Saturday, February 16, 2008

What is Sin?

As a child, I was taught the catechism’s definition of sin: “Sin is any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God.” Depending upon what is meant by “the law of God,” this is not a bad definition, as it addresses wrong doing and failing to do right. Of course, by “the law of God,” the catechism meant the ten commandments. But what if took “the law of God” to mean “the truth of God in Jesus”? Sin would then be defined, not legally, but Christologically, as “any want of conformity unto or transgression of the truth of God in Jesus.” And who is Jesus? He is the Father’s Son, the One anointed in the Holy Spirit, and the One in and through and by and for whom all things were created and are sustained, and have been reconciled. In the very existence of Jesus himself, the Father, the Holy Spirit, the human race, and creation are not separated, but bound together in relationship. Jesus is the relationship. Sin is any want of conformity unto or transgression of the truth that we are included in Jesus Christ, and in his relationship with his Father, and in his anointing in the Holy Spirit, and in his relationship with the human race, and in his relationship with all creation.

In my last blog I told the story of my son and his buddy in our den, and how my son’s buddy got to experience the relationship my son has with me. That is both a picture of the gospel itself (we are included in Jesus’ relationship with his Father) and a way of helping us see what sin is all about. Suppose that in the midst of our playing, my son’s buddy suddenly stopped, got up and backed away. He was included in our relationship. My son’s freedom and at-homeness with me, our laughter and fellowship were all being shared with his buddy. He felt and tasted and experienced our life together. But then he suddenly backed away, believing that it was not the truth, that he did not belong, that he was not included. And suppose he then began to think through how to have his own relationship with me. Perhaps he could imitate my son and his relationship with me. Perhaps he could make up some new rules, and impose them on me and my relationship with my son. I think this is what sin is all about. We ignore and refuse to believe that we are included in Jesus’ own relationship with his Father. Then in our darkness we invent our own way of relationship, and then impose them on Jesus and his Father, the Holy Spirit and everyone else in the universe. Essentially sin is insisting that Jesus is wrong and that he needs to repent and believe in us. Sin is insisting that Jesus change his view of his Father, change his view of his relationship with us and with all creation, and come believe in us, and join us in our terrible confusion.

9 comments:

Ted Johnston said...

Excellent Baxter! I think that defining sin in this relational, Christ-centerd light is far more faithful to the gospel of grace and truth in Jesus than defining it as a truncated legal concept.

I think the same approach to defining holiness is equally fruitful and scripturally faithful - sort of the flip side of the same coin. Rather than holiness defined as conformance to a legal code, it is defined as participation in Jesus' relationship with his Father in the Spirit - participation in the divine "wholeness."

With this Christ-centered, incarnational approach, holiness and sin are not a "what" but a dynamic "who" - they involve embracing or rejecting the life we share with Jesus; participating in or running from the life and love Jesus shares with his Father in the Spirit. Sin repudiates that life; holiness embraces it.

C. Baxter Kruger, Ph.D. said...

Thanks Ted. It is amazing how we have missed the point.

mfaris said...

Baxter, John 16:8-9 come to mind, where Jesus says that the Holy Spirit "Will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement...about sin, because they do not believe in me." Clearly a relational, Christ-centered view of sin....and righteousness and judgement!

Anonymous said...

Excellant... What changed for me many, many years ago was that so many christians had a negative view of the Law. This is true among many Christian groups. Until I came to this definition among my Jewish friends. The Hebrew words which was were generally translated into the English word "Law" really meant "teaching or instruction." So it was God´s teachings or instructions on how to live.

As said...

Hello,
my comment is not concerning your post, but I accidentaly found your weblog when I was looking for your books. I am looking for a few of your books and in Holland it seems to be very hard to find them. Did you publish/translate any books in Holland/Dutch? If not: reading in English is not a problem for me. The books I am looking for are: God is for us, Jesus and the undoing of Adam. I hope you can help me find them.
Astrid

Grant said...

Hi Baxter,
I recently heard someone describe sin as "withholding". This was in the context of a lecture on the trinity and the relationship within the trinity.
I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

C. Baxter Kruger, Ph.D. said...

Sorry, no Dutch yet, but we have a German version of The Parable of the Dancing God in the works. I know, with a name like Kruger you would expect some Ducth connections, but not yet.

C. Baxter Kruger, Ph.D. said...

"Witholding" stirkes me as being a bit weak. Sin is utter blindness and how we not only disagree with God in our blindness, but insist that Jesus change his life and join us in our darkness and confusion. To me, sin is saying, "Jesus you are wrong. I am right. You must change and belive in me and my vision." I think this is more than, although it includes, "witholding."

Anonymous said...

Sin = Anything not in union with the Father & Son