What do Christians mean when we talk about “the Fall” (note the capital F)?
“The Fall” refers to a specific, historic event which occured in the lives of the very first human beings in the Garden of Eden. It has forever changed creation and the human race.
The event is described in Genesis 3 and its effects are seen throughout Scripture and the rest of human history. Bruce Waltke provides a helpful summary of what occurred:
Adam and Eve were created in a state of righteousness (accepted with God) and innocence (a state of untested righteousness). They would have continued in a state of blessed sanctity with God and of enjoying life in the garden if they had obeyed God and not eaten the forbidden fruit. … By Adam and Eve’s failure to trust the goodness of God’s character and the truthfulness of his word, they disobey and instantaneously “fall” from their state of bliss in the garden into a tragic state of irreversible sin and death and banishment from the garden.
Much more could be said about how this “fall” introduced the human race to original sin and total depravity, how it led to the cursing of all creation, and how it set the stage for the glorious redemption of all things in Christ Jesus. But in its essence “the Fall” refers to the loss of man’s righteousness and bliss before God, his newfound bondage to sin, the inevitability of death, and banishment from the presence of God. All of this came as a consequence of man’s disobedience and his distrust of both the character and word of God. Fall is a small word with a great depth of meaning.