The question we are looking at today does not deal with the means that God used to create human beings. That is easy enough to understand by looking at the creation account in Genesis. The first chapter tells us that God spoke our first parents into existence. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27). As you read on in chapter two, scripture gives a deeper account of how they were created. God formed Adam from the dust and breathed the breath of life into him. Later he created Eve by taking a rib from Adam's side. This is how God created man, but this is not really the "how" we are talking about today. Today we are looking at the "how" that refers to the condition in which man was created. Last week we looked at question 5 of the Heidelberg Catechism, which asks if a man can perfectly keep the law of God. The answer to that question raises the question that we are looking at today. If man, by his very nature, is incapable of keeping the law, does that mean that God created man with a depraved nature?
Understanding the Question
The question properly asked is "Did God, then, create man so wicked and perverse?" (Q. 6) The answer is a resounding no. The Catechism answers,
"No, on the contrary, God created man good and in His image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness, so that he might rightly know God His Creator, heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal blessedness to praise and glorify Him." (A.6)
In Genesis 1:31 we read that "And God saw everything that he had made, and it was very good." This includes human beings. It is important to point out that there is a difference here between good and perfect. There is a difference between the state that Adam and Eve were created in and the state Christians will be in heaven. The difference lies in the abilities that are possessed. In paradise at the end of time, Christians will be changed into a glorified state where not only do we not have sin, but we are incapable of sin. This is different from the state that Adam and Eve were in. They were created without sin but had the ability to sin.
Understanding that God created man without sin, created him good with the purpose that man would know and love God, where did this sin come from? Question seven of the catechism asks this question, "From where, then, did man's depraved nature come?" (Q.7) We already know the answer if we have been paying attention. Man's depraved nature comes from sin.
"From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise, for there our nature became so corrupt that we are all conceived and born in sin. (A.7)
But this still leaves the question of how. How does sin come into the world at all if man was created good? This may seem like an easy question but it is more difficult than it may appear. It is more difficult because we know from scripture that nothing happens outside of the plan and decree of God. Lamentations 3:37-38 states, "Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?" Ephesians 1:11 tells us that He works all things according to the counsel of his own will. This brings in the question of God's sovereignty and human responsibility. This is a place where we have to come humbly before the Lord. Because it is clear in scripture that God works all things, that God is in control of all things, and that nothing happens outside of the will of God. That all power is his. That he declares the end from the beginning and yet man is responsible for his actions. God is not the author of sin, but sin is a part of his plan. God uses sinful people and actions to accomplish his plan. If you disagree, I encourage you to think of the cross.
To bring it all back to where we started, God created man good, and man by his actions fell into sin. From this first sin, everyone that has been born, has been born into sin. The nature that Adam and Eve had in their creation is not the same one that we have. God is not the author of this sin, but neither is this sin outside of his control. We must remain faithful to the scripture as we wrestle with these things. I encourage you this week to study the verses that go along with these two questions and to spend some time praying over them. It is a hard thing to think about the nature of sin and how God's sovereignty and human responsibility interact. Just remember where we fit in all this. We are created finite beings seeking to understand the infinite creator. I pray for you this week as you wrestle with these things. Be encouraged that Christ came to save sinners like you and me.
Soli Deo Gloria
Gen. 1:31. Gen. 1:26, 27. Eph. 4:24. Col. 3:10. Ps. 8. Gen. 3. Rom. 5:12, 18, 19. Ps. 51:5. Ps. 115:3. Ish 43:13, 46:10.