Anxiety is the experience of being both attracted to and repulsed by the same thing. Some contemporary psychologists have understood this and related anxiety to what they term ‘approach-avoidance conflicts.’… In the human situation we find ourselves being both attracted to and repulsed by the same thing. [Is this similar to the desire in children to explore the unknown, yet to be fearful of it, a sort of adventure, exploring what is strange, risking danger?]
The experience of anxiety gives us humans an awareness of our freedom and responsibility. It helps us see that life consists of choices. We might say that anxiety is a revelatory emotion. It reveals to us our spiritual character by signaling our freedom.
How did sin enter the world? How was it even possible for Adam and Eve to be tempted? God endowed them with freedom, and with freedom came fundamental anxiety. ..To turn from God is to turn away from being our true selves. Anxiety is an awareness that, though God has created me and endowed me with freedom, I can use this freedom to cut myself off from God and will my own destruction. … This possibility both repulses and attracts me. I want to will my own independence and autonomy, even if it means my own destruction. So that the answer to the question about the origin of Adam and Eve’s temptation is that it lies in freedom itself. The temptation was to lay hold of one’s freedom by declaring independence from God. God cannot create free beings to relate freely to him without conceding them this possibility.
Understanding Original Sin
We must understand our sinfulness in a manner that does not let us off the hook by blaming it all on Adam and Eve. Sin cannot be understood simply as an inherited physical ailment; it is a spiritual sickness. The human race is a genuine unity. Without questioning the historicity of Adam, Kierkegaard insists that in some sense Adam is every person, and in some sense every person is Adam. Every person is both himself and the race. When Adam fell into sin, he in some way embodied and represented us all. When we fall into sin, we in some way recapitulate and repeat Adam’s sin.
We cannot say why all human beings sin any more than we can say why Adam sinned. All we can say is that all humans do sin, and they thereby demonstrate the unity of the race. How sin came into the world, each man understands solely by himself. Each of us has to reflect on our own experience? Why have we sinned?
Human beings do not begin with a fresh slate. We are born with a host of sinful inclinations. We are biological creatures, and our sinfulness has shaped our natural desires. None of us can claim to have always done what we could and should; none of us can blame all our misdeeds on our environment and heredity. We put ourselves in Adam’s place. We too have a kind of innocence that we forfeit. By endorsing Adam’s choice, we are saying in effect that we would have done the same thing if we had been in Adam’s place.
Soren Kierkegaard’s Christian Psychology, C. Stephen Evans, pp.60-64