The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VI.1-2

“Our first parents being seduced by the subtilty and temptation of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:13; II Cor. 11:3). Here we see that Satan is the means by which our first parents were led to sin against a specific command given by God, of ‘special’ verbal revelation – a law not to eat fruit from the forbidden true. This tree was symbolic of the knowledge of good and evil. We know from Genesis 3 that it was not a literal snake that deceived Eve, but rather it was Satan who possessed and manifested himself in and through a snake. Similarly we are to understand the totality of the curse on the serpent as being a curse on Satan only, for a snake, as all other creatures, does not possess a moral volition, acting only by instinct.

When God utters the curse that the Serpent would crawl on his belly, God is cursing Satan by humbling him to a position where he must ‘lick the dust’, that is to be God’s defeated enemy. It is therefore an irony that Satan should employ a snake, which has been from the beginning a creature that crawls along the ground, and as such a visible symbol of Satan’s new state (Gen. 3:14-15 Cf. Jn. 8:44; Rev. 12:9; 20:2). We should also note that when we read that Adam was ‘with’ Eve when she was deceived and ate of the forbidden fruit, it does not necessarily mean that he was by her immediate side, but was with her in the garden. The latter better explains Paul’s words in II Corinthians 11:3.

If Adam were immediately by Eve’s side, Paul would not have said that he was not deceived as Eve was. Clearly Eve gave her husband the fruit of which she had eaten without him being immediately present at her side, and may in fact not have known where it was from, but he did not ask her where she got the fruit from, since he had never eaten it before (I Tim. 2:14). “This their sin God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory (Rom. 11:32).” This sentence hearkens back to earlier statements regarding God’s decrees, and it is in this context that we must understand the word ‘permit’ here.

The use of the word ‘permit’ must be reconciled with their statement at V.4 which states that God’s providential will “extends itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men, and that not by a bare permission.” Clark, in reference to this clause refers to Calvin’s Institutes II. Iv.3 and xxii.8.1 Therefore, the word ‘permit’ must carry a meaning in this context that is somehow used in a way that still anchors it in sovereign decretive will. “Here they [those who object to the divine decrees] recur to the distinction between will and permission, and insist that God permits the destruction of the impious, but does not will it. But what reason shall we assign for his permitting it, but because it is his will? (Institutes III, xxii, (8; cf. II, iv, 3).”2

“By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God (Gen. 3:6-8; Eccl. 7:29; Rom. 3:23), and so became dead in sin (Gen. 2:17; Eph. 2:1), and wholly defiled in all faculties and parts of soul and body (Titus 1:15; Gen. 6:5; Rom. 3:10-18).It is also repeated here that fallen humanity is totally depraved, that is ‘total’ in all our parts, but not necessarily in degree. Total depravity also refers to it being a reality to our heart or core. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9 Cf. Js. 1:15) The spiritual and physical aspects of our humanity are affected, even our intellect is affected by the so-called ‘noetic’ or mind affects of sin, so that it also must be renewed (Rom. 12:1-2).

1. (67)

2. Ibid., (72)

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