- Christian views on sin
Christian views on sin are mostly understood as legal infraction or contract violation, and so salvation tends to be viewed in legal terms, similar to Jewish thinking, see also Judaism and Christianity#Sin.
- 1 Sin in the Bible
- 2 Roman Catholic views
- 3 Protestant views
- 4 Eastern/Oriental Orthodox views
- 5 Liberal Theology
- 6 Christian teachings on atonement, or the remedy for sin
- 7 See also
- 8 References
Sin in the Bible
In the Hebrew Bible the word "sin" (חטאת khatta'ath) is derived from the verb (חָטָא khatah) "to err", in one case - that of slingshot throwers in Judges - of "missing a target," but more commonly simply of sinning. This in the Greek Septuagint was rendered with hamartia, a word which in classical texts generally means "crime," "fault," "wrong."
The first reference to "sin" as a noun is of sin "lying at the door," waiting to overpower Cain,
Thus, the moment Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree—which God had commanded them not to do—sinful death was born; it was an act of disobedience, thinking they could become like gods, that was the sin. Since Adam was the head of the human race, he is held responsible for the evil that took place, for which reason the Fall of man is referred to as the "sin of Adam". This sin caused Adam and his descendants to lose unrestricted access to God Himself. The years of life were limited. "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."
The Greek word in the New Testament that is translated in English as "sin" is hamartia, which literally means missing the target. In the New Testament, it is defined in 1 John 3:4: "Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness". Jesus clarified the law by defining its foundation: "Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
All mankind are considered sinners,
Roman Catholic views
Roman Catholic doctrine distinguishes between personal sin (also sometimes called "actual sin") and original sin. Personal sins are either mortal or venial.
Mortal sins are sins of grave (serious) matter, where the sinner is fully aware that the act (or omission) is both a sin and a grave matter, and performs the act (or omission) with fully deliberate consent. The act of committing a mortal sin cuts off the sinner from God's grace; it is in itself a rejection of God. If left un-reconciled, mortal sins result in eternal punishment in Hell.
Venial sins are sins which do not meet the conditions for mortal sins. The act of committing a venial sin does not cut off the sinner from God's grace, as the sinner has not rejected God. However, venial sins do injure the relationship between the sinner and God, and as such, must be reconciled to God, either through the sacrament of reconciliation or receiving the Eucharist.
Both mortal and venial sins have a dual nature of punishment. They incur both guilt for the sin, yielding eternal punishment, and temporal punishment for the sin. Reconciliation is an act of God's mercy, and addresses the guilt and eternal punishment for sin. Purgatory and indulgences address the temporal punishment for sin, and exercise of God's justice.
Roman Catholic doctrine also sees sin as being twofold: Sin is, at once, any evil or immoral action which infracts God's law and the inevitable consequences, the state of being that comes about by committing the sinful action. Sin can and does alienate a person both from God and the community. Hence, the Catholic Church's insistence on reconciliation with both God and the Church itself.
The Roman Catholic view of sin has recently expanded. Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, Regent of the Catholic Apostolic Penitentiary, has said that "known sins increasingly manifest themselves as behavior that damages society as a whole," including, for example:
- "certain violations of the fundamental rights of human nature, through genetic manipulations [or experiments],"
- "drug [abuse], which weakens the mind and obscures intelligence,"
- "environmental pollution,"
- "abortion and pedophilia," and
- the widening social and economic differences between the rich and the poor, which "cause an unbearable social injustice" (accumulating excessive wealth, inflicting poverty). The revision was aimed at encouraging confession or the Sacrament of Penance.
Mortal sins, which are any severe and intentional actions that directly disobey God, are often confused with the seven deadly sins, which are pride, envy, lust, anger, greed, sloth and gluttony. They are not, however, the same.
Another group of four or five sins distinguished by the Church are the sins that cry to heaven: murder, sodomy, (oppression of a people,) oppression of the weak and defrauding the laborer.
View of Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas
Sin is differentiated from the relativistic, individualized transgressions of moral standards pure human rationale dictates, by secular humanism, by its immutability and everlasting nature. Sin never changes, but popular notion does. Hence, sin will always be sin, regardless of epoch.
Religions other than Roman Catholicism view the concept of sin as a wandering from the path to enlightenment, and this also applies to Roman Catholicism, with the addition that God is a Person, and is unchanging; The Father by which everything in three dimensional reality is defined. What is contrary to the Will of God is sin.
Humankind is the only thing that can sin because free will is required, and with the exception of humans, everything in the Universe perfectly obeys the Will of God. The predictability of all things created belies the nature of all things as being ordered according to time, measure, and weight; as recorded in The Holy Bible. Relative physics adopted this view of the Universe and refers to the second, meter, and kilogram as the foundation of all three dimensional reality.
In the grand scheme of everything, from beginning to end, God's Will must be done. By this measure sin can be viewed as the wraith of primordial guilt, or original sin.
