The Effects of Sin

When God created man he was created in a state of creaturely perfection. This does not mean that man had exhaustive knowledge. Man was created perfect in God’s good creation, but this does not imply an unchangeable creation. If man used his capacities properly he would grow in creaturely perfection by willing God’s will with joy and spontaneity. Thus, man had an ability to grow in his capacities the more he grew in knowledge of God. As long as man was without sin he would be able to grow throughout eternity because God is eternal and inexhaustible in His Being.

Unfortunately, our first parents did not remain sinless. Sin is an act of disobedience against God. Thus, we can say that the Fall of man was an ethical fall. But we can also say that the Fall was an epistemological fall. Van Til writes, “In paradise, Eve went to as many as possible of those who were reputed to have knowledge. God and Satan both had a reputation for knowledge. Apparently God did not think well of Satan’s knowledge and Satan did not think well of God’s knowledge but each thought well of his own knowledge. So Eve had to weigh these reputations. It was for her a question as to, How do we know?”[1]

In deciding to commit the sin act Van Til points out that Eve answered two epistemological question: What do we know and How do we know:

We should observe particularly that in doing what she did Eve did not really avoid the question of What do we know? She gave by implication a very definite answer to that question. She made a negation with respect to God’s Being. She denied God’s Being as ultimate being. She affirmed therewith in effect that all being is essential on one level. At the same time she also gave a definite answer to the question How do we know? She said we know independently of God. She said that God’s authority was to be tested by herself. Thus she came to take the place of ultimate authority. She was no doubt going to test God’s authority by experience and reflection upon experience. Yet it would be she, herself, who should be the final authority.[2]

We know that our Lord is Truth. We also know that sin is an open defiance to the Truth. Therefore it stands that sin is non-truth. It is perverted, distorted and twisted truth. Again, Van Til points out, “Sin will reveal itself in the field of knowledge in the fact that man makes himself the ultimate court of appeal in the matter of all interpretation. He will refuse to recognize God’s authority.”[3]

Adam was appointed as the first representative of mankind. When he sinned he cursed the human race. All of his progeny are now born in a state of sin. Does this mean that man changed upon the first sin? Yes and no. Man did not change in the metaphysical sense. When he sinned he still had his being. Man did not go from man to non-man. So in the metaphysical sense man did not change.

The Fall did, however, change man’s disposition. Man was created to will the will of God. Adam made the choice to will his own will, or to make himself the final point of predication. Therefore, all of Adam’s progeny also seek to make themselves the final point of predication. Thus, man can be said to be dead in his sins because natural man has no desire to will the will of God. In fact, he hates God, and desires to be free from God. Natural man has been struggling to establish his autonomy ever sense the Fall suppressing the truth of God for a lie. Van Til writes of natural man:

His inability to see the facts as they are and to reason about them as he ought to reason about them is, at bottom, a matter of sin. He has the God-centered ability of reasoning within him. He is made in the image of God. God’s revelation is before him and within him. He is in his own constitution a manifestation of the revelation and therefore of the requirement of God. God made a covenant with him through Adam (Rom. 5:12). He is therefore now, in Adam, a covenant-breaker. He is also against God and therefore against the revelation of God (Rom. 8:6-8). This revelation of God constantly and inescapably reminds him of his creatural responsibility. As a sinner he has, in Adam, declared himself autonomous.[4]

Fallen man now seeks to use his created capacities for himself. Hence, total depravity does not mean that man is as bad as he could be. It simply means that the effects of the Fall are comprehensive upon man, every aspect of man was affected. There is no capacity that was given to man that exists in a vacuum. His intellect as well as his will are directed towards self. Thus, man left unto himself does not have the desire or will to save himself because he does not believe he needs to be saved.

If this was the end of God’s interactions with man the end for man would be pretty bleak indeed. But, thankfully, our great King and Savior has not left us without hope, and it is this hope that drives the Christian onward. It is also this hope that is the foundation for evangelism and apologetics.

[1] Ibid., (Van Til, The Defense of the Faith), 33.

[2] Ibid., 34.

[3] Ibid., 35.

[4] Ibid., (Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge), 19.

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