Redefining sin

Posted: October 25, 2012 by J in Bible, Theology

I’ve been reading Luke-Acts quite a bit over the past four years, and I’ve gradually become more aware of an anomaly I encounter, reading it as an evangelical Christian: Luke doesn’t seem to share my view of sin.

You know:

sin = rebellion

core sin = self-righteousness

sin problem = guilt problem

That stuff. That’s how I was brought up to view sin. At heart, sin is rebellion against God. We actively oppose him. In his place we try to establish our own goodness. So our deepest expression of rebellion is self-righteousness. The biggest problem sin creates starts off as a problem for God, because he is the just judge. Sin creates guilt, and God has no choice but to condemn the guilty, i.e. us. So although sin has many bad effects, its worst effect is guilt:  it creates a barrier stopping God from relating to us in a positive way. And since everyone is guilty, the world is polarised into: on one side God, and on the other, all of us. The cross is all about satisfying the legal debt of that guilt, to allow God to forgive us.

As I’ve spent time with Luke, it’s slowly dawned on me that I’m just not finding that story much in his writings. Sin is a prominent issue in Luke-Acts, and he has something he wants to say about it. Rebellion, self-righteousness and judgement all feature – just not in the way I described above. Luke has a different story to tell about sin. Different, that is, from the one I always got taught at church. He certainly has different to say about the cross.

I’ve found that a bit unsettling – you might too. But I think I’m ready to try to explore this, to try to express what Luke is wanting to tell us about sin. Over the next few days I plan to have a go.

I’d appreciate it if you readers could help by keeping me accountable. Let me know if I go wrong here. It’s a bit scary, challenging the view you’ve grown up with! Also, I’m only dealing with Luke – someone else will have to do the work of integrating this into a wider biblical theology. I can’t do everything!

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