God created Adam and Eve, placed them in the Garden and commanded them not to eat from the tree of Knowledge of good and evil but gave no such command concerning the tree of life.
God then leaves them alone. The serpent then shows up and convinced Eve to eat from the tree. She does and Adam joins her. (They seem to be very stupid people. No offense meant, ancestors.)
Eventually, God returns and they admit to their actions. He then goes on to hand out punishment.
But punishment in what way? I think the issue of God punishing us (unjustly) for the sins of Adam and Eve (our ancestors) can be avoided if you take the view that God was never actually ‘punishing’ them but simply letting them know what would naturally result from their actions. That is, God is not acting directly, but is letting their actions run their cause.
For instance, If have sex, you might get pregnant. Getting pregnant is not a punishment (even if the sex is premarital). It’s simply the way things work. Unprotected sex = babies. In the same way, maybe the death, pain, suffering, subjugation of women, etc. Were simply things that followed naturally from eating from the tree. In that sense, When God said, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”, he did not mean, “I will kill you if you eat from the tree” but rather, “if you eat from the tree, you will set in motion a chain of actions such that your death will result.” Here are some hypothetical chains:
Man and woman eat from tree –> Man and woman become sinners. If they eat from tree of life (or continue to eat from it), they live forever in that fallen state. –> God sends them out of the garden –> There’s no tree of life, so they eventually die –> Their children also have no tree of life and die too.
Man and woman eat from tree –> Man and woman become sinner and now cannot have their previous relationship with God –> God used to sustain the land, and now that he doesn’t things don’t act the way they used to –> Pain and suffering result. –> Their children are born into this fallen world and it all goes on till we get our redemption, new bodies and a new heaven and earth.
Now, in both my chains, God does act directly in the chain, but he can’t be said to be issuing a direct punishment on them. At least not in the ‘you broke the law and now you must pay’ way. The first one is more mercy than punishment. He wants to redeem them rather than let them continue on their path. The second one is their fault. As a direct result of their actions, God’s relationship with them and the land is simply no longer there and this sets everything on a downward spiral.
If my hypothesis is right, then God did not punish either Adam or Eve for eating from the tree but they still got justice. He also did not unjustly punish us by directly making women suffer more in childbirth, etc. So, if anyone is to blame, Adam and Eve are.
So far as I can see, the greatest objection to this is that God claimed to be the cause.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel. – Genesis 3:15
I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children – Genesis 3:16b (Hey, can you see the repetition there? This is written like poetry. Of course if you group this chapter of Genesis with the wisdom literature, all this goes out the window)
However, I don’t think this means anything. Firstly because God did act directly (in my chains). But none of his direct actions were ‘punishments’. The punishment was built into the system. Also, God can, in a sense, be said to cause anything that He allows because He runs the joint. E.g. He crucified Jesus, although we all know it was the Romans and He took Job’s children even though that was Satan and He killed my Grandpa although I’m pretty sure he died of old age.
Disclaimer: All of this came directly from my head and I’m no theologian. However, most of it seems to make sense as far as I’ve thought them out. I would be glad if anyone can point out any problems I missed. I also did not handle the serpent’s case. That was intentional.