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Theological Journal: The Nature of Sin, Brokenness, and Metaphysical Seperation

By May 17, 2023Blog Posts

** This is my Theological Journal. I write out thoughts on theological concepts that I am learning, researching, and trying to grapple with. It’s a brain dump, and a way for me to track my understanding over time. If you’re reading this, I hope it blesses you!

As a pastor, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the nature of sin. While I don’t pretend to have it figured out. Here’s some musings on the subject:

I would assert that Sin is not merely a list of bad deeds, though it certainly involves committing acts that are wrong and contrary to God’s will. But sin goes much deeper than that. At its core, sin is a state of alienation from God and rebellion against Him. It is a corruption of our nature that distorts our desires, priorities, and motives and renders us incapable of real goodness apart from God’s help.

In a sense, sin is like a disease or spiritual defect that affects our entire being. It darkens our understanding, enslaves our will, and dissipates our affections. It makes us love the wrong things and fail to love the truly good. Our sinful condition leaves us hopeless, helpless, and unable to restore ourselves – which is why we need God’s grace through Christ in order to be forgiven, healed and transformed. Good deeds alone cannot save us.

So while sinful acts are expressions of our deeper fallenness, sin itself – at its root – is a distortion of our very nature, a corruption of what God created us to be. That is why sin must be addressed by more than behavior modification – it requires the spiritual transformation that Christ offers through his atoning sacrifice and justifying grace. That is the only hope for our ultimate healing and true joy.

That is my view of sin, based on my Christian convictions and theological reflections.

“Sin is the refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity, apart from him. The reason people are so drawn to sin is that they think it will give them a sense of identity and self-worth. But it does the opposite. It makes you feel empty and worthless.” – Tim Keller

Where did sin come from? Did someone create it?

In my view, Sin originated with the rebellious will of the creature, not the Creator. God created everything “very good” (Genesis 1:31), but I would affirm the notion that he gave his creatures freewill – the ability to choose good or evil (to the dismay of my Calvinist friends). Sin arose when some of God’s creatures – initially the Devil (the chief fallen angel, the one who started the war we currently suffer in) and some of the angels, then humans Adam and Eve (under demonic influence) – abused their freedom by defecting from God’s will and law.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, The Silmarillion, tells the story of the creation of the world and the introduction of evil. The story revolves around the Ainur, powerful spirits who were asked by Eru Ilúvatar, the supreme being, to take part in a great symphony that would bring about the creation of the universe. Melkor, the mightiest and most gifted of the Ainur, rebelled against Eru’s will and introduced discord into the music, seeking to disrupt the harmony and dominate the others.

Melkor’s act of rebellion led to his fall and the corruption of the world. The story can be seen as an analogy for the nature of sin, as it begins with a desire for control and autonomy but ultimately leads to corruption and destruction.

This story serves as an analogy for the nature of sin – it begins with a desire for control and autonomy, but ultimately leads to corruption and destruction.

Just as Eru created the world through his music and instructed the Ainur to participate in the creation, Yahweh created the world and instructed humanity to be stewards of it. The concept of free will and the consequences of disobedience are also present in both narratives.

The devil’s sin was pride – a desire to usurp God’s throne and be like the Most High (Isaiah 14:12-14). His rebellion triggered a great “war in heaven” in which he and his angels were cast out of heaven down to earth (Revelation 12:7-9).

Then in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve – though created perfect without sin – were tempted by Satan to doubt God’s word and mistrust his goodness. They chose to disobey his clear command, reaching for autonomy apart from God (Genesis 3). This original sin corrupted their nature and passed on to all their descendants – so we are all born now with a bent towards sin (Psalm 51:5).

An analogy: Sin is like a broken bone, caused by the fall of humanity. Just as a doctor diagnoses and sets a broken bone, God reveals our sin and offers the healing of our souls. The brokenness was not caused by the doctor, just as sin was not caused by God, but both provide the means for restoration and healing!

So in a sense, sin did not originate with God but with His creatures – those who abused the freedom He gave them.

I understand that the nature of sin can be a confusing and challenging concept to grapple with. It is for me.

I try to remember that God is holy, just, and loving, and therefore cannot be the author of sin. However, He did give humanity will, which unfortunately led to sin and its consequences. My philosophical theory in all this is that God is telling the greatest love story of all time, and love cannot exist without choice and struggle.

In His wisdom, God allows us to have will, and though sin is ushered in through that will, He is more than able to redirect sin and evil for His greater purpose of manifesting His matchless grace, judging the proud, and glorifying His Son. It’s comforting to know that ultimately, sin’s power will be broken at Christ’s return, and God’s will shall be fully done on earth as it is in heaven (Revelation 21-22).

