As I have discussed in another essay, some believers seem to believe that the fall of man was a super-cosmic event. God’s wrath at Adam’s disobedience caused Him to supernaturally change lions from vegetarians to predators, to pummel the various bodies in the Solar System with asteroids and to introduce deadly poisons and diseases. To me the fall of man was not nearly so dramatic. It was part of the plan of God and no cause for panic or cosmic destruction. In order to understand the whole scenario, let me give a brief account of what I believe happened in the Garden of Eden.
I believe that the seven creation days were long periods of time. God started with the Big Bang. Once sufficient carbon and other higher elements had been created by several generations of stars, God formed the planet earth in a just right galaxy at the just right spot in that galaxy. He caused the early Earth to have enough water (for its oceans and aquifers) and enough iron (for its magnetic core) by having it collide with a small planet. Those two bodies coalesced into the earth and the moon and God began a terraforming process by introducing simple life forms. Once the earth was terraformed to support sufficient life, he caused the explosion of life that we see in the Cambrian era rocks. Over hundreds of millions of years, God gradually formed the petroleum and limestone deposits that would be necessary for human industrial life all the while occasionally introducing mutations into lifeforms that pushed evolution in the direction that He wanted. At the right time, He took an advanced hominid (clay) and breathed into him “the Spirit of Life” thus creating the first man Adam.
Now what was the advanced hominid that God used to create Adam like? In order to answer this question, let us ask the question. What was the difference between spiritually alive Adam and spiritually dead Adam? “For in the day you eat of the tree, you shall surely die.” I think I get my closest approximation to the difference between spiritually alive Adam and spiritually dead Adam by looking at spiritually alive Rob and spiritually dead Rob. The scripture says that I was dead in my sins and trespasses before I was restored to life by the cross of Jesus Christ when I was born again. What is the difference between spiritually alive Rob and spiritually dead Rob?
This is a fascinating question and I have pondered it a great deal. One of the biggest differences was that I had absolutely no interest or ability to pursue spiritual truth. I remember trying to read the Bible before I became Christian. It was absolutely impossible to me and I couldn’t read more than a few words before I would simply pass out. Contrast that to my early hunger for the word of God as a newborn believer. I went to church three times a week and read the Bible all the time. As I have grown in the faith I have demonstrated more of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, self-control etc…) and been more able to live the Christian life. Apart from the fruits of the spirit and a hunger for the word of God, what are the differences between alive Rob and dead Rob? In truth, not much that I can tell. I do not have wings and I cannot fly. I am not noticeably smarter and I don’t run faster. I don’t heal faster and my hearing is not improved. It seems to me that the hominid that God breathed the spirit of life into could have been like I was before I became a Christian . . .
Whatever the nature of the “clay” from which Adam was formed (and it really doesn’t make any difference to me what it was), he spent a great deal of time with God in the Garden of Eden naming all the animals and delighting in the company of the Lord. To demonstrate that human beings were incapable of keeping even the simplest and most basic commandment, God told Adam not to eat the fruit of a randomly chosen tree in the Garden. At long last, Adam grew to be restless because they had not yet found a companion suitable for him. God put Adam to sleep and created Eve. After a while of Adam and Eve in the Garden, Satan was allowed to take control of a snake and enter the Garden where he spoke**1 to Eve. Eve ate the fruit and Adam followed suit.
Once Adam and Eve had demonstrated that even obedience to the simplest of all possible commandments was impossible for human beings, God barred them from the Tree of Life and the Garden of Eden with the consequence that they would have to live their lives with a ground that was “cursed”. Once their bodies stopped partaking of the Tree of Life, the began to decay until they eventually became like the bodies we have now. (In my mind, this process was like the gradual fading of the glory of God from the countenance of Moses.) Once their bodies became like ours, they began to experience the consequences of broken fellowship with God that we are all familiar with. Their bodies became susceptible to addiction and they became prone to the sin of alcoholism and substance abuse. Their bodies became capable of exhaustion and they became prone to the sin of sloth. Their bodies began to experience pain such that the fleeting pleasures of gluttony or lust became more difficult to resist. As with Adam and Eve, so with the rest of us to this day.
From my perspective, therefore, original sin was not a cosmic fall of morally good beings who were just like their creator to a state where they were evil and cursed. Original sin was, rather, Adam and Eve demonstrating that they could never be perfectly obedient like Jesus Christ and having their fellowship with God terminated as a consequence. The sinful flesh that we have is just a flesh that is vulnerable to injury, exhaustion and addiction because it is cut off from the Tree of Life. God allowed us to fall and gave us over to the sinful flesh that we may know our need of divine assistance and accept the guidance, love and forgiveness available through the cross of Jesus Christ.
**1 Because I once had a conversation with a wasp that required no spoken language, this event need not have actually required a talking snake. (“Robert I don’t appreciate you being near to my nest.” “Thank you very much for that information, Mr. Wasp, I will not be disturbing you any further.”)