The Fall and Sin: What We Have Become as Sinners

By Marguerite Shuster | Go to book overview

2
The Root of the Fall

Humankind, created in the image of God, endowed with an inner self conformed to the will of God their Maker, transgressed the divine will. But why? How could such a thing be? No answer to that question can be given at the level of causality (a philosophically controverted enough idea in any case, though here used in the rough-and-ready sense of that which is sufficient to produce a particular effect), as if, given the conditions they faced, our first parents could have done nothing other than fall. Temptation did not cause the Fall, though it certainly offered the opportunity for it. Our first parents' immaturity, innocence, and finitude did not in themselves make it inevitable that they would stumble; nor did they simply "fall short" of an ideal they might have attained rather than "fall away" from a state of holiness.1 The Fall was not really "upward," as if a rising consciousness vital to true humanity could appear only along with self-assertive choice over against God: Jesus, the exemplar of true humanity, was without sin, obedient to his Father in all things. No; we may find occasions and make excuses for the Fall, but we do not find a cause.

1. This last alternative was the view of Jonathan Edwards's opponent John Taylor,
among others; see Hilrie Shelton Smith, Changing Conceptions of Original Sin: A Study in
American Theology Since 1750
(New York: Scribners, 1955), p. 17.

-37-

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The Fall and Sin: What We Have Become as Sinners
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Part I - The Fall of Humankind 1
  • I - Introduction: Primal History Viewed as Covenantal 3
  • 2: The Root of the Fall 37
  • 3: The Nature of the Fall 49
  • 4: Consequences of the Fall 62
  • 5: The Divine Purpose and Moral Evil 84
  • Part II - The Doctrine of Sin 97
  • 6: The Nature of Sin 99
  • 7: Sin and Sins 135
  • 8: Original Sin 159
  • 9: Problems of Freedom 182
  • 10: Civil Righteousness 212
  • Appendix I - Physical Death as Existential Reality 230
  • Appendix 2 - Biblical Vocabulary Relating to Sin 263
  • Subject Index 266
  • Name Index 271
  • Scripture Reference Index 275
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