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

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