Cornelius Plantinga on sin being the breaking of shalom

Sin is disruption of created harmony and then resistance to divine restoration of that harmony….God hates sin not just because it violates his law but, more substantively, because it violates shalom, because it breaks the peace, because it interferes with the way things are supposed to be. (Indeed, that is why God has laws against a good deal of sin.) God is for shalom and therefore against sin. In fact, we may safely describe evil as any spoiling of shalom, whether physically (e.g., by disease), morally, spiritually, or otherwise. Moral and spiritual evil are agential evil – that is, evil that, roughly speaking, only persons can do or have.  Agential evil thus comprises evil acts and dispositions. Sin, then, is any agential evil for which some person (or group of persons) is to blame. In short, sin is culpable shalom-breaking.

“Culpable disturbance of shalom” suggests that sin is unoriginal, that it disrupts something good and harmonious, that (like a housebreaker) it is an intruder, and that those who sin deserve reproach. To get our bearings, we need to see first that sin is one form of evil (an agential and culpable form) and that evil, in turn, is the disruption or disturbance of what God has designed.

In sum, shalom is God’s design for creation and redemption; sin is blamable human vandalism of these great realities and therefore an affront to their architect and builder.

Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, 5, 14, 16.

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5 comments on “Cornelius Plantinga on sin being the breaking of shalom

  1. Thanks Ted for posting this. I’m sharing it tomorrow on my blog. I googled to find if anyone had these quotes already prepared… and here they are!

  2. […] to Be: a Breviary of Sin (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdman’s,1995), 5, 14, 16. *Thanks to Ted Gossard for posting this quote a couple years […]

  3. […] that it’s time we learn and operate from a more holistic definition of “sin”.  Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. provides a context for understanding sin in light of […]

  4. […] that it’s time we learn and operate from a more holistic definition of “sin.” Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. provides a context for understanding sin in light of […]

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