Why Did God Let Man Sin

by Jimmy Akin

in Apologetics, Theology

adam_and_eveI’ve read the Catechism before, but that doesn’t stop things from leaping out at me when I’m going through it.

Today something leapt out that deals with the problem of evil, even though it wasn’t in the section on the problem of evil. It deals with the question of why God allowed original sin to take place.

Here’s what it says:

412 But why did God not prevent the first man from sinning? St. Leo the Great responds, “Christ’s inexpressible grace gave us blessings better than those the demon’s envy had taken away.” and St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “There is nothing to prevent human nature’s being raised up to something greater, even after sin; God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good. Thus St. Paul says, ‘Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’; and the Exsultet sings, ‘O happy fault,. . . which gained for us so great a Redeemer!'”

The answers provided by Leo the Great, Aquinas, Paul, and the Exsultet all converge on the idea that God allowed man to fall into sin because he knew he could bring about a greater good by doing so.

This does not necessarily mean a greater good for every individual (e.g., people who commit mortal sin and decide to stay there may not end up with a greater benefit in the long run, although this is itself arguable), but it does mean that there will be greater net good in general.

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{ 14 comments }

granny September 14, 2016 at 11:54 am

Granted that CCC 412 is interesting; however, it omits the Catholic teachings on human nature (Genesis 1: 27) and Original Sin (Genesis 2: 15-17) It also ignores CCC 1730-1732 and CCC 396. In addition, one could add the obvious truth that there cannot be two equal supreme primary Gods at the same time.

granny September 14, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Granted that CCC 412 is interesting. However, it omits the Catholic teachings on human nature (Genesis 1: 27) and Original Sin (Genesis 2: 15-17. It also ignores (no cross-references in margin) CCC 1730-1732 & CCC 396.

Richard Clinnick September 15, 2016 at 6:07 am

Your answer is true. But it ignores the many places in the New Testament, where St Paul in particular, states that God’s eternal plan always included the Incarnation despite what men might or might not do with his freedom. It is plain that the Latin Rite of the Church has always emphasized the Incarnation and the Resurrection as a response to human sin. However it is not necessarily the best emphasis. St Irenaeus, St Maximus, and Blessed John of Scotland in particular recognized that the Incarnation of the Eternal Word and the transformation of the physical creation to conform to the Resurrection of our Lord has always been God’s plan whether or not man sinned. Pope Benedict XVI taught that Blessed John of Scotland and the Franciscan “interpretation” may well indeed be the most accurate way of fully understanding why God became man. Cardinal Dulles explicitly taught this in his Catechism for the 21st century. Jimmy, maybe you could speak to this way of understanding God’s great plan for creation in one of your pieces. Regards in Christ Risen, Richard

Edward September 15, 2016 at 6:28 am

I beg to differ, based on your reasoning. Redemption was the response to man’s fall. If we agree on this then. Then there is no need for redemption is man had not sinned. Pre fallen state Adam and Eve already walked with God.
God bless

Charles La Rue September 15, 2016 at 6:09 am

Eden wasn’t the first time sin occurred by free willed souls. It happened earlier with Lucifer. He can’t repent because was created fully mature, fully powerful, and fully knowledgeable; his first rebellious decision was eternal. Poor Satan! He never had a chance at growth or learning from mistakes. Now he sits there trapped in his forever decision by his own pride

God’s next creation of free willed souls was different. Humans can repent because we are in time. That’s the protection God gave us when he embedded our souls into physical bodies. It slows us down, giving us time to experience the results of sin and eventually to repent.

Pride is a natural consequence of free will and has to be tamed by suffering followed by repentance and further blessings. This cycle results in spiritual growth. Eventually we will become so savvy about this that, once we are in eternity, we will have learned how to correctly use our free will to do only good. We will have become indeed like God in all ways, truly his blessed children.

Josh September 15, 2016 at 6:16 am

The way you phrased it, God allows sin (moral evil) “because” he can bring greater good out of it, seems a bit like Consequentialism. He allows sin because he gave us free will. I think of it more like God wouldn’t allow evil if he couldn’t bring good out of it (Augustine), not that he allows evil because the outcome is greater good.

Aquinas’ reply to the problem of evil in the Summa:
As Augustine says (Enchiridion xi): “Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.” This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.

