Part 2: The Fall of Man: Original Sin
God made man and woman in His own image, capable of love, and He gave them a stewardship over all creation. These gifts from God (as with all gifts) rightly call for a proper response. In this installment, we look at the freedom of the first man and woman to respond, and the actual manner by which they responded.
Having finished His work of creation, God gave to the first man and woman (Adam and Eve) a stewardship of dominion over all of creation to subdue it and to be fruitful in their own relationship with one another as a proper sharing in the work of creation. Within this stewardship was the freedom to say “yes” to God’s invitation or to say “no” – as shown to us in God’s enjoining them to eat from any tree except the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). In their original state, Adam and Eve lived in total harmony with God and all He had made, with God’s life abiding with them. However, it must be understood that as creatures of God, human beings still had limits and therefore to be fully alive meant living according to the design of God who had created them, freely accepting His way and plan, trusting in Him – for as creatures, humans remain fully dependent upon God. Thus, they were given the opportunity to freely accept His will by remaining faithful to what God entrusted to them, or to say “no,” choosing their own way by partaking of the tree from which they
were told not to eat – even if that would lead to division from God and death.
Within this freedom would arise the temptation to say “no” to God as their response to His gifts. As shown in Genesis 3, the devil (whom Jesus calls the “father of lies” in John 8:44) presents our first parents with the lie that giving their trust and acceptance to God was holding them back from who they could really be – and that they would not really die if they ate of the tree from which they were told not to eat. Therefore, at the heart of the “original sin,” as it is called, is the rejection of God’s plan, as Adam and Eve trusted not in God and His ways, but in themselves above God. While eating the fruit is also rightly presented as an act of disobedience, it is more fundamentally a rejection of the stewardship – a response of “no” to God - saying I will do it “my own way,” and not as God made us.
Consequently, through the original sin, all that was in harmony was ruptured; human beings became divided against both God and one another; the harmony among creatures that allowed man to be their steward was disrupted (which is why most animals flee at our presence while others fight against our presence); the life of sin entered all creation, with our nature tending toward the sinful and away from God – as the life of God no longer abided within man after the fall. Above all, creatures would become subjected to decay and to death, as the end result of such disruption of what God wills can only be death.
Though the fall happened as a rejection of God’s gifts, His love for us never fails – and even in Genesis 3:15, God is already promising one who is born of a woman to crush the serpent’s head – alluding to our redemption from sin and death. Soon we will enter deeply into the great depth of this good news of salvation. However, next time we will focus on the reality of sin in our fallen condition as that which separates us from God.
For further reading: In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 385-421 explain various details of original sin and the fall – including the fall of the angels who war against us. Within this section, there is also explanation of how even in the moment of the fall, God is at work for our good – promising our redemption.