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Is the Genesis 3 curse unfair?

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The word ‘unfair’ is easy to make. But is it easy to justify? Jack S. from the United States writes in response to our article God, the universe, tolerance and suffering:

Enjoyed the article and thought it very well done.

However, re “… extrasolar planets, and it would be unfair to curse beings with human intelligence for the sin of Adam.”

Isn’t unfair a suspect word to use since it opens the door for the opposing side to claim it as valid when they use it?

E.g., “It’s unfair to curse anyone else but Adam.” “It’s unfair that because of Adam the whole universe should be cursed.” “It’s unfair that Adam didn’t get a 2nd chance.” “It’s unfair that other worlds with human characteristics should be cursed.”

Otherwise, if it’s unfair to one group of people (other world) than why not accept that it’s unfair to the group of Adam’s descendants. Things become sidetracked.

Perhaps the approach to “other possibly human-inhabited worlds” should be to negate that possibility differently.

Sincerely,

Jack S.

CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:

Dear Jack,

Thanks for writing in. I’m glad you enjoyed the article, and I hope that what I write below will be of benefit.

Regarding the issue of ‘unfairness’, people can say that something is “unfair”. We can’t prevent that. The question, however, is whether a critic can show that their claims have merit.

Let’s go through the examples you listed.

“It’s unfair to curse anyone else but Adam.”

The God of Scripture disagrees. He often judged nations, including Israel, for corporate sin. For example, He explicitly says this to Ezekiel concerning the coming judgment on Jerusalem in Ezekiel 21:3: “Thus says the Lord: Behold, I am against you and will draw my sword from its sheath and will cut off from you both righteous and wicked.”

God doesn’t do it willy-nilly, though. He typically only does it in cases where, e.g. the people in charge (who bear primary responsibility for national sins) have some sort of proper representative role with respect to the people to be judged (e.g. judgment on Israel by plague when David sinned in taking a census in 1 Chronicles 21), or the dominant culture within the people group to be judged must be sufficiently ‘infectiously degenerate’ to guarantee its perpetuation in the absence of judgment (e.g. the Canaanites during the Conquest), or there are concerns about holiness (e.g. Achan’s sin in Joshua 7). Adam is an example of the first: he was the proper representative of humanity in the Garden of Eden.

God, unlike us, is wise and powerful enough to know how to apply corporate punishment judiciously. So, if his Word tells us of instances where God did this and we have objections, then God, not us, should get the benefit of the doubt about understanding the situation well enough to know if the corporate punishment God visited was just.

“It’s unfair that because of Adam the whole universe should be cursed.”

Why? It is God, not us, who gets to determine the scope of the curse. God also has the power to reverse it. Indeed, that’s why Jesus died: “through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20). And the end result of Jesus’ death will be even better than the pre-Fall state (cf. Romans 5:15–17 and 1 Corinthians 15:45–49).

“It’s unfair that Adam didn’t get a 2nd chance.”

Adam did get a second chance. He was still alive and able to receive forgiveness after the Fall. Whether he took it or not, Scripture doesn’t explicitly say. No, he didn’t get a second chance in the Garden of Eden before he died. But that was because he was barred from accessing the Tree of Life. God didn’t allow him the means to live forever with his fellowship with God broken. It only takes one sin to break our fellowship with God. Not only is that fair, but it may even be a grace. After all, angels don’t die. Could that be why God doesn’t offer any redemptive help to them (Hebrews 2:16)? Whether or not that is true, though, there’s no reason why God must’ve offered Adam a second chance in the Garden, and good reason for him not to.

“It’s unfair that other worlds with human characteristics should be cursed.”

Jesus’ single death suffices to restore the whole cosmos (Colossians 1:20). This is not unjust. The injustice only arises if there are sapient ETs (i.e. ETs with moral agency) on those planets disconnected from Adam’s family. That is because while Jesus’ death suffices to restore all creation, it only provides salvation from sin for those moral agents he is flesh-and-blood family with (Hebrews 2:14–17, see also Aliens and the Bible). Plus, God declared his purpose in subjecting us all to sin in Romans 11:32: “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” But the scheme of salvation as set out in Scripture cannot apply to sapient ETs. Therefore, they could not have been subjected to Adam’s curse (which they would’ve been if they existed: The Fall: a cosmic catastrophe) so that God might have mercy on them. There is no mercy available to them. It follows, then, that God would’ve cursed them but offered them no chance of salvation, unlike with humans who actually did sin. So, this would imply God is biased toward humans, who brought sin into the world, over against sapient ETs who didn’t. That fits the very definition of partiality, i.e. ‘an unfair bias toward a particular person or group’. And yet, “God shows no partiality” (Romans 2:11). Thus, the existence of sapient ETs, given the Bible’s history of redemption, is inconsistent with God’s character, and specifically his impartial justice, i.e. his fairness. Therefore, God would not have created sapient ETs given the scheme of salvation set out in Scripture.

The reasoning in the above paragraph mirrors very closely Mr Lamb’s “four points” he used to back up his claim that “it would be unfair to curse beings with human intelligence for the sin of Adam” in his article God, the universe, tolerance and suffering. The only parts where I diverge a little are in explicating God’s purpose for allowing sinners to exist (as per Romans 11:32), and in making explicit why precisely it’s God’s fairness that’s at stake in this issue.

Here’s the problem: merely stating a counterclaim using a word like ‘unfair’ doesn’t show that a critic’s claim has merit. It is reasonable for us to call for reasons for why we should take their claims seriously, especially if we have already provided a case for our claim, as Mr Lamb did. It’s their responsibility to try to show that their claims are true, just as it’s our responsibility to demonstrate that our claims are true.

Kind regards,
Shaun Doyle
Creation Ministries International

Published: 12 November 2022

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