"By one man sin entered the world, and death by sin. The spirit of insubordination possessed him; he rebelled again his Maker; he ate of the forbidden fruit; and terrible were the consequences that followed."
The notion that there was no death before the fall of man is a sentiment I have heard expressed more than once during my forays into creationism. This is the first half of the premise on which Christianity is based (as explained by Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15). Adam committed the first sin, Original Sin. For this, God curses all of mankind. We are all born tainted and presumably there was no way to cleanse ourselves of this for about four thousand years. Luckily there was no Hell at this point, so when we died our souls simply ceased to exist.
According to the Christian gospel, Jesus Christ is the only one who can offer redemption from this bleak fate. Without faith in Him, we remain burdened with Original Sin and will suffer the consequences after death. That is His basic purpose: death through Adam, life through Christ. But if one doesn't accept the idea of Original Sin, then on what grounds can belief in Jesus be necessary? His teachings provide philosophical insight, but there is suddenly no dire need for Christian allegiance: he is but another mortal man with thoughtful words.
Herein lies the apparent contradiction: we are all punished for Adam's sin, and yet we are only supposed to be accountable for our own sins (Ezekiel 18, Deuteronomy 24, 2 Kings 14).
Ezekiel 18:20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
What accounts for this inconsistency? Can God hold us responsible for the sins of our forefathers while telling us not to do the same, and if so, are we responsible for the sins of every one of our ancestors or just Adam?