam’s sin was part of God’s plan. Therefore sin was a necessary part of the plan of redemption which was to bring us to Himself as beings who would be willingly and willfully holy as He is Holy.
What is Holiness? It is to be separate. What are we to be separate from? And if we cannot be with God eternally in His heaven unless we are holy as He is holy, then it follows that if God is good, we are to eschew evil eternally as He has. That requires us to get it; that good and evil are eternal concepts. They are moral measurements, not immortal beings or gods.
God knows that the best way we can learn the consequences of good and evil is to see them first hand; feel their consequences as matters of life and death in an environment that is not eternal. God is the potter and has the undeniable right over the clay; of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor. To refuse to submit to that reality; to claim that there is anything I can do to deter His will for my life either for salvation or for damnation, is to categorically deny that reality.
Christ told many to love thy neighbor as thyself, do works of mercy, against which there is no law. Embrace the pain and suffering that goodness in this world brings. He spoke as if these works can be done in this world whether one is ‘chosen’ or not. Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s is not just about money. Don’t try to work your way to heaven. What does he require of us but to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Against these there is no law.
Jesus Christ came as the second Adam. One purpose was to redeem that which was lost. The second purpose was to testify to the Truth. That which was lost was all mankind since the flood. John 3:16. Nothing in this exercise has negated any of the Gospel in any way.
We have looked at God, Adam, and a bit about the Serpent. Now it’s time to apply the Razor to the Devil himself, but first:
To begin, the very first question we have to deal with is about God the Creator. The popular belief is that (1) Satan, the Devil et. al. in all of his many names was created by God as the Angel of Light, Lucifer. It does not really matter that his creation is not mentioned in the creation account. (2) His creation took place before Adam, he rebelled before Adam, and was cast out of heaven before Adam and took a third of the angels with him. (3) He destroyed the earth in his wrath and God created Adam to replenish it and bring it back to its original beauty. (4) Then God planted the Garden of Eden, placed Adam and Eve in it and told them be fruitful and multiply. (5)He told Adam that he may eat of any tree in the Garden but one, he must not eat of the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil for if he did, on that day he would surely die. (6)God gave Adam Dominion over the earthly realm and created Eve because no suitable companion/mate was found among all the animals that God had created. (7) Satan somehow indwelt a serpent and tempted Eve. (8) She examined the fruit, found it good for food, pleasing to look at, and a tree to make one wise, she ate and gave to Adam and he ate. (9) And their eyes were opened and they knew that they were naked. Thus, The Fall is believed to have occurred.
Now, this scenario brings up a couple of questions that must be asked if we are to get to know our God and His Son.
- Did God make a mistake in the Creation that is assumed to have taken place before the Creation we inhabit? Lucifer, and the rest of the heavenly host of whom he was chief, were created beings and part and parcel of that assumption.
- If pride was found in Lucifer after he was created, wouldn’t an omniscient God know it was going to happen?
- Wouldn’t He also know the destruction that would result?
- Would that mean Lucifer’s Fall and the ensuing chaos and destruction was all part of God’s plan?
- But wouldn’t that mean that God created Lucifer for the ultimate purpose of consigning him to eternal damnation in Hell?
- Isn’t one of the objections to the Doctrine of Predestination that God would not create anyone specifically to burn in Hell for all eternity?
- If God did not make a mistake in creating Lucifer then can there be any other purpose in creating him?
- How can God be just if ‘the serpent’ sinned in tempting Eve? Scripture says that sin was in the world but was not imputed until the law. Sin entered the world through Adam. But if sin was already here then Adam was set up by God with one foot on a banana peel and the other in the grave! Unless there is another explanation.
- Why would God create a spiritual being, knowing he would sin, then cast him out of heaven into the physical realm of our creation where he has wrought havoc and destruction on all the world, only to, in the end, cast him into hell for all eternity? Why the side trip?
- If god saw fit to specify the day on which He created the creeping things of the earth, why would He not specify the creation of arguably the most influential character that interacts with all mankind including Christ Himself??
- NOTE: In my experience, those who subscribe to the above story of The Fall and are faced with these questions, universally default to “God’s ways are not our ways. We are not given to understand God. We’re just supposed to obey Him!”
- If God gave us the Holy Bible as a revelation of Who He is, who we are, and His plan for our eternal salvation, why would he make it so cryptic that few would ever even try to unravel it?
