Monday, October 03, 2011

What Is Sin?

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk
From R.C. Sproul:
"The question, “What is sin?” is raised in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. The answer provided to this catechetical question is simply this: “Sin is any want of conformity to or transgression of the law of God.”

Let us examine some of the elements of this catechetical response. In the first instance, sin is identified as some kind of want or lack. In the middle ages, Christian theologians tried to define evil or sin in terms of privation (privatio) or negation (negatio). In these terms, evil or sin was defined by its lack of conformity to goodness. The negative terminology associated with sin may be seen in biblical words such as disobedience, godlessness, or immorality. In all of these terms, we see the negative being stressed. Further illustrations would include words such as dishonor, antichrist, and others.

However, to gain a complete view of sin, we have to see that it involves more than a negation of the good, or more than a simple lack of virtue. We may be inclined to think that sin, if defined exclusively in negative terms, is merely an illusion. But the ravages of sin point dramatically to the reality of its power, which reality can never be explained away by appeals to illusion. The reformers added to the idea of privatio the notion of actuality or activity, so that evil is therefore seen in the phrase, “privatio actuosa.” This stresses the active character of sin. In the catechism, sin is defined not only as a want of conformity but an act of transgression, an action that involves an overstepping or violation of a standard."
To read the complete post entitled, "Sin Is Cosmic Treason", please click here.

1 comment:

Stephen Phillip Porter said...

I think we tend to overcomplicate sin when we try to define it. Yes it is transgressing the law, but if you had to sum up the law, what would it be? Jesus made the answer really simple. Love God with everything you've got, and love your neighbor as yourself. If the law is built on this, sin is anything that doesn't meet these two points.

Simple to define, impossible to do without the empowerment of the Spirit within.

I wrote a more detailed study here: What is Sin?