The Origin of Man’s Fall in the Garden

April 23, 2019 by Essay Writer

Although God asserts otherwise in Milton’s work “Paradise Lost”, it seems certain that it was God’s will, and not the cunning endeavors of Satan, that provided for the inevitable fall of man. Aware that Satan was the physical manifestation of evil, God allowed Satan and his minions to persist in Hell uncontained; He exerted no effort to ensure that the follies of His fallen angels did not pervert the perfection of His newly created beings on Earth. As well as this, God admittedly foresees all that will transpire in the future. He is aware that Lucifer will disobey Him just as certainly as He is cognizant that man will follow suit arising from Satan’s intervention in the garden. Milton’s God is a subtly tyrannical force that demands justice be exacted from His subjects when they fail to offer Him their uncompromised love and worship. Yet it seems clear that blame can reside with no other being except God. This becomes evident upon acknowledging the fact that when God states that He created Adam and Eve “sufficient to have stood, though free to fall” (Book III, 99), He conveniently disregards the truth of the matter. To be factual, the latter portion of this statement ought to be interpreted as “inclined to have fallen”. All vile temptations originate from God over the course of this poem. It was He who fashioned man with his inherent curiosity, conjured up a single tree in a Garden of many and then boldly declared that man may eat of all but its fruit. Of what purpose was the tree then constructed if not to serve as a hindrance for man? Bluntly stated, man was not permitted to stray freely as was Satan. Rather, Satan serves as an instrument to exercise God’s will; God not only desired that man should sin, but Himself orchestrated man’s destruction. In order to ascertain whether Milton’s God is indeed a tyrant, one must begin by analyzing the original revolt of Lucifer in heaven, and the motivations prompting this failed usurping of the throne. If God is so deserving of adoration and worship, then why is it that legions of angels willingly defected and flocked to his detractor? Bluntly put, these were spirits that “[disliked] his reign and [Satan] preferring” (Book I, 102), made a conscious effort to cast off the shackles of “servile pomp” (Book II, 257). While the Bible illustrates a God that is the manifestation of grace and love, one cannot contest that somehow it came to pass that those ethereal beings within a more intimate proximity to the Lord than man, came not only to openly rebel against His reign, but to genuinely loathe Him as well. But, it may be argued, God is a just God: those who love him will bask in his glory and those who despise him and lay prostrate before sin will endure his wrath. In this case, one need only dwell upon the judgments he pronounces on his creations to conclude that this is not the justice of a merciful being, but that of a calculated tyrant. After it had come to pass that man fell from his previous state of grandeur and innocence in the Garden of Eden, God bestows a series of penalties upon those parties involved. Yet, even as the serpent served as but a hollow vessel to be inhabited by Satan, punishment was levied upon him and his kind as if it were he, and not his possessor, that whispered sweet flirtations to Eve and bade her to eat of the forbidden fruit. God proclaims that “because thou [serpent] hast done this, thou art accurst above…each beast of the field; upon thy belly thou shalt go, and dust shalt eat all the days of thy life” (Book X, 175-178). Surely, the snake itself could not be held at fault; this creature did not act autonomously, but rather under otherworldly persuasion. Then, upon Adam and Eve, God exacts retribution magnified mightily in comparison to that suffered by their supposed deceiver. To woman, God proclaims that he will make her servile to the masculine sex, and will amplify her pain in grand fashion while she gives birth. To man, God decrees that he will be cast out from the Garden, that earthly paradise, and will be made to toil in his banishment in order to secure sustenance. Of infinitely greater consequence, however, is the proclamation of death that God utters: “know thy birth, for dust thou art, and shalt to dust return.” It seems rather elementary that, assuming “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), one ought to be able to earn such damning fruits of his own accord, and not under duress and manipulation. Perhaps the most convincing of arguments attesting to the injustice of the Lord, however, originates with Adam. In a state of abject despair, the disgraced Adam wonders “Did I request thee [God]…to mould me man…it were but right and equal to reduce me to my dust…to the loss of that, sufficient penalty, why hast thou added the sense of endless woes? Inexplicable Thy justice seems” (Book X, 743-755). He readily grants that, having failed God, it is perhaps his just lot to suffer death. Yet, he cannot justify God compounding his grief by condemning him to a life fraught with hardship and turmoil. Adam boldly ponders whether it is proper for one to damn a party in a contract for failure to meet with its terms, when that accused party was never given an initial voice as to whether it was his desire that he should enter into such an agreement. Having established from the text that perhaps God’s application of justice is not pure, it remains evident nonetheless, that fault for the fall of man must reside singly with either Man, Satan, God, or else some combination of the three. It would be a blatant disavowal of reason to pardon God entirely for his role in the tragedy. Furthermore, as the manifestation of sin as embodied by Satan, the fashioning of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the