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Wendelin's "Christian Theology": Doctrine of the Fall

THESIS I: Thus far the outcome of government, preceding the fall, concerning Angels. The outcome, with respect to the first men, was disobedience, manifest in the transgression of the ceremonial law concerning the not eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

EXPLANATION: The Law, as given by God, is found in Genesis 2:17; as violated by Eve and Adam, in Genesis 3:6.

THESIS II: Of this disobedience, which is called the fall of our first parents, are to be considered the causes and effects, or consequences.

THESIS III: The principal Efficient was the free will of man: for voluntarily, with no one compelling, man ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree.

EXPLANATION: Absolute no cause is able to be contrived, that compelled man to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree. For, if he had been compelled, he would have been compelled by himself, or by God, or by Satan.

But he was not compelled by himself: For no one compels himself to do that which he in no manner wants to do. Neither was he compelled by GOD: For God not only commanded man to abstain from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but also equipped him with freedom of will and sufficient grace, whereby he might be able to abstain, if he will.

Nor was man compelled by Satan: For Satan is found to have no power over man, but only to persuade, that he might eat of the forbidden fruit, contrary to the commandment of God. But he does not compel; he only persuades.

Therefore, freely did man fall: let the solid treatment of this argument be seen in Franciscus Junius’ tractatu de Peccato primo Adami, divided into four questions.

THESIS IV: The less principal, or impulsive, Efficient was external or internal.

THESIS V: The external, with respect to Eve, was Satan, who under the appearance of a serpent urged and persuaded Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit: with respect to Adam, it was Eve, who urged and persuaded Adam to eat of the same fruit.

EXPLANATION: That Satan under the appearance of a serpent uged and persuaded Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, contrary to the commandment of God, Moses testifies, Genesis 3:1-4, as does Eve herself, verse 13.

The persuasive argument was twofold:

(1.) That man was not going to die, even if he should eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, contrary to the commandment of God.

(2.) That he would be like God, knowing good and evil, if he should eat.

Theologians observe a multifaceted subtlety in that temptation of Satan.

(1.) As an instrument he chose a serpent, which was appearing the most apt for perpetrating the deceit.

(2.) He assailed the woman, not the man.

(3.) In his first address he did not state anything, but rather proposed a question, and that muddled and doubtful enough, Genesis 3:1, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of any fruit of the trees of this garden? In which it was uncertain, whether he was asking and wondering about the commandment of God, or concerning its sense. Whether God had prohibited the eating of all fruits, or only of the fruits of one tree. Thus he hid his venom in this ambiguities and veils, so that he might then offer it for consumption all the more easily.

(4.) After he called the commandment, or at least the sense, into doubt, he denied the verity of the adjoined threat. Verse 4, Not certainly shall ye die.[1]

(5.) So that he might more readily obtain the assent of the woman, against the divine threat he opposed a contrary promise. Verse 5, On the day ye eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be like God, knowing good and evil.

(6.) In order to confirm this promise, he abused the name of God, and of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Verse 5, God doth know, etc.

That Eve induced Adam to eat of the forbidden fruit, the same Moses testifies, Genesis 3:6, as does Adam himself, verse 12.

THESIS VI: The internal, with respect to both, was ambition and affectation of equality with God, to which was added unbelief and doubt concerning the truth of the divine threat.

EXPLANATION: I. This cause is manifest from the event itself. For, the serpent had promised to Eve equality with God, if she would eat of the forbidden fruit: who, at that moment titillated by an appetite for this equality, obeyed Satan: but she would not have obeyed, unless she had persuaded herself previously, that she was not going to die, even though God had threatened death against transgressors.

II. But, even if man be not fallen with God either compelling or commanding: yet he has fallen with God permitting, even indeed as not unwilling or simply being unwilling: for God was able with perfect ease to prevent the fall, if He had willed; if either He had not given the law concerning not touching the fruit, or He had not granted Satan access to man, or finally He had governed the will of man in such a way that he might have repelled Satan from himself. Therefore, man fell with God permitting, permitting, I say, not idly, but powerfully and wisely, and that according to the eternal decree. For, if apart from the will of God not even a sparrow falls from a roof, Matthew 10:29, who would believe that the first men, and in them the entire human race, fell into the liability to eternal death, with God simply being unwilling? And, if without the will of God Satan is not able to change even a hair on man’s head, is there anyone who, with God unwilling, could rest all mankind out of His omnipotent hand, and drag it off to his own camp? see Exercitation 33.

To the one asking, Why would God permit it? responds Augustine: Because He judged that it pertained more to His altogether omnipotent goodness to make blessings out of evils, than not to allow evils to be. The same, in his Literal Commentary on Genesis, book II, chapter II: To the one asking, Why would God will and decree to permit man to be tempted by Satan, to leave him to his own free choice in the temptation, and, having been left to himself, to succumb to the temptation? He responds: to prove, to convict, and to punish him. He willed to prove him and to make manifest through temptation, whether he would persevere in obedience towards God. He convicted: inasmuch as the creature, left to itself, reveals its infirmity. He punished the confidence, that in temptation he, trusting in the strength of his own will, did not ask to be sustained by God.

