notthewayitssupposedtobePlantinga’s concept of sin as a vandalism or violation of shalom or “the way things are supposed to be” suggests that Eden was the intended state of creation. Then that silly old Adam and Eve came along and messed everything up for everyone (their “juvenile pride and disbelief triggering disobedience, scapegoating, and flight from God,” p. 30 – I cheated and read ahead a little). The result: the destruction of shalom and only a weak and faltering ability of fallen human beings to approximate it in their lives on earth.

This cosmology assumes that this destruction of shalom was not part of God’s plan. Therefore, sin not only separates us from God but alienates us from Him. Plantinga even mentions that God is angry with us not only for what we do but for what we are (p. 26, footnote 33), though I’m not sure that he himself believes this, since he waffles on how to measure sin.

As a Mormon, I was taught (and believe) that God intended from the start for human beings to err in various ways. There was no shalom to vandalize. God did not make a mistake or miscalculation in the way He created us. He is not angry that we sin; He knows that we will. He provided a Savior to heal us from the effects of those sins:

And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. And they would have had no children … having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. (2 Nephi 2:22-23)

God’s plan was that all of his spirit children, who existed with him before the creation of the earth, would have the opportunity to be tested and prove whether they would follow the steps that would allow them to become like Him. Sin entered the picture when Adam and Eve and their children learned the commandments and the will of God for them but chose to obey the demands of their bodies and their selfish natures instead. Nevertheless, they could look forward to the sacrifice of God’s Son which would cleanse them from their sins and strengthen them to overcome their natural and/or evil tendencies:

And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given. (2 Nephi 2:26)

Obviously this does not mean that He wants us to run around abusing ourselves and each other, nor will He “justify in committing a little sin; … and if it so be that we are guilty, … beat us with a few stripes” (2 Nephi 28:8); this is condemned in the Book of Mormon as “false and vain and foolish doctrines” (2 Nephi 28:9) and of course by Paul and others in the New Testament as well (Romans 6, etc.).

God gave commandments and provided us with the “Light of Christ,” or the ability to recognize right and wrong. He expects his laws to be followed. When we disobey the commandments, especially after they have been “written in our hearts” (Romans 2:15, 2 Nephi 8:7), we incur consequences that may be only partially overcome in this life even with the application of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. When we make covenants with God and then break them, there are also repercussions that may be severe and eternal if the covenant is not repaired and fulfilled. If I were to apply the concept of shalom (and I like that concept, actually), this is where I would do it.

Post by Villate originally published on

We are reading a chapter a month of Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be , starting with chapter 1 in February.  Read the kick-off post for this series.

Leave a Reply