Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Beginning of Sin

At the close of chapter 2, we left Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, where they enjoyed perfect union with the God and each other. However, chapter 3 opens abruptly and somewhat unexpectedly with the introduction of the serpent, a symbol of evil and temptation. The biblical writer intentionally contrasts the innocence of Adam and Eve (who were naked, but not ashamed), and the deceptiveness of the serpent (who was more crafty than any other beast of the field).
It is extremely important that we follow carefully the tactics used by the serpent to deceive Eve and Adam. The serpent presents a subtle reinterpretation of God's command not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As one biblical scholar describes it, "the serpent does not lie, but tailors the truth to incite envy." We find this pattern of deception and temptation repeated again and again among God's people and in our own lives. As James writes in his epistle, "Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death" (James 1:14-15). This is precisely the pattern we see present in Genesis, chapter 3.
The theological importance of Genesis 3 is that it provides us with an account of the origin of sin, what historically has been referred to as the doctrine of original sin. Throughout the history of the church, theologians have differed substantially regarding the precise nature of original sin. Some have argued for the doctrine of total depravity, which asserts that people are by nature not inclined or even able to love God wholly with heart, mind, and strength, but rather all are inclined by nature to serve their own will and desires and to reject the rule of God. Others have asserted that human nature has remained essentially good, with only slight deficiencies due to the disobedience of Adam. Within the Anglican tradition we believe that due to the sin of humanity in the garden, "man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own inclined to evil" (Articles of Religion - BCP 869). The Catechism states that although we are made in the image of God, from the beginning, human beings have misused their freedom and made wrong choices; we rebelled against God, and we put ourselves in the place of God. (BCP 845).
Regardless of our exact understanding of original sin, Genesis 3 teaches us that due to our disobedience and rebellion against God, humanity is separated from God and the image of God in which we were created is greatly diminished and hindered. Thus, we are in need of the reconciliation and redemption offered through Jesus Christ.

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