Jonathan Edwards on Adam Before the Fall

The Christ the Center panel gather for an informal discussion about Jonathan Edwards and his treatment of the question of how Adam, who was created in righteousness and holiness and knowledge could ever fall into sin. Historically this has been a problematic issue and proves to be a challenge even to Edwards. Jeff Waddington has written a dissertation on Edwards’ anthropology as it pertains to apologetics, and one of the chapters deals specifically with this matter. Listen as we discuss this difficult issue.


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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program and learn how to subscribe.

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Hermonta Godwin

4 years ago

I am a little surprised that no one has said anything. I have read some ideas that could perhaps help. I think a somewhat useful comparison to Adam’s situation is the history of heresy in the church. A dispute comes up, there is a fight, agreement is reached, some are ejected from the church, and a new confession is made incorporating the new agreement. Given agreement at point X, how were there such error at point Y? As people work through the implications of the confessions and more Bible study, the agreement is shown to be less than solid. The agreement was something other than 1 or 0.

In Adam situation, his knowledge of God was something other than 1 or 0. If it was a 1, when the serpent, said, “If you do this, you can know things like God does”, Adam could have said, “I am a creature, and I will never know as the creator does. Such is a silly claim.” When Adam ate of the fruit, he did in fact do so because it looked to be his best option at the moment, just as his descendants do and have done since then.

There was nothing defective in Adam that caused him to not seek to know and understand God properly. He simply had the ability to go one way or the other. He went the wrong way and all have suffered in his wake.


4 years ago

Hi guys,

Very interesting discussion about a thorny theological question, maybe unanswerable. To look at it from the flip side, can man sin once he is in heaven and in the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost? Adam certainly knew the Father but he sinned so what about us? Maybe if you can answer one you can answer the other.

For my part, if I get there, I’ll certainly try to be on good behavior and stay there



4 years ago


The Bible’s clear answer to your question is, “no,” see Revelation 21-22.

“And I saw a new heaven and new earth; for the first heaven and first earth passed away…and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

If the wages of sin is death, and in heaven, their will be no death, then, there will be no sin in heaven.



4 years ago

Thanks Jeff, Steve


4 years ago

I have a question, partly about Edwards and partly about presuppositional apologetics. Jeff said that Edwards is a mixed bag when it comes to apologetics, as, though he has elements of classical apologetics in his works, he also has elements of presuppositional apologetics, insofar as in his arguments for God’s existence he typically presupposes the truth of biblical Christianity in those arguments.

My question concerns circular reasoning in presuppositional apologetics. Says Van Til, circular reasoning does not necessarily make for bad arguments (c.f. In Defense of the Faith 4th ed., 123, and particularly fn. 8). However, does this mean that circular arguments—begging the question—never makes for bad arguments? When, in presuppositionalism, do they make for bad arguments? This is relevant to Edwards because I am wondering why his natural theology gets labeled by Jeff as presuppositional and not as simply question-begging. E.g., some classic cosmological arguments get rejected for pretty overtly begging the question (some Reformed apologists make such criticisms, in fact) and it seems like Edwards makes such arguments.

On the other hand, Van Til at times, and some discussions of Van Til, seem to argue that natural theology arguments for God’s existence are only good arguments when circular. E.g., Bahnsen (Van Til’s Apologetic, 617ff) argues that there are presuppositional versions of the cosmological argument (though he wanders off before saying exactly what that argument would be). These arguments seem to simply say, e.g.:
1. God must be the cause of everything that has a cause (or, everything created)
C. Therefore, God exists.
This seems to suggest that the problem with many arguments in natural theology is that they did not beg the question enough, and Edwards successfully made some such arguments because he begged the question.

So, what’s the right thing for the Van Tillian to say here? Feel free to email me to tell me your thoughts,


4 years ago

Very interesting discussion.
I am reading your discussion guys and Jonathan Edwards
was considered by some writers and scholars to be empiricist.
The issue is wide in nature and it includes anthropology
as the center to look at Adamic status in nature.
Well I have no more to say as of the moment.

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Mark G

4 years ago

I enjoyed the discussion but I feel like I must be missing something on this problem of Adam being created righteous and yet falling into sin. I believe that Adam when he was created was not created in his final eschatological state. That is, God gave Adam a mandate and a goal, to enter God’s eschataological Sabbath rest. That would seem to imply that it was possible that Adam not enter God’s Sabbath rest, which of course is what happened. Could one not say that although God created Adam “perfect” he did not create Adam in his final estate. This would seem to parallel Christ who was made perfect through sufferening and glorified through his resurrection. I don’t think we would say that Jesus was created “imperfect” even though while on earth he was not in his final estate.

I guess I am stuck on the either Adam was perfect and could not sin versus Adam was imperfect making God somehow responsible for sin dialectic. It doesn’t seem valid to me. Adam was perfect and given an eschatalogical task which he was able to accomplish but botched.

Still, perhaps it is truly mystery as to why Satan fell since the Bible doesn’t really tell us much. Are the other angels capable of sin? Were they ever? … the Bible doesn’t really say.


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