A logic puzzle

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A couple of years ago I was taking an OT survey class. We were discussing Enoch and the fact that he didn't die. I asked if it might be possible to inferr that Enoch was sinless. The rest of the class looked at me like I was an alien. I explained that if the penalty of sin was death, and Enoch didn't die...then maybe he didn't sin. One classmate looked at me like I was a moron and quoted "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." I said "No exceptions?" His response: "None." Before I could open my mouth again, the prof moved us on to other subjects.

I was bummed because I had a lot more I wanted to discuss there. I'm certainly familiar with Rom 3:23. But I'm also aware that the Bible is not shy when it comes to hyperbole and was wondering if it might be possible that this might be a case of it. Perhaps there are one or two or three exceptions? Like perhaps Christ?

So there are three statements that Evangelicals tend to believe without question. But taken together they are mutually contradictory:

1) All humans have sinned. No Exceptions.
2) Jesus was fully human.
3) Jesus did not sin.

To really affirm (1), you have to deny either the humanity of Christ or the sinlessness of Christ. I'd rather say that (1) has some element of hyperbole involved. But to do so raises the possibility that others were sinless as well, like perhaps Enoch.

How do you guys solve this logic puzzle?


I'm not sure we should even say in the first place that Enoch didn't die. After all, he did cease to exist in mortal form. His physical existence ended. Doesn't that count as death? It's true that Genesis 5 describes everyone else as having died and him just as "and he was not". That makes some sort of theological point, but does it mean he didn't die as we normally use the term, and is it the same sense that the statements about everyone dying are meant? I'm not sure.

Even if you want to insist on calling it dying, Enoch isn't the only one. Elijah seems to be a similar case. He was taken up into heaven. Also, similar language describes those who are alive when the Lord returns in I Thess 4-5. We may still call that death, but even if it isn't death should we assume that this means no one alive at that time will have sinned?

For that reason, we can either not call it death or use your exception strategy not on the premise you used it on but on the premise that everyone who sins dies physically. Either one avoids saying that someone besides Jesus didn't sin, so there are at least these other two ways out of the more general problem.

I agree with you on the more specific contradiction with the three propositions you explicitly listed. The proposition that all humans have sinned is only talking about mere humans. I wouldn't say that's a hyperbole, though, more just a case of what logicians call restricted quantification. The quantifier 'all' just ranges over mere humans and not humans without regard to whether the human in question is also God.

Here are some pertinant passages of scripture:

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5)

It would seem to me that from this passage is probably right to say that Enoch didn't die--at least not in the same way the rest did. He was translated into the next life in a way different than by suffering physical death.

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, �since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11: 39,40)

The "all these" is all those faith OT saints listed in Hebrews 11, including Enoch. Enoch was looking forward to the provision God would make for his sin just like all the other OT saints were. He needed to receive what was promised by God, and he could not be perfected without "the perfecter of faith" enduring the cross for him (Hebrews 12, first few verses)--the "something better" provided during the time of the writer of Hebrews.

To move on to the exact points of your puzzle: based on Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15(I think!) and Hebrews 4 I would have to modify your first statement:

1. All descendents of Adam have sinned.

(While Jesus was fully human, he was not descended from Adam, but was rather the second Adam. He was the first of the "new humanity", if you want to call it that.)

If you put my statement 1 together with your statements 2 and 3, there is really no contradition. It just proves that Jesus was not a descendent of Adam.

I think it is probably wrong to think of someone's not dying as being proof of their not sinning. After all, 1 Corinthians 15 (I think that's right, too hurried to look it up!) seems to say that those who are alive and "are Christ's at his coming" will be changed into their resurrection bodies without dying a physical death. (Perhaps whatever it was that happened to Enoch was a foreshadowing of this.)

The proof of our sin, then, is not in how we end up, but in where we originated.

(I would appreciate it if from now on, you would not post these "logic problems" on days when I'm busy! :) )

I think what I was getting at wasn't simply that Enoch didn't die or that we do or don't die if we're here at Christ's return. It's more a suggestion that the word 'die' might not mean the same thing in some of these different cases. If so, then the problem commits the fallacy of equivocation. Something like that might be going on with the problem in the next post too.

It's more a suggestion that the word 'die' might not mean the same thing in some of these different cases.

I think this is right. "As in Adam all died" means that in some sense of the word "died", if Enoch was descended from Adam (and I think we can assume this to be true), that Enoch died. I also think it's right (according to Hebrews) that in some sense of the word "die", Enoch didn't die.

As I stew over it (and I really should be doing other things), I'm thinking that whether Enoch did or didn't die a physical death has nothing much to say, really, about whether or not Enoch sinned. Whether Enoch sinned or not has much more to do with Enoch's origins than with Enoch's end.

BTW, "all those faith OT saints" in my first comment should be "all those faithful OT saints".

Conterexample: Elijah was also assumed into heaven without dying, and yet following his victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, he lost faith for a while, which could arguably be defined as sinning.

In the exceptions, they were nevertheless men who were subject to death. Jesus Christ, alone, was not subject to death in being sinless...He is the only one with recorded virgin birth, which is what bypassed the death sentence in Adam.

The exceptions were just that: excepted by God for His purposes.... but since it is by virtue of faith, it was allowed on the basis of Christ's propitiation at the specified time, not by virtue of a sinless state.
IOW, it is a different case.

I'm not sure where the idea that the virgin birth has anything to do with Christ's sinlessness came from. It's nowhere in the Bible. I'm not sure why people have had to come up with such mystical ideas of sin being inherited only through males, because Jesus' divinity should be sufficient to explain his sinlessness.

I also have a little bit of a hesitation at saying salvation is in virtue of anything we do, including faith. It's at God's grace, in virtue of what Christ did. It's through faith that this happens, but that doesn't mean our faith earns it, which is how the phrase 'in virtue of faith' sounds to my ears, even though I know that's not how you intended it to sound, particularly given what you go on to say immediately afterward.

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