We Believe: Anthropology and Hamartiology

In week 4 of #TMHWeBelieve, Bruxy led us in looking at two related topics: anthropology (humanity) and hamartiology (sin).

I agree with the thrust of this entirely. Nothing really to disagree on this time.

In some sense I would have liked if he talked about the Greek word from which we get “sin.” Hamartia is literally “missing the mark.” It’s an archery term, so I always go back to my camp experiences where I taught archery one summer. Sin is failing to live up to the goal – the bullseye – for which you were designed. It isn’t about breaking the rules, which can sometimes help direct to the bullseye and can sometimes steer us away. It isn’t about offending God, always I believe it grieves God. It is about living as if you are less than you really are: the image-bearer or tselem of God. I imagine this was just left off for a matter of time – I’ve heard Bruxy and others at TMH talk about it before. I actually think this language is better than just substituting “sin” with “evil.”

In the Theology After Party, Bruxy digs in deeper to some of these topics.

Corporate Sin and Salvation

He talks about the idea of corporate sin: that we are sinners as Adam was a sinner. I don’t think of this as a magic formula where sin passes along through reproduction, as many in the medieval era did (sex was evil, albeit a necessary evil). I tend to think more in cultural psychological terms where we pass on our default attitude of judgement – that original sin that we continue to commit over and over again. There’s also some degree to which this is also wired into our brains mainly, I believe, out of the good purposes of conscience which Satan then hijacks individually and/or corporately to have us judge the value of others instead.

Then, of course, all are also saved through new creation in Jesus, so that corporate nature doesn’t just carry bad things. There is lots of this language in the New Testament. We don’t earn salvation by living better, but we do live better because salvation is not just some abstract legal transaction for the afterlife. Rather, it is salvation from the old self who is a slave to Satan into a new self that looks like Jesus. This is important and a huge challenge as many evangelical churches take a legal view of salvation but then struggle to explain why it matters to follow Jesus’ teaching and example.

Choice

Bruxy also spends a while talking about choice in terms of salvation from our sin. Do we have to accept God’s offer of freedom from sin or does God just arbitrarily save some with our choice irrelevant if not a charade? I feel like I’ve talked about this a lot, so I’m not going to say any more here beyond what Bruxy says in defence of synergism: God offers us a free gift, but we still choose to accept that gift.

Death

Lastly, Bruxy talks about death in the Adam and Eve story and how this relates to evolutionary theory. For some evolutionary creationists, there is a new question here. Death is a big part of evolutionary theory. If we assume that Adam and Eve were literal human beings, when they were punished with death, was this really any different than the death that was already occurring with their predecessors? We could do some weird things like say that Adam and Eve were the first full humans so while animals and our predecessors died, no fully human beings did. Or we could find ways to differentiate physical from spiritual death.

I just go further and say that Adam and Eve are an allegory for every single human life so I don’t really care when physical death started. We are all given the choice between the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. We are given this choice every single day. If we choose the latter, we will die in some sense. Adam and Eve didn’t die physically right away, so it probably doesn’t mean just that, but it could include that.

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For more on this topic, I highly recommend the series “Who Am I?”. Particularly the third one is pretty mind-blowing if it’s an idea you haven’t encountered before.

Next up, a personal favourite topic: atonement theology!

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.