Our culture — and much of Christianity — has a problem talking about sin. On the one hand, we are carrying the heavy baggage of centuries of sin-talk that was focused on blaming and shaming, and controlling behaviour through threats of eternal damnation. But on the other hand, though rightly reacting against those harmful ideas, many among us refuse to talk about sin at all. While perhaps good for our collective self-esteem, this approach renders us utterly unable to address the problems in the world, and even more the ways we contribute to them.
But far from the blaming and shaming language that was so common for so long, the Bible itself uses a wide variety of images to talk about sin — very few, if any, of which are as dire as that historical sin-talk would lead us to believe. The goal of this series is to reclaim this positive heritage that will allow us to talk about sin — and its positive counterpart, salvation — better and thereby to help us be better able to do something about it.
The series begins by proposing the perhaps controversial idea that we need to normalize the idea of sin and sinning, without minimizing it. It then goes on to look at several of the images the Scriptures use to discuss sin and salvation:
- debt and forgiveness
- bondage and freedom
- blindness and sight (together with deafness and hearing and lameness and mobility)
- barrenness and fertility
- hunger and feeding
- alienation and communion
- defilement and purification
- the kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom of God
- law-breaking and mercy
It also challenges some traditional Christian ideas about sin and its remedy — dishonour and restitution and crime and punishment — by exploring how the Hebrew Scriptures talk about sacrifice and how the New Testament talks about Jesus’ death:
- Defilement and Purification: A Reflection on Sin and Salvation and Hebrews 10.11-25
- A Survey of How the Bible Talks about Sacrifice
- Sacrifice in Romans 3.21-26
- Substitution — and more! — in Paul
The series concludes by bringing all of these ideas together in some final thoughts on sin and fullness of salvation.