Adam and Even needed to be trained for the awesome task before them, but they didn’t want to wait. They spurned the opportunity to rule under God and the preparation it required and chose instead to rule beside him. They believed that they would be better off – happier, more fulfilled, more who they were meant to be – if they were autonomous. They decided that they knew more than God, which is the mindset that lies behind all our sorrows. When they ate the fruit, they were not acting like naughty children but like rebellious conspirators and, at least to some degree, they knew it. What happened in the garden was not a slip but an attempted leap that ended in a fall – not just for them but for all of us.
Here’s why. God designed the world in such a way that everything exists in relationship to everything else. Because of this, a solitary action may have enormous consequences. Physicists call a system like ours “dynamical.” A small change in initial conditions has the potential to bring vast changes later on. Some such design was necessary if humans were to fulfill their calling to rule the world under God.
The scientist Edward Lorenz famously illustrated dynamical systems by suggesting the beating of a butterfly’s wings in the southern hemisphere two weeks ago may lead to a major storm in the northern hemisphere today. The butterfly’s wings affect one thing, which affects another, and another, moving like a wave across hemispheres. The butterfly beats its wings in the Amazon rainforest and, after a progression of cause-and-effect incidents involving a number too large for us to grasp, Kansas has a tornado.
What Adam and Eve did in the Garden led to storms of evil in the world. The wave that began with a desire in their hearts spread to a thought in their heads, then to an action in their hands, and then to a break in their relationships with God and each other. The wave swept out of the garden and Genesis 3-11 chronicles the wreck and ruin it caused. The relationship between Adam and Eve was damaged. There was envy and hostility between their sons. Families were torn apart. Corruption spread through society as a whole and violence ensued. Successive generations were overwhelmed by it, as the wave caused by the original sin swelled into a tsunami.
The Bible teaches that Adam’s sin has washed over every one of us and has distorted everything that makes us human: our spirits, bodies, minds, emotions, and relationships. But the wave doesn’t stop there. It pervades the structures humans create: economies, governments, companies, businesses, schools, police departments, service clubs – everything. Even the earth itself has been affected.
(See the entire sermon here.)