Saturday, April 05, 2008

Augustine and the First Sin

This was a tidbit from one of the comment boxes. I stated, "Augustine, whom I think it was, argued the fall of man occurred before the eating of the fruit, with the pride of Adam and Eve craving for undue exaltation." I then went on to other points. The point here though, is sin is not just an action, it is a disposition of the heart. It isn't just an external act.

I was asked, "I’d be interested in seeing where Augustine said that."

Consider it done. Augustine assigned the cause of the fall of Adam and Eve to pride:

"Our first parents fell into open disobedience because already they were secretly corrupted; for the evil act [would] never [have] been done had not an evil will preceded it. And what is the origin of our evil will but pride? For "pride is the beginning of sin" [Ecclus. 10:13?]. And what is pride but the craving for undue exaltation? And this is undue exaltation, when the soul abandons Him to whom it ought to cleave as its end, and becomes a kind of end to itself. This happens when it becomes its own satisfaction. . . . This falling away is spontaneous; for if the will had remained steadfast in the love of that higher and changeless good by which it was illumined to intelligence and kindled into love, it would not have turned away to find satisfaction in itself. . . . The wicked deed, then that is to say, the transgression of eating the forbidden fruit was committed by persons who were already wicked."

Source: Augustine, The City of God, trans. Marcus Dods et al., in Augustine, Basic Writings, 2:257-58 (14.13). [Or, help yourself to the entire section here].

R.C. Sproul comments:

"Augustine does not so much explain the fall as describe it. He identifies the cause of the first transgression as pride. But he recognizes that the presence of pride is already evil. He does not shrink from declaring that the first actual sin was committed by creatures who were already fallen. They fell before they ate the fruit. When Augustine says the falling away was "spontaneous,"he describes the problem but does not explain it. How can a creature with no prior inclination to evil suddenly and spontaneously become so inclined? This is the great poser of the fall, and it remains the most difficult question we continue to face about this event."

Source: Sproul, R.C., Willing To Believe: The Controversy Over Free Will (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997), p.53.

15 comments:

Ralph said...

I'm still fascinated as to the question whether Adam and Eve were equally culpable (which often seems to be argued in our egalitarian day), or whether Eve was tricked into sin, whereas Adam freely chose it...(which seems to be what Paul says in I Tim 2:14). This seems to go with the logic as to why the Savior had to be a man, not a woman.

Saint and Sinner said...

"I'm still fascinated as to the question whether Adam and Eve were equally culpable (which often seems to be argued in our egalitarian day), or whether Eve was tricked into sin, whereas Adam freely chose it...(which seems to be what Paul says in I Tim 2:14)."

I'm reading through Vos' commentary on the Westminster Larger Catechism, and that is exactly the position he takes.

"This seems to go with the logic as to why the Savior had to be a man, not a woman."

I believe that it was because Adam was the Federal Head, and Original Sin is transmitted through the male's heredity. That is why Christ had to be born of a virgin.

Ralph said...

It all makes logical sense to me, but, does that mean that women in general, though "totally depraved" in the sense of all parts of their person tainted by sin, are also somehow less sinful than men? I know its a bizarre, and probably answerless question.

This may account for, given Protestant assumptions from the biblical silence, why Mary herself needed no immaculate conception....in that a virgin birth,(impossible but for the Holy Spirit) without the male seed, would result in a man without original sin.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

It seems to me then, based upon what Augustine is saying, that temptation itself is sin. Is there no difference between temptation and acting out a sin? How is it a victory over sin not to follow through on a temptation if that is the case? This suggests to me that man was created fallen, and the act of disobedience of taking from the tree was merely a formality. How can this be?

GeneMBridges said...


This may account for, given Protestant assumptions from the biblical silence, why Mary herself needed no immaculate conception....in that a virgin birth,(impossible but for the Holy Spirit) without the male seed, would result in a man without original sin.


That would only follow on traducianism. Protestants are not uniformly traducians. The contrary argument is that each soul is created in the image of its father - which is fallen as Adam was fallen. Traducianism can go either way in this argument. The contrary position cannot.

I'd add that Paul makes the argument that Eve was deceived, Adam was not. Ergo, Adam was more culpable than Eve, though both were guilty. In other words, there was difference in the type of error, the decree of culpability. Some sins are worse than others, even though the end result (death) is the same.

beowulf2k8 said...

