Harm, Evil and Sin
Sin causes harm throughout the interconnected creation. Great harm, long-term harm, indirect harm, hidden harm, unexpected harm, multiplied harm, spreading harm, and irreversible harm.
Therefore sin is important, not just an unfortunate irritation on the skin of history.
- Some misconceptions of sin corrected:
- Sin is not just breaking somebody's rules, even God's rules; it is something that is actually nasty. (Most Westerns today think this way because they are too individualistic in outlook.)
- Sin is not just a nasty action; it is a thumbing the nose at God. (Many of a Roman Catholic or similar background think this way: they have a well developed sense of the nastiness of sin. But do not fully appreciate that it is a personal insult to God. Just like sometimes a child does something naughty out of spite.)
- Sin is not just a thumbing the nose at God; it brings immense harm to his beloved creation. (Many evangelical Christians think this way, and major on Psa.51 "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned." But that is not the ultimate nor the deepest nor the most complete understanding of sin. Since God loves his creation, and his love is infinite, then his concern with sin is also that it harms what he deeply loves.)
- But, circling back again, sin is not just harm-causing, but it is indeed a thumbing the nose at God, on whom everything depends for its existence, meaning, life, richness and health. (If we merely try to avoid the harm, thinking "Well, I don't have to believe that old-fashioned stuff about deities; I'll just try to clear up and avoid some of the mess", that won't work. Because, as we see below, we cannot separate God from his creation nor his laws, however earnestly we might wish to. For instance, there is no such thing as a sin that has no harmful consequences; it's just that the consequences are hidden, usually by being long term or by infecting the deeper parts of our Weltanschauung.)
- Trouble is: 'Sin' has too many connotations attached to it. It was an overworked concept during the Scholastic period, so that people think that anybody who uses that word is a nasty, narrow-minded busybody. But we must use the word and concept, if we are to discuss and consider it.
- For that reason I will talk about Harm, Evil and Sin in this discussion, not just Sin. And I will shorten them to the abbreviation, H.E.S. Doing so will also indicate that Harm and Sin and Evil are all tied up together and cannot be separated.
- Two types of H.E.S.:
- When somebody does H.E.S. for their own selfish or wrong ends, thinking only of themselves. e.g. committing a crime, e.g. trying to get revenge, e.g. cheating on someone you should love. In this type, selfishness and pride often play the major part, and idolatry has a smaller part.
- When somebody tries to amend the harm caused by such H.E.S. but, perhaps unwittingly, this leads to other H.E.S., often worse. e.g. ====. In this type, idolatry has the major part and pride and selfishness often a lesser part.
However, sin is not inherent in the creation; i.e. no dualisms. The creation was originally made Good. Sin then entered.
Sin is not eternal; it will be removed; therefore we, and the whole creation, has hope. Even though it might take thousands of years to remove it.
God will act and is acting to remove sin.
Sin is centred in the human heart; it is not a property or attribute, but some deliberate deep-action.
(Moreover and even so, sin has corrupted the non-human part of creation too.)
Sin is an orientation, and emerges as bad thoughts, attitudes, actions and words; it is not primarily those thoughts, actions etc. themselves.
Sin must be repented of, not just stopped (because it is orientation and not just actions, and because it is centred on the individual human heart and therefore repentance must come from the individual as a (willingness for) re-orientation).
Therefore God is more concerned to root it out than to prevent it.
He wants to expose the orientation, so as to cure it, rather than to prevent the actions.
Therefore God often works to make sin explicit and visible in our lives, rather than covered up; e.g. to Abraham he said he would wait till the sin of the Canaanites was in full measure.
(Note the justice of God in this; he will both give a chance for people to turn, and also will not wipe out until it is deserved.)
Humankind cannot solve the problem of sin
So only God can solve the problem of sin, and he does so
- because we have not the power
- because we are blinded, e.g. sin has so currupted our thinking that we do not recognise correctly (though we do in part) what is sin and what is not
- because we are mis-oriented, and sin has entered our hearts so that even if we tried to correct our view of it we would be unable to (like trying to push a boat across the water while being inside it)
- because of the Evil One, whose intention is always to keep us in sin and thwart all goodness and God's plans
For more on this see ways of dealing with sin.
- by taking it all into himself, by dying as a human being (Jesus Christ)
- by paying himself the 'debt' of sin, that is, taking upon himself the responsibility for it and the harm it has done
- by then coming to live inside those who turn to him, to give power and a cleaning-up operation
Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 1998.
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Updates: 31 October 1998 first written. 21 November 1999 link to atonement. 27 April 2014 rid ../.