The following is Essay 07 of a new essay series that I am working on titled “The Mortal Sin of Protestantism: How Eve Proves the Doctrine of Venial Sin”. Please note that while I am, in fact, very sympathetic to Protestantism, and I am arguably more Protestant than Catholic in personality, when it comes to the matter of mortal and venial sin–which is a matter that I have been thinking about for some time now–I simply see the arguments falling on the side of the Catholic doctrine of mortal and venial sin. Hence this essay series.
In Part 1 of the “Eve’s Venial Sin and the Mortal Sin of Protestantism” essay, an argument was presented which demonstrated that the best explanation for why Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden did not lead to spiritual death and separation from God was because her sin was venial in nature, and venial sins are insufficient to cause spiritual death and separation from God. However, as with any intellectual dispute, objections exist to this argument. And so, these objections need to be addressed, which is what this essay will do.
Objection 1 – Adam as Leader and Head
Perhaps the most prominent way that certain Protestants deal with the fact that Eve sinned first, and yet that her sin did not lead to spiritual death and separation from God, is to claim that since Adam was the head and leader of both himself and Eve—as per Genesis 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 11:3—then only Adam could sin in such a way that it would lead to spiritual death and separation from God. And indeed, consider, for example, the Protestant Young Earth Creationist website ‘answersingenesis.org’; in a 29th of May, 2012 article by Dr. Georgia Purdom titled “Who Gets the Blame for Original Sin—Adam or Eve?”—accessed on the 30th of June, 2017—the article states the following:
[Quote] The Genesis account of the Fall indicates that Eve ate the fruit first. This has led many people throughout history and even in our modern times to believe that she was the person responsible for original sin. … But is that an accurate statement? Is Eve to blame for original sin? …verse [Genesis 3:6] makes it clear that Eve was the first to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God had told Adam not to eat from the tree, but Eve also had knowledge of this (Genesis 3:2–3). Adam ate but only after Eve. From this verse alone it might be easy to think that Eve is indeed to blame for original sin since she sinned first. Some have said that verses in the New Testament also support the idea that Eve is to blame because Eve was deceived and Adam was not. … However, Eve being deceived does not necessarily imply that she is to blame for original sin. If anything it might be tempting to think the opposite—that because Eve was deceived while Adam knew full well what he was doing that his sin is worse, and he should be blamed. However, the Bible never states that Adam’s sin was worse than Eve’s. Both were punished for their sin (Genesis 3:16–19). It is necessary to look at other passages in both the Old and New Testaments to understand why Adam is to blame for original sin rather than Eve. Adam was created first from the dust of the ground, and Eve was created from a rib taken from Adam’s side (Genesis 2:7, 21–22). From these verses and others in Genesis 1–3 it is clear that the husband was created to be the leader in the marital relationship and that the wife was created to be the helper (Genesis 2:18). As the leader it was Adam’s responsibility to protect and provide for his family. This leadership role was clearly demonstrated when God talked with Adam and Eve following their sin. Even though Eve sinned before Adam, God questioned Adam first (Genesis 3:9). This was because of the leadership role God ordained for husbands in marriage. Adam, as the leader of the family, was held responsible, not only for his own sin of eating from the tree, but also because he did not provide adequate protection for his wife, allowing her to sin. [Unquote, bold emphasis added, https://answersingenesis.org/sin/original-sin/who-gets-the-blame-for-original-sin/%5D
So here the idea that Adam was the leader of Eve is claimed as the reason for why mankind’s original sin came through Adam, not Eve, even though Eve sinned first.
Furthermore, another article titled “Is Adam our Federal Head”, which is an article from author Matt Slick of the Protestant website ‘carm.org’—and which was access of the 30th of June, 2017—also writes the following:
[Quote] Federal Headship, in a broad sense, is the position that the male represents his descendants. In the case of Adam, he was the federal head of mankind in that he represented mankind in the fall. … The egalitarians deny that Adam was our federal head. They do this because if Adam was our representative, it would mean he, not Eve, had the authority to be in that position. If he was in such authority, then it would support the idea of male headship in the family and in the church which would not support their idea that women can be in authority in the church. So, the egalitarians deny federal headship. In the paper, Genesis 3, The Fall, and Adam and Eve’s sin, we saw that Eve had full knowledge of the requirement to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She was not ignorant of God’s Word; therefore, her sin cannot be lessened as Adam’s cannot be, either. So, if Eve had as much knowledge as Adam did regarding the command to not eat from the tree, then sin entering the world through Adam and not her is strong support of the teaching of a Federal headship. All the egalitarians can do is deny that Eve had sufficient knowledge of prohibition to not eat of the tree; but, this they cannot rationally do since Eve clearly tells the serpent about the prohibition given to Adam. Does the Bible in any place say that sin entered the world through Eve? No it doesn’t. Does the Bible say that because Eve was deceived that this somehow excused or lessened her culpability? No, there isn’t. [Unquote, bold emphasis added, https://carm.org/adam-our-federal-head%5D
Now, in this quotation, Slick, as a Protestant, is arguing that Federal Headship is the best solution to account for the fact that Eve clearly sinned before Adam did, and yet that sin only entered the world through Adam’s sin.
However, even though the concept of Adam’s headship and leadership is an interesting attempt to account for why Eve’s sin did not lead to spiritual death and separation from God, the problems with this explanation, for the Protestant, are numerous.
Problem 1 – Protestant Theology
The first problem with the headship explanation is that, as shown in previous essays, Protestant theology teaches that all sins, no matter how small or insignificant, and no matter who they are committed by or when they are committed, warrant spiritual death and separation from God. In fact, quite ironically, even Matt Slick, the author of one of the articles cited above, admits this fact; indeed, in another ‘carm.org’ article titled “Are there different levels or degrees of sin?”—accessed on the 30th of June, 2017—Slick notes that all sins warrant spiritual death and separation from God, for in that article, he writes the following:
[Quote] As you can see, Jesus taught that there are degrees of sin. But all sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2), and the wages of sin is death (Genesis 2:17; Romans 6:23). Christians should want to turn from sin and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. [Unquote, bold emphasis added, https://carm.org/different-levels-degrees-of-sin%5D
So even Matt Slick, when writing on a separate topic, claims that all sin separates people from God and are worthy of death. And yet, Eve’s sin, when committed, did not separate her from God, nor open her eyes to her sin, nor lead to her spiritual death!
So, if Protestant theology is correct that all sin leads to spiritual death, and if Matt Slick himself is correct that all sin separates people from God, then Adam’s headship would be immaterial to the fact that Eve’s sin should have led to spiritual death and separation from God entering her sinless world when she initially sinned, and yet it did not. Thus, the point is that, on Protestant theology’s own terms, whether or not Adam was the head of Eve is irrelevant to the fact that Eve’s sin still warranted spiritual death and a separation from God. Consequently, on such a theology, Eve’s first sin should have been the sin that brought death and separation from God into the world, thus meaning that on Protestantism, original sin should have originated with Eve. And yet, as noted above, even Protestants admit that this did not occur. However, the fact that it did not occur, but should have occurred given what Protestant theology teaches about sin, means that the Adam and Eve narrative provides good grounds to reject Protestant teaching about sin.
