Man in His Original State
Man was created in original righteousness. Man’s righteousness was originally a creaturely reflection of God’s uncreated and independent righteousness. This latter righteousness is the supreme and final authority to which all rational creatures, men, angels, are obligated. As no creature can be naturally independent of God, so no moral creature can be morally independent of God. Such a creature is responsible to acknowledge the Creator and His law as a reflection of His perfect attributes. That law is the standard to which the moral creature is responsible; and as the law itself is a clear reflection of the very nature of God, so the moral creature is bound to reflect and conform to God’s law. Man, therefore, as a rational, moral creature, was subject to that law of righteousness, for it was revealed to him and he understood it. God made man upright (Eccl. 7:29). This implies that man in his creation was conformed to the image and law of God. God’s word was law for Adam. He observed God’s law in all its points. In God’s word to Adam in Genesis 3 we have the essence and basis for the ten commandments.
This original righteousness was evident in man’s understanding. For he had a perfect knowledge of the will, word and law of God, since he was created in God’s image, and knowledge was a part of that. He understood God’s standard of righteousness, so that he could and did render obedience to it. This was his practical righteousness, namely, obedience to known and revealed law. Adam understood the creation (his environment) and understood the meaning of all things (God’s interpretation of all things.) This is evident in Adam’s naming the creatures, which names expressed their nature. Also, he exercised dominion, as earthly king, over the creatures, doing so in subordination to that law of God which he loved. His dominion was dependent upon the divine standard. He was not a law unto himself. God alone rules independently (sovereignly). A king under God was Adam. His rule was in subservience to God; otherwise rule would be rebellion against God. But that came later, with the fall of man.
Original righteousness was evident in man’s will which was perfectly conformed to God’s will. Adam’s will was not created independently, in a state of equilibrium, in perfect balance, neutrally, between good and evil, free to go in the direction of either. Adam’s will was not created indifferent, but upright. An upright will is inclined toward God as man’s chief end. For Adam to be inclined in any other direction would be for him to be a god to himself. But in his rectitude, God alone was his God. So then Adam’s will was in perfect harmony with his understanding. He perfectly willed what he perfectly understood. This we maintain against all humanism and evolutionism which grant no place for man’s original state of rectitude and perfection. Therefore, man’s knowledge before the fall was not self-acquired; he was not a self-made man. It was knowledge with which he was created and which also kept coming to him through the revelation of God, and that revelation was in knowledge, righteousness and holiness. The law is holy, just and good.
So man’s knowledge was sinless, yet only a creaturely reflection of God’s, so that man’s thoughts were (are) finite. God’s understanding is infinite (Ps. 145:5); man’s thoughts are a mere breath (94:11, Heb.); and just as man’s being is finite and dependent, so man’s knowledge is finite and dependent. This is plain and acceptable enough to the Christian, for the Bible teaches it. But the agnostic believes that “man’s mind is the measure of all things” (Dr. H. Bavinck, D.D., The Doctrine of God, 30). The atheist also believes this: cp. Ayn Rand, “Objectivist Epistemology,” 10. But it is only God, not man, who has the attribute of omniscience. Original man understood this too. He knew that he never could in any sense outgrow or overcome either his dependence upon God or his creaturehood. He knew that he could not be like God in His independence or infinity. In that regard, he knew God as “the wholly Other.” So for man, and the church, not for God himself, there is the doctrine of His incomprehensibility. (Belgic Confession, I). The infinitely good God created finite man with a finite goodness. Man’s knowledge, though also finite, and therefore not comprehensive, was nevertheless also good, that is, not sinful, but holy. So that what man knew was the truth, insofar as God had revealed it to him. Knowledge from God is the truth.
Man In the Fallen State
Man fell from his original knowledge, righteousness and holiness into a state of sin, misery and death. Why is the world today characterized by that state? This question cannot be answered apart from the doctrine of the fall.