It contradicts 1 Tim 2. Eve ate because she was deceived. Adam ate because he wanted to die with his wife. The real cause of the fall was love of things other than God, not pride. Eve wanted to be a god, hence love of power. Adam wanted to die with his wife, hence loving his woman more than God. The cause was loving other things ahead of God, not pride. To say it was pride shows his Manichean ignorance.

Carrie said...

Is there no difference between temptation and acting out a sin? How is it a victory over sin not to follow through on a temptation if that is the case?

"You have heard that it was said,'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matt 5:27-28

-I guess it depends on how you define temptation?

I read Augustine's words differently, although I'm not sure I am correct. The action of eating the apple was just an extension of the disobedience in the heart.

This suggests to me that man was created fallen, and the act of disobedience of taking from the tree was merely a formality. How can this be?

Not necessarily. Just that the pride developed inwardly prior to the outward act of disobedience, but there was a time of obedience prior to the pride.

GeneMBridges said...

. Eve wanted to be a god, hence love of power. Adam wanted to die with his wife, hence loving his woman more than God.

Problem: the Bible never says this. The Bible says that Eve saw the fruit and "good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise." That last statement infers what you're saying, but that's it. It's not a direct affirmation.

Now,I happen to agree that Adam's sin is a classic example of the way men will do stupid things for their women. That was David's problem (Bathsheba) and Solomon's problem (wives). It was also Abraham (he listened to Sarah and had sex with Hagar). It's the same sin: Listen to your wife, transgress God's commandments. The text does say, God charges him with having listened to his wife, but that's not saying "You wanted to die with your wife." Rather, it's saying, "You failed to act as High Priest of the Covenant." He abdicated his role.

beowulf2k8 said...

"Rather, it's saying, 'You failed to act as High Priest of the Covenant.' He abdicated his role."

Which is clearly not pride. More along the lines of false humility.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

"You have heard that it was said,'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matt 5:27-28

It makes me wonder if the only kinds of temptation a sinner can avoid are the kinds that have the possibility of going beyond fantasy thought and into the physical realm. If Jesus was in all ways tempted as we are, yet without sin, then I wonder if we can even really relate to that kind of temptation. Where, for example, does temptation to lust after a woman move into actual lust, where I am aware of it at the time and can stop it from happening? Didn't it just occur anyway before I could do anything about it?

GeneMBridges said...

I'd also point out that Adam actually violated the whole Decalogue. The WCF/LBCF2 both affirm this,and I think it's Scriptural.

Remember,the original audience was the generation that had received the Decalogue, either the first or second generation out of Egypt.

In his sin:

Adam committed idolatry, listening to the Serpent.

The Serpent is equivalent to an idol too.

Luke says God is Adam's father. So, he dishonored his parent, God.

He had accepted the covenant. He failed his vow.

In Adam all die, says Paul. So, he murdered us all.

He was not to eat the fruit. He stole from God. He tried to attain wisdom by his own way, stealing from God.

When confronted he shifted blame. This violates the 9th commandment.

He was husband to Eve. In not protecting her, he failed his marriage vows. That's a form of adultery.

To steal, you have to covet.

What of the Sabbath? Well, they were created on Day 6. The narrative (eg. the literary day, though the literal day is unknown) is Day 7, the Sabbath day. So, he broke the Sabbath.

As Jesus kept the whole law for His people, so Adam broke the whole law for his people.

He did this in just one act - which proves that in one act of sin, many sins may abound,which is, IMO, at least part of what James has in mind when he says that to commit one sin is to transgress the whole shebang. That's why salvation by faith plus works is vain. If you start down that road, you have to keep the whole shebang.

beowulf2k8 said...

"I'd also point out that Adam actually violated the whole Decalogue. The WCF/LBCF2 both affirm this,and I think it's Scriptural."

That's just asinine.

First, "He had accepted the covenant. He failed his vow." There was no covenant, nor did God ask him if he accepted it or not, there was no vow. God have one simple law, which he broke, but it was no covenant.

It could be said that Adam worshipped his wife more than God, which is idolatry. It could also be said that he stole the fruit. Yes, you could even fandangle the Sabbath thing if you want to be a Jew. And murder too, since suicide is a form of murder.