Now, the Protestant might claim that the Adam and Eve narrative is a special circumstance where the normal rules concerning sin do not apply, which is why Eve’s sin did not lead to spiritual death and separation from God in her specific case. After all, that is precisely what the idea of Adam’s headship is trying to do. But again, for the Protestant, such an explanation looks both ad-hoc and like special-pleading given that Protestant theology is adamant that all sins, no matter how small, lead to spiritual death and separation from God. Thus, to claim that Eve’s sin was special in some way strains the bounds of credulity when considered in the light of Protestant theology. And since Eve definitely sinned, her sin clearly falls into the category of sins which, under Protestant theology, should have led to spiritual death and separation from God; and since Eve sinned first, her sin should have brought death and separation from God into the world. But, as we know, it did not. And this is the fact that Protestant theology cannot coherently account for.
Additionally, note that if Protestants make an exception concerning sin leading to spiritual death and separation from God in Eve’s case, then they are suddenly on a slippery slope, for why can’t such exceptions exist in other cases as well? For example, if Adam’s headship and leadership was a key factor for why Eve’s sin did not cause spiritual death and separation from God for her immediately upon her committing her sin, then does this mean that, in our present age, a husband’s headship and leadership of his wife might be a critical factor towards determining whether or not her sin will actually lead to her spiritual death and separation from God? Indeed, can the same sort of ‘headship and leadership’ reasoning apply between a husband and wife today? And if not, why not? After all, as per 1 Corinthians 11:3, husbands are still the heads of their wives, so a good case could be made that the situation between a modern married couple and Adam and Eve are analogous when it comes to the husband’s headship and leadership. But if such other exceptions could be made—and so if a husband’s headship and leadership has an influence on whether or not his wife’s sin is worthy of spiritual death and separation from God—then suddenly these exceptions start to sound remarkably like the doctrine of venial sin. And if that were the case, then Protestant theology about sin would merely be a distinction without a real difference when compared to the doctrine of venial sin.
Problem 2 – Scriptures that Protestants Use Against Venial Sin
Another problem with the Protestant claim that Adam’s headship and leadership is the reason why Eve’s sin did not bring spiritual death into the world stems from the very scriptures that Protestants appeal to in order to counter the doctrine of mortal and venial sin.
For example, Protestants routinely point to James 2:10 as a proof-text against the idea of venial sin. And, in the English Standard Version, James 2:10 says that “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” Now, notice how that passage uses the term whoever, which makes it clear that it is referring to anyone and everyone. Additionally, some Protestants, such as Matt Slick above, also point to Isaiah 59:2 as a scriptural passage against mortal and venial sin. And in the English Standard Version, that passage says the following: “…but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” So, from these two separate passages, Protestants claim that all sins lead to spiritual death and separation from God, thereby contradicting the doctrine of venial sin.
Now, the way in which the proponent of mortal and venial sin accounts for the above scriptural passages will be dealt with in a separate essay (essentially, it will be shown that the aforementioned passages only deal with mortal sins, not venial ones). However, in this context, the point is to show that there is a serious tension at the heart of these Protestant claims, for if the Protestant is correct that those scriptural passages show that all sins are mortal sins which ultimately lead to spiritual death and separation from God, then these scriptural passages also apply to Eve’s sin. This, in turn, means that Eve’s sin should have led to spiritual death and separation from God immediately upon her sinning, which she did before Adam, and which should have thus led to Eve being the originator of original sin. And yet, as seen in the previous essay, this was not the case. Only Adam’s sin brought spiritual death and separation from God into the world.
And so, this tension brings forth the critical problem for Protestants: namely, if the Protestant interpretation of the above scriptural passages is correct, then Eve’s sin should have brought forth spiritual death and a separation from God into the world regardless of whether or not Adam had headship over her, and yet Eve’s sin did not do so. Consequently, this fact thus provides good grounds to suspect that the Protestant interpretation of the above scriptural passages is flawed, which the next essay will argue is indeed the case.
Of course, the Protestant could once again claim that Eve’s situation is an exception to the rule laid out in the above scriptural verses, but such an explanation once again smacks of special pleading and appears ad-hoc. Furthermore, this attempt at making Eve an exception suffers from the very same problems pointed out in Problem 1 of this section.
Problem 3 – Adam’s Federal Headship is Immaterial to the Problem of Eve’s Sin
Although this point was alluded to earlier, another problem with the ‘headship’ explanation of Eve’s sin is that this explanation is, ultimately, immaterial and irrelevant to one of the primary issues under consideration. After all, a key consideration in this discussion is that Eve’s sin did not lead to spiritual death and a separation from God for her specifically, which it should have if Protestant theological claims are correct. Consequently, even if Adam was the Federal Head of mankind, this fact has no necessary bearing on whether or not Eve’s sin should have led to her personal own spiritual death and separation from God immediately upon her sinning.
Now, what is meant by all this? What is meant is that even if Adam represented mankind so that only Adam’s sin could lead to the fall of the rest of mankind, this fact would not necessarily mean that Eve’s sin should not have led to her own spiritual death and separation from God as a singular individual. Thus, if Protestant theology is correct that all sins lead to spiritual death and a separation from God, and yet if the idea of Federal Headship is also correct, then what would be expected in such a case is that Eve’s sin should have brought spiritual death and separation from God into the world but her sin would not have been applied to the rest of mankind; rather, it would have only applied to Eve specifically. Consequently, on this theory, Adam’s sin should not have introduced spiritual death and separation from God into the world—for these things would have already been introduced into the world by Eve’s sin—but Adam’s sin would nevertheless have been responsible for spreading spiritual death and separation from God to all of mankind. So, this is what would have been expected if Protestant doctrine about both sin and Federal Headship was correct. And yet, this is precisely what is not seen in scripture. Instead—and as articulated in the last essay—what is seen is that only Adam’s sin introduced spiritual death, separation from God, and guilt into the world. After all, both Adam and Eve remained innocent even after Eve initially sinned, and it was only once Adam sinned that Eve’s eyes were opened to sin and guilt; thus, even though Eve personally sinned before Adam did, she had no realization or awareness of her guilt or her sin, nor does she lose her innocence at that time.
