Scot McKnight has just posted a good piece on Sin (actually a response to a letter from a reader). What jumped out at me was this:

“My own view on this is that we dare not let ourselves begin defining sin by reducing it to breaking the law. We have to begin with God, and define what is ultimately right by looking at God. I’m Trinitarian, and what is Ultimately Right is what drives the Life of the Trinity. That seems to be the Mutual Interpenetrating, Sacred, Loving Presence of the Father, Son and Spirit. This interpenetrating life of the Trinity, called the perichoresis, defines what is Right. What is Right is that engaged and engaging Relationship — and everything in our world that is “right” is a reflection of that perichoretic relationship.

Now this leads me to this: Sin is whatever impedes the flow of human life and our world into that everflowing perichoretic loving dance within God. Whatever resists it; whatever works against it; whatever breaks down human union with God; whatever distorts the world’s design to participate in that dance is sin.”

Now, the Trinitarian doctrine of perichoresis is a bit beyond me, but there’s something wonderful in what Scot describes:

Right is what reflects the loving nature of God; Sin is what impedes the reflection  of that nature.

It’s a lovely description, and I’m going to let it rattle round my head for a while. It does raise lots of questions though: is watching of TV (or reading blogs!) a sin, because it (can) prevent us from relating with God? Are the distractions in our lives as important to God as our actions?

So much comes back to the nature of our relationship with God. Are we truly relating to Him? Are we known by Him?

This is the biggest, hardest, scariest question in the bible, and one we don’t ask ourselves enough. If our faith is really about relationship first and foremost, then are we truly relating to Him? How many hours in my day does Jesus get my attention? (Ouch, better ask that in minutes!)

“21″Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

[Matthew 7:21-23, NIV]

4 thoughts on “sin

  1. Forgive me but I would be interested in some clarification on this. I read the original Scott McKnight post referenced but this doesn’t answer my question (and I won’t ask it there as I’d be the only non-believer in a sea of religion – asking a friend seems safer 😉 ). Are you meant to judge what sin is for yourself? Is that the point here? Maybe it’s my task orientated viewpoint from doing project management related work recently but there seems not to actually be any guidance given in the quoted paragraphs. The quote “Right is what reflects the loving nature of God; Sin is what impedes the reflection of that nature” seems to legitimise whatever you want (assuming that a sin ‘is what you make it’) as one person’s sin is another person’s idea of reflecting the loving nature of God. For example, one person might say that the use of condoms and regular intercourse reflects the loving nature of God through he love they are showing to their partner; while another might say that ‘wasting’ the sperm given by God to men for the production of babies is not showing the loving nature of God.

    I don’t think I understand. Have I misinterpretted it from my non-believer viewpoint?

  2. Hey Kat
    Wow. Umm… Ok, its a little early in the morning, but I’ll try and get my head round this.
    First, I’d say that you really won’t be the only non-believer reading Scot McKnight’s blog, although I’m sure it would seem that way from reading the comment stream! If my attempt at this doesn’t satisfy, I’d sugest emailing Scot, as he seems pretty good at responding to emailed questions from non-believers… but anyhoo, I’ll have a crack at it!

    The ‘quote’ “right is what reflects the loving nature of God; Sin is what impedes the reflection of that nature” is actually my paraphrase, and I may have over-simplified what Scot was saying (possibly because I haven’t understood him properly – he’s a theology professor, and I’m an ex-engineering student administrator!). The important factor in what Scot seems to be saying is that we judge the ‘rightness’ and ‘wrongness’ of actions based on the revealed nature of God. ‘Revealed’ would be the important word here; he’s clearly defining things on the basis of a Trinitarian interpretation, and that can only come from a ‘Christian’ understanding of God.

    In another post Scot refers to “The fundamental category for moral behavior in the Bible is not “here’s the law, now do it!” but “God has rescued the people, and out of gratitude, these behaviors mark redeemed, covenanted people.” ” and “It is in the context of a covenant relationship with God that the Law is expressed.” [Both from here:] Both of these points further clarify his perspective (I think): it is not that there is not a prescriptive code of bahaviour in the bible, but that this prescriptive code has to be interpreted in the context of the wider revelation of God’s nature in the bible (Jesus Christ, and the covenantal relationships with Israel and the Church). We have to understand the why before we can really get the what.
    Does that make sense?

    In terms of my origional paraphrase, prehaps it is better to say “right is what reflects the loving nature of God as revealed in Jesus Christ”. The bible isn’t a rule book; its a multi-layered narative of God’s interactions with the human race. That isn’t to say you can’t infere a way of life from it, just that you have to do so in reflection of the wider whole, and specifically the example of the life of Jesus. Now, this isn’t always easy, and there isn’t always clear agreement on what is the right course of action (especially in terms of the more ‘minor’ or ‘obscure’ elements such as the example of condoms – not insignificant by any means, just not something you can easily infer a position on from the bible!), but I do think there can be a reasonable amount of agreement on most major things.

    OK, this is turning into a stupidly long comment, so I’ll stop for a while to see if anyone else will respond to this (who might make more sense than I do at 9.45). My summary would be this: I wouldn’t base what I believe on this simply on the opinion of Dr McKnight, but I find his perspective interesting; that what we view as Right Action needs to come from (be viewed via a lense of) an understanding of the nature of God, as revealed through Jesus and through the narrative of scripture.
    This may be too theological a response. If so, tell me, and I’ll try again!

  3. Hmmm. Stream of conciousness comment…

    So what you seem to be saying is that ultimately the understanding of ‘sin’ does not come from the bible (a point I agree with so maybe I’m biased in the way I read your comment). It actually comes from how you interpret the various influences around you be they bible stories, preachers or less supernaturally orientated things such as society’s viewpoint. Which gives rise to the paradox, I guess, in that everyone sees their interpretation of ‘sin’ as being correct (because it’s based on their ‘relationship’ (is that the right word? – Christian speak is a language I don’t speak / understand well) with God which is different for everyone) and all others incorrect. But it seems that without actually ‘being God’ you can never actually know the correct interpretation (I’m guessing that this would make you perfect and no human can ever be perfect by the Christian definition of perfectness, right?)

    So…. what is my conclusion from this? I guess…

    1) A person comes up with their own definition of ‘sin’.
    2) They believe that this definition is correct although it can not be.
    3) A person’s definition can be swayed by an outside influence but that will still never be correct.

    So… why do people think ‘sin’ is something to do with religion? You don’t get your personal definition of ‘sin’ from the teachings of your chosen god, you evolve it from your environmental influences. If you surround yourself with people who think one way, you’re more likely to think the same thing as them and see other viewpoints as wrong. There’s no right answer – just the majority viewpoint.

    I’m not sure I’ve contributed anything in this comment but I guess it’s served to document to myself my ideas.

  4. I really hope I haven’t said (or implied) that an understanding of ‘Sin’ doesn’t come from reading the bible. What I hope I said, is that the bible is not a prescriptive rule book; it is an account of God’s interaction with the human race. Through it we understand more of the nature of Jesus, through him the nature of God the Father, and from Him and understanding of what ‘sin’ is…
    (I hope that is a little clearer, although I realise I am qualifying myself too much – can anyone else do better???)

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