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Old 02-27-2005, 10:09 AM
rushdoony rushdoony is offline
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Patriarch Magazine

Male Passivity: The Root of All Evil

In what follows we are not attempting to make new discoveries in the doctrine of original sin. Our aim is primarily pastoral: to explore a major failing among the brotherhood and nudge us all toward greater faithfulness. If we seem at any points to tread on tenuous theological ground, just take it with a grain of salt. óThe Editor

The question I ask my children is this: What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created? And they have learned the answer: The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit. (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 15)

Adam and Eve were created in an estate of perfection and sinlessness, yet with the possibility of sinning. As a test, the Lord had planted the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the midst of the Garden of Eden, and then He instructed Adam not to eat of the tree lest he die (Gen. 2:17). The long and short of it is that both Adam and his wife ate the fruit and died (spiritually first, physically later). Actually, she ate the fruit first and gave it to him (3:6)

But when God came to get an accounting of the failure, we read, Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, ĎWhere are you?í (3:9) God had entrusted His commandment to the man He had left in charge of the Garden. When problems developed He sought out the man, even though the woman had taken the initiative into sin. The man was the head, the authority in the new marriage relationship. He was also the head of his whole family-to-be. Therefore Paul explains to us in Romans, Just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and death spread to all menÖ (5:12). Adam was the representative head, the covenant head, of the whole human race, and it was his sin, his eating of the forbidden fruit, that plunged the race into sin. Eve ate the fruit first, but it was Adamís sin that damned the world.

I have known from childhood (we learned the Catechism, too) that Adamís eating was the formal act whereby sin was brought upon the whole world, but I have also sometimes been intrigued to consider that sin was in the world before Adam ate. Clearly Eve sinned first since she ate first, right? But if we can explore the possibility of sin in the world before Adamís act of eating, might there be other places to look for the actual first sin?

One point seems clear in this connection: since sin begins in the heart then both Adam and Eve sinned before they actually took a bite of the fruit. James identifies the development of sinful acts: But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, bring forth death (1:14,15). The outward act takes shape only after the sinful heart has chosen to sin. This is consistent with the words of Jesus: For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a manÖ (Matt. 15:19,20a). It is clear that the covetous desire for the fruit was a sin that preceded the actual eating of the fruit. It was not a morally pure man (and woman) who grasped the fruit and ate, thus becoming defiled. It was an already defiled couple, who having sinned in their hearts by desiring what God had forbidden, grasped the fruit and consummated the sin.

So was Eveís rebellious desire the first sin? Perhaps. But that thought has always disturbed me. That would mean that it was actually the womanís transgression which was the effective cause of sin and misery coming into the world, even though it was Adamís act of disobedience which was the formal, covenantal cause. (Itís futile to speculate what would have happened had Adam not followed her into sin.) And this may be the case: she sinned first (effective cause), but he followed and brought us all down with him (covenantal cause).

But in discussing this, it becomes clear that there is a very significant theme underlying the question of where sin originated: namely, the issue of authority and the proper relationship of the man and the woman in the Garden. Since Adam was the covenantal head of the human race, we might have expected that he would be the one to take the lead and drag his wife and all the rest of us into sin. But what we see actually unfold in the Garden is that, while he retains his formal authority as representative head of the race (and it is indeed his act that dooms us all), Eve becomes the de facto leader and Adam the follower as they rebel against God. In the midst of the formal acts of disobedience (eating the fruit) we find another perversity at work: the breakdown of the proper relationship between the man and the woman.

If indeed there was a breakdown of that relationship, what was the nature of that failure? Clearly Adam was supposed to lead in the relationship, not Eve. Yet she took the lead into sin. While she is culpable for her part in getting out from her husbandís authority, the leader is always the one who bears responsibility for the relationship. When she attempted to take the lead, he should have resisted, asserted his authority, and refused to go along with her. Instead, he followed her. So they both erred in a kind of reversal of roles.

More specifically, Adam failed in his leadership by not protecting his wife. The serpent sought out the more vulnerable of the two to work his wiles (Gen. 3:1). Where was Adam? Why did he not step in and shout the serpent down when he questioned the word of God? It appears from the language of verse six (he was with her) that Adam was present but simply passive and ineffective in his role of leader-protector. Though the text is not explicit, it seems as if Adam simply watched his wife be beguiled into sin and then just went with the flow and sinned with her. It is explicitly clear that he followed her into sin. It is implicitly clear that he was passive even before that and failed to lead his wife by providing protection against their spiritual enemy.

So it would seem that the context of the specific acts of disobedience (eating of the tree) was a general failure of obedience to Godís created order in the marriage relationship. It would not then be too much of a stretch to say that the first sin was Adamís passivity and his failure to lead and protect his wife. It was this failure that led to her being tempted and succumbing to sin. Even if some may doubt that inference from the passage, it is certainly clear that it was Adamís passivity that led to his sharing the fruit his wife offered him. Any way you slice it, the passive male appears to be a major factor in the entrance of sin into the world. We might even put it this way (to borrow a phrase from our Lord): the passive male is the root of all evil. If Adam had been an active leader-protector instead of a passive follower, the curse would not have been pronounced on the world.