The term sin is only applicable to competent individuals past the age of reason. If a person doesn't know something is contrary to the Will of God they cannot be held accountable for sin until such time comes that the individual understands that particular sin is wrong.
This doesn't always happen during the temporal, physical, organic life of the physical body. In this instance the person will be illuminated after death, at which point the soul will be aware of exactly what sins they are guilty of. Atonement for sin cannot be made after the physical death of the human organism, and thus the soul of the unrepentant sinner is in an impossible predicament of final annihilation from existence.
However, God is not bound by time, and if a person was ever forgiven, they were always forgiven. And such is the nature of all Roman Catholics to pray for the departed soul, who didn't understand sin while physical life was in his/her flesh.
Roman Catholic Doctrine dictates Jesus Christ alone can forgive sin, although sin need only be forgiven if one desires immortality in everlasting paradise.
Many Protestants teach[who?] that, due to original sin, humanity has lost any and all capacity to move towards reconciliation with God (Romans 3:23;6:23; Ephesians 2:1-3); in fact, this inborn sin turns humans away from God and towards themselves and their own desires (Isaiah 53:6a). Thus, humans may be brought back into a relationship with God only by way of God's rescuing the sinner from his/her hopeless condition (Galatians 5:17-21; Ephesians 2:4-10) through Jesus's ransom sacrifice (Romans 5:6-8; Colossians 2:13-15). Salvation is sola fide (by faith alone); sola gratia (by grace alone); and is begun and completed by God alone through Jesus (Ephesians 2:8,9). This understanding of original sin (Romans 5:12-19), is most closely associated with Calvinism (see total depravity) and Lutheranism. Calvinism allows for the "goodness" of humanity through the belief in God's common grace. Methodist theology adapts the concept by stating that humans, entirely sinful and totally depraved, can only "do good" through God's prevenient grace.
This is in contrast to the Catholic teaching that while sin has tarnished the original goodness of humanity prior to the Fall, it has not entirely extinguished that goodness, or at least the potential for goodness, allowing humans to reach towards God to share in the Redemption which Jesus Christ won for them. Some non-Catholic or Orthodox groups hold similar views.
There is dispute about where sin originated. Some who interpret the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28 as a symbol for Satan believe sin originated when Satan coveted the position that rightfully belongs to God. The origin of individual sins is discussed in James 1:14-15 - "14but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."(NIV)
Defined types of sin
Within some branches of Protestantism, there are several defined types of sin (as in Roman Catholicism):
- Original sin -- Most denominations of Christianity interpret the Garden of Eden account in Genesis in terms of the fall of man. Adam and Eve's disobedience was the first sin man ever committed, and their original sin (or the effects of the sin) is passed on to their descendants (or has become a part of their environment). See also: total depravity.
- Venial sin
- Mortal sin
- Eternal sin -- Commonly called the Unforgivable sin (mentioned in Matthew 12:31), this is perhaps the most controversial sin, whereby someone has become an apostate, forever denying themselves a life of faith and experience of salvation; the precise nature of this sin is often disputed.
Eastern/Oriental Orthodox views
The Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox use sin both to refer to humanity's fallen condition and to refer to individual sinful acts. In many ways the Orthodox Christian view of sin is similar to the Jewish, although neither form of Orthodoxy makes formal distinctions among "grades" of sins.
The Eastern Catholic Churches, which derive their theology and spirituality from same sources as the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox, do not use the Latin Catholic distinction between Mortal and Venial sin. However, like the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, the Eastern Catholic Churches do make a distinction between sins that are serious enough to bar one from Holy Communion (and must be confessed before receiving once again) and those which are not sufficiently serious to do so. In this respect, the Eastern Tradition is similar to the Western, but the Eastern Churches do not consider death in such a state to automatically mean damnation to Hell.<source?>
Within Liberal Christianity, individual sins such as abortion or homosexual acts are often less emphasized. Sin can be seen as interpersonal (harming one's neighbours, friends, or families with negative actions), environmental (pollution, overconsumption), structural (misogyny, racism, etc.), or personal (actions which are harmful to oneself). As a result of this re-interpretation of the traditional concept of sin, new concepts of liberation and salvation are created. Old Testament writers like Amos (2:7), Jeremiah (cf Book of Lamentations 3:34-36) and Nehemiah (1:6f) emphasise social justice and the rights of the oppressed. Modern figures like Martin Luther King, Catholic Dorothy Day  and evangelical Jim Wallis have campaigned on issues like social justice, Immigration reform and peace .
Christian teachings on atonement, or the remedy for sin
In Christianity, atonement can refer to the redemption achieved by Jesus Christ by his virgin birth, sinless life, crucifixion, and resurrection, thereby fulfilling more than 300 Old Testament prophecies. Its centrality to traditional interpretations of Christian theology means that it has been the source of much discussion and some controversy throughout Christian history. Generally it is understood that the death of Jesus Christ was a sacrifice that relieves believers of the burden of their sins. However, the actual meaning of this precept is very widely debated. The traditional teaching of some churches traces this idea of atonement to blood sacrifices in the ancient Hebraic faith.