But you can't say that Adam broke his wedding vow. Adam did not commit adultery. Eve ate the fruit first when the devil deceived her, and I'm assuming this was when Adam was away. I doubt that Adam would have let Eve eat the fruit if he was standing right there, SINCE HE WAS NOT DECEIVED. If he was not deceived and he was standing there when she was about to put death in her mouth he would have stopped her! I know this because after she ate and gave to him to eat, he ate although he was not deceived. He clearly ate in order to die with her. But if she were not going to die he would not want to die with her, and certainly he therefore would not have let her die if he could have stopped it.

It is also erroneous to say "He tried to attain wisdom by his own way, stealing" since it was Eve, not Adam, that was deceived into thinking the fruit brought wisdom. Adam was not deceived and knew it brought death. He ate it not to get wisdom, but death.

This also shows that Adam did not covet the fruit. This is an instance were theft can occur without covetousness. He ate the fruit not because he coveted it, but because he wanted to die with Eve, and this fruit was his ticket to death.

Again, you can't say that Adam used the Lord's name in vain.

"As Jesus kept the whole law for His people, so Adam broke the whole law for his people."

This is foolish stupidity of the lowest and most moronic kind. Jesus did keep the whole law, but Adam did not break the whole law. Adam broke the law that said "thou shalt not eat this fruit." In that act we can see some other principles that were violated but not the whole law. He did not use God's name in vain. He did not commit adultery. He did not covet the fruit (for he was not deceived). He ate as an act of desperation to die with his wife because he loved her more than God. That's idolatry, and it caused him to steal, and he murdered himself. But that's not the whole law.

GeneMBridges said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GeneMBridges said...

That's just asinine.

Thank you for the kind words. Let's see if you can make good on this statement, shall we?

There was no covenant, nor did God ask him if he accepted it or not, there was no vow. God have one simple law, which he broke, but it was no covenant.

Where shall we begin?

1. Although God created man upright and perfect, and gave him a righteous law, which had been unto life had he kept it, and threatened death upon the breach thereof, yet he did not long abide in this honour; Satan using the subtlety of the serpent to subdue Eve, then by her seducing Adam, who, without any compulsion, did willfully transgress the law of their creation, and the command given unto them, in eating the forbidden fruit, which God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory.

(LBCF6).

2.The same law that was first written in the heart of man continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness after the fall, and was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables, the four first containing our duty towards God, and the other six, our duty to man.

LBCF 19.

I see you disagree. On what basis,that the word "covenant" isn't used? That's a classic example of the word-concept fallacy.

As a matter of fact, there IS a covenant here.

1. The Garden is depicted as emblematic of the Tabernacle. (See Beale, The Temple & the Church's Mission). See also: http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/07/why-i-believe-in-covenant-of-works-in.html

2. The Two Trees are emblematic of the Ark of the Covenant, in which the Law rested (the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil) and over which the Mercy Seat sat (the Tree of Life). Moreover, Adam is presented as the High Priest and Eve as the lower order priest.

3. The form of a covenant is followed: The Lawgiver is named,the vassals are named, there are promises, stipulations, astipulations.

A. God's name. He's the king, so the first and second commandments are present by virtue of the fact that God is the one giving these commands. This should go without saying.

B. Marriage. Man and woman, created in God's image and one flesh. This is marriage. So, we have one application of the commandment to honor parents here should they have children. I'd add this assumes no adultery as well, per both the Law of Moses and Jesus discussion of marriage. God and Christ view Himself (yeah, I know, I'm being Trinitarian here thus the odd language) as a husband to the covenant people. So, the very assumption that they are to obey speaks to the commandment against adultery.

C. Procreation: Be fruitful and multiply. This gets us back to the same commandments.

D. The Sabbath. God creates them on the sixth day and rests. I'd add that he places them in the Garden, which represents the Tabernacle/Temple on earth, so the implication is that they are "resting" but at the same time working. More on this in a minute.

E. Labor. Now, the typical CT method is to deduce this from Gen. 2:1-3. I disagree. I think this comes more from the rest of Genesis 2, namely 2:15. God places Adam and Eve in the Garden, and he commands Adam to cultivate it. So, what we have is the First Couple placed in the Garden like Levitical priests to work in it as the priests worked in the Tabernacle. Here's why I am not a Sabbatarian as far as this text goes. The following discussion regards Sabbatarianism and some elements of the text itself that I want to touch upon, so it's serving two purposes.

No vow of acceptance?

