The Consequences of the Fall

thornsAfter the creative events recorded in Genesis 1 and 2, Genesis 3 records what theologians call “the Fall.”

“The essence of man’s first sin was his disobedience to the only divine command he had received: not to eat of the tree of knowledge. The consequences of his actions are both physical—toil, pain. and death—and spiritual—alienation from God.” (Gordon J. Wenham, Word Biblical Commentary Volume 1, Genesis 1-15)

The consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin goes beyond them to all of humanity, we inherit a sinful nature. The first transgression of man resulted in the total depravity of human nature. Berkhof states,

“The contagion of his sin at once spread through the entire man, leaving no part of his nature untouched, but vitiating every power and faculty of body and soul. This utter corruption of man is clearly taught in Scripture, Gen. 6:5; Ps. 14:3, Rom. 7:18. Total depravity here does not mean that human nature was at once as thoroughly depraved as it could possibly become. In the will this depravity manifested itself as spiritual inability.” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology)

Every human inherits this corruption; we are all tainted with iniquity from the time we are created.

David says,

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5)

The apostle Paul states,

“For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (Romans 7:18) and “to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.” (Titus 1:15)

As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote,

“If only there were evil people somewhere, insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” (The Gulag Archipelago)

The Fall and the Image of God

Theologians insist that the image of God in humanity has not been annihilated because of sin. Wayne Grudem wrote,

“After the fall, we are still in God’s image – we are still like God and we still represent God – but the image of God in us is distorted; we are less fully like God than we were before the entrance of sin.” (Grudem, Systematic Theology)

The image of God gives humanity the “cultural mandate.” But how does the Fall affect humanity’s ability to accomplish this mandate?

Sin corrupts or pollutes the imago Dei, but humans are still capable of doing those things we are mandated to do – to “be fruitful,” “increase in number,” “fill the earth,” “subdue it,” and to “rule” over the rest of creation.

• Humans still procreate and create communities in order relate to fellow humans, but they cannot relate to God at all or to other people very well without the grace of Christ.

• Humans still rule over the non-human creation, but they do so with selfish intent, often exploiting the goodness of God’s creation.

• Humans still work, but their work is marked by “painful toil,” “thorns and thistles,” and “the sweat of the brow” (see Genesis 3:17-19).

The initiation of various vocations is seen in Genesis 4 (which I discussed in the previous post); these were accomplished post-Fall. We can also empirically see the growth of society – of cultural goods, art, education, political structures, economies, etc.

But the Fall is also empirically evident, in the wide-scale corruption of the good work people do at every level, from CEOs who make poor decisions down to the gossip that undermines flourishing in the office.

How have you seen the consequences of the Fall in your work? In your family? In your relationships? In the news of the day?


Image by MDZ Imagery. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.

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