There was no fall (almost)

Adam was fully a spiritual human in the image of God. The knowledge gained was evil, just as much as being aware of how good Adam had it. Innocence as we see it after sin is all around us would indicate we could sin and get away with it. However there was no evil also, thus Adam could not sin and “just get away with it”. Like the Angels there was no choice when it came to good or evil. The choice was still only in the act of eating done only by Adam. No other human at the time was tasked with changing the state of the world where good and evil became common knowledge. We have to view all of life at that time as if there was no good and evil. No one else had or needed at that time access to the tree of eternal life. A tree like physical fruit to renew the flesh, was a spiritual tree to renew the spiritual. The physical without the spiritual would eventually default back to dust. But there was no physical or spiritual act of attempting a renewal of the spiritual or physical condition. Would or was Adam exporting the fruit of eternal life to all other humans? It could be pointed out that would be a necessity for biological life even if death was not possible. Even the account of Cain and Able points out the specializing of individual task expected of each human on earth to keep the economy of the world moving smoothly. The consequences of not willing to be part of the process was known as sin. The account is half about the world before sin and half acknowledging that sin was already in the world.

There is a strong sense that Cain and Able were born before the fall, becauss after Adam sinned and death entered, was Cain even able to cause death to come to Abel. Cain still had the pre fall image of God and had to be marked or he would have blended in with all the other humans. There was a sense that Adam and Eve left the garden to be at the mercy of other humans. Cain and Abel remained in the Garden, until Abel was killed and then Cain was also expelled to be at the Mercy of other humans. Once there was no one left in the Garden, the rest of the world had no access to the tree of life. Eventually the point of spiritual existence became a mute point. Seth was born in the image of Adam. The Adam who now realize his separated condition from God. Or attempted to forget, because forgetting God was more merciful than living with regret and shame. Seth had no knowledge of God, but it was said their offspring Enoch was the first to seek God out and return to the condition of the spiritual life in the Garden. The choice is presented that the “sons of god” could remain in God’s image or follow after the offspring of Adam who were only in Adam’s image. Saying that Adam became more spiritual after eating the forbidden fruit does not follow. Loosing access to eternal life through the renewal of the spirit was both an act of Mercy and Justice because Adam was justly treated in the loss of access, and Mercy because not knowing is better than the struggle over loosing something that could never be regained. The good we know is the potential of being the image of God even in a physical body. We know evil, because it separates us from God.

We have an example of the pre-fall condition when Jesus was “transfigured” along with Moses and Elijah in front of the disciples. The tree of life being the physical component of the spiritual body. Jesus being the means of restoring the spiritual condition without the physical act of eating. Other than the figurative point of the Lord’s Supper. Communion is there to keep us always reminded of what Jesus did. It is not the tree of life or any change in the nature of the bread and wine to give a physical renewal to our spiritual body. In fact our “physical” spiritual body is fully in tact, but the only connection we have to it is in the subconscious. We cannot use it for any benefit in the physical part of us. We are still separated from it, and some even more so than others. This is evident in the ability to actually “know” there is no God.

The point of the Holy Spirit is the ability to substitute the loss of connection with our own. But it takes giving up our own will, and conforming to the will of God. Is God just and merciful when there is a manipulation in our thoughts known as the hardening of the heart? Should others suffer from a fault in those given leadership over us? I think leadership comes from the desires of those being led. If leadership seems bad it is because the governed are reaping what they have sown. Is God merciful in preventing bad choices to keep going on generation after generation. God promised not to punish past the 4th generation, but should also be allowed to remove any generation and start over again.

so far… ok…

Incorrect! And to talk of probabilities when no such thing can be calculated is empty rhetoric.

In Genesis 6, God said that He was sorry that He had made man. So, no, this was not all according to plan. Adam and Eve were without sin, and that would be impossible if the what you said is true.

It is true that once they disobeyed, then prospects were a bit dim. God did say that if they ate of the fruit then they would surely die.

Quite the contrary… No doubt this is from an obedience theology equating sin with disobedience, designed for twisting religion into a tool of manipulation and power over people. Only this kind of thinking would suggest the sin doesn’t matter.

