A comment deleted earlier today contained a short rant on the topic: “There is no such thing as sin.” I have no idea what the writer thought the word “sin” meant – and if I knew I might even agree. I certainly do not think of sin as a legal category. But when I think carefully about the statement, “There is no such thing as sin,” I begin to wonder how someone who makes such a statement sees the world. My conclusion was to think, “Such a person must think that this is all there is.”
It is a significant thought – not something to be ignored.
Is the world that we think we see all there is? I say “the world we think we see,” because cross-cultural conversations quickly reveal that what I think I see and what someone else thinks they see are not always the same thing. I do not argue for relative truth – only for humility in the face of reality. There is more to reality than meets the eye and our eyes often refuse to meet with many aspects of reality.
It is with some thought in this regard that I wrote the previous post on the “opacity of sin.” There is something about us that darkens our perception of reality and which obscures the truth. That darkness and obscurity are the “opaqueness” that I have described. I am suggesting, at least for the purpose of these posts, and thus for just a few minutes of any reader’s time, that we think about “sin” in a manner that is not common.
It is common in our culture to conceive of sin as a legal debt, or a guilty stain, or even a propensity for doing wrong things. These have their uses. But the Scriptures, on occasion, use the imagery of light and darkness, of translucence and opacity, to speak about the nature and character of sin. It is a Scriptural image – but one that is too often ignored.
In the terms of these images, to say, “All that I see is all that there is,” is to utter a “sinful” statement. It is a reduction of the world to the crudest, material existence. To say that there is more than I see is also to recognize (in terms of these Scriptural images) that there is something “sinful” about how we see the world. We (sinners) are all reductionists. We hide and obscure, darken and contaminate.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” We do not see God, the statement implies, because our hearts are impure. It is sin that hides God from us.
We are living through another week in which natural disaster provokes many to say, “Where is God?” Of course, many who will now ask, “Where is God?” said nothing the week before when Haitian children were dying of a hosts of curable and treatable illnesses and circumstances. The Christian answer to the question, “Where is God?” is “He is everywhere present and filling all things.” God is in Haiti: in some cases crushed beneath stones and in other cases removing the stones from those who are crushed. But it is doubtless true that there is more there than meets the eye. What we think we see is not all there is.
I do not offer these thoughts as an answer to the so-called “problem of evil.” These are simply some thoughts on the “problem of blindness.”