The Orthodox Faith
For St Paul Orthodox Youth Society - Brisbane
By Fr. John Abdel-Karim
14 - ORIGINAL SIN
The disobedience and transgression of Adam and Eve is called Original Sin. What happened? As we have previously said, God gave Adam and Eve permission to eat the fruit of all trees except the fruit of the tree "of the knowledge of good and evil." Here is what the Bible says: "You may freely eat of every tree of the Garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall die" Genesis 2:16-17). In other words, God said to Adam and to Eve, "You may eat the fruit of all of the trees that are in the Garden and that are edible; it is only the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that you should not eat.
On the day that you do eat it, you shall die."
A guilty person wants an accomplice. Satan, who had been an angel and had disobeyed God, becoming Satan, felt guilty and terribly alone. He could keep company only with the other Satans, the demons. His nature had been perverted; he was unable and is unable ever to think about goodness. He always thinks and desires evil. He always seeks evil for others. He was jealous of man. He saw that he was so very happy in Paradise in the company of God. So he put his evil plans into action. As the spirit that he is, he entered the body of a snake. Then he climbed the tree of "the knowledge of good and evil." He waited there. Eve came and peered at the tree. Satan intruded upon her curiosity. He asked her, "Tell me, Eve, is it true that God told you not to eat the fruit of all of the trees?" Eve answered, "No. He told us to eat the fruit of all the trees except the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because if we did we would die." The serpent said, "You shall not die. God knows that on the day that you eat of that fruit, your eyes will open and you will become as gods. You will know good and evil."
Eve liked Satan's sweet and slanderous words. She stretched out her hand. She took a fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She ate some, and she also gave some to her mate, Adam. They ate together. Immediately, "their eyes were opened" and they realized that they were naked (Genesis 3:1-7).
Because many people say that the Bible is being metaphorical and that by the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil the Bible refers to the sexual relationship of Adam and Eve, we repeat here that this is not true. God had decreed the sexual relationship of Adam and Eve when he told them to "increase and multiply." Then what shall we say is the original sin? It is the denunciation of God. If you will, it is the attempt of man to disenthrone God and to enthrone himself in His place, to become God in the place of God. It is not merely that he ate fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. St. John Chrysostom says about Eve, "She was filled with grandiose imaginings, hoping to be equal to God." Hoping to be equal to God, she lost her senses.
That is original sin. And its consequences?
A.) Spiritual death. That is, the separation of man from God, the source of all goodness.
B.) Bodily death. That is, the separation of the body from the soul, the return of the body to the earth.
C.) The shattering and distortion of the "image." That is, darkness of mind, depravity and corruption of the heart, loss of independence, loss of free will, and tendency towards evil. Since then "the imagination of man's heart is evil "(Genesis 8:21). Man constantly thinks of evil.
D.) Guilt. That is, a bad conscience, the shame that made him want to hide from God.
E.) Worst of all, original sin is hereditary. It did not remain only Adam and Eve's. As life passes from them to all of their descendants, so does original sin. We all of us participate in original sin because we are all descended from the same forefather, Adam. This creates a problem for many people. They ask, Why should we be responsible for the actions of Adam and Eve? Why should we have to pay for the sins of our parents? they say. Unfortunately, this is so, because the consequence of original sin is the distortion of the nature of man. Of course, this is unexplainable and belongs to the realm of mystery, but we can give one example to make it somewhat better understood. Let us say that you have a wild orange tree, from which you make a graft. You will get domesticated oranges, but the root will still be that of the wild orange tree. To have wild oranges again, you must regraft the tree. This is what Christ came for and achieved for fallen man, as we Shall see in the following sections.
Let us pray
Our Creator and Maker, ours is the fault. Adam and Eve, listening to Satan, blasphemed. Out of egotism, they allowed themselves to be misled. They distorted the "image." They darkened the beauty of the soul. They weakened the nature of mankind. Because of them, we became unrecognisable. "The imagination of our heart is evil." We constantly think of evil. We feel so guilty. We are so far away from You. We have been grafted to evil. We have lost our self-control and our free will to do good. We thank You for Your love, and for sending Your Only begotten Son to regraft us to goodness. For giving us the possibility of returning to You. You, Lord "want every man to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." Do not deprive us of this. Do not deprive anyone of salvation. We thank You Lord.