“Ask a Priest: What If Adam and Eve Hadn’t Sinned?”

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Q: The reason God created material human life in the first place, was for human creatures to know him and choose to love him freely via their free will, that is, not created like the angels who are already in heaven glorifying God and who had no material life and had no free-will test presented to them. So, Adam and Eve were in effect given the choice to choose him freely via the test of the tree of life — which they failed. The result of that sin is the life we humans live today, freely choosing via our free will to accept or reject God via the moral choices we make. If Adam and Eve did not sin, would they and their descendants never have encountered sin for the rest of their life since Adam and Eve passed the first test? — Frank

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Let me try to address some of your points and questions.

First, the angels, too, faced a test. They weren’t already in heaven when they were created. They were tested, and some of them failed; these are the ones who rebelled against God. These we know as Satan and the other demons.

Second, the test in the Book of Genesis revolved around the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The tree of life was something different. When Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, they indeed gained knowledge of evil, having by then disobeyed God.

Third, if Adam had not sinned, there wouldn’t be the original sin that he passed on to others. This doesn’t rule out the possibility, however, that his descendants could have chosen to sin, since they too would have free will. But those offenses would be actual sins, not original sin that they would pass on to others.

Recall that one doesn’t have to suffer the effects of original sin in order to commit actual sin (Adam and Eve didn’t have original sin).

As for Adam “passing the first test”: presumably the forbidden fruit would have been there all the days of his life on earth and thus always a temptation.

On the positive side we could say that Adam would have had the chance to decide every day to continue to obey God – and so use his free will well.

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