I believe in a sin = self-destructive-habit theology. Thus the first sin of Adam and Eve was not the mistake of eating a fruit but how they then sought to blame their mistake on anyone but themselves. That is a destructive habit from which all the consequences logically follow.

The consequences of this bad habit adopted by Adam and Eve were…

  • self-destructive habits interfere with such necessities of life as learning from our mistakes, and they tend to lead to other bad habits with even more destructive consequences.
  • This particular habit changed God from the perfect teacher to the perfect excuse. With this habit God’s presence in their life was no longer of benefit to them – the only thing that can break a parent-child relationship.
  • And since a relationship with God (the only one who has what is needed to make an eternal existence worthwhile) is the essence of eternal life, then to lose this relationship is to lose eternal life.
  • The memetic inheritance from God which made us human and His children was contaminated with self-destructive inheritance from Adam and Eve.

Only a God more about power and control than love and life would plan such a thing which matches the motivations for obedience theology, and turning God into something no person with any integrity would admire let alone follow.

I think I can understand your point, but the issue is with our spirit striving with God’s. I think bad habits is just one of many parts to the life we live. It does not follow that is the only part.

The theme has been free will, and how to surrender to God’s will, without loosing who we are in the process. Eating the fruit embodied disobedience, but it was more than that. It was also overcoming the desire to do our own thing and make our own parh. While bad habits get us in a rut, and some even have us going totally contrary to God’s will, there are habits which maybe in following God’s will are also detrimental in our being a good ambassador for God, and like you say, a terror to those around us.

I think the point is to get us to the position where laws do not even matter. That will not get us into heaven. But it will allow us to live lives blameless here on earth.

You will need scripture to back up this claim, God created it and said it was very good. I do believe the second creation is a spatially separate creation (and this is being taught at Dallas Theological Seminary as a means to remove the contradictions in the sequence of creation). I believe it was separated from the second creation, but not from God. (the “no spiritual life” comments goes with this comment)

I feel the Bible teaches the opposite " Through one man all have sinned and have death, and through One Man all have life". It terms of egregiousness, I would agree, but it is clear from scripture to me that God does not agree with our view. Sin separates us from God, all sin, no matter how minor as God is the ultimate in righteousness.

Dr Larkin, thanks for your comments. I would appreciate your thoughts on this:


Thank you for the reference. The premise as I understand it is that there was a mistranslation from Greek to Latin that caused Augustine to miss interpret Romans 5:12 so that it was not through Adam that all have sinned.

I feel there is a clear message throughout the Bible, I deserve condemnation through my own acts, not because of Adam’s sin. Read the Sermon on the Mount and it is clear that I deserve death. One example of many, Job said his own mouth would condemn him if he stood before God. In Zechariah 3, Joshua the High Priest of Israel stands in judgment in “filthy rags”, which “The Angel of the Lord” (Jesus in the Old Testament), turns his garments “white as snow”. So it is through our faith that we are reconciled to God.

Once faith is established, faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). James says “I will show you my faith by my works”. Jesus instructed us to love not only our brothers and sisters, but also our enemies, to take care of the poor, the disadvantaged, the sick, those in prison, etc. This is how we can be a light that can glorify God and draw others to Jesus.

In terms of salvation and eternal fellowship with God, faith is sufficient. The best Biblical example is the “good” thief who achieved salvation only through faith. He did not have the time or ability to perform any good works in his position.

The message of God is not only the God of Israel but also of the Gentiles is also mentioned in the article, which is also consistently established throughout the Bible as well. God being the God of the gentiles is the primary message of the Book of Jonah as he brings God’s message to the Ninevites. Jesus also give the salvation message to the Samaritan woman at the well. (there are many more examples)

In terms of election, the author states that this is at the corporate level and not at the individual level. I take a very simple view on “election” in that I feel the only purpose of this doctrine is that he cannot even take pride in our decision to believe in the redemptive power of Jesus, as pride is something that God hates. I disagree with election providing any degree of segregation or superiority on the part of the believer.