Thus, even if Federal Headship is correct, this does nothing to remove the fact that under Protestant theology, Eve’s sin should at least have led to her own personal spiritual death, separation from God, loss of innocence, and feeling of guilt before Adam even sinned. And yet, all the scriptural evidence that is available shows that this did not happen. For again, Eve’s eyes were not opened to her guilt when she sinned nor did she lose her innocence when she sinned; only after Adam sinned was she separated from God and made aware of her guilt and loss of innocence. Furthermore, as per Romans 5:12-21, sin and spiritual death entered the world through Adam, even though the first sin in the world was Eve’s, which, under Protestant theology, should have led to her spiritual death and introduced spiritual death into the world, even if that death did not spread to anyone else. And yet, as stated, there is no evidence that Eve’s first sin lead to her spiritual death, nor to her separation from God, nor to her lose of innocence, nor to her feeling guilty for her sin. Only Adam’s sin caused those things to enter the world. And so, whether Federal Headship is true or not, Protestant theology has a serious problem accounting for those facts.
Problem 5 – Adam’s Headship Fits Better with Venial Sin
Ironically enough, another problem with the headship explanation of Eve’s sin arises from the fact that that explanation actually fits much better within the framework of Catholic doctrine than it does with Protestant doctrine. After all, as has already been articulated, if Protestant theology is correct about all sins leading to spiritual death and separation from God, then Adam’s headship is ultimately irrelevant to the fact that Eve should have suffered at least an individual spiritual death and separation from God, as well as a loss of innocence and feeling of guilt, immediately upon committing her own sin. But there is no Biblical evidence that this occurred.
However, on the Catholic doctrine of mortal and venial sin, Adam’s headship is highly relevant to Eve’s personal situation and to her sin. Indeed, given Catholic doctrine, Adam’s headship and leadership of Eve would be quite relevant to whether or not Eve’s sin was to be considered a mortal sin or a venial one. But why is this the case? Because if Adam was Eve’s head and her leader, and thus if Adam had more responsibility than Eve, then this fact could potentially increase the gravity of Adam’s sin—if Adam actually sinned or not, which he eventually did. And since, under Catholic doctrine, the gravity of a sin is a key consideration towards determining if a sin is mortal or venial, then Adam’s headship and leadership would have a bearing on whether his sin was mortal or not. By contrast, given that Eve was not the head nor in a position of leadership or responsibility, then this fact could reduce the gravity of her sin in such a case, thus causing her sin to be venial rather than mortal. Thus, the whole idea of Adam’s headship and leadership does indeed serve as a means to account for the problem of Eve’s sin, but it only does so given the doctrine of mortal and venial sin, which is the very doctrine that the headship explanation was meant to overcome.
Now, to see how Catholic doctrine would make something like headship and leadership relevant to the gravity of a particular sin, consider paragraph 1858 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says the following:
[Quote] Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments…The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger. [Unquote]
Notice that last line, which shows that a difference in who is being wronged can increase the gravity of a sin. And our God-given human reason shows us that this is true. For example, sexual assault against an infant or child is worse than sexual assault against an adult—all other things being equal—for infants and children are defenceless, innocent, having fewer coping mechanism, and can be permanently scarred for life, which is not always the case for adult victims. Or consider that, all other things being equal, theft against your mentally vulnerable elderly parent is deemed more heinous than theft against a mentally normal adult stranger, and for good reason.
Now, just as our reason tells us that the person who is being wronged is relevant to the gravity of a particular sin, our God-given reason also tells us that the person who is committing a sin is also relevant to the gravity of that particular sin. This is why, for example, the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests was so especially heinous and justifiably worthy of extra condemnation, because such priests were in positions of trust, authority, responsibility, and were supposed to be pillars of virtue in the community. Instead, they were degenerate abusers. This is also why corrupt police officers are viewed with such disdain in the West, because their corruption is manifestly opposed to everything they are supposed to stand for. So, in such cases, the authority, responsibility and power that those individuals have makes their crimes worse than they normally would be, which is a perfectly reasonable claim under Catholic doctrine. And this is consequently why Adam’s headship, and hence his authority and responsibility, could legitimately make his sin graver than Eve’s within the context of Catholic doctrine.
So again, the idea of headship and leadership being relevant to sin, and to the responsibility for sin, is more suited to the doctrine of mortal and venial sin than it is to the Protestant idea that all sins are worthy of spiritual death and separation from God.
Problem 6 – Deception Leads to Ignorance, and Ignorance to Forgiveness
In the earlier quotation from Matt Slick, Slick said that Eve clearly knew of God’s commandment not to eat the forbidden fruit, thereby bearing responsibility for this knowledge; Slick also said that the Bible does not state that the deception of Eve somehow excused or lessened her culpability for her sin. Thus, Slick concludes that Eve is responsible for her sin and that Adam’s headship is, in fact, the best way to account for why only Adam’s sin brought spiritual death and separation from God into the world. However, Slick’s claim that the Bible does not say that Eve’s deception lessened her culpability for her sin is, in an indirect way, a disingenuous statement. But why is this so?
First, note that the Bible does say that people who are ignorant of their sin will have their punishment lessened or even downright removed. For example, the New American Standard Bible version of Luke 12:47-48 says the following:
[Quote] And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. [Unquote, bold emphasis added, New American Standard Bible]
So, a lack of knowledge does lead to a reduced punishment (and notice as well how the second part of this scriptural passage ties into the point that Adam’s role as head would mean that more would be required of him, thus meaning that his sin and his punishment would be greater if he failed as his leader, an idea which is further supported by James 3:1).
Next, notice that in 1 Timothy 1:13, the Apostle Paul states that even though he was a blasphemer and an opponent of Christians, he was shown mercy because he acted in ignorance and unbelief. Furthermore, Acts 17:29-31 talks about God overlooking past human foibles because they were done in times of ignorance. And even Jesus, in John 9:41 and John 15:22, indicates that a person’s ignorance of sin might excuse him from the guilt of that sin. Finally, Numbers 15:22-31 shows that God demands different punishments for people who sin unintentionally compared to those who sin intentionally. So, all these scriptural passages indicate that God takes both ignorance and wilful intentionality into account when determining if a person is genuinely guilty of a sin or not.
