Sin & Its Effects on Creation

When Adam partook of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “the created order suffered a primal catastrophe of cosmic proportions,”[1] due to his sin committed against the Creator. This created order includes both the personal creation and non-personal creation—that is, human beings and the world in which they are being human.

To understand the depth and breadth of sin’s effects on creation, one must first know exactly what sin is. According to the Westminster Larger Catechism, “sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, any law of God, given as a rule to the reasonable creature.”[2] Wayne Grudem defines sin in a similar vein, “Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature.”[3] So, generally speaking, Adam sinned against God when he failed to conform his ways (in act, attitude, or nature) to God’s law, which stated, “You shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”[4]

As stated above, because of Adam’s sin against the Creator of all things, the effect on all creation is of “cosmic proportions.” Since the non-personal creation was created first, the effects of sin it suffers under will briefly be explained first. After Adam’s fall, the LORD God responds to him this way: “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.”[5] While Adam and Eve’s primary vocation entailed exercising dominion over all creation; after the Fall, such vocation proved as a lifelong struggle. At the event of Adam’s sin, Paul says, “The creation was subjected to futility…its bondage to decay.”[6] Both personal and non-personal creation wait with eager longing and groaning for their final redemption and renewal.[7]

Personal creation, that is humanity, both male and female, “was originally created in the image and after the likeness of God.”[8] However, as a result of Adam’s sin, the immediate consequences are many: 1) spiritual death; 2) physical death; 3) becoming subject to the second death—the lake of fire;[9] 4) becoming dead in transgressions and sins; 5) subjected to the power of the devil and his entourage; 6) total depravity has been imputed to the entire human race (Jesus alone being excepted).[10]

Speaking of the extent or totality of depravity, which was passed down from Adam to his entire progeny throughout the ages, Holsteen says, “Our depravity affects every part of our being. Intellectually, volitionally, morally, physically, affectively, each one of us, in whole and in part, each one of us is spiritually dead and we live in opposition to God. We are rebels by nature; we are rebels in our thoughts, in our attitudes, in our deeds, in our morality, in our will. We are rebels, and we are the sons and daughters of rebels.”[11]

Nevertheless, even though the image and likeness of God in man has been defaced, it has not been erased. The image has been “tarnished but not destroyed, as humanity has exchanged the glory of God for idolatry.”[12] Pyne goes on to explain, “Because of the Fall, all human existence is today only a shadow of what it was supposed to be.”[13]

“No one is clothed with God’s glory the way Adam was.”[14] That is, no one since the Fall of the first Adam “is clothed with God’s glory the way Adam was,” except the last Adam, Christ Jesus, who is the righteous man from heaven. Jesus is the unblemished image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.[15] Even though we do not presently see all things as reconciled and subjected to him,[16] he is renewing all things[17]–both personal and non-personal creation.[18] And, through the imminently final consummation of all things, the triune Creator will bring about a primal eucatastrophe of cosmic proportions.[19]

[1] Gunton, Colin E. The Triune Creator: A Historical and Systematic Study. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 172.

[2] The Westminster Confession of Faith. (Atlanta: Committee for Christian Education & Publications, 1990), 14.

[3] Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 490.

[4] Gen 2.16-17

[5] Gen 3.17, 18

[6] Rom 8.20, 21

[7] Rom 8.18-23

[8] DTS Doctrinal Statement, Article IV—Man, Created and Fallen; also, Gen 1.26, 27.

[9] Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology, Vol. II. (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947), 215.

[10] DTS Doctrinal Statement, Article IV—Man, Created and Fallen; also, Gen 2.17; 6.5; Ps 14.1-3; 51.5; Jer 17.9; Rom 3.10-19; 8.6-7.

[11] Holsteen, Nathan. “The Extent of Depravity.” Spring, 2010, ST103 – Angelology, Anthropology, and Harmartiology, Unit 10, Video 3, Unpublished Lecture Transcript.

[12] Pyne, Robert A. Humanity and Sin. (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1999), 169.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., 170.

[15] Col 1.19

[16] Heb 2.8

[17] Rev 21.5

[18] Rom 8.18-23; Heb 12.26-27; Rom 12.2; Eph 4.23-24; Col 4.10.

[19] Eucatastrophe – term coined by J.R.R. Tolkien, referring to “the sudden turn of events at the end of a story which result in the protagonist’s well-being.”


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