Also, I am not a PhD per your salutation, my only academic creations are a ME in Biochemical Engineering.


I often say that hell is our heart’s desire while heaven is God’s desire for us. To that extent there is truth to what you say. The problem is that this is taken too far in obedience theology to turn religion into a tool power. So what is the line which when crossed means you have gone too far? Obedience for the sake obedience is going too far. Obedience does not equal good, on the contrary WWII demonstrated just how evil obedience can be with the extermination of 6 milllion civilians being the price of this VERY wrong thinking. And when is it obedience for the sake of obedience alone? When you try to put over the argument that it doesn’t matter WHAT you are being asked to obey. That is just WRONG! It DOES matter! It is the difference between serving God and serving the devil.

Bad habits do far more than that. They multiply, destroy our free will and everything good in us, dragging us into hell and death.

Incorrect. That is confusing law with morality and these are two entirely different things, though with a little overlap I can agree. But laws are not always about morality and not all morality can or should be made into laws.

Are you saying that Laws should be a crutch? By not matter, I mean we should know them and understand them. They are not our guide though. Doing what we do should be in step with all laws (except man made legislation that circumvents Laws already established by God in the fabric of reality) but not because of those laws, but because what we do naturally is so much in harmony that they do not seem like laws at all.

When it comes to morality that is between humans, not God. The Law of Moses incorporated the majority as morals dealing with humans relating to other humans. I think (my opinion) that even the temple sacrifices were not about God. That is human understanding and religion. They were more an equitable way to provide a national economy while connecting the practice to a reality known as God. It was giving away ones hard earned products by faith that God would take care and continue to provide for them. That it served as justice for wrongs done to other humans was a bonus. I think that it has been stressed that punishment and by extension sacrifice as punishment is not neccessarily a detterance. Humans will still try to find a way to do wrong at the expense of other humans.

An example of laws unrelated to morality is what side of the street to drive on. Such laws are a matter of convention only. There is no good reason why one side rather than the other only that everyone follows the same rule.

Huh??? How we behave towards other human beings is God’s biggest concern. He made it clear that the way we treat a stranger is how God views us as treating Him. In Isaiha chapter 1, God says that He is downright sick of all our religious gatherings and rituals and would really prefer that we simply “cease to do evil, learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.” And in James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

That is a legalistic understanding of religion. Jesus’ sermon in Matthew 5 shows that is not about keeping the letter of any law but about our heart and attitude toward other people. He sums it up in Matthew 22 to tell us that all the law and prophets are really about love.

What God has always sought was that the “law of God” would be written on our hearts. It was never about obedience but about how we value ourselves as reflected in other people. It was about creating heaven rather than hell in our relationships with others.

Read the Pete Enns’ article. Romans is my favorite book of the Bible, by the way – so commentaries are likely to spark my interest. And here is my comment on the three points He makes in the article.

  1. Yes. I agree on this point completely. Death/condemnation spread to all because sin spread to all.
  2. No. I think Pete Enns goes too far. In Romans Paul talks about both: what constitutes the people of God AND salvation. Yes Paul is particularly concerned about the works of the law but he also speaks about works in more generality also. So it is just wrong to oversimply the whole epistle in this way and one would do better to examine when Paul is speaking of works of the law and when he is speaking of works more generally. For example, in Romans 2:6, when Paul says, “For he (God) will render to every man according to his works,” Paul is not speaking of works of the law.
  3. Maybe I am simply not finding Peter Enns being clear enough on this one. Making this about salvation being corporate rather than individual simply isn’t supportable. Paul speaks of the election of particular individuals. The dubious conclusion of Augustine, however, is to equate election with salvation of that individual. Rather the context points more to Paul speaking of election of individuals to play their part in God’s providence of salvation so you could say it is collective in that sense. And maybe that is what Pete Enns intended.

