The Diagnosis II: Eden
So what has gone wrong with us? What has happened? Why is it that we are not by nature children of God? Why are we not already, by our natural birth, members of God’s Kingdom and members of his Church? Why do we need to be born again and have this “heavenly washing” that is cited in the liturgy of baptism? We could add to these questions many others: Why do people die? Why is there so little harmony and peace in the world? Why do we do things we know are bad? The answer lies in what the Church calls original sin.
The account in Genesis presents Adam and Eve tending the Garden of Eden, enjoying one another and taking pleasure in their personal knowledge and friendship with God. He had given them everything they needed for a life of happiness. However he warned them not to eat the fruit from a particular tree in the garden because to do so would end their friendship and that would result in their death. But Adam and Eve were not alone in the Garden. Another creature was there who had already rebelled against God and he intended to draw more of the creation away from God. He has had several aliases, but we know him as Satan. We first encounter him in the form of a serpent in the Garden where he laid a trap for Eve by pulling her into a theological discussion. He cast doubt upon her understanding of what God had said to Adam and he questioned God’s character. He suggested that God had something to lose if creatures ate from the forbidden tree because they would become gods themselves. Eve was gullible and took him at his word. But the devil is a liar; and when Eve acted on her doubts about God, she started living a lie. Adam was head of God’s creation, not his wife, and so it wasn’t until Adam disobeyed God that the general damage was done. Adam was not compelled to disobey God. He could have gone straight to God and offered his life up for his wife, but he did not do that. He followed her and he believed Satan’s lie. Thus, he loved neither God nor his wife. As a result of his disobedience, original sin replaced original righteousness and he (and all his offspring) became the enemy of God.
The Ministration of Holy Baptism assumes that we are all born deprived of the Kingdom of God, deprived of God’s paternity in a state of original sin. The natural perfection of man’s original creation was lost in this fall. Though Adam was created perfect, he was not created to be self-sufficient and so he needed the supernatural grace of the Holy Spirit in order to reinforce his intelligence, his affections and his will. Through the supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit, he was able to subordinate concupiscence and rightly order his faculties (his whole heart, soul and mind) and avoid sin. He was not a slave to his physical needs. This supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit was also lost through his fall. But we must hasten to add that original sin is not total depravity. Human nature itself was not made evil and corrupt by the fall and its natural faculties were not destroyed. Nor was the Image of God in which man was originally created ruined beyond recognition.
Indeed, the Church regards man’s nature not only as good, but potentially full of grandeur. We get a sense of the budding splendor of man in Psalm 8 found on page 350 of the BCP:
“When I consider thy heavens, even the work of thy fingers; *the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained;What is man, that thou art mindful of him? *and the son of man, that thou visitest him?Thou madest him lower than the angels, * to crown him with glory and worship. Thou makest him to have dominion of the works of thy hands; * and thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet: All sheep and oxen; * yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea; * and whatsoever walketh through the paths of the seas.”
However, though man’s nature is essentially good, he is not capable of realizing that good, saving himself from sin and entering into God’s Kingdom as God’s own child. His “budding splendor” will never reach fruition apart from the intrusive grace of God.