H is for Hamartiology

Hamartiology is a topic that is not exactly favorable. It is a topic in theology that makes people somewhat uncomfortable, and rightly so. It affects, has affected, and will affect every person that walks on the earth. Hamartiology points out the faults in a person and attempts to study those faults and their place in the world of theology. Simply put, hamartiology is the study of sin.

The study of hamartiology begins with the question, “What is sin?” It then attempts to address what the implications of such a definition of sin is. In this post, I will attempt a short hamartiology, addressing the topic of sin and developing my thoughts on the matter.

What is sin?

At first glance, this question might be easily answered by the suggestion that sin is any action that is morally corrupt. This definition is true, but it only highlights one facet of the whole topic of sin. There are many systems in the world that affirm that moral evils are negative and that one must live an upright life, so the definition above does not encapsulate the Christian distinctive of sin.

Some might suggest that sin is disobedience of God’s command. That’s a bit better, but I think that this definition still does not get to the root of what sin is. Yes one can point to Genesis 3 and see that Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating of the tree that they were commanded not to. However, Jesus redefines this idea of sin when he suggests that one must go further. He suggests that although one might not commit adultery physically, one can still commit adultery within their heart through lust. One might not commit murder physically, but one can still commit murder within their heart through anger. Sin, then, is not necessarily disobedience itself, but rather the disposition toward something contrary to what God commands. It is not just the violation of law, but it is one’s negative attitude toward God.

Corruption and Freedom

In historical theological circles, there is an understanding of sin called “Total Depravity”. This term carries some baggage and has been interpreted different ways, but I will attempt to break down the simplest meaning of this term that can be agreed on by both sides of the contention over this term. In essence, Total Depravity means that human beings are wholly corrupted by sin. This is dreadful news.

But there is hope. The good news is that sin, although it has corrupted us and separated us from communion with God, although our hearts’ desire has been fixed on something other than God himself, God bridges the gap through Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection human beings may be freed from the profound effects of sin, we can be freed from Total Depravity through God’s grace. This not just good news, this is great news.

And so, for the Christian, the life of sin no longer holds sway. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, one becomes capable of saying “no” to the sin that diseased their life. For the Christian, there is a freedom that can be found, a freedom to pursue Christ. Some may argue that we are still, somehow, enslaved to sin because that is the human nature fighting back, but I would suggest that when Christ sets a person free, they are free indeed. Don’t get me wrong, this is a process. But Christ’s gift to us is a freedom to a heart disposition that is pleasing to God.

As a Christian, then, one no longer needs to ask “Who can rescue me from this body of death?” and can instead answer, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24b-25) Christians are freed from sin to obedience because Christ has brought them into the realm of the Spirit and out of the realm of the flesh (Romans 8:9).

Thanks to the Lord indeed!

Next Post: I is for Immutability and Impassibility

G is for Grace

Grace: it is one of the favorite words of the Christian. It brings comfort, joy, security, hope, and an affirmation of love to the person who rests in it. Though it is an important word in the Christian faith, what does it mean? and what does it mean for us today?

To give you one of the textbook Christian definitions, grace is “God bestowing upon us something that we do not deserve.” This definition is usually distinguished from its counterpart, mercy, which is “God withholding from us something that we deserve.” These definitions are, for the most part, correct (although grace and mercy should not be pit against each other as opposites, but as harmonious realities).

I would like to take the definition of grace a tad bit further, if I may. The definition above does not provide any examples, any distinctions, about what God grants. Some might suggest that the very thing that God grants is grace. However, I wonder if grace is something deeper than that.

And so I propose that grace is actually God’s love. Grace is simply an outpouring of God’s love upon us, his beloved creation. It is an overflow of the love that has eternally been present between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And this takes multiple forms, namely as “common grace” and “special grace”.

Common Grace: This is grace that is very broad and general. It is grace that is experienced by all people in all places at all times. It is the love that God shows to people, just because he is good. Common grace can be anything: from a sunrise to a starlit night, from the air that we breathe to a lover’s kiss, from a baby’s giggling joy to an intricate orchestral piece. All of this is grace because God has given it to us out of his love, regardless of their standing before him.

Special (Saving) Grace: This grace is a bit trickier to describe because it carries so much historical-theological baggage. But, those debates aside, special grace is grace that God bestows on persons for salvation. When a person is “saved”, this is the grace that God gives to a person so that they may spend eternity in constant communion with him, basking in the warmth of his love.

The phrase, “all is grace”, applies here. As you can see, these two graces cover all of the bases, showing us that God’s love is constantly surrounding us, whether you believe in him or not. God is constantly loving on us simply by granting us the air that we breathe. This is the result of God’s most basic characteristic, that he is love.

Next Post: H is for Hamartiology

F is “For the Beauty of the Earth”

If you have never heard the hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth”, I highly recommend you do so (I particularly like the version that is done by a group called The New Liturgy). Here is the first verse:

For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

This song gets at a few different ideas throughout its length. It touches on love, joy, the church, and more. But more importantly than all of those things it touches on how they are all part of God’s good creation.

The fact is when God made the world he said that it was good. He made a beautiful creation that was stamped with the artistry, the creativity of its Creator. Our world is so beautiful! Look at these pictures below:

And imagine this: this our world after it has been corrupted by sin! Imagine if we could see the world as it was intended to be, how beautiful it would be.

Here is how I understand the flow of Scripture: God made a good creation, but that God wants to restore it back to the way it was. And, no, this is not some “green” agenda that I’m trying to push (although I do think that we need to be conscious of how we treat God’s creation), but I am attempting to articulate the “new heaven, and a new earth” that Isaiah and Revelation talk about.

You see, creation is more than just something for God to look at. I even would go as far as to say that it is more than simply to glorify himself. Instead, I might suggest that the world, as we know it, is God’s intended home. He intends to dwell with his people, his church universal (John 1 shows this). I think to affirm that creation is bad and that God is just going to wipe it out in the end is to affirm Gnosticism and other historical heresies that suggest that God’s creation is evil and that we must escape it.

God created a good creation and I believe he intended it to be a good creation. And when you look about yourself at God’s beautiful creation, remember that God loves it and that he will restore it to its original beauty someday. We will live here with God, in due time, and  we will live in a more beautiful creation, free of death, sin, and decay. That’s a promise I can get behind! May it be so, Lord Jesus!

Next Post: G is for Grace