This article, amounting to less than one page, argues: “Before they ate the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve either knew that obeying God is good and disobeying God is evil, or they did not know this.” (127) La Croix then deduces that God was unjust toward them in either case.
Now interpreting early Genesis is less interesting than it might seem. But why not?
I think Adam and Eve knew enough of good and evil to prefer life to death. Hence on their own, they successfully abstained from eating the forbidden fruit, as per the Lord’s “From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die.” (Gen 2:17)
However, persuaded by the snake’s argument, Eve decided that God was viciously withholding from her a valuable good, wisdom. The snake, she thought, was doing her a favor by exposing the pettiness and jealous character of God, as though the Lord were Zeus and the snake, Prometheus. To the extent that Eve held a false idea of God of this sort, she did not know good and evil. As a result, she despised her Creator in her heart.
Regarding the realization of their nakedness, my guess is that in the state of innocence, Adam was banging Eve 3 times a day and enjoying it immensely. So, it was a corporeal sign of Adam’s soul losing its subjection to God that his body lost its subjection to the soul. He could no longer control his sexual drive profitably for himself.
The Original Sin then was the combination of the contempt for God in the will, false understanding of God in the intellect, and the act of disobedience via physically eating the fruit. This is what was punished “legalistically.”
At the same time, consuming the fruit did bestow a godlike attribute on the couple, as evidenced by God saying, “See! The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil!” (Gen 3:22) In particular, Adam must have learned that God was the highest good. Now knowing good and evil entails being able to choose between good and evil. But Adam had not yet shown that he preferred good to evil. He was expelled so that he could earn glory for himself by demonstrating in action his love for the good despite obstacles such as the “cursed ground,” the need to toil, and death. That’s why God worried that Adam “reaches out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life, and eats of it and lives forever.” It was not proper for a man whose nature was now corrupted to be immortal.
Thus, the punishment was not mere divine retribution but served a separate purpose, as well. In either case, there was no injustice in it.