What is the consequence of the sin of Adam and Eve?
One of the first results was that they became ashamed that they were naked and they covered themselves with fig leaves. They were no longer in contemplation of God, but were now self-centered in their bodies. Their soul was no longer in communion with God, their bodily desires took charge, and they became ashamed because of their lack of clothing. They began the passionate earthly life that we all now participate in.
What were they to do now that they were separated from God?
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?"
We know they were separated from God because He had to call to them. “Where are you,” He called. God knew where they were, but that they were separated from Him and no longer in communion with Him. God was calling to bring them back into relationship with Him, for them to repent, to acknowledge their poor choice, and ask for forgiveness. Having lost the contemplation of God, now separated from Him, and being more interested in their naked bodies, could they respond properly? What did they do?
Adam says: “I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself. The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”
Eve says: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the snake. Neither of them accepted responsibility for the bad choice they had made. They respond with self-justification. They showed no humility in the face of God. Being separated from God, they were now destined to suffer the consequences of eating of the tree of knowledge that God had warned Adam about earlier. They now knew evil and were blinded by it.
It was through their sin that death entered into the world. We hear this repeated by Saint Paul several times.
- As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (Rom 5:12)
- The wages of sin is death. (Rom 6:23)
What was the sin?
It was pride. They thought they could become like God. They acted out of their own self interest separate from God.
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life. (Gen 3:22-24)
He no longer had access to the tree of life, which is eternal life. Now instead of eternal life in union with God, Adam and Eve found themselves separated from God because of their pride.
What are the consequences of this first sin?
Man still had the image of God, but it was now “tarnished” or “dimmed.” Their bodies became grossly material and became subject to sickness, corruption and death. The Garden with the tree of life was no longer open for them. This is the condition we inherit from Adam and Eve. This is what we call “ancestral sin.” We do not inherit the guilt for the bad choice that Adam made, but we inherit the consequence of his sinfulness, the change in nature he experienced, his body becoming subject to death and corruption. Since we are all descendants of Adam and Eve we all inherit their changed nature that resulted from the fall.
What is evil?
Remember, all that God created was good. The cause of evil was in the separation of Adam and Eve from God. This is what sin is, a separation from God. This was not God’s doing, but man’s own doing. Evil in the world is a consequence of falling out of union with God, turning to rely only on our own will instead of the will of God. Evil is the result of sin and being separated from God.
How could man fall into this sin of pride?
Our Creator created man in His image and gave man three great gifts at his creation: freedom, reason, and love. These are all essential for his spiritual growth. But along with freedom goes the possibility of making the wrong choices and being subject to temptation. Being tempted for reason is to become proud in mind, and then seeking the knowledge of good and evil outside of God. This is like making oneself a “god.” The temptation of love in place of love of God and one’s neighbor is to love oneself and everything that satisfies bodily desires. If we are to love God with all our heart, we must be able to freely choose to do so. For forced love is not really love. God’s plan was for man to become like God so this possibility was part of man’s creation.
How about misfortune?
Misfortunes such as storms or accidents are not in themselves evil or good. We must have reverence for the natural order of the world. We may not understand all its workings, but we are part of a larger interrelated system. Endlessly, the various and mutually opposed strivings of blind elemental powers and organic creatures are colliding with each other at every moment, and are brought into harmony becoming a source for continual renewal in the world.
How about our difficult sufferings?
Suffering began with the Fall. The causes of diseases and sufferings are men themselves. Consequences of moral evil spread from people to the animal world and to the whole of creation.
For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now… For the creation was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected it in hope: because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Rom 8:22, 20-21)
Evil is a deviation from the original condition of Paradise. God is not the cause of moral evil. Evil consists of the violation of God’s will, the commandments of God, and the moral law which is written in the human conscience. This violation is called sin.
God never abandoned mankind. Throughout the Old Testament we can see how he tried to call them back to Himself. He took away neither His image nor the freedom of will or reason. Man could still choose to love God with all his heart and mind. But mankind now needed help to reunite with God.
The Orthodox Church teaches that we have a free will and can choose to be in a loving relationship with God or not. We cannot be responsible for what others choose, but we are accountable for our own choices. Adam and Eve sinned and the consequence was a change in their nature where they became subject to death and corruption. They were denied entrance to Paradise and the tree of life. Separated from God, they were blind as to His plan for them. This changed nature was then passed on from generation to generation down to all mankind. As a result mankind needed to be saved from this condition, to be freed from the shackle of death and to be shown the way back to Paradise for eternal life in union with God.