By Rev. Ray Atwood, Prince of Peace Cluster
We are familiar with the account of Original Sin in the third chapter of Genesis. This passage is one of the most famous and widely discussed in Scripture. One thing about Scripture is its multiple levels (e.g., literal, spiritual, moral). Unlike other forms of literature, Scripture is the inerrant Word of God that can never be exhausted. I would like to reflect on Original Sin and some of its implications today.
First, let us consider the two trees in the Garden of Eden. God created two trees in Eden (2:8-10). One was the tree of life, and the other was the tree of knowledge. The tree of life stands for immortal life. Adam and Eve would have had immortality had they not sinned. They could eat of this tree and live forever (Gen. 3:22). Then there was the tree of knowledge. Knowledge here means “choice” or decision. It symbolized the ability to decide right from wrong apart from the laws of God. God made this tree in order to remind man that, while he was immortal, he was not divine. You could call it a boundary over which man was not allowed to cross. Adam and Eve were given instructions not to eat it. This boundary proved too much of a temptation for the first couple.
Then consider the tempter, who takes the form of a serpent. The serpent is upright, indicating some equality with man. He also speaks! In fact, Satan was using the serpent to tempt the woman (cf. Mt. 16:23). He enters the garden to test man’s knowledge, loyalty, and obedience to God. Something similar would happen in Job.
The serpent approaches the woman and asks her if she understands God’s command. She not only understood His command to refrain from eating, but she could not even touch the tree (Gen. 3:3). Satan tells a half-lie (“You will not die”). She and her husband see it was pleasing to the eye, desirable for gaining godly wisdom, and so they took it and ate it. Thus their eyes were opened and they realized what had happened.
Catholics do not believe man’s nature was completely corrupted from that moment on. We say that man is deprived, but not depraved because of Original Sin. Jesus would redeem human nature by His death and resurrection.
Adam and Eve were then punished and expelled from Eden. They would have to work, suffer, and struggle from now on. Why? Because had they not been expelled, they would have lived forever in a fallen state. The Lord, in His providence, enabled them to live and die after so much time, in order to redeem their fallen nature in Christ.
Original Sin has been compared to a huge rock thrown into a pond. The ripples from the rock crashing in the middle of the water flow to the end of the pond. So too, the ripples of Original Sin continue in our day.
The idea of Original Sin is being undermined today because if we are wounded we need a Savior. The secular world would prefer to be a modern-day “savior,” and so you see attempts to undercut this idea. One example is the change of vocabulary. The words “problem,” “struggle,” “retardation,” to name a few, are being replaced by “challenge” and “issue.” It’s called “verbal engineering.”
As we enjoy the summer, let us remember that we still need a Savior, and the fact that, while we are baptized, we still need to repent of personal sin and live out the graces of our baptismal calling.