Sunday, January 01, 2006

Why, no...

2 Christmas

...I'm not terribly worried about "sin." It's just not a big deal to me, not as such. I was never really excited to sit around and use that word for it's own sake, as I never had the opportunity or interest to use it on people.

I think Christians often would define "sin" (if they were honest) as "anything you do that bothers or inconveniences me." Properly, that's not very theological, because it certainly has nothing to do with any god. Sure, they'll talk about "offending God," but that's not what they really mean.

Folks who run around talking about "sin" as if it were always acts of rebellion against God that in turn separate people from him really believe in "sins" rather than "sin." They're also in law-keeping mode, and that's very unfortunate. May I direct you to something I wrote last year?
Our previous enmity with God emerged because of rebellion, not brokenness. He does not despise the weak. Not all sin is symptomatic of rebellion, but rather a manifestation of deep brokenness – some part of the personality still in need of Christ’s redemption. Perhaps we can differentiate between sin (as a condition of rebellion) and sins (as symptoms of brokenness or rebellion). This speaks to the insistence of some Christians that their sins yet separate them from God.

They do not.

Rebellion needs to be forgiven, but weakness requires an infusing of grace and strength. Sins (understood as symptoms) cannot separate the individual Christian from God, because in baptism one is sealed with Christ. The righteousness of the Messiah is imputed to the Messiah’s people, after all. As Athanasius illustrates, our restoration and healing are a matter of God’s honor: he has redeemed us, and there is a big sign at the trading post that says “no refunds.” (Groan) But it’s true.

If the God who knows to expect so much more failure of us than we do ourselves has already accepted us in Christ Jesus and sealed us in him through baptism, we don’t require more forgiveness just because we are more aware of our brokenness. I do all kinds of sinful things I don’t know to be sinful (just ask my friends!), but they don’t separate me from God, or my community. We confess to be known as sinners, and to appropriate healing and restoration in the dark and lonely places of our souls.

Jesus does not despise the weak. He does not find us lacking and so cast us away. He knows what we lack, and so has stood for us, and does stand, on those parts of our lives where we are unable.
And I don't think my opinion has changed much since then. If you like, check out both posts:

Reading Athanasius:

Oh, and Happy New Year.


Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...


Good post...

Kyle said...

Thanks, guys!

the jesse said...

Probably not surprisingly, this issue has been one of intrigue for me, and one that I've been able to make no certain declarations about. I do believe that our redemption through baptism is final and irrevocable, but it seems to carry with it an inherent expectation of action to be effectual. Sins don't separate us from God or each other, but I believe substantial unrepentant sins do. If our baptism is to be valid, we need to act in accord with the commands (and yes I'll call them commands) of Jesus. I don't think this means doing everything right all of the time, but it does require being part of, and committing to, a community and living out your baptism, hence the admonitions of the book of Hebrews to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (at least I think it's Hebrews...hehe.)

I think any sin can be forgiven, but baptism itself does not guarantee being plugged into a stable community. (A community that you don't have the license to leave because of your baptism.)

Any thoughts anyone?

Peter said...

That there's some damn good theology you got goin'

Kyle said...

Thanks, Peter.

Jesse, those are good points. The issue isn't one of keeping or breaking laws or commands irrespective of relationship, but rather how we do or don't live in relationship with God and one another. The quality of our moral lives does not determine our relationships, but rather our relationships define the boundaries of a moral life.

Repentance is more important than the "sins" themselves.

Anonymous said...

Things that make you go hmmmmmm. Kyle, as usual your blog is not a quick and easy read.

Really good stuff as usual. Compelling to say the least. I'm going to chew on it before I comment. But at first blush it reasonates with me; this idea of rebellion vs. brokeness. One is definiate while the other is symptomatic. Good stuff my friend. Keep us thinkin'

And, of course, Happy New Year

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that should be "defiant" not whatever the @#$!*? I typed. Maybe "definiate" is the French spelling.



+ Alan said...

Of course you know I basically agree with you Kyle. I may use slightly different language but I'm not sure it would end up much different.

I like to talk about Love in reference to "sin" in a New Covenant context - that keeping and breaking was moved aside when Jesus came on the scene to fully reveal God's Life. So, in our relationship with God and necessarily with others, how we love is what matters. And how we love is a sign of how open we are to the transforming Life of God. When we open ourselves to it and say yes and therefore love well, we are where we need to be, when we say "no," we "sin."

I'm with you on the symptoms of brokenness thing as well. In reference to what I already said, we aren't always able to say yes to God. We may be too broken. Now, the question is begged: Does this mean we are fine where we are and don't need to, nor should we be expected to, move toward Life, toward Love and God?

Such a thing could be inferred - just naturally. It will be however well we state the initial premise I think. So we need to have this thing worked out to the degree that we can at least begin to answer such a question.

I think the understanding that the whole life is a long process is huge here. If we only look at it as one point of side switching and that's it - then choosing here and there not to do bad things - well, that's a different world. I don't think that world exists really. We've made it up. The real world is a world of growing union. Sure there's an initial connection, but that begins the job of union. We have to move with what we have. We know certain things, we go with that, we learn other things, we go there, and on and on. Along the way we have opportunities when we are able to say little yeses that lead to bigger ones, etc. If we ignore those opportunities, we stay where we are.

Sorry for the treatise comment but you know how I am. :) Slowly growing out of our brokenness and into our "fixed-ness" by the power of the Holy Spirit. Peace.

naak said...

Kyle, Happy New Year. I liked your post and I agree with it for the most part. As my pastor says, "it is not sin which leads us away from God, it is our distance from God which allows us to sin." Now I do not say that to mean that when I am close to God I never sin, but the amount is decreased.

I, believing in the election of God (Ephesians 1:4-6), do no believe that a man can fall away from the grace of God, in the since of his salvation (John 6:37-40), but do believe that a man, as you say, "broken", will fall away from the favor of God (Galatians 5:4), and thus he allows us to enter tempting as a means to shame us and bring us back to him(2 Thessalonians 3:14).

So good writing and look forward to a years worth of blogging. Sorry you didnt make it on the Anglican Blog Awards. Maybe this year will be the year. God bless.

Kyle said...

Hey, thanks, Eric.

Alan, those are good words about process: I think most often the "baby steps" or the "little yeses" are what carry us along in growth and restoration.

Naak, while I am inclined to affirm some form of "eternal security" or "perseverence of the saints" because of my theology of baptism, I've chatted with the Jesse, and I can't believe it anymore. I mean, I just can't believe that apostate's going land in the new heaven and earth.

But seriously, I think the NT deals plainly with the reality that some people who have been "on board" with God's kingdom initiative have jumped off the train. People who cut themselves off from salvation in a concrete way, such as departing the community of faith and/or renouncing Christ surely are no longer part of what God's doing in saving and restoring the world, by their own choice.

And that Galatians text, it should be noted, says nothing about "favor" but rather mentions being alienated from Christ and falling from grace. I think I'm stuck interpreting that as moving under God's judgment and a disidentification from the Messiah.

naak said...

Well, that is a debated matter and I can understand why one might think that salvation can be lost, but I think that the text as a whole shows that once one is justified he is sealed in Christ forever. Ill comment on this latter on my blog so I dont fill up yours with another discussion that dont really have much to do with the subject matter of your post.