Bent or broken?

I sat in on a bible study yesterday which was working through Genesis 3, and I began thinking about some deeply held theological beliefs which stream largely from this package, but sometimes bother me.  Whether people believe in the historical veracity of the events of Genesis or not, the typical conclusion is that Genesis 3 points out that mankind’s sinfulness has severed the relationship between us and God.  As the discussion progressed we got into a little bit of original sin, and total depravity and all that fun stuff.  But the conclusion of the saints is that the relationship with God is broken by sin, and only in Jesus are people able to have a relationship with God- a long held doctrine of the Church.

But part of me wonders, wait, Cain and Abel were still able to commune with God, as were all the Old Testament saints.  If the relationship was broken in such a way that only in Jesus can we connect, then the Old Testament ceases to make sense.  Does sin have catastrophic effects?  Absolutely.  But at the risk of sound like a heretic, the relationship is not severed as a direct consequence of sin.  Those who have no relationship are in that state not because original sin prevents them, but because the sinfulness leads them to ignore the possibilities they have.  Total depravity does not mean that mankind is completely cut off, but that all of mankind is affected and tainted by sin.

So this old way of understand salvation is a problem (borrowed from Warragul Church of Christ website **not to single them out, as I have no knowledge of them, beyond the use of this graphic**):

Salvation, I am proposing is not an issue of sinful man being “blocked” from God by sinfulness.  Why would “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Ex. 34:6-7a) allow sin to blockade man away from himself.  The chasm between God and man has to do with man’s preference of ignorance than an actual inherited effect of the first sin of mankind.  People choose to ignore God, even though he is always available.

Salvation, then, is something bigger, deeper, and more wonderful than just a removal of sin so we can relate to God (while sin does indeed hinder us in our pursuit of God, and in Christ we have atonement and forgiveness- I don’t deny this).  Salvation is a total transformation of creation.  A new relationship, not just bringing back the old.  It is bringing a shared life between God and mankind. It is the Kingdom of God penetrating people’s hearts and minds to free them from the ignorance they once held so close.  Salvation is about freedom; not just from from something, but also freedom for something- “that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, ESV) or as The Message renders it, “so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

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4 Responses to Bent or broken?

  1. Graeme Cann says:

    Thank you for your comments on salvation. I agree wholeheartedly that salvation is the complete transformation of the old creation and is not just the restoration of a past relationship but the beginning of a new creatio. However I do not think that this flies in the face of the traditional view that sin seperates us from God. I think that they are two halves of the one whole.

  2. xrstokes says:

    I happen to agree with both on this one. I believe the point that he is trying to make is not that sin doesn’t separate us from God. Just that it has more to do with our continuing sin nature than it does to do with the original sin of Adam and the effect that it has. Is that really a canyon that is separating us from God? Or just the threshold of the doorway where the father stands and knocks. Where even the unbeliever can here him whispering, “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, Calling oh Sinner, Come home.” I believe that picture to be more fitting with personality of the Father. http://www.cocwarragul.org.au/sermons?series=19
    Over time though our actions and decisions can make that seem like a canyon though i guess.

  3. I think you’ve interpreted me well xrstokes. Basically what I’m saying is that the chasm between us and God is more in our minds. Christ’s blood is essential for atonement, but atonement is only one aspect of salvation which is so incomprehensible. It’s not that sin doesn’t get in the way of a flourishing relationship with God. But I reject the idea that through Christ WE come to God, but instead in Christ, God comes TO US. Salvation is God coming to us that we may have fellowship and rebirth. I just find something unsettling about the particular view held by many, as it seems contrary to the character of God, as if God is some ambivalent and distant from us until we accept Christ then he “lets us in”. God is always open to those who seek him, and also passionately pursuing them.

  4. xrstokes says:

    Tell me about it. I’ve heard it said that the only prayer that God here’s from the unbeliever is a prayer of repentance. I just don’t think that this fits with his character.

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