Wednesday, October 11, 2006

BEDROCK BELIEFS: ANTHROPOLOGY AND HAMARTIOLOGY

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by Laura Springer, M.Div.

Christianity is defined by certain beliefs and practices. Bedrock Beliefs summarizes some of the beliefs that define Christianity. These beliefs, also known as “theology,” are an important part of following Christ, because our theology (what we believe about God, his work, and his world) shapes our worldview. Our worldview determines our attitudes and actions. Theology is about who we know and why we live how we live.

ANTHROPOLOGY AND HAMARTIOLOGY: HUMANITY AND SIN

WHO ARE WE AND WHY ARE WE LIKE THIS?

Thumb through the morning paper and you will find ample evidence that humanity is both amazingly good and incredibly sinful. How can we be both? The answer to this question takes us back to the beginning. In Genesis 1:26, God determines to create humanity in his image. In Genesis 3, humanity decides to disobey the Creator. By design, humanity is good. By choice, humanity is sinful.

HUMANITY BY DESIGN

Image of God. By design, humanity is very good. We were declared so by our Creator (Genesis 1:31). By design we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Two aspects of the image of God seem fairly clear: personhood and attributes.

Personhood. Persons are self-conscious. We know we exist and can observe ourselves from the outside. We show this self-consciousness when we ask ourselves how we feel about something or why we made a certain decision. We are self-determined. We can make decisions that do not rely on instinct and are not under compulsion.

Attributes. Because we are created in the image of God we share limited versions of his communicable attributes.

Composition. Humanity is composed of both material and immaterial substances, of both physical and spiritual stuff (Genesis 2:7). The material substance (our physical bodies) began as dust. God took the dust of the ground and formed a human. The immaterial substance (our spirit/soul) was formed by the breath of God. (See A BIT OF THEOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY for more on humanity as material and immaterial.)

HUMANITY BY CHOICE

As we discovered earlier, an important part of personhood is self-determination—the ability to make real choices. It is to humanity’s first BIG choice that we now turn.

After God finished creating everything, he declared humanity and all of creation to be very good. God had planted a lavish garden for humanity and gave them all its fruit for food, except the fruit of two special trees: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. The first man and woman, Adam and Eve, decided to take matters into their own hands and disobey God’s direct command and make themselves like God (Genesis 3:5). Sin entered humanity through our choice to disobey God and to make ourselves like God.

What is sin and how bad is the problem? Sin is guilt. Humanity has made itself guilty by overstepping God’s righteous standard (Romans 4:15), by missing the mark of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), and by rebelling against God (1 John 3:4).

Sin is also pollution. This pollution is commonly referred to as the sin nature (Romans 7:14-18) and humans carry it from the moment of conception (Psalm 51:5).

How bad is the problem? The guilt and pollution of sin has infected every human born of man and woman. Each act, thought, intention, and motivation is infected, even when they appear to be good. This means that it is impossible for any human to win points with God.

The guilt and pollution of sin have corrupted the image of God and distorted human attributes. Every part of our being is affected.

How can humanity be amazingly good and incredibly sinful? Humanity is amazingly good because we are created by a good God in his image. Humanity is incredibly sinful because we chose to disobey God’s direct command. On our own we are left in a completely hopeless situation.



WANT TO LEARN MORE?

If you would like to learn more about theology, worldview, and how these shape Christ-following, sign up for the January 2007 TFB Academy course:

Bedrock Beliefs
Sundays in January 2007, 4:30 pm
Instructor: Laura Springer, M.Div.
Tentative course outline available online