On a recent road trip my son asked me about the doctrine of Original Sin, since it seemed unfair that Adam and Eve got a chance (which they blew), but all of their descendants were born with a curse. Below I’ll distill some of the points I went over with him, since some of you may find them interesting.
==> God knew everything that would happen throughout human history before He even made Adam. Everybody (except Jesus) chooses to sin. There is not a single innocent person (except Jesus), so we don’t need to worry about anybody being threatened with hell for something Adam and Eve did.
==> Even so, my understanding of orthodox Christian doctrine is that yes, there is an important sense in which Adam and Eve had a different type of free will from what every human since them has had. (C.S. Lewis talks about this.)
==> The way I made sense of this was to first talk about the conditions that exacerbate sin. For example (I pointed out to my son), on this trip we had also spent time looking up the biographies of the various supervillains in Batman. Not once did their origin story say, “The Riddler was a happy child who had lots of friends and had a fulfilling career.” No, there were always events involving horrible things–and often cruel acts by others–that helped you understand why that person grew up to be Poison Ivy (or whatever).
Now this is crucial: To walk through such explanations is not to excuse or cancel out the crimes of the supervillains; they really are “bad guys.” But it certainly helps us understand what happened.
Back to the Bible accounts: Everyone after the Fall was born into a broken world, full of pain and sinful people. In such an environment, it is understandable why people would grow up to become expert sinners themselves, since fear and hate are such wonderful motivators to sin.
In contrast, Adam and Eve were literally in paradise. They had no insecurities, no worries about food, no fears of an enemy attack. More so than any other humans,* they had a genuine shot at not sinning.
So if even Adam and Eve couldn’t obey one single rule, you can see how utterly hopeless it is for their descendants. It is in our nature to sin, and in this fallen world, nature will take its course.
* Notice that the one human who escaped this was Jesus–yet He had no insecurities, no worries about food, no fears of an enemy attack. Instead He had complete faith in His Father, and that went hand in hand with His perfect obedience.