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The Doctrine of Sin

Apart from his will and his life-giving breath, nothing outside of God can exist. God made all of creation and wills its existence, movement, and life. Into this creation, God placed a special creature, human beings. Humans were made in God’s own image and outside of receiving his breath of life were uniquely equipped to reflect God’s life-giving back towards creation and the Creator himself. Humans, unlike other creatures, could have relationship with God. Not only could humans have a relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but humans are only living as fully human when they are in relationship with God.

Made in his own image, God elected to empower humanity with the facilities of limited self-agency. Humans, would be empowered by God with the ability to accept or reject his eternally Triune relational advances of love. Humans, as demonstrated by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, willfully rejected God’s relationship of unidirectional life-giving, by seeking an arrangement where they could aspire to be God’s peers. In this instant, a fissure — sin — was created in the relationship between God and humanity.

Sin is any thing — power, object, action, thought, system, etc. — which serves or elevates the self at the expense of relationship with God and the creation with whom he identifies. In this view, sin is not simply — as is the common misunderstanding — the breaking of one of God’s rules. The focus is not so much on the what of sin, but the result of sin. “The wages of sin are death.” God is the source of life. Sinful thoughts, actions, etc. pull humanity away from life. The absence of life, is death. Sin is all that is opposed to life and the Giver of Life.

This is the church’s doctrine of sin. Not a list of things that one should not do, but rather a call to recognize death and accept God’s relational advances of life. The catholic faith is not a Deistic moralism, but a prophetic voice which names beautiful death wrapped fruits as sin and points to the eternal life found in the triune love of God. God created us as receivers and reflectors of his life-breath. To be completely human is to be fully in right relationship with God and his creation. This means ceding God’s gift of agency back to God and leveraging it only for his life-giving will in the world.