I formalize my argument as follows:

  1. God is perfect, omnipotent, and omniscient
  2. God made humans for the purpose of ruling over His creation.
  3. If God is perfect, omnipotent, and omniscient, then everything He made would be perfectly suited for the purpose He made it for.
  4. Humans are not perfectly suited toward their purpose.
  5. Therefore, there is a false premise in the argument.

I ask from the position of a Christian, but also as someone who is open to new ways of thinking.

  • 1
    Interestingly, the is almost verbatim the conditions Descartes sets up at the beginning of Meditation IV. But you'll find many attempts to answer the question of how a good God can create beings that fall throughout the history of Christianity (and I believe but am less informed that this is also the case in Judaism and Islam).
    – virmaior
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 7:13
  • 2
    There are many different Christian perspectives. Many, if not most, of them would have a problem with 2 (and consequently 4) - it is at best inadequate, at worst misleading. Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 7:47
  • @bruisedreed. Point 2 comes straight from the Bible: "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." (Gen. 1:28)
    – user3017
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 9:29
  • @PédeLeão Yes, but most Christians don't base their entire theology on one verse. Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 10:30
  • @bruisedreed. Good point. Here's more: "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet..." (Psalm 8:4-6)
    – user3017
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 12:09

4 Answers 4


This answer comes from the perspective of the Christian philosophy and theology of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772).

Key point: The false premise is #2. God made humans for the purpose of ruling over His creation. This also falsifies premise #4.

Scripture does not say that God's purpose in creating humans is for them to rule over God's creation.

The idea that God created humans for the purpose of ruling over his creation is based especially on Bible passages such as:

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." (Genesis 1:27–28, NRSV, emphasis added)


What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
    mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under their feet.
                                       (Psalm 8:4-6, NRSV)

However, neither of these passages states that ruling over God's creation is God's purpose in creating humans. They simply state that giving humans dominion over the remainder of creation is something God has done. It could just as well be said that God's purpose in creating humans is for them to "be fruitful and multiply," or to be "a little lower than God, and crowned with glory and honor"–which God is also said in these passages to do for human beings.

In short, what God does for humans is not necessarily God's purpose in creating humans.

Scripture suggests that God's purpose in creating humans is to be in relationship with them.

Taking any one or a few verses from Scripture in isolation and using them as the basis for major conclusions about God's actions and God's purposes is a fundamentally faulty way of reading Scripture. Especially considering that much of Scripture consists, not of philosophy and theology, but of a narrative, a better approach would be to look at the overall themes of Scripture for clues as to why God created humans.

And a key theme of Scripture overall is the concept of "covenant." In fact, this concept is so central to Scripture that Christians have actually named the two major divisions of their scriptures after the covenant between God and humanity: "The Old Testament" and "The New Testament." "Testament" is another word for "covenant."

Now, a covenant is a relationship between two parties–in this case, God and humanity. And if we follow the biblical narrative, we see that God is continually making and renewing covenants with humanity. For example (emphasis added in all cases):

God made a covenant with Noah:

I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you. (Genesis 6:18)

God made a covenant with Abram/Abraham:

On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites." (Genesis 15:18–21)

God made a covenant with the Israelite nation:

Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, "All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do." And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and set up twelve pillars, corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel. He sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed oxen as offerings of well-being to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he dashed against the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient." Moses took the blood and dashed it on the people, and said, "See the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words." (Exodus 24:3–8)

And in the New Testament, Jesus, who is viewed by Christians as "God with us" (Matthew 1:23), renewed that blood covenant in symbolic fashion:

When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood." (Luke 22:14–20)

These are just a few of many, many passages in the Christian Bible regarding the ongoing theme of the covenant between God and humanity.

This overarching theme of Scripture strongly suggests that in Christian philosophy and theology God's primary purpose in creating humans is not to give them dominion, but rather to establish a covenantal relationship with them.

Relationship is God's purpose in creating humanity.

Swedenborg picks up this theme of relationship as God's purpose in creating humanity in the most philosophical of his theological works, Divine Love and Wisdom:

Divine love and wisdom cannot fail to be and to be manifested in others that it has created. The hallmark of love is not loving ourselves but loving others and being united to them through love. The hallmark of love is also being loved by others because this is how we are united. Truly, the essence of all love is to be found in union, in the life of love that we call joy, delight, pleasure, sweetness, blessedness, contentment, and happiness.

The essence of love is that what is ours should belong to someone else. Feeling the joy of someone else as joy within ourselves—that is loving. . . .

Can anyone fail to see this who looks into the essential nature of love? What is loving ourselves alone, really, and not loving someone else who loves us in return? This is more fragmentation than union. Love's union depends on mutuality, and there is no mutuality within ourselves alone. If we think there is, it is because we are imagining some mutuality in others.

We can see from this that divine love cannot fail to be and to be manifested in others whom it loves and who love it. If this is characteristic of all love, it must be supremely characteristic, infinitely characteristic, of love itself.

In regard to God, loving and being loved in return are not possible in the case of others who have some share of infinity or anything of the essence and life of intrinsic love or of Divinity. If there were within them any share of infinity or anything of the essence and life of intrinsic love—of Divinity, that is—it would not be others who would be loving God. He would be loving himself. What is infinite or divine is unique. If it were in others, it would still be itself; and it would be pure love for itself, of which there cannot be the slightest trace in God. This is absolutely opposite to the divine essence. For love to be mutual, then, it needs to be a love for others in whom there is nothing of intrinsic Divinity; and we will see below [55, 305] that it is a love for others who were created by Divinity. (Divine Love and Wisdom #47–49, emphasis in the original)

What Swedenborg is saying here, in brief, is that the nature of love itself, and especially of divine love, is that it must have others to love, and that love must be mutual, and that it was therefore necessary for God to create finite (non-God) beings whom God could love, and who could love God in return.

Another way Swedenborg formulates this, much more briefly, is found in Divine Providence, which forms a sequel to Divine Love and Wisdom:

The ultimate purpose of creation is a heaven from the human race. (Divine Providence #324)

Heaven, in Swedenborg's conception of it, consists of people who have freely chosen to be in mutual, loving relationship with God and with one another. This is in line with Jesus' pithy distillation of the entire Scriptures into the two Great Commandments:

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:35–40)

From the perspective of the Christian philosophy of Emanuel Swedenborg, then, God's purpose in creating humans is to have beings with whom God can be in a freely chosen and mutual loving relationship.

God's purpose in creating humans requires humans to have the ability to reject that relationship.

Finally, to take up the issue of whether or not God created humans "perfectly":

Obviously there is much evil and imperfection in human life, both individually and collectively. The issue of God's perfection, and perfect love, in the face of the existence of evil in God's creation, and particularly in the human element of God's creation, is a vast subject both in philosophy and theology, covered generally under the term "theodicy." Though we cannot fully cover such a vast topic here, the basics, from the perspective of Swedenborg's philosophy, are these:

For a relationship to be truly loving and mutual, it must be freely chosen. If humans were created so that we could do nothing but love God (and one another), we would be mere robots, or mere extensions of God. Our love would be no more real or mutual than that of a computer programmed to display "I love you" on its screen.

For humans to be able to freely and mutually return God's love, then, we must also have the ability to reject God's love, and refuse a mutual, loving relationship with God.

And yet, if everything good is from God, and is God, as Swedenborg's philosophy states, then rejecting God also means rejecting what is good. And rejecting what is good means opting for evil over good.

Therefore in order to fulfill God's purpose of creating a human race with which God could be in mutual, loving relationship, God had to create humans with the ability to reject God, love, and goodness. God therefore had to create humans with the ability to choose, "create," and perpetrate evil instead of good.

This means that the existence of evil in human life and society is not an imperfection in God's creation. Rather, it was necessary for God to allow for it (not create it) in order for God to achieve God's primary purpose in creation of being in mutual, loving relationship with beings other than God's own self.


Based on the above reasoning:

Premise #2, "God made humans for the purpose of ruling over His creation," is false.

Premise #4, "Humans are not perfectly suited toward their purpose," is also false.

According to the Christian philosophy of Emanuel Swedenborg, humans are created perfectly by God to accomplish God's purpose for them. That perfection, however, requires human to have moral and spiritual freedom, so that we can reject God's goodness, and choose evil instead.

The fact that we humans are capable of rejecting God's purpose for us is essential to our very humanity, and to our ability to freely choose to fulfill God's purpose for us, which is to be in a mutually loving relationship with God and with our fellow human beings.


