The Christian Story – II. The Fall

The book of Genesis explains the creation of man, that he is special among all created things, being made in God’s image, in his likeness (Genesis 1:26). Everything else that was created was created by God speaking, but man it says, was “formed” (Genesis 2:7). He was created, as we already saw, to know God and to be in a relationship with him from the very beginning. God gave the man only a few instructions, and one of those was to not eat from a certain tree in the garden that he was supposed to tend.

But the story, as most people will know, finds Eve eating fruit from the tree that was forbidden. But the beginning of her sin wasn’t eating. The beginning of her sin was violating what we saw earlier: when Satan comes to her and tells her she should eat, Eve decides to listen both to Satan and to God and what they claimed about what was right to do, and then from her own wisdom figure out which of them is right. She set her judgment up against God’s, and that was the beginning of her sin. She thought she could be her own standard, and so she and Adam ate.

It’s important to realize that real Christianity sees this story as actually happening. It’s not a story that’s treated as a mythical explanation of what’s wrong with the world; instead, we believe that the story happened in such a way that you could have recorded it all with a video camera – that you could have taken a bite of the same piece of fruit that Eve ate had you been there.

Now, God had given the command specifically to Adam, and so his drastic failure was in following Eve’s lead instead of himself remembering what God said. Because God had made Adam the head, the leader of that relationship, the responsibility for the sin fell on his shoulders. He should have protected Eve, but Genesis says that when Eve decided to eat, she “gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate,” (3:6). He abdicated the responsibility, and so the fault is really his.

This is the first sin in the Bible. God gave a direct command, and that command was broken. Adam was made by God to be a representative of humankind in the garden, and when he fell, the whole of humanity fell with him. The Bible says that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin,” (Romans 5:12) showing that the origin of death is sin. The rest of the verse says that “death spread to all men because all sinned,” (5:12). So God was very gracious in giving us Adam as a representative: he was free of sin, he didn’t have anything in him (like we do) that naturally pushed him towards sin or evil, and he was given very simple rules. But he sinned anyway, and so all men, as God sees it, sinned with him (5:12 again).

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This is the Christian understanding of everything that’s wrong with the world. Moral evil is sin in action, and natural evil is God’s curse on his creation as a judgment for sin. If we don’t accept the fall, Christianity is completely incoherent.