Chapter 14 – The Fall of Man

THE immediate effect of Adam's sin as stated in Genesis, is surprising enough.  Whereas before the Fall “they were both naked, and were not ashamed”.

Now, instantly upon their eating, they were aware of each other's nakedness and proceeded to fashion themselves some sort of clothing.  And as they could no longer look upon each other untroubled, so they could no longer face God without fear. 

Nor was their fear without reason.

To Eve God said:

I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions.
In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children,
and thou shalt be under thy husband's power,
and he shall have dominion over thee.

To Adam He said:

Cursed is the earth in thy work:
with labor and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the days of thy life.
Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee and thou shalt eat the herbs of the earth.
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread
till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken:
for dust thou art and into dust thou shalt return.

The rest of the story is in a couple of sentences:

And the Lord God sent him out of the Paradise of pleasure, to till the earth from which he was taken. And He cast out Adam; and placed before the Paradise of pleasure cherubim, and a flaming sword, turning every way to keep the way of the tree of life.

Upon the story of the Fall of man set out with such appalling brevity in Genesis, mankind has had a long time to meditate; Christ himself came to give us a clearer knowledge of what was involved in it, and for two thousand years His Church has been thinking upon it in the light of His revelation.

In giving Adam the order not to eat of the fruit of this one tree, God had told Adam that to eat of it would mean death.  But Adam, as we remember, had two lives in him - the natural life of body and soul by which he was a man, and the supernatural life of sanctifying grace by which he was a son of God and might one day look upon the living reality of God in Heaven.  To each of these lives corresponded a death, and by his sin Adam fell under both.

Consider first the death which was the loss of the supernatural life.  His soul had possessed sanctifying grace, and with it, faith, hope and charity and the moral virtues of justice, prudence, temperance and fortitude, an extraordinary wealth of God's gifts beside.  But the key to supernatural life, as to all life, is love.  The vivifying element in sanctifying grace is charity, which is the love of God.  Adam, setting his own will against God's, in that very fact annihilated love, thus lost the living principle in sanctifying grace, was supernaturally dead.  From his soul had gone the power whose full effect was to have been the direct vision of God.

Adam was left with natural life only, whereas before he had had both supernatural and natural life.  But the natural life he was left with was not as it had been before.  In losing the right relation of his own person to God by rebellion, he had lost his original integrity, the right relation of body and soul, and the harmonious working of the powers of the soul with one another. He was punished, too, by the withdrawal of freedom from suffering and death, gifts which would have sat oddly upon a nature as disordered as his now was.  Death had come upon man, and it had come as a penalty for sin. By the material element in his nature, man is liable to death, yet if man had not sinned God would have stood between him and that liability. The soul's various powers had maintained harmony because all alike were directed towards God as their supreme end. After turning aside from God, they no longer had any one end to unify them and hold them in harmony. Each must pursue its own devices, one seeking its satisfaction in one direction, one in another. The soul was faced at once with the rebellion of the body, and with warfare within its own powers.  The splendor was most miserably and thoroughly wrecked.  Adam had to struggle, as we all have to struggle, against the insubordination of the body and a wavering in the soul's direction.

In two ways, Adam first and we after him are most obviously afflicted in consequence.  We find it nearly impossible to control our imagination and our passions. Now afflicted by the imagination and the undue place it takes in affairs which should be exclusively of the intellect or the will. Imagination by itself is simply a picture making power, of real utility to the intellect.  As a result of the derangement of man's nature produced by the Fall, imagination has passed far beyond the condition of a useful servant.

That man should have passions is natural: what is tragic is that they should escape the domination of his mind.  Before the Fall they did not. But with the Fall, the passions passed out of control of will and intellect: from now on they were to harry man perpetually.  We have seen that Adam and Eve's first recorded action after their sin was to perceive their nakedness. Their first recorded action after being cast out of Paradise was sexual intercourse. Sexual passion uncontrolled which brought forth Cain, the first fruit and the first murderer. In their paradisaic state they would have had the sexual intercourse when they wanted it: now they must have it when it insists.

