How do you understand sin?

Original-sinThere has been a great discussion going on over at the Pagan and Christian Moot over our different understandings of sin, so I thought I would provide space for conversation here at Curious Christian as well. The comment of mine that generated the most response was this:

“… I think it is a mistake to interpret sin only in judicial terms. Many metaphors are used in the New Testament and judicial metaphors only form a subset. Sin can also be defined in terms of broken relationships, social sickness, powerlessness in the face of addiction, etc. Personally, given my interest in counselling, I quite like metaphors related to healing and empowerment, freedom from bondage and dysfunction.”

I wonder if this has any resonance for you, or if you would take other approaches as well? I recall Tim Keller putting it something like this: we need to contextualize the gospel for both the churched and the unchurched. The churched readily understand sin in terms of morality, of doing bad things and failing to do good things. But the unchurched more easily understand sin in terms of idolatry, of making good things ultimate things, and being enslaved by them. Freedom from the things that enslave me, from the drug of ego-centredness, that is something I can relate to.

2 thoughts on “How do you understand sin?

  1. If we take the perspective of the Christus Victor theory of the Atonement, sin is the enemy’s victory over humanity. It is the evidence that he subdued us. Thus, one way to contextualize the doctrine of sin for many unchurched might be to cast it in the metaphor of an occupation. The human race lives in a foreign occupied territory.
    While there are some who are open traitors, most people are more like sympathizers just trying to survive, and consider themselves not guilty or guilty of only lesser crimes. But in a war, even sympathizers are guilty of treason. So whether we are “big sinners” or “little sinner” we are guilty unless we join the resistance.

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  2. i like francis spufford’s re-framing of sin, which worked perfectly in the context of his 2013 book, ‘unapologetic’, as ‘the human propensity to fuck things up’.

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