1. The fact that Adam set about discharging his duties is evidence enough of a vow.

2. Divine covenants are given and imposed not offered and accepted in order to make the effective.

So, we have a Tabernacle, priests, and a Law - but no covenant? How would that make sense to the original audience, who immediately had a Tabernacle, a Law, priests, and a covenant? The Bible was written for us, not to us, but we have to read it from the perspective of those to whom it was written. There’s the historical level of the original events and speeches. And there’s also the narrative level of the authorial viewpoint, after the fact. The author is writing with a target audience in mind. Genesis is addressed to a Hebrew audience and written by Moses. They would bring a cultural preunderstanding to the text. We must also assume the role of those hearers/readers.

There are 4 narratives which run in parallel here:

Creation and Fall

The Flood Narrative

The Giving of the Law and Construction of the Tabernacle

The Story of Balaam

For an example of how this works, see: http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2004/04/making-sense-of-gen-1-3.html


But you can't say that Adam broke his wedding vow. Adam did not commit adultery.

For starters, in ANE and Ancient Jewish culture, marriages were often arranged. To use the image of a modern "wedding vow" is anachronistic. Eve is a classic example of an arranged marriage. Adam did not court her to marry her.

Apparently, you are unfamiliar with the Jewish concept of marriage and adultery. Adultery involves more than sexual immorality. It involves, among other things, the mistreatment of your wife, including leading her into apostasy. In fact, the Prophets use adultery as an metaphor for apostasy. I suggest you take a tour of the OT's theology of marriage before making such obviously false statements. In acting in his own selfishness, he abused his wife; in not uprooting the serpent and casting it out, he abdicated his priestly authority and role. He committed adultery. By apostatizing as her covenant head, he committed adultery.

I know this because after she ate and gave to him to eat, he ate although he was not deceived. He clearly ate in order to die with her. But if she were not going to die he would not want to die with her, and certainly he therefore would not have let her die if he could have stopped it.

No, you don't know this, because the text never says this. This is just an inference.

In fact, no text of Scripture tells us why Adam did what he did. That's why Sproul, to take just one example, calls the reason for Adam's sin one of the biggest mysteries of biblical theology. Somehow I don't think you're a theologian on a par with Sproul or any others who admit that it is speculative to say something like this. However, since you're so "clear" on this, why don't you write and publish a monograph on it for us.

It is also erroneous to say "He tried to attain wisdom by his own way, stealing" since it was Eve, not Adam, that was deceived into thinking the fruit brought wisdom. Adam was not deceived and knew it brought death. He ate it not to get wisdom, but death.

On this, the text contradicts you. We see that he did, in fact, gain "wisdom" in a perverted sense, for God cuts him off from the Tree of Life. Adam thought he could undo what he did by taking from the tree of life. So, immediately, he begins thinking of ways to get back into God's favor - on his own. He's repeating his sin but now by trying to undo what he did. That tells you something about what he did the first time. I suggest you take a look at some standard commentaries on Genesis. You might also want to have a gander at Thomas Boston in the the fall as well.

The serpent is also an image associated with sexual sin in ancient culture. Women are associated with serpents when they are involved in temple prostitution. This is a common idea. Eve goes along with the serpent instead of Adam. She is violating her marriage covenant (thus violating the 3rd commandment as well). Then, she lured Adam to eat too. The image generated is that of a pagan prostitute (like a Midianite woman) luring an Israelite man (of the covenant people) into a sexual act to worship the idol, as they did at Peor. Peor's sin cut off an entire generation. Let's not forget also that the covenant relation between Israel (and the church) and God (and Christ) is that of a husband and wife. So, Adam commits adultery against the Lord, and joins his wife in a threeway of sorts with the serpent. Notice that Adam totally fails on his marriage vows here too.

And James depicts the same image in his own epistle. Man is led away by his own lust; this gives birth to sin, and sin to death.

That's an implicit sexual metaphor. A man is tempted by lust, a female. It's his own lust, not another's lust, an implicit marital image, lust is the wife of the tempted man. Lust then gives birth to sin, the child. The child, when it comes of age, brings forth death.

Adam fell because he listened to Eve. The children of Seth married into the line of Cain (the sons of God found the daughters of men alluring). This lead to the Flood.