- Why did Jesus teach in parables? He said ‘so that seeing they would not perceive and hearing they would not understand.’
- Given all the questions about The Fall and its instigator should we not at least try to find a better explanation that makes Scripture truly revelatory?
Question one is easy. God does not make mistakes. Whatever He does in His Creation, He does for a very good reason. He is not a God of chaos and confusion. He is a Creator who operates on truth and reason. God teaches us in parables, physical representations of spiritual truths.
Applying Occam to Phase Two.
Any assumption is a guess that has more or less reasonable foundation. The fewer guesses one takes to identify the Serpent, the more likely one is to truly identify him. So if we cut out all the guesswork concerning the creation before the creation and the indwelling of a physical being by a spiritual being for the purpose of lying to Eve and tempting her to sin, what is left?
We know that Adam was not absent or unaware of Eve’s thought process before she ate. We know that He ate willfully and willingly in defiance of God’s Law. We also know that Eve was not created the way Adam was. She was created out of Adam and for want of a better term is therefore a derivative being. That is certainly not politically correct and will not sit well with many if not most of whoever read this. But it is accurate. She was created out of Adam. She was created from his physical and spiritual nature. Do not get me wrong here. She is completely his equal in humanity. God specified a purposeful difference between man and woman. But she was created of the essence of Adam and is his spiritual equal in terms of sinfulness and the need for redemption.
She saw the tree as something to make one wise. Adam could and should have called her on it. He should have told her God said otherwise. I have been told on more than one occasion that Adam loved Eve so much that when she ate of the fruit he decided to share her fate. That is a specious argument. Adam knew firsthand the power and glory and benevolence of God. It is not reasonable to assume he could not have interceded for her. It is not reasonable to assume God would not have forgiven her if Adam had asked it. Adam did not.
So if Occam’s Razor cuts away the assumption of an outside temptation and instead we apply Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” and Mark 7:18-23 explains it more fully in the words of Jesus: And he said to them, Are you so without understanding also? Do you not perceive, that whatever thing from without enters into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it enters not into his heart, but into the belly, and goes out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which comes out of the man, that defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”
The assumption of a third party spiritual being indwelling an animal for the purpose of causing the Fall of Man is certainly one way of explaining the Fall, BUT personifying the heart as the Serpent in the Garden eliminates the unbiblical assumption of the nature of Adam and Eve as morally pure, needing an outside source of temptation to induce them to sin against God.
The plan of God for His Creation included the Plan of Salvation which was only necessary if Adam was created with the sense of pride of self that led him to rebel. He would not bend his neck to God. Dominion was his to exercise as he saw fit. So he ate of the fruit of The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That fruit solidified the pride of self telling him that HE could decide good and evil for himself! He needed no law from God. They ate and immediately saw that they were naked. The history of man has been one of denial of that nakedness in every imaginable way. His history before the flood was that every imagination of his heart was only evil continually.
Now is this route to the Fall not just applying one assumption in place of another? No, and here is why: There is no reason to assume that Adam was created with less of a capability or inclination to sin than any of his progeny. In fact to do so is to assume that he changed his nature from obedient to disobedient by force of will when Scripture clearly states that we cannot change the color of one hair on our head or add one cubit to our stature by willing it so. We do not have the capability within us to change our nature, physically or spiritually, from the tiniest amount as one hair on our head to the most overt, as in adding a cubit to our height. Those are attributes of his physical nature, and the moral attributes of his spiritual nature are no more malleable to Adam’s own force of will than the physical. The pronouncement of “very good” by God was a pronouncement of fitness of purpose not a pronouncement of moral rectitude. The outcome of giving the law shows that to be true. By their fruits you shall know them.
Did God do something wrong making Adam to fulfill His purpose? Hath not the potter power over the clay? What was His purpose? To populate Heaven with adopted, redeemed siblings of His Son, who are holy as HE is holy is the revealed purpose of the Plan of Salvation/Redemption. We are to learn in intimate detail the results of Evil when allowed to propagate through a system as well as the beauty of the good. Sin defiles everything it comes in contact with directly and indirectly. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God, Almighty. Eternally holy! Absolutely set apart from evil and all it stands for.
