Why do we suffer for Adams sin?
We have to begin in Genesis 2:16-17
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”Genesis 2:16-17
Then verse 25
Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.Genesis 2:25
They had but one prohibition: do not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Just one. They had it all, the garden, the paradise..but what happened? Genesis 3:1-5
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”Genesis 3:1-5
Not only are they told by the serpent to do this one thing they should not do, but that it’s holding them back from their full potential! It’s a trap! Many teenagers have a similar scenario with their parents. There is usually a golden rule, a thing they should not do, but they want to do it, or they tell themselves to do it. But the reward isn’t sweet.
Eve, like us, acted as if God didn’t have our best interests at heart. Guess what? Satan lied to them. See v7-8
7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.Genesis 3:7-8
Two punishments for Eve
- Pain of Childbirth
- Husband would rule over her (This makes clear it wasn’t part of the original plan and we have witnessed in culture the unjust actions of men treating women)
However you perceive this question, the Bible certainly indicates some origins here, Genesis 5:29
29 He named him Noah and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.”Genesis 5:29
Natural evil is a product of God cursing the ground. So mold, cancer etc. are features of the fall. That’s not to say natural events did not happen, but there is now something different going on in nature.
19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.Romans 8:19-23
Natural evil as we perceive it is woven into the fall.
James D.G. Dunn explains:
The point Paul is presumably making, through somewhat obscure language, is that God followed the logic of his purposed subjecting of creation to man by subjecting it yet further in consequence of man’s fall, so that it might serve as an appropriate context for fallen man: a futile world to engage the futile mind of man…There is an out-of-sortedness, a disjointedness about the created order which makes it a suitable habitation for man at odds with his creator.James D.G. Dunn, Word Biblical Commentary Volume 38A: Romans 1–8 (Dallas: Word, 1988), 487-488.
“Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” As Jesus’ work on the cross will ultimately free humans from physical death, so will creation also be freed from its bondage at that time. For these and other reasons, a large majority of New Testament scholars relate Romans 8 to Genesis 3.
“Creation” refers to absolutely everything but sentient beings.
Commentator John Murray observed,
Angels are not included because they were not subjected to vanity and to bondage to corruption. Satan and the demons are not included because they cannot be regarded as longing for the manifestation of the sons of God and they will not share in the liberty of the glory of the children of God. The children of God themselves are not included because they are distinguished from “the creation…”Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, 301-302.
We see in Colossians 2 Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God, all creation came through him. Something must have happened to creation in the process as Jesus’ relationship with it would send him to die for it to amended.
God subjected creation to corruption.
Only God has the real power to condemn the world, being the ultimate justice.
“The LORD God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’ So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.”Genesis 3:22-23
So the Lord cursed the ground, presumably enabling all kinds of pestilence, and then He kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden, removing them from the rejuvenating power of the Tree of Life… And we’ve been attending funerals ever since then.
When it comes to natural evil, many people wrongly assume that when God said, “On the day that you eat of it you will surely die,” He added, “in your sleep at a ripe old age of natural causes.” But He didn’t. He only said “you will surely die.” And whether one dies at eight months old, or eighteen years old, or eighty-eight years old, we are all going to die.
The only way to not see our loved ones die is to die ourselves. It’s a hard truth, but one reflected in the fall and is important to note.
Because Adam passed on only flesh, we are as susceptible to evil as he was. Adam, like us, did his best, but was as weak as the rest of us. Many have argued maybe they might have done a better job than Adam. But that’s not true, we would all fail the test.
How was it possible for them to do it?
Weren’t they created without sin? So how did they sin? Well, Satan gives the background. Satan’s own story is he had much and wanted more, he saw God and wanted that and that action is what he passed onto the human race. Now we for everyone we’ve known have a self and that self is motivated by the same desires as him, as obvious or unobvious as they may seem.
William A. Dembski further explains:
Precisely because a created will belongs to a creature, that creature, if sufficiently reflective, can reflect on its creaturehood and realize that it is not God. Creaturehood implies constraints to which the Creator is not subject…The question then naturally arises, Has God the Creator denied to the creature some freedom that might benefit it? Adam and Eve thought the answer to this was yes (God, it seemed, had denied them the freedom to know good and evil). As soon as the creature answers yes to this question, its will turns against God. Once that happens the will becomes evil. Whereas previously evil was merely a possibility, now it has become a reality. In short, the problem of evil starts with thinking that God is evil for “cramping their style.” The impulse of our modern secular culture to cast off restraint wherever possible finds its roots here.William A. Dembski, The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World (Nashville: B&H, 2009), 27-28.
Some may not like the idea that spiritual things like “satan” is used as an answer, but remember, the spiritual realm comes with the Christian worldview—to only use 70% of Christianity to defend Christianity is a limit you impose on yourself. Also generally I try to limit his mentioning to only where it absolutely seems necessary and makes sense.
Ok that’s where it comes from, but why do we have to suffer for it?
Adam is our representative, and no, we wouldn’t do any better.
He chose to rebel against God and the nation of mankind has followed ever since. Like a nation going to war.
William G.T. Shedd says “The sin of Adam…is imputed to posterity in the very same way that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer—namely, undeservedly and gratuitously.” Indeed, Christians who still might think that suffering for Adam’s sin is unfair should remember that it wasn’t fair that Christ should die for them.
