The Fall and Sin: What We Have Become as Sinners

By Marguerite Shuster | Go to book overview

7
Sin and Sins

In considering the nature of sin, it is important to insist both upon its initial and ongoing form as particular expressions of rebellion against God (sins), and upon the peculiar and recalcitrant unity of its underlying reality (sin).1 To concentrate too exclusively on the former easily leads to the illusion that if only we could weed out this manifestation of evil, we might at last be whole and happy, and leaves us baffled that evil actually appears more like a Hydra that grows more heads for each one whacked off. To concentrate too exclusively on the latter can make it seem too much like an impersonal fate or ontological "given" in which we personally are only incidentally concerned.

All sin makes us guilty before God: it is not as if we can rebel or disbelieve or be prideful and self-centered "just a little," too little actually to incur guilt; for guilt comes with turning in the wrong direction, however small the following step (Matt. 5:19; James 2:10). Nor is it as if we can rebel and then take back our action and thus wipe out our guilt. Part of the harsh reality of guilt is that human beings cannot undo the past. We have been warned against the "try it; you'll like it" come-on, on the grounds that once we have tried it, it will not matter whether we

1. In an amazing figure, Milton makes the myriad particular sins to be born of the
rape of Sin by her offspring Death (Paradise Lost 2.790–97). Says Roland Frye, "This rape
too is inevitable because Sin, personifying the finite assertion of infinity, exerts upon
Death, the personification of inescapable finitude, a violent attraction …" (Perspective
on Man: Literature and the Christian Tradition
"Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961", p. 49).
Thus understood, the poem shows strikingly "modern" psychological insight.

-135-

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The Fall and Sin: What We Have Become as Sinners
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Part I - The Fall of Humankind 1
  • I - Introduction: Primal History Viewed as Covenantal 3
  • 2: The Root of the Fall 37
  • 3: The Nature of the Fall 49
  • 4: Consequences of the Fall 62
  • 5: The Divine Purpose and Moral Evil 84
  • Part II - The Doctrine of Sin 97
  • 6: The Nature of Sin 99
  • 7: Sin and Sins 135
  • 8: Original Sin 159
  • 9: Problems of Freedom 182
  • 10: Civil Righteousness 212
  • Appendix I - Physical Death as Existential Reality 230
  • Appendix 2 - Biblical Vocabulary Relating to Sin 263
  • Subject Index 266
  • Name Index 271
  • Scripture Reference Index 275
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