Good comments; thanks. Enns goes into this in more depth in his books (Evolution of Adam and Inspiration and Incarnation, as does Scot McKnight in Adam and the Genome.) He goes through some of the 2nd Temple extra-biblical literature (including Sirach, Wisdom) to see whether the Jews considered Adam a representative of the human race, or a cause of the fall. In most cases, they didn’t (exception: physical death was considered that way, as I recall).

This ties into the “New View on Paul,” (see McKnight:)

where people recognized that we (particularly, perhaps, Calvin) misunderstood Paul to be saying that the Jews relied on works for salvation. They didn’t; they were the outward signs of a covenant, which was also based on grace.

I may be missing your point–sorry if so. There is better reasoning in Enns’ books. Thanks.
I also thought that it seemed too simplistic on the post, but I thought that the other sources clarified it.

Ok… I watched this but… I am having a little hard time seeing how a new perspective on Judaism (which btw I have no problem with), has much of an impact on understanding Romans because Paul’s dispute is not with the Jews but with a sector of Christians called “the circumcisers” unless the point is that Paul is drawing upon the teachings He already had from Judaism to oppose them. That would indeed be an interesting new perspective because it shoots down the idea that Paul was teaching something so radically different from the religious mainstream.

PS: None of this is surprising to me because my professor in seminary for my OT class, a jewsh rabbi, told us that vast majority of what Jesus taught was right in line with the teachings of the Pharisees (also known as rabbinical Judaism). There were differences but not what many might think. The biggest difference was the idea that being a rabbi (teacher) and holy man did not call for separating oneself from Gentiles and sinners. In fact you can say this is Jesus’ principle indictment of hypocrisy on the Pharisees is that they would teach all the same things Jesus did about helping strangers and those in need while in practice they set themselves apart and would have nothing to do with such people as part of their dedication to purity and holiness.

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Hm! Thank you for that excellent perspective! Good to chew on.

Quite right.
Love will be introduced later in history by Jesus-Christ.

Dear Michel,
You have highlighted a major problem in the misunderstanding of God’s creation which started in John 1:1, not Genesis 1:1.

Little is written in the Bible about the creation of God’s spiritual world, nor about the time that Jesus and God lived in harmony with His spiritual creation. Then came the fall from Heaven and the creation of the plan of restoration for those separated from God (Genesis 1).

God sent the King of Heaven down to become a mortal man to show us the way home and to conquer Death, after the first attempt to reform the fallen failed in the Garden. (Genesis 3:24)

I must say that in my opinion (full disclosure, I’m a Calvinist) Peter Enns’s post is bad. Very bad. The concept of the Fall is not tied to a single passage (Rom. 5:12). Also, he argues a second strawman:

This bad reading of Romans 5:12, rooted in a bad Latin translation of the Greek, has led to the notion that all humans are culpable (guilty) with Adam for what Adam did —all humanity sinned in him.

It is true that this incorrect notion is widespread, and that it impugns the character of God, but it is not the Augustinian view. (Hence the strawman.) Adam’s sin is his alone and is not in our debit column.

The Fall is in fact much worse. It is that Adam corrupted his own moral DNA, and we, as his decedents, inherit those bad genes. We don’t have to have Adam’s sin charged against us to necessitate a savior, we sin from the moment of conception in that we are in moral rebellion from conception. We lost the moral ability to please God. (I did give you the trigger warning that I’m a Calvinist.)

Mind you I am not saying that I am right and Enns is wrong is his theological positions. I am saying, as an Augustinian, that he misrepresented our views.


David, this is news to me, so I’d like to hear more. Obviously Augustinians may hold a differently nuanced view than Augustine himself, but my understanding is that he did not limit Adam’s effect on us to inheritance. Instead, we participated with Adam because we were in Adam in seed form. Yes, we inherit a corrupted sin nature from Adam, but we also participated in the sin that spawned this nature.

In City of God, he writes, “we all existed in that one man, since, taken together, we were the one man who fell into sin.” Even though “the specific form by which each of us was to live was not yet created and assigned, our nature was already present in the seed from which we were to spring” (13.14).

