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A couple of weeks ago, a Calvinist bro on Twitter was talking about how liberation theologian James Cone was a heretic because he defined sin in an “unbiblical” way. So it got me thinking about how I define sin. And then I started thinking about the homeless mothers in Oakland who were violently evicted from a vacant investment property they had been squatting in. And the question came to mind: who was sinning? The mothers who broke into somebody else’s property or the real estate company whose actions helped drive affordable housing out of Oakland? I’m pretty sure that “biblical” Christians would answer the question differently than I would.
So what is sin? I tend to define it as any human behavior that contradicts God’s purpose of establishing perfect harmony and belonging throughout his creation (which is how I would define the biblical concept of shalom). Sin can be individual or collective. It can be intentional or the result of negligence. It’s rarely the case that sin happens in a way where blame is clear-cut and easy to assign. It’s usually a spider web of complicated personalities and social forces interacting in ways that can be justified but result in harm and further sin.
Christians - Rules - Rule - Forth - Scripture
Many Christians define sin straightforwardly as breaking the rules, especially breaking a rule that is explicitly laid forth in scripture. The problem with this definition is that the choices we make in life usually involve deciding between different sets of rules, even between different rules that we find in scriptures. When we break one rule, it’s almost always because we’re following another rule that seems to trump it.
How would a rule-following German Christian in the early twentieth century resist the Holocaust? Often breaking rules that are unjust and harmful to humanity require trumping them with rules that seem...
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