A Robust Doctrine of Sin Makes Faith Possible

There are a lot of terrible things that happen in the world, even in our own lives. How do we account for inexplicable suffering, sadness, bad situations that are not getting better? If you don’t have a doctrine of the fall of mankind, which broke the world and cursed it, these questions must eat away at your view of the competency of God at being God. After all, why can’t he superintend the world well enough to keep such disasters from happening, why do thing suddenly go wrong for no apparent reason? But if you believe the world is deeply broken because of a primordial act of rebellion against God, then suffering becomes intelligible as a part of the fall out of that original act of rebellion. People suffer because this world is broken by sin.

The Eternal Origins of Evil in Paganism

“[Ricouer] points out that in the Babylonian myth, creation is an act of violence: Tiamat, “mother of them all,” is murdered and dismembered; from her cadaver the world is formed.4 Order is established by means of disorder. Creation is a violent victory over an enemy older than creation. The origin of evil precedes the origin of things. Chaos (symbolized by Tiamat) is prior to order (represented by Marduk, god of Babylon). Evil is prior to good. Violence inheres in the godhead. Evil is an ineradicable constituent of ultimate reality, and possesses ontological priority over good….

In the Babylonian myth, however, there is no “problem of evil.” Evil is simply a primordial fact. The simplicity of its picture of reality commended it widely, and its basic mythic structure spread as far as Syria, Phoenicia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Germany, Ireland, and India. Typically, a male war god residing in the sky—Wotan, Zeus, or Indra, for example—fights a decisive battle with a female divine being, usually depicted as a monster or dragon, residing in the sea or abyss.5 Having vanquished the original Enemy by war and murder, the victor fashions a cosmos from the monster’s corpse. Cosmic order equals the violent suppression of the feminine, and is mirrored in the social order by the subjection of women to men. Male supremacy and contempt for the womanly is explicit in the Enuma Elish: “What male is this who has pressed his fight against thee? It is but Tiamat, a woman, that flies at thee with weapons!…

The implications are clear: humanity is created from the blood of a murdered god. Our very origin is violence. Killing is in our blood. Humanity is not the originator of evil, but merely finds evil already present and perpetuates it. Our origins are divine, to be sure, since we are made from a god, but from the blood of an assassinated god.9 We are the consequence of deicide. Human beings are thus naturally incapable of peaceful coexistence; order must continually be imposed upon us from on high. Nor are we created to subdue the earth and have dominion over it as God’s regents; we exist but to serve as slaves of the gods and of their earthly regents. The tasks of humanity are to till the soil, to produce foods for sacrifice to the gods (represented by the king and the priestly caste), to build the sacred city Babylon, and to fight and, if necessary, to die in the king’s wars.” -Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers

What it Means to Really Believe in Total Depravity

Until you believe that you have all the resources within your own personhood to ruin your own life, you don’t really believe in total depravity. Until you believe that you are fully capable of blowing up important relationships in your life for bad reasons, you don’t believe in total depravity. Until you believe that someday it may actually seem like a good idea to stop worshiping God all together or to quit being a part of his family, you don’t believe in total depravity. This is what it means to say sin has so corrupted our nature that we are prone to hate our neighbor and hate God.

But, conversely, unless we believe God can intervene in the life of such a one, and give him or her gloriously different thoughts and desires than these, we also don’t really believe that “Christ Jesus came to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”

The bad news is bad, but the good news is greater.

‘I want atheism to be true’

“In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” -Thomas Nagel, The Last Word

DL Moody’s Example of Humble Apology

“If we have sinned against our neighbour, we must confess our sin to him and ask for his forgiveness. It sounds easy. yet we all know from common experience how costly it is
simply to apologize to somebody and to say that we are sorry. It is a rare Christian grace. D. L. Moody, the famous American evangelist of the last century, exhibited it, and I think I was more struck by this than by anything else about him when reading a recent biography. Let me give you two examples which impressed me. In the early days at their home in Northfield, Massachusetts, Moody was anxious to
have a lawn like those he had greatly admired in England. But one day his two sons, Paul and Will, let the horses loose from the barn. They galloped over his precious lawn and ruined it. And Moody lost his temper with them. But the boys never forgot how, after they had gone to bed that night, they heard his heavy footsteps as he approached and entered their room, and, laying a heavy hand on their head, said to them: ‘I want you to forgive me; that wasn’t the way Christ taught.’ On another occasion a theological student interrupted him during an address and Moody snapped an irritated retort. Let J. C. Pollock describe what happened at the end of the sermon: ‘He reached his close. He paused. Then he said: “Friends, I want to confess before you all that I made a great mistake at the beginning of this
meeting. I answered my young brother down there foolishly. I ask God to forgive me. I ask him to forgive me.” And before anyone realized what was happening the world’s most famous evangelist had stepped off the platform, dashed across to the insignificant anonymous youth and taken him by the hand. As another present said, “The man of iron will proved that he had mastered the hardest of all earth’s languages, ‘I am sorry’.” Someone else called it the
greatest thing I ever saw D. L. Moody do’.” -John Stott, Confess Your Sins