I’m sure my readers know that I don’t take the Garden of Eden story literally. To me, it’s quite obviously a “just so” story, like How the Leopard Got its Spots. A fun myth that attempts, in a poetic and imaginative way, to explain biological phenomena without actually getting out of the armchair to do the real investigative work.
But there are people who believe that the story actually happened as told. And I wonder what these folks think about the role of free will in this story. Did Adam and Eve have free will before they partook of the forbidden fruit? They certainly chose freely to eat the fruit, and they were made in the image of God, so it seems likely that they did, indeed, have free will.
They also had no knowledge of good and evil, and it appears they did not sin. But this throws a rather hefty hatchet in the fracas of the free will argument, which claims that sin occurs precisely because of the free will God has given humans.
Adam and Eve actually provide one of two examples in which people do not sin yet have free will. The second example is one I’ve discussed before, namely heaven: people in heaven will presumably not sin, yet they will surely maintain their free will. I’ve not heard any Christian to date claim that the occupants of heaven will be automata whose every action and decision are predetermined.