Adam, of course, was not bound to remain as low as he had fallen.  He was still a man, free to make choice of worse or better, still free to place his love anywhere between nothingness and God Himself.  He had lost his innocence but not his memory.  What he knew of God before the Fall he still knew after it.  Knowing God's goodness, he still had motive for repentance; and any natural movement in this direction would not have been hindered by his enormous awareness that his sin had not paid.  Because he was a man and so had free will, he was not bound to repent, but he was able to repent. The universal teaching of theologians is that by God's grace he did repent and received the supernatural life again into his soul, though not as before. If he had not received the supernatural life and died with it, he could not have entered heaven:  for, as we cannot too often remind ourselves, the supernatural life is the power to live in heaven.

The restoration of the supernatural life did not of itself heal the damage in his nature. It remains true that the damage done to our nature has to be healed by an immense striving within our nature itself. Adam, though he regained some measure of sanctifying grace, still had the warfare of body against soul, the warfare of the soul's powers among themselves, the swollen power of imagination, the clouding of the intellect and the distorting of the will by passion, the ever-present possibility of falling again into sin.

The third effect of the Fall he could do nothing about at all, namely the broken relation between mankind and God.  Man had been at one with God. He was no longer at one with God.  There was a breach between God and the human race, and this was incomparably the most serious result of Adam's sin. We concentrate upon individuals, specially upon ourselves, then upon others, though our sense of oneness with them can hardly be very strong.  We have no natural and spontaneous response to the concept of the human race itself - not only all men now living but all men who have ever lived, or ever will live. It is a defect in us that we find the human race as a whole too large to love effectively or even realize the possibility.  God though, who is equally the creator of all men, to Whom no man is more immediately present than any other, to Whom no idea is too big, did not see the race as a whole and treat it so. It is at once an enlargement of our limitedness and a strengthening of our own relation with all men to see Him do it.  As a beginning we should realize what was involved in the original relation of oneness between God and our race.  He had conferred upon us supernatural life which as we have seen lifts us from mere creatures into sons of God. The gift was to Adam, but to Adam as head of the race. The race of man stood in the relation of a son to God. If that relation remained unbroken, we all should have received from God the same supernatural life merely by being members of a race that had it, we should have been sons of God individually because our race stood in the relation of sonship. But by Adam's act the relation was broken. The race had been at one with God as a son with his father:  now it stood facing God as a servant his lord.

The problem for the human race was precisely the restoration of this oneness: it was the problem of at-one-ment which we disguise with the pronunciation atonement.  God knew how He would solve the problem: how the human race might be reunited with Him, how sonship might be restored to it. Supernatural oneness between man and God is something that only God can make:  man could destroy it, but could no more remake it once destroyed than he could have made it in the first place.  Only God could remake it.

There was not only the problem of restoring man's broken relationship to God - how to heal the breach - at-one-ment in its original sense; but the problem of expiation. Atonement for the sin which had caused the breach. It was for God to decide whether expiation must be made. No man could offer even the whole of himself. Man was no longer in total possession of himself, too much of him was beyond his own control. God's love desired the restoration of oneness, of the relation of sonship: but if expiation must first be made, how was expiation possible?

Both problems were to find one solution in which love and justice were miraculously fused. And until God Himself remade the oneness, holy men and women could receive the supernatural life, but as a gift personal to themselves, a reward for their love, not through the human race; but they must wait until Heaven should be once more open to the race to which they belonged.

St. Paul writes (Rom. 5:12):

It was through one man that guilt came into the world;
and since death came owing to guilt,
death was handed on to all mankind by one man.

There were two lives in Adam with a death corresponding to each: and we fell under both. Because he sinned, we are all born into this life without the supernatural life, with natural life only: and that natural life is a damaged life, doomed inescapably to break up in death. For our natural life, we are dependent by inheritance upon Adam.  Our natural life is the life of soul and body. Our souls are a direct creation of God, yet their relation with our bodies is so close that the variously damaged bodies with which each soul is united at the beginning of each man's life are quite sufficient to ensure for each man a damaged nature. We have the same sort of disorder in the elements of our nature that Adam had: a body rebellious against the soul, warfare of the soul's powers against one another, imagination far too powerful, passions and emotions swinging us toward sin.  We too must die.  Further, we must live in a world which has lost the necessity of obeying us.

There remains in the natural order one most mysterious result of Adam's sin. At the creation, God had looked upon all that He had made and seen that it was very good.  But now there was a curse upon it. It was still good, but there was a disorder in it. We do not know what damage the earth took from Adam's sin, but there is some new element of perversity in it as a result.

