The debate over the sovereignty of God often takes a strange turn whenever you begin to discuss the issue as it concerns the fall of humanity into sin. No one in the entire Christian world denies the reality of sin nor does anyone deny that Man fell through Adam’s transgression. Romans 5:12 clearly says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (ESV). Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (ESV). Proverbs 20:9 says, “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin?’” (ESV). Sin abounds in the world (Romans 1:18-32) and none of us are righteous (Romans 3:10).
But a curious twist must be done by Calvinists when it comes to the Fall of Man and that is the question, “Did God cause Adam to fall into sin?” The Scriptures clearly teach that God does not tempt men (James 1:13). Adam fell through the act of his own free will. In other words, Adam chose to sin against God (Genesis 3:1-5). 1 Timothy 2:13-14 says that both Adam and Eve were deceived by Satan and thus fell into sin. But if there is really no such thing as free will then Adam fell because God essentially made him sin. This is the only rational response to the problem of Adam’s sin.
The Arminian view best fits the sovereignty of God and the truth that God does not tempt anyone into sin. Arminianism teaches that Adam fell because he was made with a free will to either choose life or choose death and Adam fell by his own transgression of God’s law (Genesis 2:15-17). God did not create mindless robots who simply do his bidding but he created Adam and Eve with the capacity to love God by their own free will. God did foreknow that Adam would fall but he did not force the Fall (1 Peter 1:20). God foreknew that Adam would transgress but he did not predestine the Fall.
Now to be fair, there are many Calvinist who would deny that Calvinism teaches that God caused the Fall. Most Calvinist would stop short of saying that God predestined the Fall of humanity but none deny that God does have absolute sovereignty over all things and that man’s free will is limited to only being able to comply with the known will of God (which is not free will at all in its truest sense). Hyper-Calvinism [Editor’s note: and mainstream Calvinism too] would declare that not only did God foreknow the Fall but that he also planned and executed the Fall for his own glory.
In any sense of the matter, Calvinism does have to struggle with the Fall. To me it is not a question of sovereignty as much as it is a question of God’s love. If God truly loved humanity why would he want to grant by his own sovereign choice that Adam would Fall and that this would plummet mankind into a horrible existence marked by death, destruction, and decay. The better answer is that God did and does love humanity enough to not only give us free will but also sent his Son to die for our sins (John 3:16-17). Christ died for our sins as well as Adam’s sin (Romans 5:18-21). Arminians appeal to the love of God as a solution to Adam’s sin and not to the absolute sovereignty of God to cause the Fall and the redemption of man. I do not deny the sovereignty of God but affirm that he is sovereign and he is sovereign enough to grant humans free will to choose our path either toward sin and death or toward Christ and life (Romans 6:23).
[Link to original post and comments on Roy Ingle’s blog Arminian Today]