The fall of Lucifer (as well as Adam and Eve) is often thought to present a psychological conundrum. To commit sin, you must desire to sin. How could a sinless being ever form the initial desire to sin?
Even if you subscribe to libertarian freewill, that’s of no avail here. Freewill can’t explain how a sinless being could acquire a sinful motive. What would make sin appealing to a sinless being in the first place? To entertain a sinful desire, you must find sin desirable. How would a sinless being get to that point? How would a sinless agent take the first sinful step?
Once the process is under way, you can explain the outcome, but how does it get underway? How does it ever get started in the first place?
However, this dilemma may be a pseudoproblem. I think the source of the problem lies in the failure to distinguish between possible and actual agents.
The Bible uses certain literary metaphors to describe God. God is the Word, the Logos. The world is like a book. God has written every chapter of the book before the world existed.
So the Bible uses a literary metaphor to describe God’s creatorship. Let’s play along with that illustration.
When a novelist contemplates a novel, he contemplates different characters who may populate his novel. There’s a wide range of things which each character could do. What a character could possibility do is only limited by the imagination of the novelist, as well the relation of one character to other characters, and to his fictional environment.
A possible character can do whatever a novelist can make him do, in the preliminary sense of all the possible actions a novelist can think of. What is possible for the character comes down to what is possible for the novelist to contemplate. All of the possible actions or events which the mind of the novelist can imagine.
However, not all possibilities are compossible. One character must interact with other characters. He must interact with his fictional circumstances. So the range of possibilities is narrowed down by the demands of the story. A coherent story in which what one character does must be consistent with everything else that happens in the story.
Out of the larger range of hypothetical possibilities, the novelist chooses one set of possibilities to write about. He instantiates one set of possibilities to the exclusion of others.
There is, however, no prior constraint on what possible character could do. A merely possible character has no default setting. This no particular course of action which, is left to his own devices, he would have done. Rather, he could have done any number of things. He could have done whatever the novelist could conceive of him doing.
By contrast, an actual character will only do one thing. At a concrete level, he can only do one thing. In the actual story, the novelist selects one combination of serial possibilities to the exclusion of others. The novelist instantiates one combination to the exclusion of others.
When we think about it this way, the fall of Lucifer, or Adam and Eve, doesn’t strike me as especially mysterious or paradoxical. It’s a problem when we start with the concrete individual. With the actual person. It seems out of character for a sinless character to sin.
But, considered as a merely possible agent, there is nothing either in character or out of character. There is nothing in particular which a possible agent was or wasn’t going to do. His field of action is only limited by the imagination of the author. A possible agent is a concept. A concept in the mind of God. A divine idea.
What distinguishes acting out of character from acting in character is subsequently determined by the creative act of the author when he resolves on one set of actions to the exclusion of other possible actions. Only then does the agent have a settled persona.
When God creates Lucifer, he instantiates one possibility–out of many. Considered in abstraction, as a merely possible agent, there is nothing that Lucifer was incapable of doing–consistent with his finitude.
The only thing that delimits his practical field of action is which possible action God chooses to instantiate. There’s a sense in which God makes every creature do whatever it does, but not in the sense of making it do something contrary to what it would otherwise do, when left to its own initiative. For there’s no one thing which a possible agent was going to do, or refrain from doing.
There are certain abstract possibilities which God will not allow to be realized. God’s choices are characterized by his wisdom and justice. But hypothetically speaking, there was no prior constraint on Lucifer’s field of action, or Adam’s field of action. What we have, instead, is a posterior constraint due to the creative act itself. A character can’t act out of character once the novelist has finalized a concrete combination of abstract possibilities. A subset of hypothetical scenarios.
So there is, in a sense, there is nothing to get started–since it doesn’t start with the actual agent. Rather, starts with a possible agent–an agent with an indeterminate field of conceivable actions. God’s creative fiat crystallizes one subset of conceivable actions. Renders an indeterminate possibility a determinate reality. God instantiates that particular idea–his own idea–to the exclusion of other ideas.