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THEOLOGY > Man > Man's Original State > Mutable 


Though man was created with moral integrity and intellectual astuteness, he was not created immutable; he was created with the capacity to change. That which he had been given could be lost, and the original state could be forfeited.

Adam was warned of this very thing:

And Yahweh God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17).

Death was not part of Adam’s creation; it was inconsistent with his original state. Adam was made to live not made to die. But death was predicted as a possibility if he disobeyed God. So that which he did not have as part of his created experience, he could come to have if he did not continue in obedience. Death was possible because man was mutable.

The entrance of death into the experience of man was really the judgment for a greater and more profound change in man—the entrance of sin into the mind and life. Man, who was created separate from sin (see: Morally Upright), became a sinner by desiring what God had prohibited and actually taking that which God had expressly forbidden. In the assertion of self and the rejection of God’s directive, man became sinful: moral integrity was lost and thinking became muddled. Whereas Adam was able not to sin (posse non peccare), now each of his descendants would be incapable of not sinning (non posse non peccare). Adam was mutable.

The change that came to man was not partial but total; no element of man was immutable. In the Garden man lost his original state and entered into a sinful state, a state of alienation, condemnation, guilt, and shame. In this great loss, there was no aspect of man’s life that was unaffected; the totality of man was altered by the entrance of sin.

Subsequent to the Fall, man is still man, and man still bears the image of God; but man has become sinful man, contaminated man, depraved man. And herein lies the great tragedy of human existence. Man no longer reflects the pristine state with which he was endowed at the time of creation, but displays a state bearing the ravages and debilitating effects of sin. Man is still man, but man is fallen man; man still bears the image but the image is malfunctioning; man is still man, but he is not as he should be. Man is in need of redemption (see: Darkened Image).

In the great change, man became separated from God, separated from himself; separated from others, and separated from the world. Difficulties between man and God, man and himself,  man and others, and man and the world find their origin and explanation here in the actions of the first pair in the Garden (see: Separation). Any theology, psychology, or sociology that does not begin here is doomed from the beginning; there is no truth in it. All explanations and interpretations of man must be Theistic (see: Starting Point, Two Options, and Theism or Humanism).

Will is the ability to act; it is the faculty that makes choices. The question of whether the will is free in the absolute sense is another question, that is, does will involve the ability to choose equally between conflicting options? Or to put it in a different way, is the will capable of contrary choice?

For many Reformed thinkers, the question of Adam’s original state of moral integrity, intellectual astuteness, and mutability is related to the concept of the Covenant of Works, which appears in the Westminster Confession: “The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect obedience.” The following elements are usually said to characterize the covenant: promise, penalty, condition.

It should be noted that such a covenant is not specifically mentioned in the Scriptures, and the three words, “Covenant of Works” are not found in the Revelation (but neither is the word, “Trinity”). Also there is no statement in Scripture of a promise of eternal life if Adam had obeyed, just a warning that he would die if he disobeyed. There is the statement about the removal of the pair from the Garden after they sinned lest they eat of the Tree of Life and live forever. Exactly what part the Tree of Life would have played in Adam’s future if he had not eaten the forbidden fruit we do not know, and the question of whether and how Adam would have experienced a transformation from a physical state of mutability to the spiritual state of eternal life and immutability we do not know. Instead of thinking in Scriptural terms of a specific covenant, a covenant of works, it is best to think simply in terms of God’s command and His warning of disobedience, and his judgment for their refusal to obey—these are definitely Biblical categories.

In addition it is usually stated that the covenant with Adam was probationary, that is, if Adam passed the test then he would be confirmed in an eternal state of happiness and holiness in both body and soul. But no mention of such a promise is found anywhere in Scripture; a fixed period of probation is neither directly nor indirectly found in the record. And how would Adam have known when the probation was over, or was this kept from him?

To accept the fact that Adam could have been confirmed in righteousness means that Adam could have earned his confirmation or deserved his confirmation by simple personal obedience. Thus, man could have guaranteed eternal bliss for himself and his descendants apart from grace. Was such possible in Eden? It is to be granted that as long as Adam obeyed he would not have died, but it is not to be accepted that after a probationary period he would have been confirmed in eternal bliss. This is possible, but it is not certain; we simply do not know. If Adam had accomplished such a feat, then the glory that belongs to Christ would belong to Adam. And what of the affirmation of Scripture that Christ was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8)?

Such discussion is hypothetical and impossible if Christ was indeed the lamb slain from the foundation of the world as the Scriptures maintain. Instead of there being salvation for the elect based upon the person and work of Christ all men would be saved by virtue of Adam’s deed. Is it proper to entertain such a concept?

All of this reasoning is opposed to the plain declaration of Scripture of an old covenant and a new covenant, the former associated with Moses and the Law and the latter associated with Christ and Grace. Even the general division of Scripture is according to this understanding: the Old Testament (Covenant) and the New Testament (Covenant).

“Hence, we cannot accept the theory of the covenant of works, but must condemn it as unscriptural” (Hoeksema, RD, 220). Admittedly, some of the concepts of the so-called covenant of works are justifiably extracted from the Scriptures, but the full conception as formulated by many Reformed thinkers cannot be found in the Sacred Writings. As stated above, it is best to think simply in terms of God’s command and His warning of disobedience, and his judgment for their refusal to obey. A questionable translation and interpretation of Hosea 6:7 cannot be used to decide the question.

Even angels were created mutable. Though the immediate discussion is related to man’s original state, which was characterized by mutability, it is also true that the angels were exalted in their original creation, but, at the same time, were mutable. Apparently, in none of His human and angelic creation did God create robots. Jude writes: “And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day” (v. 6). Also in the book of Revelation we read: “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (12:9). Initially the created angelic host followed the Creator, but there came a time when a large group rebelled and cast their allegiance with Lucifer, also known as Satan. The point is that a number of the angels changed, the same as Adam.

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