Is God the Author of sin because He created a being whose moral nature would rebel against Him at the first opportunity? Hath not the potter absolute power over the clay when He not only created the clay but also created the purpose for it? Paul reasoned with us in his missives and used that very analogy. Was he wrong?
R.C. Sproul gave the definition of free will in his study bible along with the definition of free agency. I do not need to recount them here, but they are easy enough to look up if you are curious and want to fact check me. The church today teaches free will. Scripture calls us children in many places. There is good reason for that. It also tells us that even the child of the king is nothing more than a slave until he comes of age and can be trusted to exercise good judgment. A slave is not allowed to make decisions, only obey what they are told to do.
Our prideful self says to us that we have free will in the sense that we must accept the free offer of salvation or we will burn in hell for all eternity. That means that God either cannot or will not over-rule the whim of a slave in deciding his destiny. This belief in free will flies in the very face of countless instances of God over-ruling the will of man. Adam, Moses, Pharaoh, Nimrod, Abraham, Paul, and countless others, myself and the reader included have been turned and over-ruled at some point by the will of God. To have free will means that no one else, not even God, can over-rule your desire up to and including what you decide is good or what you decide is evil.
According to Dr. Sproul free agency is the ability to choose our actions. A slave is not even free to do that except in the most limited instances. Even though we, by faith, are no longer slaves to sin, we are absolutely not free in the sense of moral agency nor are we free so long as we can be deceived. The Truth will set you free. Jesus Christ is the Truth and He will set us free, but not as long as we are children and have so much more to learn about holiness.
They say hindsight is 20-20. When we are free to look upon God’s Creation in the perfect light of Truth and stand convicted by all that sin, every sin, that has destroyed, defiled, twisted and ruined us, that is when we will truly experience the depth of the love God displayed in giving His Son so we could have life. Until then, we are expected to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.
There is another piece to this puzzle that needs attention. Jesus came as the second Adam. What does that mean. First it means that he came as a Son of Man with rights of redemption. That is where Adam failed to redeem Eve from her sin, Jesus could and did, by right, offer Himself as the perfect redemption price for all sin. The Story of Christ in the Wilderness is especially relevant in the examination of the Serpent. He fasted forty days and then He was tempted three times. We have every reason to believe that the source of His temptation would be exactly the same as the source of Temptation for Adam and Eve. His first temptation was to turn stones to bread. He knew He was the Son of God. He knew that He was able to do that BUT He did not come to do His will but the will of the Father so He denied His prideful self as Adam did not. “Thou shalt not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God”. The second Adam relied upon the word of God for life. The first Adam denied it.
The second temptation was to test God’s provision for His safety. He knew He was the Son of God but He was not to tempt God with silly risks. “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God”. The first Adam risked death partaking of the fruit as surely as if he had thrown himself off the highest tower of the Temple. Only the direct supernatural intervention of God could overrule His law (or the law of gravity). He assumed he could freely test God’s mercy on his own. The second Adam did not tempt God.
And lastly He knew He was the Son of God and All Creation was His ONLY if he chose to exercise the will of the Father. He could not be the Redeemer of Mankind any other way. Adam was given dominion but was not given Ownership. He was still accountable to God and the rest of humanity for his actions. Jesus had to overcome the pride of self He inherited as the Son of Man. Only the Holiness inherited from His Father made that possible. Just as the personification of the prideful self was the Serpent in Eden, the personification of the prideful self as the Tempter and the Devil in the Wilderness had to be overcome or the Redemption of Man would never be. Jesus Christ could not be the second Adam unless He was in every way as human as Adam. To be anything else would disqualify Him as the Rightful Redeemer. The difference between the first and second Adam was this: Adam was created to become an adopted son. Jesus Christ was the Only Begotten Son and as such bore not just the image, but the holiness that could only be passed from the Father to the Begotten Son. The story of Cain shows the holiness Adam passed to his first-born.
And there you have Occam’s Razor applied to the Gospel. The only issue not addressed is the demon possession described in the Gospels and Acts. Those can certainly be assigned to the sin nature of man taken to its most extreme. We are not, nor do we claim to be fully knowledgeable concerning the human psyche and the effect it can produce when emotion and desire drive one beyond what is considered humanly possible. But we do know that the heart of man is desperately wicked. That means it casts about for ways to manifest evil. That has and does and will come to the fore in ways only the Creator knows and understands.