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Fri Aug 3, 2012, 05:10 PM

Hamartiology 101 - Sin in theology

I have what I think might be an interesting maybe even fun idea. We have often heard the dearth of theologically useful or even serious discussion on DU. I've tried a few times with results ranging from nugatory to indifferent. I'm going to try again with a twist. I will also post a companion thread on the exact same topic at roughly the same time from a more casual and open viewpoint. It will be interesting to see how many and what kind of responses each draws. To be clear: I intend this thread to be a serious, informed and semi-technical but still very accessible discussion and promise I for one will not start, and will even try to resist responding to, the usual backbiting. I won't pretend I can or should be able to direct your responses, but please, if you prefer a more casual, combative or sarcastic conversation, or all three - go to this link: http://www.democraticunderground.com/121838985

OK that said. From a theological view what can be said about sin? We know that the Hebrew word comes from the same root as the missing of an aim or target - khatah, but beyond the obvious meaning of falling short of a given standard that tells us little. The basic threads of which I'm aware tend to separate it into two main defined categories


1) The increase in love for self and decrease of love for God, concupiscence, that is the basis of all sin in the mind, which may or may not become sin of the flesh. Lust after all is desire not for the other but for the gratification of the self. This to me seems to be a more emotional view of sin - one that is different from a judicial approach as in the secular analog of crime. No secular society I can think of criminalizes self-love.

2) The transgression of commandments or laws of the religious community. Here we have a closer version to laws and crime. It is a sin to not do what God says you must, or to do what he says you must not.

Now Jesus obviously spoke about sin, and his most basic answer combines the two, albeit slightly emphasizing the former. If we love God with all our hearts then 1 is no problem, and we will likely follow his laws. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, we are unlikely to break laws that protect them. He does then de-emphasize a strictly legalistic view of sin which is of course the most prevalent view in Judaism, at least in his putative time.

Early theologians spoke about sin too. Most that I can recall defined it as separation from the will of God in both mental and physical terms.

The difference between the denominational views of sin is quite intriguing , as is the role of original sin. Is sin an inevitable result of Adam's actions that leads to depravity innate in us all that can be overcome only by grace and faith as many Protestants say, or can humanity still achieve goodness, if not redemption, without divine grace? Is sin both an action and a result - do we "create" more sin into being in the abstract sense when we transgress? The catechism tells us of venial and mortal sins which require different types of reconciliation. We also learn of both te eternal and the temporal punishments for sin. Liberal theology speaks more of structural sin and less of personal sin.

So my questions would be

1) What is the nature of sin, and is it innate in all humans and if so to what degree?
2) Where did sin arise? From Adam, from Satan, or from human nature? If the latter, why did God create our natures to sin?
3) What is the result of unreconciled sin? Is there a temporal punishment, an eternal one, both, or none at all? What is it?
4) What is both our and God's role in redemption? Are we saved by prevenient grace, by grace that allows us to overcome depravity, by our works or faith or both? Or are we simply forgiven our sins without restriction?

As a nonbeliever, answers from me are necessarily hypothetical, but if I ask I should answer and the following would make most sense from what basic theology I know

1) Concupiscence makes more sense than legalism, and humans must have the capacity to sin and to not sin equally (although not with equal difficulty!)
2) Original sin I reject utterly even were I a believer. Satan is way too neat and tidy a personification too to be real. This leaves by default a created capacity and even predilection to sin if I believed. I can only conclude that a God setting this up simply wants to challenge us to live up to our potential.
3) Both scripturally and based on 2) I cannot conceive of a reason for the potential to sin were unreconciled sin not punished. But I cannot conceive of a God worthy of the name and not outright evil who would entrap us to eternal infinite punishment for finite sin, especially when we must approach the deal through faith alone. Inescapably then, I would as a believer accept the idea of a temporal punishment that would be the overt withholding of reconciliation with full knowledge of its possibility and eventual granting after forgiveness is granted
4) Their must be an active human role. What would the point be of Calvinism's total depravity but a rigged bingo game that would be boring to a 10 yr old's mind let alone God's? To have a human role we must have the capacity to reject sin. Having that must make works part of the equation. If faith alone reconciles us, sin and its existence is meaningless, and again an intellect far below mine let alone God's would not introduce an unnecessary and insignificant variable. Sorry Liberation theology fans but the same applies in reverse. Why would sin exist if it were irrelevant?



