What Changed with Sin?

Maybe the capacity to sin developed alongside the capacity to love. Maybe that's the point.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/jim-stump-faith-and-science-seeking-understanding/what-changed-with-sin

Metaphysically, SIN comes with nature and matter.

It is only the SPIRITUAL that can be without Sin - - which speaks to the Unique Nature of Jesus - - who was the ONLY perfect human of flesh and matter.

The idea that Adam and Eve were “without sin” is understandable … because they had not had an opportunity to sin. But it’s pretty obvious that Adam and Eve were not PERFECT … or they wouldn’t have eventually sinned.

In fact, can any of us really think God did not expect the sin? … the failure?

If HUMANITY had been perfect … they would have already been DIVINE. I know no Christian who proposes that Adam and Eve were created, from the start, as DIVINE creatures.

Some crossover with this post: You are being redirected...

Thank you for sharing this, Bethany, even just as the speculations they are. I particularly find your comparison of Love to bread to be very insightful. I think it makes an excellent analogy (or metaphor?) to help distinguish the instinctive (or carnal) loves from what Christians recognize as the higher Agape love.

George, I’m not sure I agree the sin comes with nature and matter. I am aware that some in the Christian tradition have argued this (or something very like it), but biblically speaking, it seems very hard to justify. The world is God’s “very good” creation, and even in the new world we are to be people with bodies, just as Jesus’ resurrection body was still solidly physical albeit with important differences. I do agree that early humans, and even Adam & Eve as presented in the Bible, were not perfect.

Jeremy, thanks for the link. Helpful to situate how my perspective compares to others.

Mervin, I’m grateful for your willingness to engage in my speculations! I think the link to carnal loves from agape love is difficult. I almost totally disagree with the now classic definitions that Nygren set out in his book Agape and Eros (Tom Oord sets out some great critiques of Nygren in The Nature of Love: A Theology, (Atlanta, GA:Chalice Press, 2010), 39-51.) But I think that is really only because I would refuse to call what you are terming “instinctive love” as love at all. It is desire, sure, but not love.

Also, just a note of clarification from some of the Facebook discussion: I’m not saying that God requires us to sin in order to allow us to love. I’m trying to argue that the possibility of sin was only made available by the invitation to love. There is a big difference, and I want to be clear on this.

1 Like


I don’t see any real difference between a state of “non-perfection” and the state of “sin”. If you aren’t God … you are not perfect. What kind of pottery are any of us to dispute the will of the potter who makes us?

I’ve assumed that both were included in being created in the Image of God but this definitely needs to be mentioned outright more often.

This post is imaginative in the way that I think theology should be imaginative. The integration of theology and the science of evolution is very helpful to me. I am a pastor with many in my church who are scientists and who are also committed believers. I feel it is my calling to help them see how their endeavors in chemistry and immunology and public health and medicine are ways they can express their discipleship. Their work is one arena in which they can be witnesses, but they can only be effective witnesses if they are good scientists. I am going to share this with folks in my church because I find it very creative and helpful in showing how scientific theory is not negated by theology. Rather, scientific theory can expand our understanding of theology. Thank you for writing this.


I think there is a huge difference between a state of non-perfection and a state of sin! And, actually, pottery is a great piece of imagery to illustrate the point. No potter (even a perfect potter) starts with a finished piece of pottery. Every potter starts with dirt. Then clay needs to be extracted, water added. Then it is set on the spinning table where it is kneaded and worked for a long time before a potter can even begin shaping the piece into what it is meant to be. None of this speaks to the imperfection of either the potter or the clay: it is simply the necessary process of making pottery. A state of sin, in my view, would be when the clay on the table decides it is done with being shaped and gets off and walks away from the potter!


Thank you Rob. My primary interest is always that theology be useful to people in the church, so this is very encouraging.

1 Like

From God’s viewpoint … I don’t think HE sees a difference. ALL come short before the glory of God. Isn’t this the literal definition of “original sin” ???

Is a dying infant to go directly to Heaven?

There is an immense difference between saying “all humans have fallen short of God’s glory” and “matter is sinful”. For one thing, there is a whole lot of matter that has nothing to do with sin: mountains are not sinful, stars are not sinful, plants are not sinful. The doctrine of original sin is meant only to convey the first point: that all humans have fallen short of God’s glory and stand in need of redemption. It is not intended to convey that matter entails sinfulness.


