A misunderstanding of what transpired in the Garden of Eden back in Genesis 3 generally results in disaster. One, we are just wrong. There should be a concern for theological precision, just as our God is a precise God. To think wrongly is to know wrongly and to know wrongly will result in loving and feeling wrongly. A much worse second problem is that it leads us to distort the gospel itself. If we misunderstand sin, in light of the holiness of God, the cross will always seem like divine overreaction. God’s wrath seems to extreme if there is simply a gap between us that needs to be bridged. We will misunderstand our natural state and think that we only need to have a relationship with God, co-working for the restoration of the shalom that God intended from the creation of the whole world.

An idea I would like to comment on in this particular post is a view of the Fall that I heard in a class just the other day. The argument goes as follows:

Basically, in the Garden Adam and Eve chose the death and destruction outside of Garden instead of the peace and harmony that was inside it with God. The great sin of the Fall, then, was the desiring of what was outside the Garden instead of what was inside that God had provided. 

This view is problematic on several fronts. First, it adds a detail to the story that is not in the account of Genesis 3. This explanation of the Fall assumes that there was death outside of the Garden before Adam’s sin. The problem, according to one who might hold this idea, is that Adam fell victim to the outside world and was lured to it, away from shalom. The problem with that is the fact that the Bible is clear that before Adam sinned there was no death. Basic doctrine of the Word tells us that since Scripture is inspired by the Spirit, it is the best interpretation of itself (this is also know as dogmatic/doctrinal/systematic theology). In Romans 5, Paul gives the clearest teaching of death resulting from the sin of Adam. Romans 5:12-14 reads:

[12] Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—[13] for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. [14] Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Romans 5:12-14 ESV)

Sin coming into the world as a result of Adam’s sin is clear of day here in Romans 5. Far from simply being a prooftext, this passage stands in a long line of Scripture that affirms that sin did not exist until the Fall. So then a major problem arises with the view of the Fall that says Adam’s sin was choosing the death and destruction that laid waiting just on the other side of the gates guarded by flaming swords. That main problem being what Paul’s problem with it would be. There was no death and destruction outside of the Garden for Adam to choose, at least not in the Biblical account. Such a view relies of opinions and presuppositions foreign the written Word. I believe the second big problem with such a view is the motivation behind such a reading (or lack thereof) of Genesis 3.

We all by nature want to make our condition out to be better than it actually is. It burns our flesh to be told we all were dead in sin, following Satan and by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). We cannot believe that every intention of our hearts were wicked (Genesis 6:5) and that our hearts are desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). Moreover, it is a temptation for us (even as believers) to soft-pedal our condition before Christ. It is a bent in a Christian with indwelling sin (all of us, in case you were wondering) to attempt to rob God of the glory for our salvation. We were sick, perhaps. But never dead. We just didn’t know, maybe a bit off. But never God-haters. It is much easier to make the Fall about the choosing chaos over shalom, about breaking relationship with God instead of the root of all sin: the “de-Goding” of God. Sin was and is, first and foremost, rebellion against the Almighty Creator of everything. The argument being critiqued essential says that we wanted other stuff other than God’s stuff. The truth is that we wanted God’s stuff more than God Himself. Sin is a profoundly vertical reality. To be sure, there are horizontal effects of sin. You see that from Genesis 3 through until the Second Coming. Even just after the Fall, there is strife between the first lovers just now knowing their naked shame. But sin is an affront to a holy God. God created everything for His glory. He wasn’t looking for a partner. God was not Adam’s partner, Eve was. God was Adam’s God; His Lord and ultimate Treasure. Read for yourself what Genesis 3 says:

[1] Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” [2] And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, [3] but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” [4] But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. [5] For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” [6] So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. [7] Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Genesis 3:1-7 ESV)

The problem was more than Adam and Eve eating fruit. The temptation from the serpent was to be God. “Does God really know what He is talking about?,” asked the serpent. This knowledge of good and evil was the knowledge and determination of what is good and what is evil. Adam wanted God’s job. Adam, created in the image of God, rebelled against the Majestic One. So then Adam’s problem was not choosing other stuff instead of God’s stuff. Adam’s sin was choosing God’s stuff over God. That includes Adam choosing Adam instead of God as well, because essentially Adam was God’s “stuff”, His creation. Is that not all of our sin? Take some time to read Romans 1:18-32. The essence of all sin is pride and idolatry. We have exchanged God’s glory for a lie. Instead of loving the glory of God, we have all by nature loved sin and its slights at the worth of God. Even in v. 7 above we see Adam and Eve trying to justify themselves, sewing fig leaves to power their nakedness before God.

Our sin is worse than you could ever imagine. God’s infinite holiness and perfection, His sheer worth makes sin a heinous rebellion against His namesake. Justice calls for God’s wrath to be satisfied forever in the righteousness damnation of sinners. But God. But God has chosen to save. Later in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve are covered by garments fashioned by God out of animal skins to cover them. In v.15 we see the promised gospel that God would save a people for Himself with. Where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more (Romans 5:20).

So no, Adam did not Fall because he chose the death and destruction outside of the Garden. That did not exist. Adam transgressed because he chose to rebel against God, wanting to be God on his own. But like we saw in Romans 5, just as sin came into the world by one man’s disobedience, so shall by one man’s obedience many be accounted righteous, justified by faith alone in the finished work of Christ. Amen!