So, what we in Scripture is a set of relations with respect to wickedness and women, such that when a Prophet speaks of women ruling over the nation, he's speaking of evil women influencing male rulers, leading to the weakening and plundering of the nation. This relation is a typological relation that depicts the cycle of sin and apostasy in the life of the covenant community, and, in fact, the life of the individual believer. James 1 makes this explicit through the use of a metaphor for reproduction: Each man, eg. each person, is tempted when that person is lead away by their own lust; lust conceives, birthing sin, and sin brings for death.

Again, you can't say that Adam used the Lord's name in vain.

You have a rather narrow view of what "taking the Lord's name in vain" involves. Under the Law, all the laws concerning vows fell under the rubric of the 3rd commandment. This includes failing to keep the terms of a covenant relationship between God and man and man and man, including marriage. Adam was the administrator of the covenant, the high priest. He defiled God's name by defiling God's law and by failing to keep the stipulations of the covenant, which he had obviously accepted.

This is foolish stupidity of the lowest and most moronic kind.

I see, from the heart the mouth speaks. Before you make your statements, I suggest you make sure you have the exegetical and theological capacity to back them up, he who has only been registered at blogger since March of this year -but why do I have the feeling this is just our friend "Orthodox" posting under yet another one of his many aliases?

Jesus did keep the whole law, but Adam did not break the whole law.

1. I've demonstrated that he did and done so exegetically and confessionally here and elsewhere. Where can I find your body of work on this subject?

2. I can also do so with just one direct quote from James:10For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.

He did not covet the fruit (for he was not deceived).

So coveting requires one to be deceived too? Where's the supporting argument?

This is an instance were theft can occur without covetousness.

1. That's an assertion, not an argument.

2.Except of course, if you'd bother to take a close look at the sin of covetousness as depicted in Scripture, you'll find that, of the ten commandments, it's the one that focuses on the heart, that which underwrites the act. To commit any sin involves a form of coveting - whether it be to own what another person possesses (materially),to take control over them (as in assault, rape, or murder), or to usurp God's own power (the first table of the Law) The last or tenth commandment is directed against desiring (coveting), as the root from which every sin against a neighbour springs, whether it be in word or deed. The khamad, epithymein (LXX), coveting, proceeds from the heart (Prov. 6:25), and brings forth sin, which “is finished” in the act (Jas. 1:14, 15). (Keil&Deilitzch)

Ralph said...

There is a real sense in which the 10 Commandments are each subsidiary to one another in order. So #1 "You shall have no other gods before Me" is primary...and all the other 10 laws there by definition break God's sovereignty. So to have idols or take the Lord's name in vain or dishonoring the Sabbath or parents or etc. all, every one breaks #1--and in another way, break #1 and you've broke them all... Each of the 10 are in that way interdependent. Jesus also said that all the law "hung on" (and in His day that would be all 613 laws of the Torah) loving God with all one's heart, mind, soul, & strength, and loving one's neighbor as oneself.

I would also point out that the 10 Commandments and the "whole law" weren't fully revealed until Moses' day, several thousand years after Adam--it's fair to think somehow those basic laws were engraved on Adam and Eve's hearts.

Christian (and I believe Jewish too) scholarship has for millenia taught that "the law" is always interconnected. To break one law is to break the whole thing. Think of it like a roof: Only one roof tile may be broken, but the whole roof then has a hole in it...

Clearly Adam's sin of disobedience (and scripture no where reveals a motive, let alone one seeming someone noble like "dying with his wife..." It seems more likely that, as scripture does say, Satan's temptation of "you shall be as gods..." was the real motive, even though unlike Eve, Adam was not deceived in his choice.) violated #1 of the 10 Commandments, and, more importantly, it violated Love of God, and love of neighbor (Eve) the double foundation of all the law. In that way, he did break all of the law. One doesn't have to finagle how specifically Adam committed adultery (though in the OT physical and spiritual adultery (idolatry) are VERY closely inter-related and identified as equally heinous sins.) to say he violated the whole law.

As to your denial of a covenant with Adam, please remember "covenant" is simply an English word we use for formal promise & warning--it doesn't have to be a two way contract, as we normally think of it in law. God promised Adam he could eat anything but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil--and if he did, he would die. That promise fits the biblical (and ancient near-east) model of covenant. In God's covenants with Noah, Abraham, David, and Moses, He never asks them to volunteer, or agree to some sort of contract or deal as if between equals, instead God tells them what He will do....blessings in obedience, and curses in disobedience. This is precisely what God did with Adam too, in a very simple direct way.