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Arrow 17 replies Author Time Post
Reply Hamartiology 101 - Sin in theology (Original post)
dmallind Aug 2012 OP
truedelphi Aug 2012 #1
dimbear Aug 2012 #2
cbayer Aug 2012 #3
LARED Aug 2012 #4
Fortinbras Armstrong Aug 2012 #5
skepticscott Aug 2012 #6
mr blur Aug 2012 #7
skepticscott Aug 2012 #8
Heddi Aug 2012 #9
LARED Aug 2012 #10
trotsky Aug 2012 #11
LARED Aug 2012 #15
trotsky Aug 2012 #16
skepticscott Aug 2012 #13
Thats my opinion Aug 2012 #12
skepticscott Aug 2012 #14
trotsky Aug 2012 #17

Response to dmallind (Original post)

Fri Aug 3, 2012, 05:31 PM

1. Here's about the only two things I know about sin:

One: Some people think that sin is everywhere, including within themselves. And they scrupulously spend most of their time beating themselves up over it.

Two: Other people, the very people in society that should concern themselves with morality, don't want to think about the issue, and point to whether their heinous actions are legal or not. And of course, they also have the power to see that their actions, however heinous from a moral stand point, are totally legal. So we saw the legalization of imprisoning and killing people of Jewish descent in Nazi Germany, and currently here in the USA, of totally ripping off the wealth owned by Middle Incomed and Lower Incomed, while placing it all in service of themselves and their friends.

If the world had more people that fell right in between these two categories, we would all be better off.

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Response to dmallind (Original post)

Fri Aug 3, 2012, 06:41 PM

2. There's no need for any complex words or logical sleight of hand. In a small town you

need revenue. You set the lights to stay yellow for so short a time that nobody gets through before they turn red. Then you arrest and fine the motorists, mostly the out-of-towners. You tell the indignant motorists that it is for their own safety, and pocket the money.

That's what sin is about.

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Response to dmallind (Original post)

Fri Aug 3, 2012, 06:51 PM

3. I have absolutely no concept of sin.

Although I was raised in the church and by a minister, sin was never a concept that was considered or discussed. I may have heard it during readings from the bible during services, but I do not recollect hearing about it in church or at home otherwise.

I had some catholic friends who seemed very focused on it. They had confession, rosaries, talked of purgatory and hell, but all of this was foreign to me.

Neither of your two categories speaks to me. The basic message I got was that one should treat others well, particularly those that were less fortunate than oneself. That's sounds simplistic, but was expanded on using stories from the bible and examples in real time.

So, I guess I shouldn't even be participating in this discussion, because the questions you pose don't make sense to me.

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Response to dmallind (Original post)

Fri Aug 3, 2012, 07:50 PM

4. Easton Bible Dictionary- Definition of sin.

 