Sin did not just sneak up on the first couple and tackle them. They fell because of their own passivity in the face of temptation. In their hearts they did not resist the evil suggestions of the serpent that contradicted Godís words. They yielded, they took the easy path of acquiescence rather than saying No to the tempter. Likewise, the passivity of Adam in relationship to the tempter and to Eve led directly to the Fall. He failed to guard her and to lead her. Instead he yielded to her leadership and ultimately to that of Satan. The rest, as they say, is history.

The well being of the whole creation rests on the proper functioning of the various authority arrangements that exist. God the Father is the head of Christ; Christ is the head of man; man is the head of woman (1 Cor. 11:3). The order that exists in the Godhead from all eternity is the model for the order that the Creator has built into His creation. When this order is violated, chaos and death result. Satan was a high angel who stepped out of his role and rebelled against Godís order. He came to earth to wreak havoc with the perfection God had established here. Eve got out from under her human authority, Adam, and instead of seeking his leadership took the initiative in rebellion and led her husband into sin. Adam failed to take the lead in the temptation episode and chose instead to accept the leadership of Satan and of his wife. The story of sin and misery is the story of a series of failures either to submit to God-given authority or to exercise God-given leadership.

Our focus is on the man because, again, he is the one God put in charge and the one He holds accountable. Unfortunately men from Adam onward have inherited his penchant for avoiding the demands of their leadership calling, especially in relationship with their wives and family. Men today have almost totally abdicated their calling as family leaders. Whatever remnant of leadership energy they have tends to be directed to callings outside the home, business and politics in particular. But it was a failure of home leadership that thrust the world into darkness, and this is still the most costly form of leadership failure.

Perhaps as we consider the situation in the Garden we can discern how Adam may have acted differently, more in keeping with his leadership calling. In the process we can discover ways to help improve our own performance in this area as well. What were the qualities that Adam failed to display in the face of Satanís attack on his family and which would have enabled him to be th>spiritual leader God created him to be?


The first quality Adam lacked was alertness. Now we can perhaps understand that he had never faced a threat before. Living in a perfect environment did not prepare him to expect an attack, especially the subtle, crafty attack which the serpent waged. However, Adamís devotion to his Creator and Godís clear commandment with its equally clear warning should have caused a vigilance that would make him alert to any attack on Godís veracity or any suggestion of rebellion against His authority. The very warning not to eat of the tree should have made him super-alert to any suggestion to the contrary.

However, it appears as if Adam was asleep at the wheel. Satan was allowed unimpeded access to Eve and was offered no resistance by Adam. Even if one gives Adam the benefit of the doubt and assumes he was unaware of the Eve-serpent dialog, he definitely failed the alertness test when Eve made her proposition to him. There is no sense of vigilance at all: She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate (Gen. 3:6). And he ate. Period. No protest. No resistance. No alertness to the danger the act represented. And he ate.

We, too, often fail in our leadership at home through a lack of watchfulness to danger, or through a general lack of alertness to other opportunities to show leadership. We, too, are often asleep at the wheel, just letting things happen and hoping for the best.

Are you aware of the temptations your wife and children are facing this week? Or are you just waiting for the results of their yielding to temptation to blow up in your face? Talk to them. Find out what is in their minds and their hearts. Keep track of who they spend time with, what they read, what they view on the screen or video, the music they hear. Is the serpent working his wiles on your little flock? Are you alert to the dangers faced by those under your command?


The second quality needed by both Adam and his heirs is initiative. A man with initiative makes things happen. A man without initiative waits for things to happen to him, and to his family. Adam waited to see what would happen when the serpent confronted Eve. He waited to see what she would say when she approached him after eating the forbidden fruit. He didnít initiate action, he reacted, and reacted poorly.

Our first father should have stepped up to the plate when the serpent threw his pitch toward Eve. He should have intervened in the dialog. And if he didnít know about that conversation, why not? Was it not his responsibility to keep the commandment of God and assure it was kept by Eve who was under his authority? Further, when offered the fruit by his wife, why did he not at least at that point seize the initiative, rebuke her error, and confront the serpent? But no, Mr. Adam was what we now only know too well: you basic passive male. Avoiding action. Reacting to problems in a way that causes the least flack in the short term. Yes, dear. Iím sure itís a very good piece of fruit. Whatever you say, dear.

So how are you at showing initiative? Is your leadership style at home characterized by your setting the agenda, asking the questions, requiring accountability? Or do you just go with the flow, hoping for the best? Do you make things happen in your family life, or are you just a passive passenger in the family vessel, letting others steer the ship or letting it drift wherever it will? You are the leader, the protector, the teacher for your family. Each of these roles implies the need for you to be proactive. Remember, one day the Lord will seek you out as He did Adam in the Garden and ask an accounting for your leadership in the home.


The third quality lacking in Adam but needed by us all is courage. This is closely related to the last. Men seem congenitally fearful of exerting authority in the home and taking the initiative required to be effective. They are afraid they might be wrong in the direction they lead. They are afraid of what their wives and children will think, or whether the family will even follow their leadership.

