Sunday, August 21, 2005


I think if you want to launch any kind of critique of what has become the dominant popular form of Christian theology, at least in America, you have to start with what is at the center of that theology. The main character in conservative evangelicalism is Sin. James Alison says the following:
Sin, not God is the central character...You can tell this by the fact that once sin has come into the story -- at the fall -- all the other characters are reduced to dancing around it, wondering what they should do about it. Well this means that sin runs the story. All the other characters are reactive in one way or another. And of course it is the non-reactive character who is the real god of the story, while the other characters, being reactive, none of them are god. I guess it is no surprise that in a world formed by this storyline, evil should become fascinating, while good becomes boring.
With Sin being such a central character and so important to the whole conservative evangelical storyline I think it would be a good thing to define our terms. What is Sin? Let's begin by describing what Sin is from a conservative evangelical position.

We all know that the "fundagelicals", as one of my beloved Pastors is fond of calling that particular subset of modern Christianity, rely heavily or are the inheritors of the Anselmian doctrine of Penal substitutionary atonement. So looking at Sin through those eyes it can be described as any offence to God's infinite honor and righteousness. Sin is a contradiction of the excellence of His moral character. It contradicts His holiness, and he must hate it. Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude or nature.
Sin is devotion to self
Sin is search for pleasure
Sin is missing the mark (not living up to the mandates of the law)
Sin is man's declaration of independence from God
All sin is a kind of lying
Failure to submit (presumably to God's law)
Sin is want of conformity unto, or transgression of the law of God
Sin disunites God from man
Sin is abuse of human appetites, of human passions and human faculties
There are so many things undefined here. What exactly is the law? What is the purpose of the law? Where did this idea of God's honor come from? How exactly does sin, if it does at all, disunite God from man? Why does sin often seem to be just nonconformity with the cultural expectations of the conservative evangelicals?

This is a huge subject, with many questions and terms/ideas to be defined, and of course I'm only barely even scratching the surface in this particular blog post.

No comments: