On Evil and Sin
Note: I closed my post, My Theological Opinion…On Creation (February 20, 2019), raising the matter of evil and sin.
To understand the realm of time and space, that is, the world as “creation,” inexorably, is to form and frame a conception of who and what God is, as Creator, and who and what humans are, as created, and that God and humans are bound in a relationship.
This relationship between God, as Absolute Goodness, and humans, who, with the freewill God has granted them in creation, can follow and not follow God’s will, leads, also inescapably, to a consideration of evil and sin.
Concerning evil, here, I think only of moral evil(1) as manifested in harmful intentions and actions by a moral (i.e., a conscious) agent, meaning a human being or human beings.(2)
When humans commit evil, whether in thought, word, or deed or in all three, it is a violation (a devaluing) of the relationship with God, who, as Absolute Goodness, intends only good.
So, it is that evil and sin are closely related.
The word “sin” is derived from the Greek, hamartia, meaning, “to miss the mark.”
A now classic illustration employed by the ancients, who oft told stories associated with words so to clarify and communicate meaning, is that of an archer whose arrows do not strike (indeed, fall short of) the middle (the bull’s eye) of the target; the archer’s errant aim indicative of wayward or rather self-willed (and, thus, not God-willed) intentions and actions.
In one understanding, the bull’s eye of the target is God, who, as Creator, is the center of all life. Hence, to be sinful, “to miss the mark” is to disregard God as the center of life and to choose another center (or other centers).
In another understanding, the bull’s eye of the target is authentic humanity, that is, human life lived in accord with God’s will. Hence, to be sinful, “to miss the mark” is to choose one’s self (thoughts and feelings, desires and needs, intentions and actions) as the center of one’s life.
In still another understanding (or, perhaps, better said, an aspect of either or both of the above descriptions of the character of sin), the state of sinfulness of “missing the mark” of a God-centered or authentic human life is not so much a confession that humans are bad, but rather a recognition that humans are. In other words, sinfulness is part and parcel of human ontology, human beingness. In still more other words, to be sinful is to be human and to be human is to be sinful.
Thus, the necessity, from a Christian point of view, of God’s atoning, redeeming act of Jesus’ death on the cross, for, as the Apostle Paul writes: For our sake, God made (Christ) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.(3)
(1) In the realm of theological considerations, there is also what is termed “natural evil” that pertains to events and circumstances of trial and tribulation, pain and suffering that are not attributable to human agents, e.g., weather-related natural disasters.
(2) According to the Genesis story, it was the serpent that tempted the woman and man to disobey God, saying, “God knows that when you eat of (the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3.5). This capacity to know the difference between good and evil and to choose between doing good and doing evil is what makes humans moral agents.
(3) 2 Corinthians 5.21
2 thoughts on “My Theological Opinion…”
WOW This was stunning…. I will be pondering this point for the rest of Lent!! “to be sinful is to be human and to be human is to be sinful” … what a sentence that is… So a question …. Is there a balance to this … can we exist somewhere in the middle, trying to avoid sin on a daily basis and still be considered human?? One of the things I’m writing in my journal for Lent is how I am missing the mark on a daily basis. Yesterday I felt like I was on the mark in my behavior, because I didn’t yell and scream at the caregivers after Mom escaped from the group home. Instead, I put myself in their place, especially since they were all crying and knew that the mistakes that were made occurred because they are human.
Loretta, as always your questions and ponderings stir up deep responses within me.
I want to make a distinction between sin (and evil) and mistakes. By “sin,” I mean our human predisposition to follow our will, thus, not God’s will. By “evil,” I mean the harm and pain we cause others and ourselves, often willingly and willfully, precisely because we are given to follow the dictates and demands of “self.” All humans, given that we are not perfect or all-knowing, make mistakes; that is, err in fulfilling even our best intentions (and, often enough, because we didn’t know and couldn’t know the consequences of our actions or inactions).
As for finding and striking a balance, yes, I do believe that I can be conscious in seeking to avoid doing the sinful acts that manifest my sinful condition. Can I rid myself of my sinful condition (that is, my predisposition to seek to satisfy myself)? No. Can I trust in God, through the Spirit, because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for me, to empower me to resist? Yes. Will I, in this life, ever be certain that I am aligned with God? No. However, can I daily strive, with God’s help, to be aligned to the divine will? Yes.
‘Tis a tricky puzzle, yes? But worth every effort – both God’s effort and mine!