The Effects of Adam's Sin

How did Adam's sin impact the rest of creation?

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One of the things that we see in Scripture, and this is captured in most of the broader Christian tradition, is that Adam's sin was not just a passing problem, but Adam's sin had a profound effect on himself, on his posterity, and on the whole created order as well. We can see it most immediately on the effects upon him and his posterity, the effects on human nature, that human beings have become spiritually dead, as Ephesians says, dead in our transgressions and sins and we were destined to die. From dust God took us and to dust now we would have to return. But it's not just upon us in a small way as human beings that we see the effects of Adam's sin, but Scripture makes clear that because of Adam's sin, God also placed this curse upon the broader created order, and we see something of this already in Genesis 3, of course. God, when he came and pronounced judgment upon the serpent and upon the woman and upon Adam, one of the things he said to Adam was that from now on he was only going to get his food through his toil. He was going to have to work the ground, and the ground was going to be resistant to his toil in a way that it apparently wasn't before.

We probably get our best theological perspective on this from Romans chapter 8. In Romans 8 Paul talks about the whole creation being subjected to futility through the sin of Adam. And, of course, we want to avoid speculation. It's tempting to say if Adam hadn't sinned there wouldn't be terrible diseases, there wouldn't be devastating hurricanes and tornadoes and wild fires and things like that. And I suppose that's true, although we want to be careful not to say more than we can from Scripture. But we do know whatever exactly the implications were, that this broader created order is not the way it was meant to be, that we see the presence of evil in this world and that, as Paul says, there is a futility to this world. And ultimately, what can we say about the world in which we live? That it's become a mammoth cemetery. It's where the dead bodies of fallen human beings are now buried. And one of the things that is very encouraging, of course, is that Romans 8 speaks about hope beyond this, that creation is in a sense calling out for this liberation from decay and points us ultimately from the resurrection of our bodies, to our adoption as sons, as Paul puts it, to assure us that this curse upon creation is not the final word.

Answer by Dr. David VanDrunen

Dr. David VanDrunen is professor of systematic theology at Westminster Seminary in Escondido, California.