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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 Cosner, 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 Cosner 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 Cosner 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.

Helpful Resources

From Creation to Salvation
by Lita Cosner
US $14.00
Soft Cover
The Genesis Account
by Jonathan Sarfati
US $39.00
Hard Cover

Readers’ comments

Willem D.
I've struggled with the tree of knowledge of good and evil for all my life, until I realised one obvious truth that I missed for decades: eating of its fruit was hardly the only way Adam and Eve could have sinned. They had total freedom to decide what to do or not to do any time of the day. So would their children have. I think it's very naive to think that someone who has a whole planet to discover but chooses to eat from the only tree that was off limits would never lie, steal, cheat, kill, or whatever, when it would seem profitable. The tree wasn't the problem, their lack of loyalty to God was. Eventually, they would have fallen into sin anyway, even without the tree. And the damage would have been much worse, because lying, stealing, cheating and killing are in itself devastating. And it might have happened that only part of humanity would fall, while the other part was still faithfull to God. What a mess would that be, how could that ever be fixed?! Would Jesus have to come and die in our place every time someone would choose to be loyal to someone else than God? Could things ever be perfect this way?
So I think that God, in His love and wisdom, provided an, in itself, totally harmless way of showing our loyalty. Without doing any other direct damage, they could show they were not going to obey God's commands: by eating from the tree of which God had said not to eat from. It allowed mankind to fall as a whole, right from the start, which sounds horrible until you realise this also makes it possible for God to save mankind as a whole. And that's what He did and that was the whole plan all along. I think it's awesome!
Jordan C.
In response to Linda W’s questions about “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?” – Also keep in mind, God created man in order that man have a true relationship with his Creator, hence God gave man the “choice, ability, and free will” to love God back. If man did not have a choice, how could man truly love God? If God did not give man the “choice ,ability, free-will” to refuse God’s love or rebel against His commandments, he could have just created a robot instead, not a creature with true free will. Love without a choice is rape, and God is no rapist. If Adam chose to rebel against who’s nature is Good and that He is The Life, The Truth and The Way, it would seem that he would choose what is not good, death, lies and loose his way in order to rebel against what God is. God gave Adam a choice to choose Him, and that choice is still there in Jesus, for all of us.
Susanna C.
As a physician, I can attest to the important role that pain in childbirth plays in normal labor. Women who are able to feel their contractions are able to coordinate their voluntary muscle contractions with the involuntary contractions of the uterus. Overly heavy anesthesia slows labor and increases chances for failure of labor progression and need for cesarean section. In the early days of epidural anesthesia, women frequently "couldn't feel anything" and therefore epidurals put women at higher risk of cesarean. Now obstetric anesthesiologists know "a little pain" is a good thing and epidurals no longer increase cesarean risk. I believe our Creator designed the birth process with pain as a signal rather than pain as suffering.
Richard B.
The simple yet correct answer is that perfect love requires obedience. God put one thing (tree) in the garden so that Adam and Eve could show perfect love through obedience to God their maker. Only one tree at that time, now we must discipline ourselves in an environment fraught with temptation and testing to be refined and even disciplined to learn that we need Him to protect, and provide for us through obedience to His Word, and being sensitive to His Spirit in all things.
Michael B.
We serve a very intentional God. God gives us His purpose statement in Genesis 1:26a "Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness" In Genesis 3 man fell into unbelief and disobedience yet even in the fall there was a Work of God done and He tell us what that is. Genesis 3:22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” The clear implication in His statement is that prior to the fall Adam was ignorant of what good and evil were and now he has experienced it and has a clear understanding that evil is disobedience and that disobedience comes from not believing God (unbelief). Therefore, because of "the fall", man became more like God in that he now had knowledge of what constituted good and evil which is obedience and disobedience. If we look at the fall in the light of Romans 8:28-29
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren."
We see that even "the fall" would be included as one of "all these things" and that from the time God said "let Us make man in Our Image" He has never deviated from His purpose and, in fact, continues to this day on the course of His Original Plan and we can live life in the confidence of knowing that everything that has and will take place in history, in the world, and in our lives is for the purpose of completing His original Purpose of being made in His Image as He conforms us to the Image of Christ.
