I. "She took of its fruit and ate": What Is Sin (if 'anything')? As moral evil (e.g., murder), sin differs from natural evil (e.g., earthquakes).
Much Christian discourse confuses them (cf. Luke 13:4-5).
Sin is popularly understood as guilt, but that is only one dimension!
"The fall" describes sin as humanity's epic failure (Gen 3).
As contradiction, sin doesn't start with God, but is against God.
As negation or privation of good, sin is not a thing in itself but absence (Augustine, C.S. Lewis).
As irresponsibility, sin exploits God's good gifts for others' purposes.
As darkness, foolishness, and lie, sin is ignorant, absurd, insane, and self-deceptive,
enslaving 'that which is' to 'that which is not' (Theodore Dalrymple, "Choosing to Fail").
So sin cannot ever make sense, or be made sense of.
Only Jesus' counterexample truly shows sin as unnatural, as falling short (Rom 3:23, John 1:17).
II. "She gave some ... and he ate": Sin's Spread
As a condition, sin causes more sin. But how? Two accounts:
Original sin: Adam's sin and guilt are inherited legally or biologically (Augustine on Ps 51 and Rom 5:12; Catholicism, Protestantism).
Ancestral sin: Adam's sin is transmitted socially (Cappadocian Fathers, John Cassian; Eastern Orthodoxy).
III. "The man and his wife hid": Sin's Social Manifestations As rebellion and alienation, sin breaks humanity's constitutive relationships:
As structural, sin disorders social ways of life.
As demonic, sin is powerful, clever, tenacious, and oppressive.
As satanic, sin constructs "the world" (John 12:31) and its ruler (Luke 10:17-20, Rev 12:9).
As corruption, sin threatens the undoing of humanity and all creation (Athanasius).
IV. "I ate": Sin's Personal Manifestations As personal, sin turns us into sinners, people characterized by sin.
Augustine: as inordinate love, personal sin is unbelief, pride, rebellion, idolatry, sloth, etc.
Feminist and liberation theology: as self-effacement or self-loathing, sin is also pride's opposite.
In all these forms, sin is human self-centeredness and self-destruction.
Tim Keller, Prodigal God: Luke 15:11-32's two sons both embody self-made alienation.
V. "Dust you are and to dust you will return": Sin's End As curse, sin earns condemnation and consequences (Rom 6:23, Isa 66:24, Matt 25:41, 46, Jude 4,
Masacchio's Expulsion from Eden).
Where does sin's course lead? Influential images:
death: Sheol (Eccl 9:5-10, cf. John 3:15, Jude 9), hades (Luke 16:23-31, Rev 1:18, cf. Jude 13);
disposal: gehenna (Matt 10:28, Mark 9:43-48, cf. Jude 11), outer darkness (Matt 8:12, 22:13, 25:30, Jude 13);
punishment/repossession: cherem (Josh 6:17-19, Isa 43:28), wrath, a 'lake of fire' (Jude 7, Rev 19:20, 20:10-15)