It seems to me sin has metaphysical properties…

I’ve often thought that sin has a kind of “metaphysical” reality beyond merely being a list of wrong actions or human propensity.

Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of reality, existence, and what is beyond the physical world that we see and experience. It tries to answer questions like “What is the meaning of life?” and “What is the nature of the universe?” in a way that is beyond the scope of science or everyday experience… which is helpful when dealing with the supernatural, because how else are we supposed to make sense of spirit beings from another realm?

For me, metaphysics is one of the only ways to make sense of sin and most spiritual realities. These concepts can be challenging to understand in this plane of existence.

Concerning sin as a metaphysical concept, There are a few ways we could understand this

  1. Sin involves a real corruption or defect in human nature. Our very constitution and orientation toward the good has been distorted by sin. This suggests sin has a sort of ontological status – it is a real metaphysical defect in beings who were meant for a higher good.

  2. Sin involves spiritual/demonic forces that tempt and oppress humanity. Behind every sinful act or desire lies the spiritual influence of Satan and his minions. This could imply that sin has a metaphysical agent that corrupts and distorts human nature!

  1. Sin separates us from the source of being, God himself. By turning away from God, we lose our metaphysical grounding and anchor in ultimate reality. This results in a kind of spiritual and existential “nothingness” at the core of sin.

  1. Christ’s atoning work required a metaphysical solution to sin – his incarnation, death and resurrection. This suggests sin was a profound offense against the very fabric of being itself, not just human morality. The gospel reveals sin as a metaphysical problem that required a metaphysical remedy.

Those are some ways we could view sin as having “metaphysical properties” beyond merely being a list of wrong actions. At its core, sin distorts our relationship with being itself – with God and the good.

Notes to self: I find this concept of sin and metaphysics fascinating. It seems like there is so much more to existence than just what we can see and touch. It’s like sin is not just a human problem, but a cosmic problem that affects the very fabric of reality itself.

I can see how sin could be seen as a distortion of human nature and a separation from God. It’s like we were created for a certain purpose, but sin has disrupted that purpose and caused us to stray from our true identity.

It’s also a sobering thought that behind every sinful act or desire, there could be spiritual forces at work influencing us.

Q: What do I mean by losing our “metaphysical grounding”?

As I wrote this I realized it could be confusing. These are concepts I am still trying to grasp.

When I refer to metaphysical grounding, I mean that human beings find our deepest meaning, purpose and orientation in being grounded in God as the source of all reality and being. God is the ultimate metaphysical ground of existence – he sustains and upholds all things in being.

Back to the writing: So, when we turn away from God through sin, we lose that metaphysical anchor in ultimate reality. We become untethered, adrift, lacking any firm foundation for our lives. Sin severs our connection to the very ground of being itself – it leaves us metaphysically ungrounded.

This results in a kind of spiritual malaise, existential anxiety and inner darkness at the core of human sin. We no longer find our rest in God, who alone can satisfy the longings of the human spirit. Without being metaphysically rooted in the source of all life and truth, we wander aimlessly, never finding true peace, happiness or fulfilment.

To help think through it… here are four real-world examples of how this plays out:

  • The effects of sin can be seen in the brokenness of human relationships, such as divorce, abuse, and neglect. These broken relationships are a result of our fallen nature and our inability to love as we were meant to.

  • The impact of sin can be seen in the moral decay of society, such as corruption, greed, and injustice. These are the result of our rejection of God’s moral standards and our pursuit of self-interest.

  • The consequences of sin can be seen in physical sickness, disease, and death. These are the result of our separation from the source of life and our rejection of the divine order of the universe.

  • The reality of sin can be seen in the spiritual emptiness and longing that we all experience. This is a result of our separation from God, who alone can satisfy the deepest desires of our hearts.

Sin is NOT just a list of bad deeds but a real and profound metaphysical problem that affects every aspect of our lives. As some theologians put it, it’s unleashing “Hell on Earth.”

Thankfully, through his life, death, and resurrection, Christ restores our metaphysical connection to God. By having faith in him, we are reunited with the Father and grounded in ultimate reality. We can once again find rest in the one who sustains all things.

Christ’s redemption goes beyond just our moral condition; he addresses our spiritual and existential predicament, restoring us to a right relation with God, our neighbor, and our very selves.

This reconciliation with God through Christ remedies the lack of “metaphysical grounding” that sin had caused. It re-anchors our lives, giving us purpose, significance and an enduring hope that nothing in creation can shake. In Christ, we find our peace, joy and true selves by being reconnected to the divine source of all things. He is our metaphysical grounding made manifest in human form to restore our lost sonship.

Thank Heaven for that.

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Aaron Salvato

I am an itinerant pastor, former long-time youth pastor, host of the GoodLion Podcast, and director of the GoodLion School of Discipleship. I love Jesus and I love helping others know Him.