Now, the reason that all of this is relevant to the Adam and Eve narrative is because it is obvious that deception can lead to ignorance, thereby leading to an unintentional sin. For example—and as per an illustration used in the previous essay—think of a man who has sexual relations with an underage teenage girl after being genuinely deceived by the teenage girl concerning her age. The man might be faulted for allowing himself to be deceived, but if he genuinely believed that the teenage female was an adult, and if the deception was so thorough that it would have convinced any reasonable person, then the man would not be faulted with the crime of having sexual relations with an underage female. And this is because the man was deceived into ignorance by the female in question. Thus, our God-given reason shows us that in some cases deception creates ignorance, thereby lessening or removing a person’s culpability for a crime. And indeed, consider this further example, which mirrors the case of Eve much closer. Imagine that you have been told not to trespass onto a certain property and that it is a crime to do so. Now, while you want to cross through the property, you refrain from doing so because it is an illegal offence. But now imagine that someone impersonating a police officer arrives at the scene and tells you that it is perfectly legal to trespass onto the property. This fake police officer adds that he knows the owner of the property and that the ‘No Trespass’ rule is not meant for people like you. Furthermore, this police officer has a reasonable answer to every question that you ask of him. He thus genuinely convinces you that in your case, it is fine to trespass onto the property. So, if you then did trespass onto the property and were caught, would you be guilty of the crime of trespassing? Yes, you would be. But, in real-terms, the punishment that you would receive from a court would either be severely lessened or omitted completely. In fact, the police likely would not even charge you in the first place. Why? Because you acted in sincere ignorance; indeed, you only trespassed because you ultimately did not think that you were trespassing given the deception that occurred to you. Now, you could very well be punished for allowing yourself to be deceived, especially if you, as a reasonable person, took no reasonable action to question your deceiver or challenge the potential deception, but your guilt and punishment-worthiness for the specific act of trespassing would be severely reduced given that the deception created sufficient ignorance in your mind to make your trespassing unintentional at that point (and notice how well this point ties into Luke 12:47-48, where the servant who is ignorant of his master’s desires will only receive a comparatively light beating for his failure to fulfil those desires, unlike the servant who knew his master’s will and still did not fulfil it).
So, the point of the above illustration is to show that the same could have occurred in Eve’s case. Her being deceived could very well have convinced her that it would not be a sin for her to eat the forbidden fruit, thus severely lessening her culpability and punishment-worthiness for that sin. In fact, it may have even removed her culpability for that sin entirely. And it is worth noting that the Disciples’ Literal New Testament— which translates the New Testament text as literally as possible—states, in 1 Timothy 2:14, that Eve was completely deceived, which is an interesting fact given the interconnection between deception and ignorance currently under discussion. Nevertheless, even with all this said, as per the scriptural passage of 1 Timothy 2:14, which was just mentioned, Eve is still clearly identified as a sinner. However, as alluded to in the last essay, her sin, in such a case, would have been allowing herself to be deceived, not necessarily in eating the forbidden fruit. And note that this understanding is supported by the scriptures, for the scriptures nowhere claim that Eve was punished for eating the forbidden fruit; rather, 1 Timothy 2:13-14 indicates that Eve was punished for allowing herself to be deceived. Furthermore, the fact that Eve is never explicitly punished for eating from the forbidden fruit is also relevant because in Genesis 3:17, Adam is specifically told that he is being punished for eating from the forbidden fruit, but nothing similar is said to Eve about that fact. Thus, a plausible and reasonable case can be made that the serpent’s deception did convince Eve that it would be fine to eat from the forbidden fruit, thereby causing her to be ignorant of this sin when she committed it. And so, such ignorance would lessen her culpability for that specific sin, if not remove her culpability entirely. But that would not mean that Eve did not sin when she allowed herself to be deceived.
Now, in addition to the above, it should also be noted that based on other scriptures—such as Deuteronomy 11:16-17, Romans 7:9-11, 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, and Ephesians 5:6—a solid case can be made that even being deceived does not necessarily remove the guilt from committing a sin if the sinner should have known about the deception and avoided it. And the same is true in daily life. After all, if a person commits a crime due to being deceived, but the deception was of such a type that any reasonable person would have seen right through it, then being deceived will be no defence against the guilt and punishment for that crime. For example, in the trespassing example from earlier, if the fake police officer obviously appeared fake, could not coherently answer any questions, and did not look or sound like any normal police officer, then his deception would not have convinced any reasonable person. Alternatively, even if the police officer appeared normal, if you did not bother to reasonably probe the police officer’s claims, then this would have been a failure on your part as well. Thus, either by allowing yourself to be deceived by such a transparent fraud and/or by failing to reasonably examine the claims being made by the fake police officer, you would not only be morally culpable for allowing yourself to be deceived, but you would also be culpable for the subsequent trespassing offence that arose from your wilful gullibility. And in Eve’s case, it is interesting to note that, as per Genesis 3:1-5, Eve does not challenge the serpent, nor does she test him, nor does she consider whether he is telling the truth or not. Instead, she quite effortlessly allows herself to be deceived, thus making it quite reasonable to believe that in allowing herself to be deceived so easily, Eve did indeed sin due to her wilful credulity. And again, this point is supported by 1 Timothy 2:13-14, which states that Eve allowed herself to be deceived and then implies that she became a sinner because of that failing.
With all this said, it must nevertheless still be realized that Eve’s potential ignorance or lessened guilt for some sin or other should not be taken as a way for the Protestant to escape the problem of Eve’s sin. After all, as per 1 Timothy 2:14, it is indisputable that Eve still sinned. Furthermore, it is clear that she sinned before Adam. At the same time, it is indisputable that Eve was guilty of a sin, for, as per Genesis 3:17, God still specifically punished Eve for her behavior, an action which would be unjust for God to do had Eve not been personally guilty of sinning in some way. So, Eve was guilty of a sin, regardless of whether or not her culpability and punishment-worthiness for that sin was reduced. And all this once again means that, as per Protestant theology, spiritual death and separation from God should have entered the world with Eve’s first sin, not with Adam’s sin.
Thus, the fact that Eve may have had a reduced or removed culpability for eating from the forbidden fruit does nothing to remove the Protestant’s problem: namely, that Eve, whether due to allowing herself to be deceived or otherwise, did sin first, and that her punishment marks her as personally guilty for a sin, and yet that her first sin nevertheless did not lead to spiritual death and separation from God entering the world, which it should have if all sins lead to spiritual death and separation from God, as per Protestant theology. By contrast, the Catholic doctrine of venial sin can easily and naturally account for why Eve’s potentially reduced sin did not lead to spiritual death and separation from God entering the world, even though her sin was the first genuine sin ever committed: namely, because venial sins, though still sins, do not separate a person from God nor lead to spiritual death.
Problem 7 – Adam’s Headship and Absurdity
A final point to note against the claim that Adam’s headship is sufficient to account for why Eve’s sin did not bring spiritual death and separation from God into the world, but Adam’s sin did, stems from the absurdities which would arise if this idea was taken to its logical conclusion.
