Stories that were written to convey truths that need no particular historicity—like the story of the Fall in Genesis 3—are fascinating. Their collective, communal authors seize onto deep, universal characteristics of the human condition, and they tease them out until they stand all by themselves as if independent characters in the story. The choices they make might at first seem isolated or curious, but, as sure as the centuries that have shaped the tale, the reader digs deeper and finds a solid point of connection, undeniable trough time. The emotional longings that human beings experience countless times as one generation succeeds another are portrayed a story that everyone can claim as her own.
Before the Fall, Adam and Eve were naked. Even though clothing is a fundamentally human invention, we still yearn for days when we can run around in the back yard stark naked. As adults, nakedness represents the potential for transgression, but, as children, it is the clothing of the innocent. Nudist colonies and clothing-optional cruises play on this deep-seeded desire to go “back to the garden,” as Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young put it.
Before the Fall, Adam and Eve walked with the Lord in the cool of the evening breeze. Fear separates us from God, and fear is the primal consequence of sin—of human nature. Sin is that which distorts our lives from their true reality. That God would walk with his people should surely be a reason never to fear, yet God’s presence itself became something from which to hide. A physical separation follows the emotional distance. We cannot draw near to God when we are afraid, and our sin is manifest as fear. Or perhaps our fear is manifest as sin. They are inseparable.
Before the fall, Adam and Eve did not have any reason to feel shame. As the serpent beguiled Eve, how can it be a bad idea to seek wisdom? Wouldn’t one want to know the difference between good and evil? Should we pursue that? The distorted pursuit of virtue is the root of sin. We love, but our love’s object becomes our own selves. We eat and drink, but we do so until our bodies become distended. We prepare for the future, but we confuse our priorities and our hoarding becomes the root of scarcity. Once experienced, the knowledge of good and evil cannot be undone.