Monday, April 5, 2010

on sin

Last night, a conversation opened up about fighting sin and resisting temptation.  Fascinating and useful stuff.  Kutz pushed his 3-man position (read about it here and here), I pushed my desire for the new creation position, and Nathan offered his own sin is inevitable so just get on with it position (which I'm sure he'll blog on soon).

Nathan's very valid criticism of my position is that I've done a Keller and tried to make all sin fit under one heading.  Such a thing can be done - Keller has shown us that if you define and redefine particular sins and colour them in in a certain way, they all look like idolatry.  I've done the same, but squashed and squeezed so that all sinful desires are redefined as desires in some way for the new creation.  It can be helpful, but it's a stretch.

The other criticism of my position was that of whether our desires will actually be fulfilled in the new creation or whether we'll be changed so that our desires will change.  I expect my desires to be filled. I imagine that when I'm with God and his people I'll have these ah-ha moments of 'When I thought I wanted x, I didn't realise that what I actually wanted was this!' (And I'll be thinking about some element of life in the new creation.) But that might be C.S.Lewis and Plato more than it is the bible.

The problem with most of our models is the difficulty in maintaining our utter sinfulness while allowing that the spirit does actually make a difference.  Real progress in godliness is what's expected of us (1 John 1).

There was lots of great clarification along the way.  John had a habit of referring to the bible, which gave us a bit of a jolt.  This is systematics we're doing!  Vibe over text! Andrew pointed out that the bible has lots of ways of describing sin and talking about our fight against it, so no one model is probably going to capture it.

Your thoughts?


  1. I think I agree with your criticism of your position. I often "cop out" by trying to make my sin appear less dark by saying, "Oh well, I'm just trying to fulfill good desires for friendship/safety/whatever in a bad way." But that wouldn't tap the half of it. Some outward sins are linked to desires that are intrinsically wrong. I'm thinking of James 4:1-4 here - it's not just that I don't ask God for what I want and then try to get it in wrong ways. It's also that what I want is often sinful.

    I need my desires changed.

  2. Love that you are doing systematics with the bible open- the best way!

    The problem I have Kutzs original man is In how we understand the impact of sin on our human identity and creation. In 'in his image' the picture used is 'shattered remains' and I've never been really happy with that. Because while all humanity is not as bad as it can possibly be, all of our humanity has been impacted by sin.

    And while I like your picture of the desire for the new creation, I wonder whether the fact we are so often pointed to the new creation as where we should fix our eyes show that even our desires are so muddled by sin that we can't even properly look beyond this world!

    I've often mused that it seems to be the people with the sensitive nature who hear the call for chrisitians to put to death the old self and feel guilty and even sometimes question their salvation, while those with thick skin who are assured of God's grace and mercy who need to be reminded that their sin is offensive to God and needs to be fought against.

  3. "The problem with most of our models is the difficulty in maintaining our utter sinfulness while allowing that the spirit does actually make a difference." *coughnotinminecough* :P

    I think that a possible limitation of your view of fulfilment in heaven is that it neglects any possibility of fulfilment now. If you recognise that your original created design was good, then you recognise that there is the possibiility of fulfilling the purpose for which you were created in this world, and gaining satisfaction from your toil (to be recognised as a gift from God). This is the final conclusion of Qoheleth of Ecclesiastes fame, and is vindicated (IMO) by the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

    If I was to push my view over and against Nathan's (while I recognise that some of the practical outoworkings of his view will be similar to mine) then it would be to say that there is value in understanding ourselves and the anatomy of sin. That's why we have Romans 1, Genesis 1-4, James 1:15, etc...

    So in my fight against sin, I do well to understand what I'm up against. While avoiding the danger of over-reflectiveness and being wrapped up in yourself, Nathan's view runs the risk of 'being unaware of his schemes' as it were. Ignoring sin doesn't seem to be advocated in Scripture. The part of Nath's stuff I do like is the sentiment 'get on with being faithful', which you do find in Scripture.

  4. By the way, I'm not necessarily against Keller's view that all sins have an element of idolatry in them (as long as it's stated in that loose way). I think Romans 1 gives a certain amount of license there.

    I don't think it's at the root of all sin, but it's certainly the consequence of sin.

  5. Hey mousey!

    Thanks for interacting with our crazy thoughts. :)

    Just wondering what exactly it is that you'd like to see taken into account in my model that's currently lacking? Nothing that you've said I'd disagree with, so perhaps we could be in agreement upon further discussion?

  6. "Ignoring sin doesn't seem to be advocated in Scripture."

    I don't think I ever said ignore it. I just said that it's inevitable that it is there in everything I do so I don't spend my time analysing it. See my posts from the last two days for clarity.

  7. kutz - "The problem with most of our models is the difficulty in maintaining our utter sinfulness while allowing that the spirit does actually make a difference." *coughnotinminecough*

    In your model, the spirit causes angst fighting person #2. I'm not sure (though I could be wrong) that you've talked about person #3 winning.

  8. "Inevitable" is true from observing the Christian as they live, but not something the Bible comes out fighting for. Therefore could the inevitability of sin for the Christian be something that's true, but foolish/unfruitful to advertise?

  9. Hey Nath, will go read.

    Simone. No, I've not yet talked about that much. My whole point in this discussion was a to put forward a theologically sound anthropology, not to put forward a method of dealing with sin and temptation. So in a way, I've not really had my whole heart in saying, "My way's better for dealing with sin." but more trying to establish the consistency and truth of my view of humanity.

    As this discussion has gone on, however, I've been drawn into the realm of how my anthropology impacts on sin and temptation. I'll post something on my blog clarifying what I'm getting at, and perhaps I'll move in on your and Nathan's turf (how to deal with sin) in the near future.

  10. Dene.

    I think the Bible advocates it when it talks about a continuing struggle between the spirit and the flesh. If Paul, as an apostle, experiences the struggle as he matures then I think it likely that we too will.

    I don't see the Bible promise that our struggle with sin will ever end which I think leads to the conclusion that it's inevitable.