Answering questions about the pre-Fall world
Published: 18 November 2017 (GMT+10)
Many people have questions about the pre-Fall world. While Scripture tells us very little directly, we can infer a great deal. Linda W., U.S., writes:
God created a beautiful world and placed a perfect man in it to enjoy all He had created. Adam was not born into sin, so why was the possibility of sin presented to him?
Why would the Creator place a tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden?
Who would do such a thing to one they love?
I would not knowingly put something that could change the lives of my children forever in their paths.
Thank you for your consideration.
Lita Sanders, CMI-US, writes:
We have to remember that the Cross was not ‘Plan B’, but it was God’s plan from “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4, 1 Peter 1:20, Revelation 13:8). That means that God knew before He ever created that Adam would rebel, and planned to save humans by grace through faith in Christ.
Does that mean that God ‘baited’ Adam with the forbidden tree? We could never accept an answer that would charge God with wrongdoing. Rather, God gave Adam a chance to trust and love God by obeying Him, even when it seemed to go against his own observations and reasoning about the tree. This of course was a test that Adam failed. Adam’s insistence on being his own judge of right and wrong is the sin which manifested itself in disobedience.
Even though God was not at fault when Adam sinned, God immediately revealed that He had a plan to redeem humanity, and there is evidence, though not overtly stated in Scripture, that our first parents trusted God’s promise and may have been saved. If so, this would mean that they were judged for a season during their earthly lives, but will experience the fullness of the resurrection that God always intended for them to have. In addition, all the saved people throughout history will spend eternity praising God for His mercy in saving sinners.
It’s a good thing that you would never intentionally put a stumbling block in your children’s paths, because you’re not omniscient or perfectly loving. That means that you can never be sure that your own motives were pure or that it wouldn’t have unintended consequences. But God is perfectly loving, meaning that His motives are unassailable (even though they are not fully revealed to us), and He is all-knowing, meaning that He foreknows all consequences.
Ken M. writes:
In Childbirth pains and human consciousness by Dr Carl Wieland, he writes “[Gen.3] refers to ‘increasing’ pain in childbirth (lit. childbearing or having children). That suggests that some level of ‘pain’ was already operative, but that is a separate question.
This comment came up in our home group last night. Do you have an answer that you can direct me to (I've tried your search facility)? What level of sensing pain may be referred to that does not contradict a loving creator God, which is my usual argument against death before the fall?
Lita Sanders responds:
Thanks for writing in. I would suggest that pain in and of itself isn’t the issue as much as suffering. Hansen’s disease, also popularly known as leprosy, is such a terribly dangerous disease precisely because it takes away a person’s ability to feel pain. Some pain acts as an ‘alarm’, letting us know we’re stepping on something sharp, or that a surface is hot and can burn us, for example. Given that pain as this sort of feedback mechanism is so built-in to the human body, it’s hard to imagine that it wasn’t operative pre-Fall—if Adam stepped on a pine cone, would his foot hurt? So the nervous system’s ability to register pain was part of God’s very good creation, and it was distorted as a result of the Fall. Of course, pre-Fall, the human body would not have malfunctioned or wore out as it does today, so those sources of pain wouldn’t exist. And we don’t know to what extent God intervened pre-Fall to prevent painful situations. But it’s safe to say that pain, to the extent that it was felt, was relatively mild and easily alleviated.
Pain becomes bad when it goes beyond being a useful feedback mechanism and causes suffering. Some people get headaches when they’re dehydrated. That’s a useful indicator and not necessarily a bad thing because it’s an indication something is wrong—the person needs to drink more water—and it goes away once the person is no longer dehydrated. But painful migraines that some people experience to the extent that it affects their ability to function would be considered a result of the fall because they don’t function as any sort of useful indicator.
There is also a psychological aspect to pain—it causes mental suffering as well as physical suffering. This wouldn’t have been present before the Fall. In support of this, it appears from animal experiments that there may be different nerve fibers and/or receptors involved in the ‘reflex avoidance’ aspect of pain, than in the perception of ‘agony’ and similar emotional concomitants of pain.
I hope these few thoughts are helpful.
Jay M. writes:
I have an interesting question. From a Biblical perspective, from whence did fears such as arachnophobia come? Does it serve a special purpose in survival? I'm especially curious to know why it's more prominent in women than in men. I'm also curious about ophidiophobia and its particular prominence in women. Basically, I want to know why specific animals seem especially terrifying to human beings. As an extension of this question, I'd like to know (though I don't really want an answer to this, so I won't be remotely offended if you ignored this) if you're aware of any way to reduce or remove this fear.
Lita Sanders responds:
Thanks for writing in. First, I have to say I don't have any particular expertise in this area, so you should seek qualified help before acting on anything in this response. But I think as Christians we can think through the issue to come to a satisfying answer of where these things come from.
I think as creationists, we can say that phobias are a distortion of an originally very-good system. We can expect that Adam would have had some sort of a fear of things that would actually hurt him. Just because the world was unfallen doesn't mean that it would be a good idea to jump off a cliff or into a fire. And in a fallen world, Adam's descendants would have had a lot more things to fear—including their fellow man.
Specific animals seem terrifying because they're statistically more likely to do harm. While many spiders are harmless to humans, some are very poisonous. The same goes for snakes. While some people like to see lions and tigers from a safe distance in a zoo, we'd be afraid of them if we encountered them in the wild, and rightfully so.
It's fairly well established that the best way to overcome irrational fears, or fears that interfere with a person’s day-to-day functioning, is to encounter that thing in a controlled environment. For example, someone suffering from arachnophobia may be asked to sit across the room from a glass jar holding a spider. Then over time the person will be moved closer and closer, until they are able to put their hand in the jar. It should go without saying that someone suffering from a true phobia needs medical help in this process from professionals. But people who have lesser 'self-diagnosed' phobias may work up the courage to encounter their fears on their own, with much the same result.