For example, imagine that—just as occurred in actuality—Eve was deceived and ate the forbidden fruit first, thereby sinning before Adam did; however, because Adam was the head and because Adam had not sinned yet, Eve’s sin thus did not bring spiritual death and separation from God into the world. But now imagine that when Eve offers Adam the forbidden fruit, Adam refuses to take it, thus not sinning. Consequently, at this point, neither Eve nor Adam’s eyes would have been opened to sin, nor would spiritual death have entered the world. But now imagine that Eve continues to sin in the most heinous ways: she blasphemes God and commits bestiality and cavorts with the serpent. However, at the same time, Adam continues not to sin. Now, in such a situation, it would be absurd to claim that these additional sins from Eve did not warrant spiritual death and a separation from God from entering the world through Eve. After all, such behavior is undeniability sinful and worthy of spiritual death, and so if Eve sinned in such a fashion—but Adam was still free from sin—then spiritual death would have to enter the world through Eve. However, if Adam is the head of mankind, and if this means that only Adam’s sin can cause spiritual death and a separation from God to enter into the world, then it would be the case that Eve’s additional sins would still be insufficient to cause spiritual death to enter the world. However, this would be an absurd position. After all, if someone overtly blasphemes God or commits bestiality, then surely such sins would warrant spiritual death and a separation from God. But the idea of Adam’s headship leads to this absurd conclusion, for if only Adam, as head, could cause death, as well as a separation from God, to enter into the world, then such a scenario means that Eve could have sinned with impunity with no real-life consequences occurring from her sins. After all, if God killed Eve for such sin, then both death and separation from God would have entered the world because of Eve’s sin in such a case. But again, this would not be possible under the ‘Adam as head’ paradigm if that paradigm means that only Adam can be ultimately responsible for sin and death entering into the world. Now, in such a situation, perhaps God could stop Eve from wilfully sinning without killing her, but, given our scenario, doing so would require the forceful removal of her free-will, an action which would create its own serious problems, such as why God would bother creating a free-willed being capable of sinning, only to remove that freedom without consent or demand when that being happens to start sinning, which she was created to potentially do in the first place.
By contrast, the venial sin solution to Eve’s sin does not lead to such absurdities. For on this solution, had Eve sinned in a mortal manner in the Garden of Eden, then spiritual death and separation from God would have entered the world via her sin. It is that simple. So, whereas the headship idea, when combined with Protestant doctrine about sin, leads to absurdities, the venial sin solution does not.
In the end, and as articulated in all the points above, Adam’s headship is an important matter to discuss, but it is ultimately an explanation which does not negate the problem that Protestant theology about sin faces from the issue of Eve’s first sin. As such, the excuse that Adam was the head of Eve is not a solution that Protestants can use to answer that problem.
Objection 2 – Adam and Eve: Two as One
Another potential solution that the Protestant could raise to address the problem of Eve’s sin is to claim that since Genesis 2:23-24 teaches that Eve is to be joined to Adam and that the two become one flesh, then perhaps this fact is what somehow causes Eve’s first sin not to lead to spiritual death and a separation from God. Now, why would this idea be a potential solution to the problem of Eve’s first sin? Because if Adam and Eve are treated as one unit, and perhaps they both need to sin before any sin would count against either one of them. Or, alternatively, perhaps the ‘two as one flesh’ idea means that, when a couple is united in something like a marital-bond, then the sin of one of them actually counts against both of them. This potential solution, however, faces a number of serious difficulties no matter which form it takes.
Problem 1 – Scriptures Concerning Personal Responsibility for Sin
First, note that numerous scriptures affirm that each person shall be individually responsible for their own sins. For example, Deuteronomy 24:16 affirms that fathers will not be put to death for the sin of their sons, nor sons for their fathers, and that each of them shall be put to death for their own sin only. Furthermore, other scriptures reinforce the point that sin is an individual responsibility, such as the following passages: Ezekiel 18; Ezekiel 18:30 (specifically); Ezekiel 33:20; Job 19:4; Jeremiah 17:9-10; Jeremiah 31:30; Matthew 12:36-37; Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; and 1 Peter 4:5.
So the idea that Adam and Eve are to be treated as one unit when it comes to sin strongly contradicts these numerous other scriptural passages. Instead, as per the scriptures above, if a person, like Adam or Eve, sins, then regardless of whether they are united as a couple or not, they will still have to personally and individually account for their own sins. Indeed, when one of them sins, it is still a sin, regardless of if the other person in the couple sins or not; alternatively, when one of them sins, that sin is not imputed to the other person in the marital bond either (and note that original sin is different in this respect, for original sin is transmitted through propagation, not through a marital-type unification of two different people).
Furthermore, stories in scripture also contradict this ‘one flesh’ idea. For example, in Genesis 19, when God is destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, and when Lot and his family are fleeing from those towns, Lot’s wife looks back, which was against God’s instruction. As such, Lot’s wife was punished by being turned into a pillar of salt. However, note that Lot was not punished for his wife’s sin; at the same time, Lot’s wife was not spared punishment simply because she was ‘one flesh’ with Lot, who did not look back. Thus, this story of Lot’s wife shows us that even though Lot and his wife were ‘one flesh’, Lot’s obedience did not save his wife from punishment for her sin, nor did the punishment that Lot’s wife received lead to Lot being punished for her sin. So, both Lot and his wife were treated individually when it came to sin even though they were united as one flesh in the same sense that Adam and Eve were.
And so, the aforementioned scriptural passages and stories, in and of themselves, are sufficient to severely undermine the idea that Adam and Eve are meant to be treated as one unit when it comes to sin. Nevertheless, other reasons will still be considered to counter this potential solution to the Eve problem.
Problem 2 – Adam and Eve Specific Scriptures
The next problem with the idea that Adam and Eve are to be treated as one when it comes to sin is that this solution contradicts specific scriptures related to the Adam and Eve narrative, such as Romans 5:12-19. Indeed, Romans 5 clearly identifies that it was Adam’s sin—and Adam’s sin alone—that brought death into the world. It was not the pair of Adam and Eve that brought sin into the world, but Adam alone. Furthermore, 1 Timothy 2:13-14 identifies that Eve, and Eve alone, sinned because she was deceived, but Adam was not deceived and thus he did not sin because of deception. So, these scriptures are clear that Adam’s sin and Eve’s sin are treated separately. Furthermore, note that if the ‘two are one flesh’ idea means that both Adam and Eve should be treated as a single unit in the sense that when one of them sinned, then the other should be counted as having “sinned” as well—even if no personal sin by the other person was committed—then this idea is contradicted by Genesis 3 and 1 Timothy 2:13-14. After all, those scriptures show that Eve sinned before Adam did, and yet Eve’s sin was not imputed to Adam, nor did Adam suffer for Eve’s sin. Indeed, if Adam and Eve were supposed to be one flesh in the aforementioned sense, then the moment that Eve sinned, it would be expected that Adam would have felt the effects of her sin as well, but that is not what occurred; instead, both Adam and Eve remained innocent when Eve initially sinned, and their eyes were only opened once Adam sinned.
Additionally, it is worth noting that Adam’s first sin is counted as different from Eve’s in terms of its worth of punishment; however, if the ‘two are one flesh’ means that both Adam and Eve share their sins, then it would be reasonable to expect that their punishment for sin would be shared, both in terms of type and severity. Yet again, this is not what is seen in Genesis 3:16-20: Eve’s punishment for her sin is much less than what Adam receives, and this fact works against the idea that Adam and Eve being ‘one flesh’ means that they share their sins.
