Why is sin attractive?
A writer comments:
I wish to remain anonymous, but I’m a Christian who recently was talking to someone questioning the morality behind Genesis and they asked a pretty simple but interesting question.
Basically, why did God make sin (wrong-doing) attractive?
And I thought that might be similar to asking, why didn’t God make the forbidden fruit moldy and ugly?
To be honest, in the moment, I could only think of a few possibilities and didn’t know the answer. Maybe because God was making a good world, then the fruit would also be edible and nice looking?
Of course I know a nonbeliever might easily think, well, I thought God could do anything so why not make this fruit the exception?
Anyways, I have looked a bit for others thoughts on this question and one response I saw pointed out that every fruit in the garden was edible and nice looking. So, there wouldn’t be really that much temptation to eat the forbidden fruit just based on how it looked by comparison.
That I think might be a pretty good point. However, I wonder if there’s even more points that I may be missing.
Why is sin attractive at all? Hmm, well, that’s actually difficult for me to find a satisfying answer to.
But, I definitely believe in the Bible. I would like to know others thoughts about this topic though.
CMI’s Shaun Doyle writes:
Thanks for writing in.
The two questions are quite different. Your question is more constrained, and easier, I think, to give a reasonable response to.
Regarding the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge specifically, the tree was placed in the Garden as a test of obedience. For the test to be real, the fruit couldn’t be unattractive. If it was unattractive, that wouldn’t pose any test. Indeed, it would’ve been a joke. Adam and Eve could’ve easily ignored the tree.
That’s not to say that God had to make the fruit considerably more appealing than other fruit in the Garden. Indeed, that may have made the test too hard to endure, since the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge came with a promise no other fruit came with: the promise of knowledge of good and evil. That would provide plenty of temptation by itself. So, a ‘reasonable medium’ was most likely, i.e. the fruit was like the other fruit in the Garden; no more or less appealing to the senses than the other fruit.
But what about the more general question: why did God make sin attractive? I don’t think it makes sense to say that God made sin attractive. It seems to me that it’s simply in the nature of evil to be attractive in some measure. How? Well, sin is a perversion of the true, the good, and the beautiful. As C.S. Lewis incisively observed:
“ … evil is a parasite, not an original thing. The powers which enable evil to carry on are powers given it by goodness. All the things which enable a bad man to be effectively bad are in themselves good things—resolution, cleverness, good looks, existence itself. That is why Dualism, in a strict sense, will not work.”1
So, a sin will always mimic the good it perverts to some extent. But the true, the good, and the beautiful carry an inherent attraction in them. Thus, it seems that the better a sin mimics the good it perverts, the more attractive it will generally be.
For instance, consider promiscuity. What makes it attractive? The fact that sex is (usually) very pleasurable. Yes, promiscuity is ill-directed pleasure. But notice how it’s the mere fact that sex is pleasurable that makes it enticing to do in ways we shouldn’t?
Or gluttony. Why is gluttony a sin? It’s too much of a good thing: food.
Or idolatry. Worship is a good thing when directed at the right object. It’s bad when directed at something less than God.
Even selfishness, that core of so many sins, is itself an excessive concern for something good: one’s own concerns. Should we be concerned for our own interests? Yes! Philippians 2:3-4 says that we should also be concerned with the interests of others. It doesn’t deny that we should be concerned for our own. Indeed, Paul’s exhortation for husbands to love their wives as their own bodies in Ephesians 5:28–29 presupposes that we care for ourselves. Even the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) presupposes that we care about ourselves: ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’
Thus, sin can be attractive because it parasitizes and mimics the good. Indeed, the better something is, the more perverse mimicry of it is. That’s why, practically speaking, idolatry and selfishness are sort of ‘foundational’ sins. Besides God himself, what has more worth than us or angels? Nothing. So, it’s so easy to serve/worship them, or to serve/worship ourselves.
But that has a sort of ironic consequence: the better God makes things, the worse sin can become, since sin is perversion and corruption of the good. So, I’d suggest sin is attractive as a by-product of God making the world so good.
Creation Ministries International
References and notes
- Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity, Geoffery Bles, London, pp. 36–37, 1952. Return to text.