Sin
(1.) Is “any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God” (1Jo_3:4; Rom_4:15), in the inward state and habit of the soul, as well as in the outward conduct of the life, whether by omission or commission (Rom_6:12-17; 7:5-24). It is “not a mere violation of the law of our constitution, nor of the system of things, but an offense against a personal lawgiver and moral governor who vindicates his law with penalties. The soul that sins is always conscious that his sin is (1.) intrinsically vile and polluting, and (2.) that it justly deserves punishment, and calls down the righteous wrath of God. Hence sin carries with it two inalienable characters, (1.) ill-desert, guilt (reatus); and (2.) pollution (macula).”, Hodge's Outlines.
The moral character of a man's actions is determined by the moral state of his heart. The disposition to sin, or the habit of the soul that leads to the sinful act, is itself also sin (Rom_6:12-17; Gal_5:17; Jam_1:14, Jam_1:15).
The origin of sin is a mystery, and must for ever remain such to us. It is plain that for some reason God has permitted sin to enter this world, and that is all we know. His permitting it, however, in no way makes God the author of sin.
Adam's sin (Gen_3:1-6) consisted in his yielding to the assaults of temptation and eating the forbidden fruit. It involved in it, (1.) the sin of unbelief, virtually making God a liar; and (2.) the guilt of disobedience to a positive command. By this sin he became an apostate from God, a rebel in arms against his Creator. He lost the favour of God and communion with him; his whole nature became depraved, and he incurred the penalty involved in the covenant of works.
Original sin. “Our first parents being the root of all mankind, the guilt of their sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature were conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation.” Adam was constituted by God the federal head and representative of all his posterity, as he was also their natural head, and therefore when he fell they fell with him (Rom_5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:22-45). His probation was their probation, and his fall their fall. Because of Adam's first sin all his posterity came into the world in a state of sin and condemnation, i.e., (1.) a state of moral corruption, and (2.) of guilt, as having judicially imputed to them the guilt of Adam's first sin.
“Original sin” is frequently and properly used to denote only the moral corruption of their whole nature inherited by all men from Adam. This inherited moral corruption consists in, (1.) the loss of original righteousness; and (2.) the presence of a constant proneness to evil, which is the root and origin of all actual sin. It is called “sin” (Rom_6:12, Rom_6:14, Rom_6:17; Rom_7:5-17), the “flesh” (Gal_5:17, Gal_5:24), “lust” (Jam_1:14, Jam_1:15), the “body of sin” (Rom_6:6), “ignorance,” “blindness of heart,” “alienation from the life of God” (Eph_4:18, Eph_4:19). It influences and depraves the whole man, and its tendency is still downward to deeper and deeper corruption, there remaining no recuperative element in the soul. It is a total depravity, and it is also universally inherited by all the natural descendants of Adam (Rom_3:10-23; Rom_5:12-21; Rom_8). Pelagians deny original sin, and regard man as by nature morally and spiritually well; semi-Pelagians regard him as morally sick; Augustinians, or, as they are also called, Calvinists, regard man as described above, spiritually dead (Eph_2:1; 1Jo_3:14).
The doctrine of original sin is proved, (1.) From the fact of the universal sinfulness of men. “There is no man that sinneth not” (1Ki_8:46; Isa_53:6; Psa_130:3; Rom_3:19, Rom_3:22, Rom_3:23; Gal_3:22). (2.) From the total depravity of man. All men are declared to be destitute of any principle of spiritual life; man's apostasy from God is total and complete (Job_15:14-16; Gen_6:5, Gen_6:6). (3.) From its early manifestation (Psa_58:3; Pro_22:15). (4.) It is proved also from the necessity, absolutely and universally, of regeneration (Joh_3:3; 2Co_5:17). (5.) From the universality of death (Rom_5:12-20).
Various kinds of sin are mentioned, (1.) “Presumptuous sins,” or as literally rendered, “sins with an uplifted hand”, i.e., defiant acts of sin, in contrast with “errors” or “inadvertencies” (Psa_19:13). (2.) “Secret”, i.e., hidden sins (Psa_19:12); sins which escape the notice of the soul. (3.) “Sin against the Holy Ghost” (q.v.), or a “sin unto death” (Mat_12:31, Mat_12:32; 1Jo_5:16), which amounts to a willful rejection of grace.
(2.) A city in Egypt, called by the Greeks Pelusium, which means, as does also the Hebrew name, “clayey” or “muddy,” so called from the abundance of clay found there. It is called by Ezekiel (Eze_30:15) “the strength of Egypt, “thus denoting its importance as a fortified city. It has been identified with the modern Tineh, “a miry place,” where its ruins are to be found. Of its boasted magnificence only four red granite columns remain, and some few fragments of others.

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Response to LARED (Reply #4)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 12:35 PM

5. Another take on the sin of Adam

Adam's sin (Gen_3:1-6) consisted in his yielding to the assaults of temptation and eating the forbidden fruit. It involved in it, (1.) the sin of unbelief, virtually making God a liar; and (2.) the guilt of disobedience to a positive command. By this sin he became an apostate from God, a rebel in arms against his Creator. He lost the favour of God and communion with him; his whole nature became depraved, and he incurred the penalty involved in the covenant of works.


Harvey Cox wrote an essay, "On Not Leaving It To The Snake". In it, he interprets the sin of Adam as a sin of sloth. Sloth is generally seen as laziness, but the word for it in Latin is acedia, which means "uncaring". Eve let the snake make the decision to eat the fruit for her, and Adam let Eve make the same decision for him. They both left the moral decision up to someone else -- ie, they did not care to make their own decision.

I am reminded of Adolf Eichmann's defense of "I was just following orders." This defense was rejected because Eichmann was trying to claim that he allowed his superiors to make moral decisions for him. He knew what he was doing, he was, after all, the secretary at the Wannsee Conference.

No, we must make our own moral decisions. Thomas Aquinas taught that we must follow our consciences, even if our moral advisors tell us that we are wrong. Above all, we must not leave moral decisions to others.