failure to maintain the Garden as a controlled environment void of external tampering forces all originate with God, all blame must, as a function of logic, be laid upon the Creator. It is telling to note that the sole utility of the Tree was to serve as an overwhelming temptation and the undoing of man. For, as Adam states, “God hath pronounc’t it death to taste that Tree” (Book IV, 427), although he himself constructed it. A practical objection to God’s intent is uttered from the insidious mouth of the serpent: “One fatal Tree there stands…knowledge forbidd’n? Suspicious, reasonless. Why should their Lord envy them that? Can it be sin to know, can it be death? And do they only stand by ignorance” (Book IV, 514-519). By permitting man to wallow in his uninformed state, God does Adam and Eve no service. Granted, it was not a wide expanse of knowledge withheld from them, not the lucidity to acknowledge their capacity for good. Rather, the awareness of its counterpart, evil. However, was it not from certain knowledge of decadence and sin that the dark angels drew when fermenting their plot to rebel? Perhaps, then, God sought to promote faithfulness and obedience by prohibiting man the pursuit of a certain breed of wisdom. This may be argued, but not effectively so. Can it truly be said that man has dominion over his choices if afforded only option to do good, and not to embrace evil? God is cognizant of this fact, and yet in order to secure his aura of infallibility and impede man with the burden of guilt, he must connive to craft man’s fall in such a manner as to deflect all blame from Himself. It serves His grand purpose to project guilt upon Adam and Eve; after all, did this not mark the birthing of the concept of original sin and the need for Christ? Although He offers a feeble warning of the coming of Satan in Book 4, He fails to exert himself in any other tangible manner. While this may not strike Milton’s intended audience as sufficient evidence of guilt in the tragedy of Eden, it seems apparent that God’s failure to uphold the chastity of the Garden translated into man’s downfall. As it were, He ought to have confined Satan to Hell. The introduction of an external variable to the scenario cheapens and defrauds any certain opportunity man may have possessed to conform with His expectations of obedience. Bluntly stated, man fell “deceiv’d by th’other first” (Book III, 130-131), and not under his own inclination to do so. In admission of this discrepancy, God grants that he will issue man a certain grace, and yet this offering is but a superficial overture. This statement makes a mockery of His own limited mercy: having willingly sinned in the absence of persuasion, Satan and his minions are condemned to the fiery torments of hell for eternity. Compare this with the lot of man, who if he should fail to offer his unconditional love of the Lord and move to accept Christ, will endure an identical fate. Where is this grace God makes reference of? Free will is not that which one being imposes on another: Love me or else die. Therefore, in response to those who would commiserate with man and yet maintain the righteousness of God’s judgment, let them observe and scrutinize how Milton’s God mightily treads upon the sanctity of justice and speaks charmingly of free will where there is only coercion. Finally, God is not desirous that man should transcend and overpower temptation in the Garden. In fact, He is adamant that failure should befall him. Employing Satan as an instrument and endeavoring to witness “evil turn to good” (Book XII, 471), for his own sake, Milton’s God devises the manner in which man will sin, and then arbitrarily assigns punishment arising from it. By God’s own admission, if men “not free, what proof could they have giv’n sincere of true allegiance, constant faith or love” (Book III, 103-104). Himself aware that it was a blunder to place Adam and Eve into such a pristine environment, and perhaps with foreknowledge that they would be afforded no opportunity to turn from Him without Satan or the fruits of the forbidden Tree to inflame their curiosity, God orchestrates the tragic unfolding of events. To reiterate, being a jealous and possessive God, He could never be assured that his subjects adored him with sincerity unless they should be thrust into a climate in which temptations abound. However, it would undermine God’s divine authority should man perceive Him to be the origin of the before mentioned enticements. Satin is alert to God’s inclination to employ him as a pawn in these endeavors, proclaiming that “If then his providence out of our evil seek to bring forth good, our labor must be to pervert that end” (Book I, 162-164). Here, Lucifer fails to comprehend that he, as a being of inferior spiritual influence, cannot deter God from his aims, or otherwise pervert his cause. In retrospect, Milton’s God is little more than an oppressive figure, subtly so however. Just as one may cite how Satan directs Beelzebub to convey his counsel to his legions of demons, so God covertly permits Satan to operate in order to serve as His necessary counterpart. Man must be presented with a means by which to sin against God, if only to facilitate the Lord in his sorting out the obedient from the idolatrous. Free will as presented in both “Paradise Lost” and in the Bible, exists as a contradiction of terms. If liberated, one ought to be able to pursue his preferred avenue of choice. In making such a choice, it is a disavowal of the fundamentals of the word “free” to then declare that the individual is then subject to incur the wrath of God for having acted in contrast with his will: the will of God is exalted at the expense of the will of man, which holds no bearing.

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