In the book de correptione et gratia, chapter 10, he writes, that God permitted the fall of man, because He saw that He was able to make use of that case to declare His mercy and righteousness: since from the condemned mass He was justly punishing some, and mercifully delivering others.

III. At this point, our adversaries scrape together many things out of the books of our Theologians, with which they hope to be able render our Churches hateful to the world, and that the infamous doctrine of the fault of the fall resting upon God might be smeared upon them. Among other things they object:

(1.) God decreed the fall of man.

Therefore, He is the cause of the fall.

Response: The consequence is denied: for God decreed, not to effect, but to permit.

(2.) Man fell with God willing.

Therefore, the will of God is the cause of the fall.

Response: The consequence is denied. For those that say that man has fallen with God willing, speak not of the approbative, but of the permissive and directing will of God.

(3.) God created man, so that he might fall.

Therefore, He is the cause of the fall.

Response: We deny the antecedent. He created him with a liability to fall, not to the end that he might fall (although He decreed to permit the fall, and foresaw that he was going to fall), but so that he might be of service for the illustration of the divine glory: which did indeed obtain through the fall, as a means, furnished through the guilt of man. Therefore, God willed to permit to Himself a man, liable to fall, so that the fall might in turn be permitted by God, either to be punished by justice, or to be absolved through grace.

(4.) Man fell necessarily through the foreknowledge of God.

Therefore, the divine foreknowledge is the cause of the fall.

Response: The consequence is denied. For that is not the necessity of cause, or of coaction, but of immutability. Let our adversaries ponder the doctrine of Luther concerning divine foreknowledge as the cause of the things foreknown.

(5.) God denied to man the grace whereby he might have kept himself from falling.

Therefore, He is the cause of the fall.

Response: The consequence is denied. Because He gave to man the grace whereby he could keep himself: He was not bound to give another.

(6.) God impelled man to fall.

Therefore, He is the cause of the fall.

Response: 1. The antecedent is not the catholic assertion of our Churches; but the private assertion of one and another doctor.

2. It is admitted in no other sense, than in which God is said to have commanded Shimei to curse David, 2 Samuel 16:10; in which Luther says an evil will is impelled or incited by Satan, Tome 6, German, Wittenberg, page 525. Whence the consequent is not necessarily inferred out of the antecedent.

(7.) God furnished for man the occasion of the fall, with the sacrament of the tree given, and with the law concerning not touching and eating its fruits delivered.

Therefore, He is the cause of the fall.

Response: The consequence is denied: because that was the occasion, not of itself, but by contingency. Thus sin, with occasion taken, begat in Paul all concupiscence, through the law, thou shalt not covet, Romans 7:7, 8: see Exercitation 34.

THESIS VII: The efficient was the disobedience of our first parents. The form is the enormity of sin itself, which is to be reckoned, not from the worthlessness of the fruit tasted, but, (1.) from the contempt of the divine law: (2.) From the ambitious affectation of divinity: (3.) From the turning of trust from God to Satan.

EXPLANATION: I. Therefore, it is evident, that the fall of our first parents is not something singular and simple, and that a slight sin: but a heap of many very grievous sins, indeed, a violation of all precepts of the Decalogue. Upon this matter occurs Tertullian’s elegant opinion in adversus Judæos, chapter 2: In this law, given to Adam, we recognise what things afterwards sprung forth, given through Moses: that is, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God from with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness. Honour thy father and mother; and, that which is another’s, shalt thou not covet. For the primordial law was given to Adam and Eve in paradise, as the womb of all the precepts of God. In short, if they had loved the Lord their God, they would not have acted against His precept. If they were loving their neighbor, that is, themselves, they would not have believed the persuasion of the serpent, and thus would not have committed murder upon themselves, by falling from immortality, by contravening God’s precept. From theft also they would have abstained, and not have stealthily tasted of the fruit of the tree, nor have been anxious to hide under a tree from the sight the Lord their God. Nor would they have been made partners with the devil asserting falsehood, by believing him, that they would be like God. And thus they would not have offended God, as their Father, who had fashioned them from clay of the earth, as out of the womb of a mother. If they had not coveted another’s, they would not have tasted of the unlawful fruit. Therefore, in this general and primordial law of God, the observance of which, in the case of the tree’s fruit, He had sanctioned, we recognize enclosed all precepts and each of the posterior Law, which, published in their times, germinated. The first sin was not the eating of the dreaded fruit: doubt concerning the truth of the divine threat preceded, as did contempt for the divine law and the lot of man, affectation of divinity, ingratitude towards the Creation, and the turning of faith from God to Satan.

II. At the same time, in the collision and complication of so many and such great sins, which then was simply the first, and what was the internal cause of it in man, Theologians acknowledge to be difficult to explain.