William G.T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 3d ed., ed. Alan W. Gomes (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2013), 435.
We have a seminal union with Adam
We are biologically connected to Adam and thus present in his sin through that way.
Theologian Millard J. Erickson said,
“So we were present in germinal or seminal form in our ancestors; in a very real sense, we were there in Adam. His action was not merely that of one isolated individual, but of the entire human race. Although we were not there individually, we were nonetheless there. The human race sinned as a whole. Thus, there is nothing unfair or improper about our receiving a corrupted nature and guilt from Adam, for we are receiving the just results of our sin. This is the view of Augustine.”Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 652.
They are our parents
Related to the realistic (or seminal) union perspective mentioned above, there is a more compelling answer to why we suffer for Adam’s and Eve’s sin: They are our first parents, our original parents, and we are them.
Adam and Eve produced, they multiplied, we are born of the flesh and even evolutionary geneticists like Joshua Swamidass links by the time of Christ’s coming, a connection to Adam and Eve for present humans.
Adam and Eve could only produce broken fallen people. Guess where we got our consciousness from? Yup, our parents! And on and on it goes. This view is called traducianism. There’s discussion in this as to whether there were two or many people and they were chosen. This is up for debate, but it works on either model, God could easily enough impose sinful nature on all early humans as a result of Adam and Eve’s action as to make them all bearers or one of the many other explanations.
Augustine said it well:
“For we all were in that one man…The seminal nature was there from which we were to be propagated; and this being vitiated by sin, and bound by the chain of death, and justly condemned, man could not be born in any other state. And thus, from the bad use of free will, there originated the whole train of evil, which, with its concatenation of miseries, convoys the human race from its depraved origin, as from a corrupt root, on to the destruction of the second death, which has no end, those only being excepted who are freed by the grace of God”.Augustine, The City of God
Obviously this brings us into areas like original sin which obviously I hold but many well thought reasonable thinkers do the same
Philosopher Alvin Plantinga puts it,
“The doctrine of original sin has been verified in the wars, cruelty, and general hatefulness that have characterized human history from its very inception to the present.”Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford: Oxford University, 2000), 207.
Atheist Michael Ruse agrees:
“I think Christianity is spot on about original sin—how could one think otherwise, when the world’s most civilized and advanced people (the people of Beethoven, Goethe, Kant) embraced that slime-ball Hitler and participated in the Holocaust?”Michael Ruse, “Darwinism and Christianity Redux: A Response to My Critics,” Philosophia Christi 4 (2002),
traducianism is a doctrine about the origin of the soul or synonymously, spirit, holding that this immaterial aspect is transmitted through natural generation along with the body, the material aspect of human beings
Sometimes people ask how, if traducianism is true, Jesus could have been born without a sinful nature, as He would have inherited a sinful nature from Mary. Frankly, I don’t see the problem. God is certainly capable of working that out, especially because with Jesus’ conception, the man’s sperm was absent. Also, Genesis tells us that the serpent-crusher will come from the seed/offspring of the woman (Genesis 3:15). The Lord could easily have said that the serpent-crusher would come through the seed/offspring of both the man and the woman, but He didn’t.
“But couldn’t God have created someone else who wouldn’t have sinned?” But that’s what God did! Of course, Jesus wasn’t created, but He did become man, and He kept all of God’s commands perfectly. And now by trusting in Jesus, we can all be saved! In fact, the New Testament calls Jesus “the last Adam.” Romans 5:14-15 says Adam was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 15:22,45 we learn that “for as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive…‘
Our sinful nature bounds as for separation from God, binding us in rebellion. But through Jesus, we can change our direction, our sin doesn’t determine who we are as Jesus begins to cleanse us of all sin and then in heaven we will have no desire to do otherwise (as in, no desire to sin ever).
Adam vs Jesus
An interesting note to end on
- Adam and eve ate from the tree (Genesis 2)
- Jesus resisted turning stones to bread (Matthew 4)
- Adam and Eve took up the offer of “receiving more”
- Jesus resisted Satan when offered the world
- Eve desired to be made wise by the tree
- Jesus resisted Satan in his ploys to test God’s love for him
Jesus faced all the temptations without sin. He is the last Adam. If you think, why don’t we hear more mentions about Adam in the Old Testament? Well, we do. Adam means man and thinking from that perspective, seeing man, referring to the sons of Adam, comes up hundreds of times. Adam’s connection is bound up with the people of this world.
Sometimes people complain that we didn’t have a choice about being born sinful. That’s true—we didn’t have a choice, just as people born into alcoholic families, impoverished families, or disreputable families didn’t have a choice. But we can turn to Jesus, the last Adam, and be born again into a new family and receive a new nature.
Even though the fall was bad, it prepared the way for a heavenly victor for the human race, the cosmic (Marvel Avenger) hero Jesus to conquer Satan, evil and death. Jesus is not only the serpent crusher, but our bridge to God and the love of God to us, despite all of the horrific evils we as humans have perpetrated.
To sum this up I’ll quote Clay Jones directly
“Adam and Eve are our parents. They sinned, they reproduced, and here we are. But if these facts are still horrible to you—and they should be—then take to heart the cosmic lesson here: Hate sin! And it should lead you to trust in the last Adam, Jesus, who alone is able to save you from your sin”.
Clay Jones, Why Does God Allow Evil?: Compelling Answers for Life’s Toughest Questions