Joshua B.
Seeing as this is a scientific website, I am somewhat disappointed to see you referring to spiders as poisonous. Spiders are not poisonous. They are venomous. Rule of thumb: if you bite it and you die, it's poisonous. If it bites you and you die, it's venomous.
Kirk B.
God's plan to die for man "from before the foundation of the world" does not require its activation. This divine commitment, should man fall, was so sure as to be done. Nothing on God's part was lacking to insure the fulfillment of His perfect creation. Even as thorns and carnivorous activity were originally latent it would seem, so here. God was not caught unprepared. Neither were sin and death required to fulfill God's plan. The Scriptures do not limit God's freedom like this and most theological explanations of the Divine plan.
Glenn P.
I believe Adam and Eve are saved. In Gen.2:23, Adam calls his wife,"Woman", because he took for himself the generic name of "Adam" as per Gen.5:2 when God called both male and female by their generic name of "Adam". First man, uses that name, and distinguishes second person and first woman with the name of 'Woman'. After the Fall and the proto evangel promise of Gen.3:15, both believe in Seed-Saviour-to-Come. Hence Adam renamed his wife to "Eve" which, apart from meaning "Life", laid down the marker for future generations, that the " Life" would come as promised in Gen.3:15. The beginning of John chapter 1 is based on Gen.1-3. 1:4 says, "In Him was Life, and the Life was the light of men". Later in 14:6, Jesus says that He is " the Way, the Truth, and the Life...". The point is Adam would never have been clothed with bloody skins that represented penal substitution had they both not repented: nor would a holy God have touched sinners had He not known of their repentance; in thanksgiving of their new-born salvation, Adam renamed his wife to 'Life'. They were not disrobed of their fig leaves but were covered by the blood of the innocent animal sacrificed for their sin, which meant they had to live out consequences of their rebellion out of the Garden and in the world. If you had been through such an amazing day, Sinless-Sinner-Saved, would you not think of a way to tell everybody (to come) about it? Kind regards.
Richard L.
Thanks, Lita, for your helpful responses. If I may add further ‘takes’ re the 1st 2 letters… Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil (TKGE):
Twice, in Hebrews, Christ—the 2nd Adam—is mentioned as being “perfected” through obedience-in-testing. Though Jesus was incarnated perfectly, some kind of obedience-in-testing perfection exists that goes beyond created perfection. While minding Lita’s caution to remember that salvation is not Plan-B, we can honor God by contemplating the non-fall perfecting of Adam and Eve, had they obeyed God. The goodness of God is on display in the pre-fall TKGE, the means of that testing. (What end result, if the potential of obedience? [Cautiously said:] Perhaps, a potential direct entry into the eternal ages [Rev. 21&22.) Within Puritan thought: the pre-Fall garden as a probationary situation.)
Pain-increased childbirth:
A helpful clue may be the exact wording: “multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children”. The parallel structure means that both statements have to be true. One possible interpretation: The 2nd statement: now, you will experience pain in childbirth, unlike the potential, before. The 1st statement: Your [non-fall potential] childbirth pain will greatly increase in magnitude. Combined: Your potential non-fall childbirth pain was so low that it effectively was non-existent. But now, post-fall, it will greatly increase and be (very) noticeable. There may be an insight from non-childbirth labor, when it is low-intensity. Such as in finish carpentry. Mild muscle fatigue, from it, can lead to a pleasurable endorphin rush, one that reminds one of what has been accomplished. That may have been the situation with potential non-fall childbirth: only a very minor and pleasurable muscle fatigue.
Grahame G.
I've also wrestled with the idea that God could have created humans without the opportunity to sin. I don't believe I fully know the answer but it seems to me that part of the answer lies in God's love. It seems loving to us to withhold the chance for evil, but God sees it as more loving to rescue others. "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8) How does God show His love? By dying for us while we were sinners. Not by putting them in a perfect creation. Not by heaven. Not by withholding evil. By by dying for us while we were sinners. And that's what we'll be rejoicing about for all eternity, the cross of Christ. The love of God that He would stoop to save sinners. That Christ would give up the glory of heaven and come in human flesh and suffer the depredations of human life, and then the horror of crucifixion. Without the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, none of that would be possible. And we may think that would be better. But God doesn't. And we'll understand perfectly one day. Revelation 4:11 "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." And I was going to post part of Revelation 5 but we need to read the whole thing, but I've run out of room. But I'm sure CMI can link to it. Thanks, and God bless you for your ministry for our wonderful Saviour.

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