Two early results of this dreadful state, prevailing to this day, make men “the children of disobedience,” for which the wrath of God comes on them Eph. 5:6) and remains on them (Jn. 3:36) until saved from it (Rom. 5:9). One such result was the sin of mixed marriages, or the intermarrying of believers (the sons of God, of the line of Seth) with unbelievers (the daughters of men, of the line of Cain). Believers have the right to marry “only in the Lord” (I Cor. 7:39), lest they intermarry with the profane, cursed race of Cain. They did not consider the will of God in their choice of mates. They were solely motivated by the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. This is the way the heathen live, changing their gods as easily as they change their married state. This sin is a direct fruit of original sin. A second early result of the fall was that man became giants of corruption and violence (Gn. 6:4, 11). Of gigantic stature and mighty physique, they became monsters of iniquity. Their great feats of wickedness quickly filled the earth with “swearing, lying, killing, stealing and committing adultery (so that) they break out (in a deluge and) blood toucheth blood” (Hos. 4:2). These two evils also characterize these last days. Man has become the reverse of his original: his mind became perverse, the thoughts of his heart only evil continually; the will enslaved to sin; the affections wholly polluted. Man was incapable of doing any good and prone to all wickedness. That “all” means that there is not even a smidgeon of good in man, for he is only evil and that continually. There is nothing in him acceptable to God. When he does change he only changes one set of sins of evil behavior for another set of sins. All that the natural man can do is sin. His ordinary actions are sins: his eating and drinking are only for himself (ct. Zech. 7:6 with I Cor. 10:31). The performance of his work, in his occupation, is sin. (Pro. 21:4). His most spiritual actions are sin. (15:8). Although we do believe that ‘‘there remain. . .in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light” (canons of Dort, III-IV, 4), yet not a glimmering of the light of holiness remains. Nor can his corrupt mind produce one holy thought. Such is man’s heart and totally depraved nature until that divine miracle of regenerating grace changes him.
So man lost sight of the relation between Creator and creature. But even after the fall he could not escape that relation. He still had to proceed with his mere natural knowledge within the bounds of that relation, yet, insanely, he chose to think and work as though that relation did not exist. Doing so, he departed from reality. For he conceived of the world as functioning ‘‘out in the blue” of nothingness. In his humanistic denial that he is a creature of God and that God is God, he assumed that man is all the god there is or needs be.
Holding this conception of things man makes his whole life a blasphemy. For his every breath is to wipe God right out of existence. Created a king-servant of God, he now desires to be no more than a playboy-autocrat. He imagines something higher than his creaturehood: he is owner of all. So, in effect, he fires God from His own workshop and pushes Him off the edge of the world. He is capable of running things as he dictates. Give him time, and he will control the weather, volcanoes, earthquakes and all the galaxies in space!
This is exactly where Eve went wrong. She knew and believed what God had said, “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” But when the devil contradicted this with, “ye shall not surely die,” she began to wonder, Who is right? She began to judge on her own the minority who said one thing and the majority which said the opposite. For now the devil, herself and Adam formed a majority against God. She assumed that the majority can’t be wrong. She listened to a supposed “expert” on “authority” to become the first humanist and “scientist,” weighing God and the devil in the balance of the finite mind. She has “advanced” to making herself the expert, the judge, the measure of all things. She did all this on the scale of her 2×0 mind!
These fundamental doctrines of Reformed theology (the Being of God), and Reformed anthropology (the creation, man in the state of rectitude, man’s temptation and fall, etc.) must be tenaciously held and preached according to the Bible, or we have no defense of the faith against perverted socialist anthropology, nor against one of the most dangerous of modem religions, the religion of secular humanism, “the coming universal religion of mankind.”
Suggestions for Further Study:
- Read the first 30 pp. of H. Bavinck’s The Doctrine of God on “God’s Incomprehensibility.”
- Read in “The Attributes of God,” by Arthur W. Pink, “The Solitariness of God.”