What Really Happened at the Fall (and why it matters)

During my undergrad I took several religious studies classes. I enjoyed the conversations, questions, and challenges posed in class. During several discussions my teachers suggested (and sometimes asserted) that the fall of Adam and Eve was not the result of human treason against divine authority. Instead, they say it was the result of human sexuality: eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is a euphemism by which the author implies that Adam and Eve had sex, making them impure, thereby causing God to curse them and eject them from the perfect garden. Therefore they argue that the Bible rejects the physical world (and especially physical pleasure). So, are they right? Is the problem with the world that it’s physical?

No. God declared the totality of physical creation “very good”, and God doesn’t change his mind. Also, it would be strange for the God who commanded Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” to subsequently kick them out of the garden for having sex. I’m no expert, but multiplication requires some physical business. Moreover, God explicitly tells Adam that he is cursed because he ate “of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ “(Gen. 3:17). God cursed Adam for disobedience, not for being physical.

Most Christians would not explicitly call the problem with the world “physical”. But we in the church sometimes say something similar in a subtle way, like when we suggest that the problem is that we’re simply not spiritual enough. ‘If we just did more quiet times, read our Bibles more, prayed more, worshiped more, fellowshipped more, then the world would be better.’ Or when we claim that we need to choose between our ‘spiritual’ activities, and our less important ‘non-spiritual’ (or physical) interests, like sports, school, friends, movies, books, music, and TV.

This is a false dichotomy. God did not separate the world into good spiritual things and bad physical things. In fact, God put man “in the garden to work it.” What could be more earthy than gardening? Yet, that was Adam’s call, to garden. The great biblical dichotomy is between good and evil: “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Rom. 12:9). It’s not whether we do or do not view movies, read books, or watch sports, it’s about how and for whom.

This is essentially what Paul meant when he wrote to the Colossians, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (3:23). When the problem with the world is moral in nature, we do not ask whether ministry or business is more godly, we ask how do you do ministry, how do you do business?

You see, what we believe about the nature of the fall not only effects our theology, but our whole lifestyle. Take a step back and see if you’ve bought into a spiritual/physical dichotomy, and let the Bible liberate you from those chains. Ask yourself if you’re living out the truth that the problem with world is immorality.

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About Patrick K. Miller

Currently I am living in Columbia serving at the University of Missouri with Veritas, The Crossing's campus ministry. In December 2010 I graduated from Mizzou with a degree in English Literature. My beautiful wife, Emily, works is an Interior Designer with a local firm. I like espresso, 30 Rock, and books. My favorite old dead guys are John Owen, Augustine and Francis Schaeffer. You should read something by them.
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