Not sure I understand Aquinas’ quote from the CCC, that God allows evil “in order to” (as a means to?) bring about greater good. Either this does suggest “because” the outcome is greater good, or God’s allowing evil isn’t necessarily a means to good ends, as we think about action or purposeful inaction, but since God is pure act and there is no causation in God (I think, since he is uncaused and the first cause), his infinite goodness necessarily has to involve bringing good out of evil?

Well, I think I just confused myself. I would appreciate your thoughts, if you have time.

Emilie September 15, 2016 at 7:04 am

Those are alot of arguements that go over my head. But since God is love allowed us to make a choice. Free. Right or wrong. Good or bad. He would never leave us nor forsake us. He is love and that is what love would do.

granny September 16, 2016 at 12:49 pm

You are correct. God, Who is love, does allow us to make a choice. The first human Adam also had to make a choice. Adam was created in the State of Original Holiness, the original friendship relationship with God. God did not forsake Adam. It was Adam who left when he shattered the original friendship relationship between humanity and Divinity.

We often try to find motives for Adam’s sin. Regardless of any motive, Adam’s sin was flat out disobedience of a loving God. Because Adam was created as a rational being like us, God allowed him to make a free choice.

Edward Wharton September 15, 2016 at 6:23 am

All sin, from a layman’s perspective, is born of pride: pride that arises from free will. We know that we have a choice, because of our free will (except for ignorance of he consequences of the act). And it is this conscious decision that gives rise to pride.
Man’s fall opened the door to discord in creation (for mankind). Since, to my understanding, God does not detract, hence the graces to help us choose to reach harmony of creation as meant for us since the beginning. Again, because of man’s inability to reach God, God reached out to us through the events of redemption through the life of Jesus Christ.

Dan A September 15, 2016 at 6:32 am

Missing piece, there must be a missing piece. Given the truth that sin allows “more” grace, it is truly wonderful that God loves us so much that he saves us despite our sins. This truth seems to teeter on the idea that the greatest sinners get the most of God’s love. I don’t think that truly, saintly people care in the slightest if this were true; in fact, they probably love God more for it. But how does a sinner, convinced of God’s boundless mercy, move to a loving relationship with God if he thinks his sins really don’t matter? It often seems odd that those who suffer the most or work (most) tirelessly for God are those who love Him the most. This truth, if it is one, leaves me with the evangelical notion, “Hey Jack, stop sinning, turn to God and you will be so happy. Your life will be very, very hard – but you will be filled with joy.

granny September 25, 2016 at 5:49 pm

The missing piece could be human’s intellective free choice. We have to actively love God, especially when we seek His mercy and forgiveness. Our relationship with our Creator is a two-way street. We can walk down that street because we are a rational being.

Emilie September 15, 2016 at 7:13 am

Those are alot of arguements that go over my head. But since God is love allowed us to make a choice. Free. Right or wrong. Good or bad. He would never leave us nor forsake us. He is love and that is what love would do.

Mike September 15, 2016 at 7:34 am

To frame the question “God Lows evil”, is applying negativity to God who is the author of goodness and goodness himself. I rather believe that God is not the author or maker of evil. He created humankind in his goodness, made him share and Enjoy freedom of his sons and daughters. With this freedom, man makes choices between what to do and what not to do; between right and wrong. So what is it that entices man to engage in wrong “praise”, which is sin? Did God send the devil to this? I guess not. The eternal plan of God for man is to know Him, love Him, serve and praise Him in this world and to dwell with him forever in heaven.

granny September 16, 2016 at 6:15 am

When we ponder the valid question “But why did God not prevent the first man from sinning?’ (CCC 412) — we need to explore the major Catechism section CCC 355-421 including the paragraph 396 cross-reference CCC 1730 and the first three chapters of Genesis. The proposal “that God allowed man to fall into sin because he knew he could bring about a greater good by doing so.” is indicated in CCC 410, the Protoevangelium, Genesis 3:15, footnote 304.

The real question is — What is basic human nature as designed by God? Genesis 1: 27 is a beginning. CCC 356 is key because it gives the purpose of Genesis 1: 27. CCC 1730-1732 explains the ultimate difference between man and the creatures in Genesis 1: 20-25.

CCC 1730 “man a rational being” is the foundational answer as to why God did not prevent the first man from sinning.

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