speaking of sin

Adam and Eve were still trying to remember the names of things when they were presented with their first moral choice. Their skin had barely dried off yet. They made the wrong choice, but there is hardly a human being alive who does not understand why. Innocence is so fragile, so curious, so dumb. Choosing God cannot be the same thing as staying innocent. If it is, then there is no hope for any of us.

Some lovers of this story say that Adam and Eve were destined to do what they did–not because of original sin but because of God. God knew that they had to eat the fruit. it was the only way for them to wake up, so that they could make real choices from then on.

It is a wonderful story, not because there are no problems in it but because it tells the truth about the way things really are. We really are free to make disastrous decisions. Our choices really do have consequences. And there really are some flaws in the whole setup, whether they come in the form of talking snakes or in the form of this almost biological urge we have to choose things that we know are ruinous for us and for the whole creation.

But nowhere in this story is the word “sin” mentioned, much less the phrase “original sin.” That tag line was assigned to the story much later–in the fourth century C.E.–by Augustine of Hippo, who turned the tale of Adam and Eve into an explanation for the human tendency to choose evil instead of good. Large through his influence, the Eden story has become the archetypal story of sin for Christianity, leading many of us to think of sin primarily as individual disobedience.

. . . “the thing is,” my friend said, “in this life, it’s possible to get away with some of the awful stuff we do for a long time. We can hide it or lie about it and sometimes it takes years for the fallout to catch up with us. But in God’s life, everything is present and revealed. When you make a choice, there is absolutely no delay in feeling the consequences of it. The moment you think or speak or act, you get a full dose of the reality you have just chosen.”


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