Christian theologians have presented different interpretations of atonement:
- Origen taught that the death of Christ was a ransom paid to Satan in satisfaction of his just claim on the souls of humanity as a result of sin. This was opposed by theologians like St. Gregory Nazianzen, who maintained that this would have made Satan equal to God.
- Irenaeus of Lyons taught that Christ recapitulated in Himself all the stages of life of sinful man, and that His perfect obedience substituted for Adam's disobedience.
- Athanasius of Alexandria taught that Christ came to overcome death and corruption, and to remake humanity in God's image again. See On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius.
- Augustine of Hippo said that sin was not a created thing at all, but that it was "privatio boni", a "taking away of good", and uncreation.
- Anselm of Canterbury taught that Christ's death satisfied God's offended sense of justice over the sins of humanity. Also, God rewarded Christ's obedience, which built up a storehouse of merit and a treasury of grace that believers could share by their faith in Christ. This view is known as the satisfaction theory, the merit theory, or sometimes the commercial theory. Anselm's teaching is contained in his treatise Cur Deus Homo, which means Why God Became Human. Anselm's ideas were later expanded utilizing Aristotelian philosophy into a grand theological system by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, particularly in his masterpiece, the Summa Theologica, which eventually became official Roman Catholic doctrine. It is often known as the moral influence view, and has dominated Christianity.
- Pierre Abélard held that Christ's Passion was God suffering with His creatures in order to show the greatness of His love for them.
- Martin Luther and John Calvin, leaders of the Protestant Reformation, owed much to Anselm's theory and taught that Christ, the only sinless person, was obedient to take upon Himself the penalty for the sins that should have been visited on men and women. This view is a version of substitutionary atonement and is sometimes called substitutionary punishment or a satisfaction theory, though it is not identical to that of Anselm. Calvin additionally advocated the doctrine of limited atonement, which teaches that the atonement applies only to the sins of the elect rather than to all of humanity.
- D.L. Moody once said, "If you are under the power of evil, and you want to get under the power of God, cry to Him to bring you over to His service; cry to Him to take you into His army. He will hear you; He will come to you, and, if need be, He will send a legion of angels to help you to fight your way up to heaven. God will take you by the right hand and lead you through this wilderness, over death, and take you right into His kingdom. That's what the Son of Man came to do. He has never deceived us; just say here; "Christ is my deliverer.""
- Arminianism has traditionally taught what is known as "Moral Government" theology or the Governmental theory. Drawing primarily from the works of Jacobus Arminius and Hugo Grotius, the Governmental theory teaches that Christ suffered for humankind so that God could forgive humans while still maintaining divine justice. Unlike the perspectives of Anselm of Canterbury or Calvinism, this view states that Christ was not punished for humanity, for true forgiveness would not be possible if humankind's offenses were already punished. Christ's suffering was a real and meaningful substitutionary atonement for the punishment humans deserve, but Christ was not punished on behalf of the human race. This view has prospered in traditional Methodism and all who follow the teachings of John Wesley, and has been detailed by, among others, 19th century Methodist theologian John Miley in his classic Atonement in Christ and 20th century Church of the Nazarene theologian J. Kenneth Grider in his Wesleyan-Holiness Theology. Variations of this view have also been espoused by 18th century Puritan Jonathan Edwards and 19th century revival leader Charles Grandison Finney.
- Karl Barth taught that Christ's death manifested God's love and His hatred for sin.
- Barbara Reid, a feminist Dominican, argues that atonement is a harmful theology, especially to women and other oppressed groups. Other liberal theologians have also challenged the traditional view of atonement. See Collective salvation
- Mary Baker Eddy taught that atonement exemplifies our underlying spiritual unity with God, whereby we reflect divine Love (God): Christ's atonement reconciles man to God, not God to man.
- ^ Brown Driver Briggs
- ^ Liddle Scott Greek Lexicon hamartia
- ^ Synthesis: bulletin du Comité national de littérature comparée / Comitetul Național pentru Literatură Comparată, Institutul de Istorie și Teorie Literară "G. Călinescu." - 2002 "Sin is personified as (an animal?) which "crouches" at the door of Cain (Gen 4:7). As Gerhard von Rad (Genesis, 105) remarks, 'The comparison of sin with a beast of prey lying before the door is strange, as is the purely decorative use"
- ^ "Vatican lists new sinful behaviors". Associated Press. 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-03-11. http://web.archive.org/web/20080311142051/http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/wayoflife/03/10/vatican.updates.sins.ap/index.html. Retrieved 2008-03-10.
- ^ Catechism of the Chatolic Church, 1997: "1867 The catechetical tradition also recalls that there are "sins that cry to heaven": the blood of Abel, the sin of the Sodomites, the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt, the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan, injustice to the wage earner."
Hamartiology See also Apologetics · Soteriology · Demonology
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