We have seen that man was created in the image of God, to think God’s his thoughts after him and to work God’s works after him. We must now acknowledge that man did not stay this way very long. When presented with a test and an option, mankind chose rebellion and sin. In terms of biblical worldview, we need to look at both the fact of this fall and its consequences for every area of life.
Solomon gives us a single-sentence summary: “Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices” (Eccl. 7:29 KJV).
God told Adam he could eat of any tree in the garden except for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He assured Adam that if he ate of that fruit, he would “surely die” (Gen. 2:19). Adam and Eve did not abide by that sole command, but ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree. The temptation came in three areas: the tree was good for food, it was a delight to the eyes, and its fruit was said to make one wise (Gen. 3:6).
Adam and Eve were immediately convicted and tormented with guilt and fear. They hid from God when they heard his voice. God confronted them with the truth, and the consequences of the sin manifested even more greatly: blame-shifting. The man blamed both the woman and God himself; the woman blamed the serpent. God pronounced a curse upon all three, as well as the land.
God showed his mercy in that Adam and Eve did not physically (utterly) perish in that day, but they did suffer death in the form of a separation and alienation from God’s presence. God kicked them out of the Garden of Eden and placed angel at its entrance, guarding it with a flaming sword.
The fallen nature metastasized to all the offspring of Adam. Along with it comes also fear, jealousy, envy, malice, and all other personal wickedness. Both the fact of guilt (objective) and the feeling of guilt (subjective) result from this sin.
The curse on the land/ground manifested as God said in the appearance of thorns and thistle, and in the form of hardship in agriculture. This increased not only sweat and toil, but scarcity of goods. It meant also that prosperity would not come without difficult labor. Even with labor, competition for food and resources would increase.
The sin of mankind manifested in the very first offspring of Adam and Eve. When Cain saw that his brother Abel’s sacrifices were accepted by God, but his own were not, he murdered his brother. Why did he react this way? Out of nothing but pure envy: Abel had something precious he did not, and if he could not have it, he would destroy the person who did. So envy drives up to destroy those we envy rather than repent and improve ourselves.
Just as his parents did, Cain did not react to his own sin and condemnation with repentance, but with guilt, fear, and blame. Instead of seeking what is right, Cain cared only for himself and sought to protect himself from the consequences of his guilt. He built the first fortress city and started a dynastic empire. A guilty conscience has no rest, and a fortress has walls for hiding and a constant watch for enemies. Guilt builds walls for protection of self, seeks safety in numbers, and sets out countless eyes of paranoia.
Such a city also, however, cannot suppress the image of God and the dominion mandate given to Adam and Eve, but it perverts these things. It seeks to grow, but in its selfish ambition, it seeks domination instead of godly dominion, and self-glory rather than God’s glory. It rules people through subjugation, with fear, manipulation, intimidation, and lust rather than by giving and sacrificial example. In its energy, it advances the arts, science, and technology, but for personal gain and for military might. The sons of Cain therefore developed agriculture, metallurgy, and also arts and entertainment—music. Each of these can be used to the glory of God, but each is also abused for greed, lust, control, destruction, and death. As the sons of Cain prosper in their fortresses of guilt and fear, their wickedness grows from one generation to the next. Lamech not only murdered a man just as his father had, but openly bragged about it, committed polygamy, and boasted that he was seventy times more secure that Cain (Gen. 4:23–24). This is why Paul teaches that the personal suppression of the knowledge of God leads eventually to full cultural burnout (Rom. 1:18–32).
The fall affected every area of life, because the effects of sin corrupt every aspect of our nature and every area of our lives. John asserts that the same three areas by which Eve was tempted are the same three which pervade all that we face: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:16).
We must therefore consider how greatly we are affected by sin: in our flesh, our soul, our emotions, and even in our minds and intellect. In our fallen state, Jeremiah tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). All our faculties are at the mercy of this deceitful heart. Paul, therefore, instructs us to “put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires” (Eph. 4:22). It is not only that we are swayed by lust and desire, but that these very desires, strong as they are, are also “deceitful.” They lie to us—which means, we lie to ourselves to persuade ourselves that the sinful things we want and do are in fact good. We deceive ourselves.
The fallen nature is at root an ethical rebellion: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Rom. 8:7). This affects all our relationships and valuations. It affects our reasoning. For these reasons, it will affect our personality, our relationship to God, our business, our argumentation—everything. It will affect all of these things in slightly different ways and to different degrees, but the propensity is always there, and we must always deal with it.
For this reason, we need plenty of checks and balances in this life. Power, especially, must be checked and balanced, and greatly limited. Augustine wrote about the “city of man” (think, “sons of Cain”) as being ruled by the “lust to rule,” and you may recall the well-known saying which came much later, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” These are both merely the teaching of Scripture and a logical deduction from it.
In business and social affairs, therefore, we must uphold the truth of God in the Ten Commandments to protect private property and honor contracts. Civil governments exist for this. We must also, however, go above and beyond this bare-minimum check and protect a strong tradition of business ethics and best practices. Social forces must provide abundant checks long before civil government enters the picture. “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14).
The same is true in marriage, child rearing, entertainment, recreation, sports, economics, law, criminal justice, and government, to name a few. Every individual, every relationship, every institution will be tainted by the corruption that enters with the fallen human nature, along with its deceitful lusts and desire for great power to carry out those lusts.
Far too often, Christians appeal to the sinfulness of man as a reason we must not insist on biblical law standards. Worse, we sometimes hear such appeals as a reason why we must tolerate tyrannical or abusive governments or agencies. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary,” it is said. This argument is advanced in favor of having a powerful, energetic, central government in place.
The truth is just the opposite. The fall and the depravity of man are not good reasons to allow power to run unchecked. Yes, sinful society will always require civil government as an ultimate sanction. The biblical principle, however, is that to whom much is given, more must be required (Luke 12:48). Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is precisely the leadership in any institution that must be held to the higher standard. Society must be held to biblical standards of law, freedom, and government. The leaders in those institutions must absolutely be held to strict biblical boundaries of law and order. Precisely because fallen man in general needs biblical law for direction and justice, it is all the more important for those entrusted with power. We should not allow those with power to insulate themselves behind great walls and protect their sin; greater checks and greater transparency are required here.
Because of the fall of man, therefore, power should be as decentralized as possible, and we must demand the law of God as the standard by which all counsel, all relations, all business, and all justice ought to be held. No person, family, business, corporation, ministry, church, or government will escape the effects of the fall of man in all aspects of the person, and in every area of life.