Thus, even the scriptures which are specific to the Adam and Eve narrative work against the idea that they are to be treated as one when it comes to sin.
Problem 3 – The Absurdities of One Flesh
It should also be noted that the idea of a unified couple, like Adam and Eve, being treated as ‘one flesh’ in terms of their individual sins leads to some significant philosophical problems and absurd moral outcomes.
For example, imagine a scenario where there is a husband who is an extremely righteous and blameless person—like Job or Noah—but his wife is extremely sinful behind his back. Now, if the idea of one flesh means that the husband and wife have to both sin before any individual sin is counted against them, then this would lead to the absurd conclusion that the wife could sin with impunity, and yet none of those sins would count against her unless her husband eventually sinned as well. But, as noted, such an outcome is absurd. Alternatively, if the idea of one flesh means that the sins of one member of the marital couple are transferred to the other member of that couple—who is a different person and not the actual progeny of that first member—then this would lead to a situation where the husband would have to be blamed for his wife’s wicked sins even though he had nothing to do with them nor did he commit them. Again, this is an absurd conclusion. Thus, either way, both these outcomes are absurd and seriously problematic from a moral perspective.
Furthermore, in the specific case of Adam and Eve, if the idea of ‘one flesh’ means that both Adam and Eve had to sin before any sin would count against either one of them, then such a situation once again raises the same absurd scenario that was discussed in Objection 1 – Problem 7: namely, on this ‘one flesh’ view, it would mean that Eve could commit the most horrible sins against God while in Paradise, and yet such sins would not matter, nor lead to spiritual death, until and unless Adam sinned as well. But, as already discussed earlier, such a view is absurd and would be a literally affront to God.
Thus, these philosophical considerations are yet another reason to reject the ‘one flesh’ solution to the problem of Eve’s sin.
And so, for all these reasons, the ‘one flesh’ solution to the problem of Eve’s sin is simply unreasonable and untenable.
Objection 3 – Adam Sinned First by Not Stopping Eve’s Sin
Another argument that is sometimes used by Protestants to account for the issue of Eve’s first sin is to claim that Adam actually did sin first. However, such Protestants argue that Adam’s first sin was not eating the forbidden fruit, rather, Adam’s first sin was not stopping Eve from being deceived or stopping her from eating the forbidden fruit. However, once again, this solution is problematic on multiple levels.
Problem 1 – Scripture Opposes this Solution
The first problem is that this solution is ad hoc and unsupported by any scriptural evidence. For example, in Genesis 3, it is not clear whether Adam was even present when Eve was deceived or when she ate the forbidden fruit. And this means that Adam may not have even known of Eve’s sin or of her being deceived until after it occurred. After all, the serpent in Genesis 3 only spoke to Eve, not to Adam. So it is questionable whether Adam was even present when Eve was deceived and sinned. But if Adam was not present for Eve’s sin, and was thus unaware of it, then he could not be held morally responsible for not stopping her sin, even if he had a duty to do so had he seen the sin occur.
However, even if, for the sake of argument, it is assumed that Adam was present during Eve’s deception, the scriptural evidence still points to the fact that Adam was not punished because he allowed Eve to sin. Instead, when God, in Genesis 3:17, punishes Adam, it is for the fact that Adam listened to Eve and because he ate the forbidden fruit, not because Adam allowed Eve to sin first. Thus, God’s punishment of Adam is directly and specifically related to Adam’s eating of the forbidden fruit, not to any claim that Adam sinned because he did not stop Eve from sinning. Furthermore, it is also worth noting that God gave Adam a commandment not to eat the forbidden fruit; however, God did not give any commandment to Adam about being responsible to ensure that Eve did not sin. So, taking this into account, it is clear that scripture does not record that Adam had any overt or specific God-given commandment about being responsible for Eve.
Additionally, the above points are further supported by the fact that Adam and Eve did not lose their innocence until after Adam ate the forbidden fruit. Indeed, their eyes were not opened—and thus they were not separated from God—until after Adam ate the forbidden fruit, not before. However, if Adam’s first sin was in allowing Eve to be deceived and/or eat the forbidden fruit, then both Adam and Eve should have lost their innocence at that first moment of Adam’s sin, which would have occurred before Eve ever ate the forbidden fruit. And yet that did not happen. Instead, Adam and Eve only lost their innocence after Adam ate the forbidden fruit, which thus strongly points to the fact that that was Adam’s first sin, and the only sin which was worthy of spiritual death and separation from God.
In fact, in light of the points directly above, if Adam actually did sin by letting Eve be deceived and/or by letting her eat the forbidden fruit, then, ironically enough, this sin of Adam’s would most likely also only be venial in nature. For if Adam and Eve did not lose their innocence nor were separated from God until Adam sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, as scripture points to, then if Adam actually sinned before that time, then that earlier sin would also be best explained as a venial sin; indeed, such an explanation would account for all the scriptural facts better than any other explanation. So even if Adam did sin before eating the forbidden fruit, all the scriptural evidence points to the fact that that sin did not lead to a separation from God either, nor to a loss of innocence, nor to spiritual death, and so this alleged earlier sin by Adam would just be another instance of a sin that did not lead to spiritual death—i.e., a venial sin. Thus, in light of the scriptural evidence that we have, the idea that Adam sinned before Eve would only compound the problem for the Protestant, not solve it.
Problem 2 – Philosophical Concerns with this Objection
In response to the idea that Adam sinned because he did not stop Eve from sinning, it is also worth pointing out that it is philosophically questionable whether a person in authority and responsibility necessarily sins if they do not stop someone under their charge from sinning.
For example, in the military, a non-commissioned officer is responsible for a number of soldiers in his platoon. Thus, if a soldier in a certain situation commits an offence that the non-commissioned officer saw and should have stopped, but did not, then the non-commissioned officer would have failed at his duty as well, and he would thus be held responsible for failing to stop the soldier’s offence. However, if, say, the point of the situation was to test the soldier to see if he would stop his offence without any interjection from his higher chain-of-command, then, in such a situation, the non-commissioned officer would not be held responsible for not stopping the soldier’s offence, for in that specific situation, the whole point was to test the soldier in a certain way.
So, even if it is assumed that Adam was responsible for Eve in the Garden of Eden—and this is an assumption—and even if it is assumed that Adam was responsible for all of Eve’s activities in the Garden, such as her talking to the animals (again, an assumption), then even with all these assumptions in place, it would still not be clear whether or not Adam was actually responsible for Eve in the situation where she sinned. Furthermore, the fact that God allowed the serpent to try to specifically deceive Eve reasonably suggests that God was allowing Eve to be tested, just like in the scenario with the soldier described above.