Actual sin consists and is consummated in two parts, false judgment, and ill choice. Therefore, the beginning of sin, without doubt, was in an error of judgment: to which Satan presented the image of a false good; upon whose urging, since the judgment had shown itself ready, followed the turning of the will, and its depraved choice, which Satan had urged: the object concerning which error of judgment first crept in, from the temptation of Satan, is not obscure, concerning which § 5 above with its Explanation. Therefore, this error did not precede the first sin in time; because it was something of sin, although the sin was not consummated until after the entrance of the depraved choice, which is not separated from the error in judgment; as the act of intellect is not separated from the act of will. Whence some think, that the internal act of sin was consummated whole in an instant, although there was an order of prior and posterior between the error of judgment and the depraved choice.

* III. Among the sins of the first man were unbelief and pride: which is beyond controversy. But which of these sins was first is controverted. The Scholastics contend that pride was first. But the Evangelicals affirm that unbelief was first: 1. from the order of the temptation: for before all things Satan attempt to render the truth of the divine prohibition and threat suspect to man: 2. from the error of the intellect and reason, which is prior to error of will. But unbelief is an error of intellect, while pride is defect of will. 3. From unbelief proceeded pride. For, man would not have sought equality with God, unless he had first believed that the threat of death was empty.

IV. But from what internal principium did that error of judgment flow? It was not able to flow from sin: because otherwise it would not have been the first sin, or the first step of the first sin. Arminius here nominates the inclination to sin, which he thinks to have been in man before the fall. But incorrectly: seeing that the inclination to sin is evil: for which there was not able to be any place before the fall. Therefore, the remaining liberty to moral good and to moral evil, which, as introduced by the creator, was not able to be evil: because the creator is not able to be the author of moral evil: was therefore good, and so the first evil of man was from good, as an internal principium: the first man determined his indifference, or his liberty to good and evil, with the devil tempting, to evil; by believing a lie, which he was able forcefully to dispel, and thence by choosing evil.

THESIS VIII: Hitherto the causes of disobedience in men. The effects, or consequences, concern the two first men, or the posterity of the first.

THESIS IX: The consequences concerning the first men in common were chiefly three: (1.) Blindness of mind, and depravity of will in the first man; (2.) liability to temporal and eternal death, and to all antecedents and consequences; (3.) Ejection from paradise.

EXPLANATION: I. Blindness of mind is ignorance of God and His divine works, but especially of the way in which the lost felicity is able to be recovered; unless by gracious revelation this had become known to our first parents after the fall, they would have had to perish in this ignorance.

II. Depravity of will is aversion to the good, and an inclination or propensity to evil. Blindness of mind and depravity of will are argued on the spot by the frivolous excuse of the violated law, of which both Eve and Adam made use, the serpent deceived me, etc.; and also by the shame arising from the sense of their nakedness. Guilt/liability is argued by the truth of the threat: in the day thou eatest, etc. The ejection from paradise is described by Moses, Genesis 3:23, 24.

III. Guilt is liability/obligation to punishment. Now, this punishment was the necessity of dying, and death itself, first temporal, with all troubles and miseries: then eternal also, unless deliverance through Christ the mediator had obtained.

Note: Death is corporal or spiritual. Both have regard to punishment, even if spiritual death is also in a certain respect sin. Spiritual death consists in blindness of mind and ineptitude will to spiritual good. This spiritual death include a threefold servitude, to the Devil, the world, and sin.

The servitude of the Devil is that whereby the sinner before regeneration is subject to the power of the devil, who is efficacious in the impious, 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; 2 Timothy 2:26.

The servitude of the world is that whereby the sinner is subject to the temptations of evil men found in the world, Philippians 3:19; 1 John 4:5.

The servitude of sin is that whereby the sinner is held captive under sin in such a way that he does not have the power to rise, Romans 6:16-20.

THESIS X: Concerning Eve particularly was, (1.) difficulty in child-bearing; (2.) subjection, whereby she was placed under the dominion of her husband: concerning Adam, (1.) singular anxiety in whatever sort of life; (2.) toilsome and often fruitless labor.

EXPLANATION: Moses is witness, Genesis 3:16-19.

[1] Genesis 3:4: “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely dieלֹֽא־מ֖וֹת) תְּמֻתֽוּן׃)…”

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Oct 16, 2023

I found this to be a readable and useful explanation of the text.


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Oct 16, 2023

Westminster Confession of Faith 6:1: Our first parents, being seduced by the subtilty and temptation of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit.1 This their sin, God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory.2

1 Gen. 3:13; 2 Cor. 11:3.

2 Rom. 11:32.

6:2: By this sin, they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God,1 and so became dead in sin,2 and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body.3

1 Gen. 3:6,7,8; Eccl. 7:29; Rom. 3:23.

2 Gen. 2:17; Eph. 2:1.

3 Tit. 1:15; Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:10-18.

6:3: They being the root of all mankind, the guil…


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Oct 16, 2023
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