The argument you presented assumes in point 4 that man should be perfectly suited for the task for which he was created. According to Thomas Boston and others, this task of ruling over creation (point 2) is an inferior or subordinate end to the chief end for which man was created:

"[To glorify God] is man's chief end, that which God chiefly aimed at, the chief end of man as God's work, and that which man should chiefly aim at. God made man for other ends, as to govern, use, and dispose of other creatures in the earth, sea, and air, wisely, soberly, and mercifully, Gen. 1:26. Man was fitted for these ends, and a man may propose them lawfully to himself, seeing God has set them before him; but still these are but subordinate ends to his glory." (Thomas Boston)

Although there is some merit to your assumption that man should be suited for the purposes for which he was created, the demands of justice and the consequence of sin take precedence. This is made clear by the doctrine set forth in the Westminster Larger Catechism. According to that work, God did create man perfect (in a certain sense of the word):

Q. 17. How did God create man?

A. After God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable, and immortal souls; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it, and dominion over the creatures; yet subject to fall.

However, man did not continue in this original state but fell from grace, sinning against God. As a result of this, we are subject to various conditions which fall short of the privileged state in which we were created:

Q. 28. What are the punishments of sin in this world?

A. The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures of our sakes, and all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments; together with death itself.

One of the passages which the Catechism cites to support this conclusion is the following:

"But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store. Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep." (Deuteronomy 28:15-18)

This teaching is also in consonance with the interpretation of Augustine:

"In this creation, had no one sinned, the world would have been filled and beautified with natures good without exception; and though there is sin, all things are not therefore full of sin, for the great majority of the heavenly inhabitants preserve their nature's integrity." (City of God, Book 11, Chap. 23)

  • 3
    Could you edit your answer to make it focus more on the philosophical points being made than the theological contexts in which they are made. Otherwise both the question and answer seem more fitting to christianity.SE.
    – virmaior
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 10:10
  • @virmaior. I have no idea what you mean. He presented an argument, and I pointed out that the fault with the argument lies with the fourth point. What other philosophical point is there? Unlike most answers here, I also showed that this conclusion is firmly rooted in established Christian doctrine which is exactly what the question asked. Maybe the question is better suited for Christianity SE, but I don't see how my answer could be any better suited for the question.
    – user3017
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 10:17
  • 3
    If you think the best way to answer the question is to quote the Westminster catechism at length, then I don't see how it's a good fit for philosophy.SE (which I'm pretty sure would qualify as "established reformed doctrine" rather than generically Christian doctrine)...
    – virmaior
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 12:35
  • 2
    Your answer is > ~60% quotes of either Scripture or the catechism. It also reads like it's trying to exegete the catechism. All of that may have it's place somewhere, but I take the point of a philosophy.SE to focus on the philosophy bits and answer the arguments, so if we translate your answer into that, then you're suggesting there's a gap between 3 and 4 -- such that God creates the system as perfect but man becomes corrupted due to sin and thus to no fault of God does not fulfill that. (and then you can fit in the catechism and scripture bits).
    – virmaior
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 12:39
  • 3
    I'm not following why you think the current policy on meta mirrors what you're doing. I take instead to mirror what I'm ere suggesting. / I'm nowhere saying that you need to quote a number of different philosophies to give a well rounded account of all the possibilities to provide a good answer on phil.SE. I am and I repeat suggesting that your answer should focus on the philosophical question and cite the theological texts as / when needed rather than be a theological answer first and foremost. I think what you're writing here would be a great answer if it did so.
    – virmaior
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 13:25

The illogical assumption that everything that God creates is, by definition, perfect is compounded by the fact that the definition of "perfect" is subjective.

Obviously if you believe in Heaven, then you understand that Heaven is perfect and everything else is deliberately imperfect.

Regarding the "original sin" idea mentioned above: This is also something that God created, no? The only "original sin" (the "evil" we are born with) that I see is the fact that other things must die so that we may live. We don't eat rocks, we eat living things. That unfortunate fact seems to be unimportant when discussing perfection. Interesting.


Hmmm, but who's perfection are we talking about?

"For example, every individual has a divine idea corresponding to his essence and every individual perfectly imitates that divine idea. So for instance, there is a divine idea of Socrates and Socrates cannot be any more or less like the divine idea of Socrates, for then Socrates would be more or less like Socrates. Thus each person has an "ontological dignity," since we are exactly the way God intended us to be. We are of course a deficient likeness of God's nature, but not of his divine idea of us."

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