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Response to Fortinbras Armstrong (Reply #5)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 12:50 PM

6. All of which rather amusingly misses the point

Last edited Sun Aug 12, 2012, 03:37 PM - Edit history (1)

that, assuming it happened as described, this could hardly be considered a sin in the first place (at least not by any intelligent and serious person), since before eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam had no way to tell right from wrong, sin from not-sin. Simply saying that he should have known not to do it because god told him not to (for anyone who might think that argument wasn't silly) is just as silly, because he obviously had no way even to know that not doing what god commanded was wrong/sin/evil/sent to bed without supper stuff. It may make a good mythological story, but a certain suspension of disbelief is required, as with most fiction.

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Response to skepticscott (Reply #6)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 02:38 PM

7. Exactly. "Hasa Diga Eebowai" nt

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Response to mr blur (Reply #7)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 03:42 PM

8. And Klaatu Barada Nikto to you!

The question now is whether any of the advocates of Serious Theology on the board will have a response that isn't babbling drivel. Or running and hiding.

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Response to skepticscott (Reply #8)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 05:49 PM

9. Klaatu Barada Nikto

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Response to skepticscott (Reply #6)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 08:26 PM

10. Strange argument

 

The argument that God told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit, but he still did not know it was a sin makes no sense. I know you think the whole thing is silly but you brought it up. At the most simplistic level if God said not to do something and you do it you have sinned. Even if Adam had no concept of disobedience or transgression or however you would like to describe Adam's ignorance it was still sin to disobey God becasue we are made in Gods image and we know as part of our nature what is sin.

Gen 3:2-6 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, (3) but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" (4) But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. (5) For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (6) So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

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Response to LARED (Reply #10)

Mon Aug 13, 2012, 07:29 AM

11. So, according to Christian theology as espoused by LARED...

it's more important to OBEY than to understand what is right or wrong and do it for those reasons.

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Response to trotsky (Reply #11)

Mon Aug 13, 2012, 09:59 PM

15. Don't put words in my mouth.

 

I said nothing of the sort.

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Response to LARED (Reply #15)

Tue Aug 14, 2012, 07:04 AM

16. Seems pretty clear to me.

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Response to LARED (Reply #10)

Mon Aug 13, 2012, 09:47 PM

13. The bottom line is that

if the story were true, Adam and Eve either knew right from wrong and sin from not-sin, or they didn't. If they knew inherently, as part of their being, then the idea of the tree is pointless. Saying that they were only cognizant of one type of sin is just silly special pleading.

Of course, the fact that whoever recorded the story can't really resolve that paradox is just one of many indications why the whole episode can only be taken as another myth.

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Response to dmallind (Original post)

Mon Aug 13, 2012, 07:35 PM

12. From the earlier thread--ethics--not doctrine

dmallind raises an interesting concern, but one that has not been anywhere near the center of theological thought for a long time. Theology has moved a long way from the ancient or even the modern juridical concern about sin. While it is true that some churches, basically the Roman Catholic and Protestant fundamentalists, still seem to center on obedience, and the accompanying guilt, progressive religion has moved in another direction. This direction was instigated by Jesus who held that all the commandments could be summed up in loving God and loving each other. So right living moved beyond obedience to law, to an ethical imperative. Far before that, the prophet Micah held, in the face of the commandment keepers, that religion could be reduced to doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God.

This notion of right living has come not only from and through religion, but in all sorts of non-religious secular perspectives, because this ethical system is deeply rooted in the heart of reality. Religion has only offered a way to access what is universally true. It not only has to do with how we related to one another, but how we care for the earth, the preservation of peace and harmony between nations and even ideologically diverse perspectives. It has basic implications for how we deal with the outsiders, the "non-persons", the disabled, the poor, the left out. Those are the people Jesus included. This personal action simply followed his articulated ethical stance.

Perhaps sin is to live outside this ethical imperative. If you want the full treatment of this notion read Emmanuel Kant and his categorical imperative. Put simply, it is acting as if were your action to become universally accepted, it would eventuate in a better world. In every world religion the corollary comes in words like, "do to others as you would want others to do to you." These corollaries are exactly what Jesus meant when he summed up the list of commandments.

Most contemporary religions discourse deals with this ethical imperative, not sin.

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Response to Thats my opinion (Reply #12)

Mon Aug 13, 2012, 09:52 PM

14. Except you're the one who said

that no one would want to live in a world with ethics not based on religion, so your lip service to "non-religious secular perspectives" rings phony and hollow. But you have yet to answer the often-asked question: What ethical or moral principles are ONLY discoverable through religion, and in NO other way?

My money is on your dodging that question yet again.

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Response to Thats my opinion (Reply #12)

Tue Aug 14, 2012, 07:06 AM

17. "Religion has only offered a way to access what is universally true."

How do you know what is universally true when it comes to religion?

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