We donít know what Adam was feeling, but why didnít he stand up to his wife? It would have taken courage to contradict her, to correct her. He may have risked her favor. There seems to be nothing worse for a passive, unconfident man than to have his wife unhappy with him. The easy thing to do was to go along. It was also easier than confronting that wily serpent.

The alluring thing about cowardice is that it seems to make everybody happy. Failing to stand for principle or to correct those who are in the wrong keeps things peaceful. Of course, it may lead the whole human race into millennia of sin and misery, but hey, it keeps the wife happy today! The failure of manly courage has cost the world dearly.

Our nation is cursed today with men who are afraid to be leaders at home. For so many men their greatest desire is simply to keep peace within the family at any price. What the wife wants she gets, what the children want they get, unless the demand is so outrageous that Dad has to get angry and then sulk about their forcing him to take a stand.

Do you take your stand to lead your family according to principle even when they disagree, or others outside the family donít understand? Are you willing to be unpopular with your charges for the sake of protecting them from evil companions and environments? Is pleasing God more important to you than pleasing men (or women, or children)? One sure mark of a leader is his willingness to take actions that bring him under attack from those who donít share his understanding of what it means to please God. The family leader is a man of courage because he fears God.


A fourth quality absent in Adam but needed by all men is a sense of responsibility. This is that quality which is well expressed in the proverbial expression, The buck stops here. We have already seen that Adam not only failed to exercise his duty, he also failed to take responsibility for his failure, preferring instead to blame his wife and even (implicitly) the Lord himself. (The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate. Gen. 3:12)

This adamic plague of avoiding responsibility is pervasive in our own day. Just listen to the responses of our civil leaders who are caught in some personal failure or ever serious crime. Have you ever heard one of them simply say, I was wrong. I sinned. There is no excuse for my behavior. I ask your forgiveness? No. Instead they minimize the wrong, blame others, change the subject ó and take comfort in the latest polls that show the public doesnít care about their character.

And indeed the public doesnít care. Because the public is made up of men who donít take responsibility either, and especially not in the home. For generations men have passed off to their wives primary responsibility for child raising. They are passive, disinterested, and irritated when their wives attempt to draw them into the decision making process. Many simply walk away from their families, never to return. Most of those who stay are absent emotionally even if their bodies remain under the same roof as their families.

One of the most encouraging signs accompanying the homeschooling movement of the last decade or so is the fact that many fathers are being drawn back into taking responsibility for their families. But we have a long way to go. Letís not resist the burden of duty. Letís act like men and embrace it willingly ó for the long haul. Indeed, in the home, the buck stops here, with you and me.


The final quality lacking in Adam and in too many of his heirs is that of vision. Weíre talking about long-term vision, the ability to look beyond immediate concerns to the future implications of todayís decisions. Surely Adam was not thinking about the future at all when he took the fruit from Eve. He must not have reflected too much on what the Lord meant when He threatened him with death. He certainly did not think about what harm would result for his wife and children. Would he have taken the fruit if he had paused to reflect on the millennia of pain and suffering that would be caused by this one bad choice?

Our Lord was an example of a man with vision. Hebrews tells us of Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shameÖ (12:2). The immediate prospect of the cross was enough to cause our Lord grim agony as He prayed in Gethsemane. Yet he was able to press on through what became the most horrendous personal nightmare of human history because he could foresee the future blessing his choice would bring to the human race. Adamís lack of vision damned mankind. Jesusí clarity of vision led Him to become the worldís savior.

Men today lack vision. Their time horizons are very short, extending only to the next paycheck, the next vacation, the next promotion. But godly men must be able to gauge the effects of their present choices on their children and their childrenís children. They must picture the future. They must see it and allow it to motivate present actions. Their time horizons must extend even past their grandchildren and into eternity as they learn to weigh every action in light of its eternal implications.

What are the long-term implications of the choices you make today? What difference will it make that you have (or neglect) family worship and Bible instruction? How will your grandchildren be affected by your prayer life today? How will your children be shaped by your choice of vocation? By where you choose to live? By the church to which you belong? By how you choose to educate them? By your policies concerning peer-grouping or entertainment or driving? The choices you make today, even many that may seem insignificant, will shape the lives of your descendants and reverberate through eternity. Adam didnít think ahead. Jesus did. You must.


Male passivity is the root of all evil. Is that statement stretching it a bit? Not by much. Sin would not have entered the world but for Adamís lack of masculine leadership. And the ravages of sin would be much more contained even today if most men in most homes would seize the day by seizing the reins of family leadership.

God made man to take dominion, first of himself, then of his family, and then of some portion of this world (Gen. 1:26ff.). This is a chief way in which men exhibit the image of God. Passivity is a denial of what it means to be a man. The original man ceded control to his wife and ultimately to Satan. By Godís grace Christian men today can reclaim godly control of their families. This in turn will prepare them for dominion in other spheres and is the ultimate strategy for wresting control of this world away from the Evil One and returning it to the rightful heir of the world, our Lord Jesus.

In the words of William Merrillís great hymn:

Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and soul and mind and strength
To serve the King of kings.


Patriarch Magazine

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