Additionally, note that there was no guarantee that Eve would allow herself to be deceived; after all, she could have rejected the serpent’s claims. But what this means is that Adam could not have stopped Eve’s allowing herself to be deceived until after it had already happened. And this means that Eve’s sin would have inevitably been the first one committed even if Adam was responsible for stopping her. After all, there is no indication in scripture that merely talking to the serpent was a sin, so Adam did not sin for not stopping that. But it is only after Eve talks to the serpent that she is deceived and sins by allowing herself to be deceived, and yet since deception is a mental state, Adam could not have stopped this from occurring.
Furthermore, even if Eve’s sin was not the deception, but rather it was touching and eating the forbidden fruit after being deceived, it is also not clear that Adam could have stopped this action from occurring even if he wanted to; after all, the act of grabbing and even biting a fruit can be done in seconds. It can also be done before someone can even react to it. Furthermore, the intention and commitment to complete the sin would have already formed in Eve’s mind, which could reasonably be seen as a sin in and of itself. And so, a reasonable case can be made that Adam could not have stopped Eve from sinning even if he wanted to. Thus, the point here is that even if Adam was responsible for Eve, the numerous factors under consideration reasonably show that Eve would have still sinned before Adam did.
So, in the end, the idea that Adam sinned before Eve faces numerous difficulties which do not make it a reasonable solution to the problem of Eve’s first sin.
Objection 4 – Why Was Eve Banished
One side issue that could be used to undermine the idea that Eve’s first sin was merely venial in nature is the following: if Eve’s sin was only venial, and thus if Eve’s sin did not merit spiritual death and separation from God, then why was Eve kicked out of Paradise alongside Adam and why did she suffer spiritual death as well as a loss of her innocence?
Now, the main answer to this question will not only address the question itself, but it will simultaneously show that the Adam and Eve narrative also provides a biblical example of one more contentious doctrine: namely, the doctrine of Original Sin. Indeed, for the reason that Eve was banished from Paradise and suffered spiritual death even though she only sinned venially and thus did not merit spiritual death, was because the moment that Adam sinned mortally, Eve, being a direct creation from Adam’s flesh, inherited Adam’s sin and thus became the first human to suffer from Adam’s original mortal sin.
Now, the doctrine of original sin is well-known in Christian circles, even if certain Christians deny the truth of that doctrine. For example, the Protestant website ‘gotquestions.org’, in their article “Why do I face the consequences of Adam’s sin when I did not eat the fruit?”—accessed on the 3rd of July, 2017—states the following:
[Quote] It was through Adam that sin entered the world. When Adam sinned, he immediately died spiritually—his relationship with God was broken—and he also began dying physically—his body began the process of growing old and dying. From that point on, every person born has inherited Adam’s sin nature and suffered the same consequences of spiritual and physical death. … It may not seem fair to be saddled with Adam’s sin nature, but it’s eminently consistent with other aspects of human propagation. We inherit physical characteristics such as eye color from our parents, and we also inherit their spiritual characteristics. Why should the passing on of spiritual traits be any different from the transmission of physical traits? We may complain about having brown eyes when we wanted blue, but our eye color is simply a matter of genetics. In the same way, having a sin nature is a matter of “spiritual genetics”; it’s a natural part of life. [Unquote, bold emphasis added, https://www.gotquestions.org/I-did-not-eat-the-fruit.html%5D
And Point 1 to 3 of Chapter VI of the Protestant Westminster Confession of Faith also states the following about original sin:
[Quote] Our first parents, begin seduced by the subtlety and temptations of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. … By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. They being the root of 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 original generation. [Unquote, bold emphasis added, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/creeds3.iv.xvii.ii.html%5D
And the Catholic Church, which accepts the doctrine of original sin, describes that doctrine as follows in paragraph 404 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
[Quote] How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam “as one body of one man”. By this “unity of the human race” all men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ’s justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called “sin” only in an analogical sense: it is a sin “contracted” and not “committed” – a state and not an act. [Unquote, bold emphasis added, http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s2c1p7.htm%5D
So, this is the doctrine of original sin. And, as noted, it is accepted by Catholics as well as many Protestants.
Now, if it is to be claimed that Eve actually inherited Adam’s sin, then before any other factor can be argued or examined, the most critical thing that needs to be established is to determine how Eve was created, since how she was created will dictate whether or not she could potentially inherit Adam’s original sin. Luckily, not only is Genesis 2:21-23 explicit in how this occurs, but the method by which it occurs—namely, the transmission of the flesh and bones of Adam for the creation of Eve—thus makes it very reasonable to believe that this is exactly what would be required for Eve to inherit Adam’s sin. Indeed, Eve’s body is created from materials in Adam’s body, just as a child is created from materials in his parents’ bodies. Thus, Eve’s bodily flesh is directly related to and made from Adam’s bodily flesh, just as a child’s bodily flesh is directly related to and made from his parents’ bodily flesh (and note how this is different from the marital ‘one flesh’ idea discussed earlier). So, since Eve was conceived from Adam’s flesh, then Adam is, in a very real sense, the biblical progenitor of Eve. And this means that a very reasonable case could be made that since Eve is to Adam what a child is to his parents, then just as a child somehow inherits original sin from his parents, Eve could also inherit original sin from Adam, even if the exact way in which this first original sin was transmitted remains a mystery of faith (although it is no more mysterious than how original sin is transmitted now).
And lest it is believed that this idea that Eve inherited Adam’s original sin stretches credulity, note that this claim is perfectly and explicitly supported in scripture. After all, consider Romans 5:12 and 5:18 again:
[Quote] Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death resulted from sin, therefore everyone dies, because everyone has sinned. … Consequently, just as one offense resulted in condemnation for everyone, so one act of righteousness results in justification and life for everyone. [Unquote, bold emphasis added, International Standard Version (And note that while the English Standard Version uses the term ‘all men’ instead of ‘everyone’, that translation also makes it clear that ‘all men’ refers to both men and women; thus, for ease of use, the International Standard Version, with the term ‘everyone, is being used here.)]
So, Romans 5:12 states that death entered the world through Adam’s sin, and because of that, everyone dies, because everyone has sinned. But the term everyone obviously includes Eve, for she is counted as a portion of everyone apart from Adam. But at the same time, Romans 5:18 makes it clear that Adam’s one sin brought condemnation for everyone; but again, the term everyone would include Eve, and so Adam’s sin did indeed bring condemnation to Eve.
Consequently, far from discrediting the idea that Eve inherited Adam’s original sin and condemnation, Romans 5 readily proves that this was the case. And so, what this means is that the proponent of the doctrine of mortal and venial sin has a perfectly reasonable and scripturally-supported way of accounting for why Eve suffered spiritual death and separation from God even though she only sinned venially.