Similarly, in On Marriage and Concupiscence he states, “By the evil will of that one man all sinned in him, since all were that one man, from whom, therefore, they individually derived original sin” (2.15). And in A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, and on the Baptism of Infants (MFS) he makes the connection repeatedly. “Adam is the only one in whom all have sinned” (1.19); “none whatever […] die except in Adam, in whom all sinned” (1.55).

In A Treatise Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, he writes that there are two viable options on how to read the last clause of Romans 5:12, but both reveal the same truth: “Let them, then, choose which they will,—for either in that ‘man’ all have sinned, and it is so said because when he sinned all were in him; or in that ‘sin’ all have sinned, because that was the doing of all in general which all those who were born would have to derive” (4.7). He says much the same thing two more times in the rest of the chapter, and also explains these two readings in MFS 1.11. Adam’s sin, according to Augustine, was the doing of all (and incidentally, he did lean heavily on Romans 5:12 to make his case, even if the surrounding verses and a few other passages were sometimes also mentioned).

And how, exactly, did Augustine picture us existing in that one man? The closest he gets to explaining his reasoning comes from his last work, the Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian (I’m quoting the 1999 Teske translation, though second-hand):

Some sort of invisible and intangible power is located in the secrets of nature where the natural laws of propagation are concealed, and on account of this power as many as were going to be able to be begotten from that one man by the succession of generations are certainly not untruthfully said to have been in the loins of the father. They were there […] though unknowingly and unwillingly, because they did not yet exist as persons who could have known and willed this (6.22)

We were all present in Adam in seed form, we participated in the sin with Adam, and the sin corrupted our seed form so that, together with Augustine’s view of concupiscence in sexual union (which I won’t get into now), we are conceived in sin. It isn’t just the sexual act that makes us conceived in sin, but this act confirms the sin we already participated in and bear the stain of.

Anyway, that’s how I’ve understood Augustine. I am quite interested in how he can be read as teaching that “Adam’s sin is his alone and is not in our debit column.”


Hi Marshall,

I believe it is fair to say that we are discussing two views on what one means by claiming an Augustinian view of Original Sin. One view is this:

V1: That Adam was our representative, and furthermore given that he was chosen by God we can assume he was the best possible representative. When he sinned he lost the moral ability to choose not to sin. Put differently, he lost the ability to please God. This moral inability was then inherited by all his descendants. In other words, we suffer devastating consequences (and in fact, spiritual death) as a result of Adam’s sin.

The other view is:

V2: Everything in V1, plus we are charged with Adam’s first sin, as if we committed it.

If I have set up a strawman it was unintentional. Feel free to correct me.

Now practically speaking the difference between V1 and V2 is completely irrelevant. In both views we cannot save ourselves and we need a savior. However, theologically speaking they say very different things about God. But we are not examining the theological aspects, just the limited question of what did Augustine teach.

I (and others) would argue that everything you quoted from Augustine, about being in Adam in seed form and the like, is perfectly consistent with V1 as well as V2. It does not require that we are charged with Adam’s actual first sin. In V1 and V2 we are saying that we inherit something awful from Adam (in V2, epsilon more), and Augustine, in the language of his day, is explaining what that is so. His defense of the representative nature of Adam and our inheritance of a sin nature does not demand what Enns claims.

The great reformed confessions, written by men who certainly considered themselves Augustinian, are explicit only about V1. If they meant V2, they left it for our inference. The 1530 Augsburg Confession, for example, writes:

It is taught among us that since the fall of Adam, all human beings who are born in the natural way are conceived and born in sin. This means that from birth they are full of evil lust and inclination and cannot by nature possess true fear of God and true faith in God” (II:2).

The Heidelberg catechism states:

III.7. Whence then comes this depraved nature of man?
From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise, whereby our nature became so corrupt, that we are all conceived and born in sin.

The closest that arguably comes to affirming V2 is the Westminster

They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was
imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed
to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation

Even there one could legitimately hold that that while the divines are arguing for imputation, they are explicitly stating the consequences or effect of the imputation (V1) without claiming that the actual sin is in our debit column.