I don’t think there really is a difference. Perhaps there are those who want to WALLOW in their SINFUL nature … but really, all it comes down to is the imperfection of the realm of Matter.

Unless you are one of those “magical Christians” who think all animals were doomed because of a decision made by Adam and Eve … why would God wipe out a whole planet of herbivores ? - - except that even they were imperfect and expendable.

There is the DIVINE … and there is everything else.

Sin isn’t synonymous with imperfection, sin is disobedience in light of God’s self-revelation and revealed will.

1 Like


If you are an Evangelical, and REALLY believe in Original Sin … it’s essentially the same as portraying all living beings as imperfect… and indeed they are.

If you don’t take Original Sin so seriously … then I wouldn’t be surprised that you are more likely to see a difference between SIN and IMPERFECTION.

I think you are right. The Greeks believed that the material world was evil. Christians, however, believe that the world was pronounced good by God, and will ultimately be redeemed.

1 Like

Many historians are interested in the gnostic nature of the primitive church. Gnosticism, a world view where “matter is evil” and the physical world is a prison of the soul … fits the notion of original sin surprisingly well…

I’m not following. I think all living beings are “imperfect” by some definitions, and I believe in some version of original sin, but I don’t see what it has to do with the material world being equated with sinfulness. Sin originates in our spirits/minds, not in our physical biology. I don’t think all creation fell from perfection because of human sin, even though all of creation is negatively impacted by human sin. Like God and unlike other animals, we are creators, and create corruption and evil beyond that which is natural. I didn’t grow up Calvinist with a total depravity understanding of original sin. It was presented more or less like humanity’s corporate failure starting with Adam and Eve, failure for which we are all held accountable and whose pattern we all follow. As members of humanity, we receive an identity as a member of the community of sinners. The slavery analogy is used. We were born into slavery to sin, through no choice of our own, but because of our parent’s identity as slaves to sin. And from birth we learn to act on this identity as slaves to sin, and it is only by receiving a new identity in Christ (and as the analogy goes, being purchased by a better slave owner :wink: ) that we can be released from our community accountability for humanity’s disobedience and our personal accountability for our own individual rebellion.

Jesus is the second Adam, because via the incarnation, he was born a free man, not in slavery to sin “in Adam.” That gave humanity a fresh start at being a different kind of community “in Christ.” But Jesus’ biology was just as “imperfect” as any other human’s biology. He got tired and hungry, He had to deal with negative emotions, He bled and bruised and could be killed. If those things are “fallen” and unnatural effects of original sin, then Jesus shared our fallenness and imperfection, which is not something most people who advocate the whole “perfect before the fall” concept are comfortable with. But I don’t see how you come up with a good theology of Incarnation that preserves Jesus’ righteousness, if natural human material existence is sinful.


Yes, Gnosticism involved the belief that matter was evil. But Gnosticism wasn’t a part early Christianity, just a later side development. And if I recall correctly, Gnosticism rejected the Old Testament. That’s not something to be taken lightly.


I like the distinction you implicitly make between the idea of righteousness being lost, and righteousness not being taken up. So sin is a rejection of righteousness, not a corruption of righteousness. I think this is more faithful to the pictures we are given of what gets labelled righteousness and sin in Scripture.

I like the idea I have heard others put forward that humanity was called out (because of the capabilities God directly created in them somehow or because of the capabilities they eventually arrived at through evolution) to be rulers with God, to act as his agents in maintaining and creating righteousness/justice/shalom/harmony (pick your favorite term for “the world as God destines it to be”) in his world.

Surely if God is love, than the capacity to love and respond to love is a necessary part of being God’s agent of righteousness and participating in his mission. But I’m not sure that God’s mission and destiny for his world and humanity’s role as chosen agents/image bearers can be totally summed up in love alone, because God is more than love and it seems to me that his mission for the world is deeper and bigger than just everyone getting along with each other and experiencing divine love.

So I think original sin was more than just a failure to capitalize on our moral capabilities as lovers. It was a total rejection of all that God was calling us to be as agents of righteousness and a refusal to cooperate in God’s on-going work in creation, the work of bringing creation closer and closer to it’s full redemption and completeness. In Christ we have the renewed offer to take up righteousness and be faithful in the justice restoring, co-creative, redemptive, “bringing the Kingdom to completeness” work that God calls the church to do. All of which is characterized by love for God and others and begins with accepting our status as beloved, but is more than that too.