And to add even more weight behind this idea, note as well that a further biblical passage supports the claim that Eve was the first inheritor of Adam’s original sin. After all, remember that, as per Genesis 3:7, the moment that Adam disobeyed God’s commandment, both Adam’s and Eve’s eyes were opened to the sin that Adam had committed, and thus both of them lost their innocence at that exact time. But why would Eve’s eyes be opened to sin, and her innocence be lost, at the precise moment that Adam sinned, but not when she herself had sinned? As already argued, it could not be because Adam was considered the ‘head’ of himself and Eve, nor could it be because both Adam and Eve were ‘one flesh.’ Thus, the most coherent explanation as to why Eve’s eyes were opened to sin at the precise moment that Adam sinned is because the instant that Adam did sin, Eve, being literally made out of Adam’s flesh, inherited Adam’s sin as well. Thus, Eve was the first receiver of original sin.
Finally, as a minor concluding issue, it can also be pointed out that, as per Genesis 2:20-25, Eve was created as a helper for Adam. And this fact also plays into why Eve would be forced out of the Garden of Eden with Adam even if her sin was only venial. After all, consider the following analogy. Say that a hot-shot lawyer was suddenly hired at a prestigious law-firm; in order to help this new lawyer, a secretary is hired just for him, and no one else. The secretary is the lawyer’s own personal assistant and she helps no one else but that specific lawyer. Furthermore, apart from helping him, she is not needed at the law-firm. In essence, her only purpose at the law-firm is to help the lawyer in question. Now, one day, the new hot-shot lawyer is charged with a crime; as such, the law-firm expels the lawyer from its premises. But in such a situation, it would be perfectly reasonable, and even expected, for the law-firm to fire and expel the secretary as well. And they would do so not necessarily because the secretary did anything wrong, but because her only purpose in the law-firm was to act as the lawyer’s helper, and now that the lawyer has been removed from the law-firm, she is no only required their either. Instead, she should fulfil her primary purpose, which is to help the lawyer, even if that means following him out of the law-firm. Now, this does not mean that she would have to follow the lawyer as he was removed from the law-firm, but it does show that, given her purpose, it would be eminently reasonable for such an action to be taken. And the same is true with Eve, given that she was created to be Adam’s helper.
In the end, the point here is that the proponent of the doctrine of mortal and venial sin has a theologically-sound, scripturally-supported, and rational way to account for the fact that Eve suffered removal from the Garden of Eden and condemnation even if her sin was only venial. Thus, the objection that Eve’s sin could not have been venial because then she would not have suffered spiritual death and removal from Eden simply will not work. And so, in an interesting twist, the Adam and Eve narrative not only provides us with a good biblical example of the doctrine of mortal and venial sin, but it also provides us with a biblical example of the transmission of original sin from Adam to Eve as well.
Objection 5 – The Adam and Eve Narrative is Fiction
A final objection that might be raised against the fact that the Adam and Eve narrative does indeed provide us with a biblical example of the doctrine of mortal and venial sin is to simply claim that Adam and Eve did not actually exist, thereby allowing the objector to then claim that this so-called biblical ‘example’ is irrelevant.
Now, a number of responses can be provided to this objection. First, it should be noted that a complete and categorical denial of Adam and Eve’s existence comes with its own theological problems; furthermore, it should also be noted that a person can accept that the Adam and Eve narrative is not exact history, and that it uses figurative language, and yet also believe that it does indeed represent a primeval event that did take place at the beginning of human history.
But more important than all of the above, the second point is that even if it is accepted, for the sake of argument, that the Adam and Eve narrative is completely mythical, or that it just represents a historical event but not one that occurred exactly as recorded, then admitting to either of these two positions would still do nothing to negate the fact that the Adam and Eve narrative does indeed provide us with a biblical example of the doctrine of mortal and venial sin. After all, even if the narrative is fictional or was seriously elaborated, it could nevertheless still have an instructional purpose. In fact, the primary purpose of the text could be to be instructional, rather than historical; and perhaps it’s specific instructional purpose was to teach us about the doctrine of mortal and venial sin!
So, the fact that the text—for the sake of argument—may not record an exact historical event does not negate the instructional value of the text.
As a parallel to this claim, consider that Jesus Himself used stories and parables to instruct his followers in certain doctrines. Think, for example, of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, or the Parable of the Prodigal Son, or the Parable of the Rich Fool, and so on. In all these cases, Christ teaches people through stories which could have been historical events that actually occurred; after all, the stories involve people, places, and occurrences which could have happened in reality. But here is the key point. Even if the events in the parables did not actually occur—and it is nearly certain that they did not—their instructional value is not negated due to this fact. Indeed, the ideas, doctrines, and lessons that these stories teach us remain valid regardless of whether the stories are historical or fictional. And so, in a similar manner, even if it is accepted—for the sake of argument—that the Adam and Eve narrative, as it is written, is not exact history, this fact does not remove the instructional value that this narrative provides to Christians, just as the instructional value of Jesus’s stories is not lost even if those stories are fictional.
Furthermore, it is not hard to see the multi-layered instructional value inherent in the Adam and Eve narrative as it is written. It shows us that disobedience of God’s commands leads to horrible consequences and punishment for mankind. It teaches us that Satan is a deceiver who seeks our downfall. It teaches us to be vigilant against the weakness and sins of those who are dearest to us, and so on and so forth. So, the Adam and Eve narrative is instructional in many ways, which just goes to show that whether it is exact history or not, its instructional value and purpose is not negated either way.
And so, regardless of whether the Adam and Eve narrative is exact history or not, but in light of this narrative’s diverse instructional value, it is entirely reasonable for the proponent of mortal and venial sin to contend that the Adam and Eve narrative could be meant to instruct us about the doctrine of mortal and venial sin. After all, for the orthodox Christian, Genesis is a divinely-inspired book, and so there is a God-given reason that it was written in the exact way that it was. Thus, it is not unreasonable for the proponent of mortal and venial sin to contend that Genesis was written just as it was because, amongst the many things that the narrative was meant to do, it was also meant to teach us about mortal and venial sin.
In the end, even if a certain Christian is hesitant to accept the Adam and Eve narrative as actual history, this does nothing to negate the instructional value and purpose of that narrative, nor does it negate the lessons and doctrines that that narrative potentially teaches us: such as the doctrine of mortal and venial sin.
Ultimately, there are a number of objections that the Protestant could mount against the idea that Eve’s first sin in the Garden of Eden was only venial. However, upon examination, none of these objections hold water. Indeed, upon reflection, they all suffer from serious defects which negate their force. As such, the claim that the Adam and Eve narrative is indeed an example of the doctrine of mortal and venial sin still stands. But before this doctrine can be firmly seen as being Biblical, there are a few more scriptural passages which must be tackled. And so, it is those passages that will be addressed in the next essay.