(Un)Holy Things: Sin
“Sin is the antithesis of salvation”. On page ninety-three of his work, Theology, the Basics, Alister McGrath challenges the accepted perception of sin with this jarring juxtaposition. Commonly, sin is perceived as an unlawful act. However, this is an incomplete perception of sin. Rather, sin is both an act and a human state. Thus, sin is more complex and mysterious than what is commonly thought. Therefore, an examination of how both acts and state of mind can be considered sinful in necessary. Furthermore, how such acts and state of mind can be depicted as the antithesis of the process of salvation is necessary.
Derived from the Latin word for guilt or guiltiness, sin is an unavoidable human condition. In the Genesis creation stories, humanity is depicted as to have right and personal relations with God. However, within the Adam and Eve narrative, arises humanity’s first sin. Commonly referred as original sin, humanity’s first sin speaks to ones inability to fully trust God and to confess for previous wrongdoings. Consequently, mankind seeks wordly wisdom away from God, but neglects to realize that all wisdom comes from God. Thus, in the wake of original sin man has the autonomy he has sought, but not the perspective or Godly wisdom to grasp it fully. Therefore, sin is not only an act, but also a state or barrier that needs to be overcome.
While sin is usually perceived as humanity’s moral disfigurement in light of God’s Law, McGrath’s portrayal demonstrates how sin is necessary. However, sin has only been redeemed through Jesus Christ. Prior to Christ, sin was an insurmountable barrier between humanity and God. Consequently, a personal and right relationship with God was not fully attainable. However, through Christ’s full and perfect atonement through His death and resurrection, we were given the ability to have right relations with God. This is to say that through the corrective lenses of Christ, we were given an opportunity for right and eternal relations with God, but also redemption of our sinful nature.
C. S. Lewis aids McGrath’s juxtaposition of sin and salvation through the imagery of bentness. According to Lewis, bentness depicts the deformed human condition. It is only through the full and perfect atonement through Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit within the process of sanctification that we are bent back towards God. Thus, sin is an unavoidable state of mind that is built through a habituated life that seeks wisdom away from God. Therefore, sin is an ugly and palpable part of the human condition that is made beautiful through and for the Triune God.