This is interesting. Your quotes show how the Reformed tradition has developed the Augustinian doctrine, but I’m not seeing a different way of understanding Augustine’s own words. In particular, neither of the two views on original sin seem to do justice to his teaching.

Against V1, Augustine views us as present in Adam in some real way, not merely represented by Adam. Adam doesn’t sin as proxy for us all; we all sin in Adam.

Against V2, Augustine doesn’t see us charged with Adam’s sin as if we committed it. In some unexplained way we actually commit the sin in Adam. We’re not linked with Adam because of a social contract or legal fiction: for Augustine the link is ontological (the shift from actual to legal is often laid at Calvin’s feet). The quotes in my last post show both of these points, and many more examples from Augustine’s writing could be added.

One of Augustine’s favourite ways of explaining how we can justly be held guilty for something we did in Adam apart from our will and mind is by analogy to baptism for infants. In a mirror image, a child is “delivered from the bondage of the devil through the grace of Christ” without any act of their own will or mind (A Treatise on the Grace of Christ, and on Original Sin 2.45). This analogy depends on how Augustine saw every person (except Jesus, born of a virgin and thus not from corrupt male seed) as guilty of the sin in Adam.

I thought that Calvin was the one who moderated Augustine’s view my watering down a real presence in Adam to Adam being our legal representative. That may still be the case, but in his Institutes Calvin also says things like this (emphases mine):

First, we are so vitiated and perverted in every part of our nature that by this great corruption we stand justly condemned and convicted before God, to whom nothing is acceptable but righteousness, innocence, and purity. And this is not liability for another’s transgression. For, since it is said that we became subject to God’s judgment through Adam’s sin, we are to understand it not as if we, guiltless and undeserving, bore the guilt of his offense but in the sense that, since we through his transgression have become entangled in the curse, he is said to have made us guilty. Yet not only has punishment fallen upon us from Adam, but a contagion imparted by him resides in us, which justly deserves punishment. For this reason, Augustine, though he often calls sin “another’s” to show more clearly that it is distributed among us through propagation, nevertheless declares at the same time that it is peculiar to each. And the apostle himself most eloquently testifies that “death has spread to all because all have sinned” [Rom. 5:12]. That is, they have been enveloped in original sin and defiled by its stains. For that reason, even infants themselves, while they carry their condemnation along with them from the mother’s womb, are guilty not of another’s fault but of their own. For, even though the fruits of their iniquity have not yet come forth, they have the seed enclosed within them. Indeed, their whole nature is a seed of sin; hence it can be only hateful and abhorrent to God. From this it follows that it is rightly considered sin in God’s sight, for without guilt there would be no accusation. (2.1.8)

So I’m struggling to see how the words of Augustine, and even sometimes Calvin, can be read to say that guilt for Adam’s sin comes to Adam alone.

I’m not claiming that the Reformed tradition is wrong to understand original sin this way. I just don’t see evidence they are following Augustine when they do so.


Calvin is completely consistent (as I read him) with what I said. The parts you bolded make the point. Calvin clearly states that that we are not liable for Adam’s transgression. You can’t get more explicit than

we are to understand it not as if we, guiltless and undeserving, bore the guilt of his offense but in the sense that, since we through his transgression have become entangled in the curse, he is said to have made us guilty.

Calvin is saying (clearly I think) that the sense in which we are guilty in Adam’s sin is via the consequence of Adam’s sin (the curse).

You wrote,

So I’m struggling to see how the words of Augustine, and even sometimes Calvin, can be read to say that guilt for Adam’s sin comes to Adam alone.

Fair enough, but not really the point of my interjection into this thread. In my original post I objected to Peter Enns’s statement that Augustine’s exegetical error has led to the misunderstanding that we are guilty of Adam’s sin (only his first one, for some reason) as if we committed it. I only tried to point out that I believe Enns is wrong, at least in the sense that he give no indication there were alternative views among those who claim to be Augustinian in regards to Original Sin. I have tried to show that there are alternative views among serious scholars (like Calvin, and many others) who do not read Augustine (or Paul) as making such a claim. You can argue that you can’t see how they can read Augustine that way, but that’s a separate question.