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| The Reason for God|
Chapter 10: The Problem of Sin
November 6, 2016
Hello to another beautiful day that has been given to us by God! Today, we continue our book The Reason for God – Belief in an Age of Skepticism, by the author Timothy Keller. Which we look at chapter 10, The Problem of Sin.
When we try to look at the world objectively, while we see the beauty of the world, what we also see is that there is something fundamentally wrong with the people in the world. And the Christian’s answer to the problem is sin. Yet many people of the opposition view the concept of “sin” as offensive or ludicrous. Many people have a general view as to what ‘sin’ is, which they see as the break of the laws that God has set in the Bible. But is this the definition of sin or not?
The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard gives us another definition to the sin, not to go against the common definition but a very core supplement. In his book The Sickness unto Death, he states that “Sin is: in despair not wanting to be oneself before God… Faith is: that the self in being itself and wanting to be itself is grounded transparently in God.” Simply put, what Kierkegaard is stating is that sin is the refusal to find our deepest identity in our relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity, apart from God.
What does this mean? As we may know, everyone gets their own identity, their sense of being distinct and valuable, from somewhere or something else. Originally, human beings were made not only to believe in God in some general way, but to love him supremely, center our lives on him above anything else, and build our very identities on him. Anything other than this is sin. Now, you may view this definition as being quite different from the traditional view of sin that is usually told to us is. However, you will be able to see that it goes perfectly according to the traditional definition of sin.
Out of the Ten Commandments that are given to us, the very first one states that we are to have no other god before God. So according to the first commandment given to us in the Ten Commandments, a primary way to define sin is not just the doing of bad things but also the making of good things into ultimate things. It is seeking to establish a sense of self by making something else more central to your significance, purpose, and happiness than your relationship to God.
We can see a couple examples. In the movie Rocky, Rocky Balboa goes the distance in fighting in boxing matches with 100%. And when he was asked why he tries so hard, he replied, “Then I’ll know that I’m not a bum.” Or in the movie Chariots of Fire one of the main characters explain why he works so hard at running the hundred-yard dash for the Olympics. The character explains that when each race begins, “I have ten lonely seconds to justify my existence.” Both of these men looked to athletic achievement as the defining force that gave meaning to their lives.
And we can all probably relate to these characters, and maybe it’s not specifically with athletic achievements. And every person must find some way to “justify their existence,” in order to fight off the fear of being “a bum.” In more traditional cultures, we see this with duties to family and giving service to society. In our contemporary individualistic culture, we tend to look to our achievements, our social status, our talents, or our love relationships. There are an infinite variety of identity-bases. Everyone is building their identity on something and we should all be able to agree up to this point.
Something that people may not agree with, but will have to eventually agree with is the fact that identity apart from God is unstable. Without God, our sense of worth may appear solid, but it never is, and in reality, it can desert you at any given moment. If anything threatens your identity you will not just be anxious but paralyzed with fear. If you lose your identity through the failings of someone else you will not just be resentful, but locked into bitterness. If you lose it through your own failings, you will end up hating or despising yourself as a failure for as long as you live. A life not centered on God also leads to emptiness and only hurts us if we don’t get the desires of our heart. And even if we do, as we see in so many people who have placed their identity on their riches, once they become rich they seem even more miserable. Only if your identity is built on God and on His love, however, will you have a self that can venture and face anything.
But not only does sin have an internal impact but also a devastating effect on society. With a loss of belief in the Christian doctrine of “original” sin, there has been a sharp rise in humanity’s inherent pride and self-centeredness. In The Nature of True Virtue, Jonathan Edwards, a world renowned Christian theologian, argues that human society is deeply fragmented when anything but God is our highest love. If our highest goal in life is the good of our family, then we will tend to care less for other families. If our highest goal is the good of our nation, tribe, or race, then we will tend to be racist or nationalistic. If our ultimate goal in life is our own individual happiness, then we will put our own economic and power interests ahead of others. It is only if God is our ultimate good and life center will we find our heart drawn out not only to people of all families ,races, and classes, but to the whole world in general.
How is there even a connection, you may ask? If we get our very identity, our sense of worth, from our political positions, then politics is not really about politics, but it is about us. Through our cause we are getting a self, our worth. That means we must despise and demonize the opposition. If we get our identity from our ethnicity or economic status, then we have to feel superior to those of other classes and races. If we are proud of being an open-minded, tolerant soul, you will be forced to be extremely hateful towards people who you think are bigots. If you are a very moral person, then you will feel superior to those who you view as being immoral. And the list can go on forever! What we have seen here is only several sands to the desert of social impact from sin!
So we looked at many other aspects of the impact of sin, but now let’s connect the whole identity theme back to God. What exactly happens if we center ourselves around God? True, complete fulfillment. Because if Jesus is our center and Lord and we fail him, he will forgive us. Our career cant die for our sins, neither can anything else of this world. It is only Jesus who we can live for who died for us – who breathed his last breath for our sake. If we view Jesus as our Creator-Lord, then by definition, nothing could satisfy us like He can, even if we are successful in anything we base our identity on. We will eventually see the void or emptiness in ourselves if we base anything else on our identity. Everybody has to live for something. Whatever that something is becomes the lord of our life, whether you think of it that way or not. Jesus is the only Lord, however, who, if we receive Him, will fulfill our lives completely, and even if we may fail him at times, will forgive us eternally.
This concludes chapter 10, The Problem of Sin, in which I hope you have been able to really see the problem we face with sin. Sin is real, and we can see it motivating our every steps. The real question that we should be asking ourselves at the end of this chapter is, “What is my identity based on?” Is it the opposite gender? Is it work or money? Is it success? If it is, I hope you realize that, eventually, you too will see that it will never fulfill you. The only one who can completely bring peace to our mind and body is Jesus Christ, for it is only through Him can we find our real identity!