Last blog post I defended some of my presuppositions that I use when writing these post so feel free to check it out as a foundation for what is said here. Doing some research for this topic I found myself totally overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of the letter of Paul to the Romans and its theology regarding sin. If you are interested in what I have to say here then please pursue it further and read Romans.
So what is the Christian view of sin? First, it is pandemic, everybody does it. Without getting into the Creation debate, the Bible tells a true story (whether metaphorical or actual) of the first man and the first woman, Adam and Eve. God created them as bearers of His image and placed them in a Garden where they were rule over creation in constant intimacy with God and each other. As God desired them to love Him and enjoy Him forever, He gave them a free will (because love without choice is not love). He gave them everything in the Garden but told them not to eat of the tree of good and evil. Being deceived by the devil, they ate of it and sacrificed the perfection and intimacy they had enjoyed for the pain and death of sin. Through this choice, the Image of God within Adam and Eve was broken. This broken image included death, suffering, and an inability to live according to their purpose. This story explains something that most of us already know.
- Sin is born into us in some way. Psalm 51:5 says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Also, the author of Proverbs calls forth our own knowledge of the fact that we are not perfect: “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin’?” In the New Testament we have 1 John 1:8, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” In our own culture it is readily acknowledged in phrases like, “I’m only human” and “Nobody’s perfect.” If we are honest with ourselves we know that there is something wrong with the world and part of the problem is ourselves. Every worldview attempts to explain or answer this problem.
- Some worldviews claim that the divine is in everything, which contains the partial truth that we are made in the image of God and everything made reflects Him. These pantheistic (and traditionally Eastern) worldviews claim that the end of suffering comes when we are able to fully connect to the god within us and everything else, a kind of unification with the life force and an obliteration of individuality. Other monotheistic worldviews focus on following rules or making sacrifices in order to reach God and return to His favor and eventual perfection in an afterlife. Christianity is often stereotyped this way but that will be addressed in a future post. Lastly, humanistic worldviews (which general deny God’s existence or involvement) focus on realizing our potential as human beings. There is the belief that if we are just better educated or better behaved or redistribute wealth then we will attain utopia. Each of these lay the burden on us to fix the world and offer a solution, but they all acknowledge that there is something wrong and give reasons for that wrong. [See below for a hymn of the Church that addresses this story]
In conclusion, I believe we all know that we are broken in some way, that the world needs fixing, that we all sin. We might call it something different depending on our worldview but there is a problem and in the next two posts I will address both the nature of the problem and the Christian answer to sin and the Fall.
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