The supernatural effect is immeasurably more serious.  We are born without the supernatural life - not because Adam, having lost it, could not transmit to us. We have seen, that Adam almost certainly regained it for himself.  The supernatural life is not transmitted by inheritance as our bodies are.  It is a free gift of God.  But God had decreed that it should be hereditary in this other sense, that it should accompany the nature men were to inherit from Adam, if Adam had not sinned.

Here we come to one of the most mysterious of the doctrines , the doctrine of Original Sin, which is bound up with the truth that Adam's sin involved the whole race. In some profoundly dark way Adam's sin is in his descendants as real sin:  they are not only affected by the results of his sin, but are somehow involved in the guilt of it.

It is in us not as an actual sin, a personal sin, as it was in Adam who committed it, but as a habitual sin, a state of unrighteousness. Most theologians equate this with the absence of the supernatural life which should have been there, had Adam not sinned. We are born into unrighteousness (absence of sanctifying grace) just as we should have been born into sanctifying grace but for Adam's sin. We are reborn into sanctifying grace by baptism.

But wherein lies our guilt?  It lies in that other element in us, our nature.  It was a state of sinfulness in Adam's nature, and Adam's nature was the source of our nature. Our first reaction is likely to be a sense that we are being treated unfairly, being started off in life with a damaged nature and with no supernatural life at all, because of something done by someone else ages ago.  We have no right to supernatural life, because as men our nature is fully constituted without it. If God chooses to give it to us, it is an entirely free gift on His part, a gift, which He can give, or withhold, or give conditionally entirely as He pleases.

St. Paul writes to the Romans (5:18), commits a fault, and it brings condemnation upon all; one man makes amends, and it brings to all justification, that is, life. A multitude will become acceptable to God through one man's obedience, just as a multitude, through one man's disobedience, became guilty.  The same solidarity of the race by which we receive the effects of Adam's defeat enables us to receive the fruits of Christ's victory.

There remains to consider one of the personages taking part in the tragedy of the Fall - the Devil. The account in Genesis tells us that Eve was tempted by the serpent.  It tells us no more about the tempter than that.  It does not say that it was the Devil. That it was no ordinary serpent as known to zoology we realize as clearly as that the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was no ordinary tree as known to botany.

The Devil is to play a continuing part in the affairs of men. It is clear that following upon the success of this first effort to tempt man, he continues as tempter and adversary. To say that Satan gained the right to tempt mankind by his victory over Adam would be too strong.  Satan's action was sinful, and, as has been said, one can gain no rights by sin.  But it would seem that God saw a certain fittingness in allowing Satan to tempt man: the human race, in Adam. If they had chosen to listen to Satan; very well, let them go on listening to Satan.  God was there to help them, as He was there to help Adam.  All the sins of all men since Adam have followed the pattern of Adam's sin, and made a sort of solidarity in sin between us and him that is a horrid parody of the solidarity in nature. But strife against so powerful an enemy is very maturing to the soul if we stand firm; and this also God may have had in mind in allowing Satan to tempt us. In other words, there was to be for men a second chance. It did not remove the need of testing, but involved that each man should be tested individually.

Fundamentally this testing is of the will.  The will is free to choose God or to choose self as against God: and this latter choice is seldom a direct choice of self, but develops by way of seeking for happiness according to one's own desires - which may be directed to anything whatever that is - against the will of God. Given that the created order is so full of things capable of attracting us, and our nature so damaged, one might wonder why anything more should be needed to make the test severe.  In other words, we can so easily choose some lesser thing by our own momentum, so to speak, that one wonders why the Devil should bother with us.

With every man simply following his own tendency to damage and diminish himself by making this or that choice against the will of God, evil might very well have a carnival, but it would be a somewhat chaotic carnival.  It is hard to look upon this world without coming to a sense that evil is not simply chaotic, that there is a drive and a direction in it which suggests a living intelligence coordinating what would otherwise be only scattered and unrelated plunges of the human will - though the uncoercible will of man sets the Devil problems too. From end to end of the story of man the Devil appears as Someone, as a being of intelligence and will.

We have said that God knew what He would do to undo the catastrophe of man's Fall.  It is not for nothing that the very first statement God made of what He would do.  He made not to Adam and Eve but to the Devil, and He made it in terms of victory over the Devil: his head was to be crushed.

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