If Satan were not kicked out of heaven, would Adam and Eve still have sinned?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

Question: If Satan was not kicked out of heaven would Adam and Eve still have sinned?

Answer: I find this a particularly interesting question because it makes us ponder the nature of sin — something that we usually do not do during our practice of sin because… well… we’re too busy sinning! It is obvious, however, that sin has defined our race since Eden. In fact, it is the primary empirical of humankind. Sin is with us everywhere and at every moment. But what if Satan had never jump-started it like he did? Would we be in the same mess? A different mess, I think, and here is why. God requires glory — and sin is everywhere that glory is not. But you are asking about the pre-fall Eden, where innocence had not yet yielded to faith. Was sin even possible? It’s head-spinning time!

Before we begin, let us understand that we must proceed cautiously with alternative historical scenarios. Since history can never reoccur, alternate scenarios can never show up in the Bible, and the Bible is sufficient as it stands. So, although I may speculate by building upon what we do know about sin, any alternate scenario will be little more than a sinner musing about sin. This might be worth more than a bad television show, but it will be worth less than God’s existing teaching on sin and on the nature of humankind. That being said let us explore.

We know many things about God but only a few things about his activities before creation. For instance, the Bible reveals that he is eternally existent and infinitely perfect in all of his attributes. Furthermore, we learn that he is a triune God, and therein is self-sufficient in fellowship. This means that he did not need to create anything or anybody. He just did. We humans always search for reasons — even unto the core of God! But nothing motivates him per se. He himself is the Prime Mover. He is the being whom, by definition, nothing moves. So, why did he create us? I’ll not argue with the Westminster Shorter Catechism which says that the chief end of man is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever because even our omnipotent God could not enjoy the particular type of glory that is given by a lesser being until he created those beings… and here we are! And here also are the angels, including Satan.

Although we are lesser beings, we possess an almost God-like ability to choose whether or not to give any glory to God — and this is good. Legitimate glory cannot exist without volition. For instance, if God had also created another category of beings that were somewhat like us, but were hardwired so that they would continually praise God with their lips, what would their praise be worth? These sound like flesh-covered robots to me, and frankly, I’d be insulted if God regarded their praise as much as mine — and I’d be justified therein. This is just how Jesus insulted the Pharisees during his final entry into Jerusalem.

“As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”  (Luke 19:37–40, ESV, emphasis mine)

Jesus told the Pharisees that, because of their lack of praise, they were less useful than stones to the Kingdom of God. Jesus will be praised by any means and at any cost… even by the inanimate! But he prefers it from the lips of people because people can withhold it. Now, contrast this with the pre-fall Eden where innocence reigned. Could praise or glory even have existed in such a rarified spiritual economy as was Eden before Satan?

Your question posits the removal of Satan, and with this, I have a problem (and with this, I have an opinion — one not necessarily shared by Christians at large). Before their testing, our first parents lived in a state of innocence, and as long as they remained in innocence they could not have lived by faith. It took Satan’s test, which they could have passed rather than failed, to prepare the way of faith. They failed, of course, and we know that outcome — no alternate scenarios necessary. But what if they had passed that test? Here we need an alternate scenario (and please be warned again that this is a personal opinion).

I imagine that if Adam and Eve passed Satan’s test that they would have enjoyed God on a new level, because innocence is, by definition, limited knowledge — and that’s what the forbidden tree was about — knowledge.

“And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
(Genesis 2:9, ESV)

I believe that after passing Satan’s test that the first couple would have continued living and working in pleasure — no sweat-of-the-brow stuff. Also, they would have procreated painlessly, bearing pure offspring who could also enjoy God’s direct fellowship. Would all this be possible without subsequent generations falling into sin? I believe so. Just as Adam’s sin had been passed to all his progeny for his failing the test, so would his faithfulness have been passed along for his passing the test. Again, this is just me, playing with alternative scenarios, but I had to. Without Satan, the period of innocence would have been prolonged indefinitely, and (here’s the real edgy stuff) I believe that God designed us to pass beyond innocence and into faith…but without sin. If this is true, then the economy of innocence was not designed to last forever.

Your question posits that the idea of sin — this potential wrong, just hovering around Eden, yet untested — is the equivalent of sin as we know it today. That is not true. There was no faith in the economy of innocence. Today, sin requires faith for its definition... and in part, we have Satan to thank.

“But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23, emphasis mine)

Let me summarize. I believe that in the absence of Satan, Adam and Eve would not have sinned. However, without Satan’s test, innocence would have continued and faith as we know it would not exist. Therefore, the notions of what sin might have been without a test and our empirical knowledge of contemporary sin are not equivalent, and therefore, not comparable.

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