If I tell a lie, steal, commit adultery, lust after a woman, murder, be angry with my brother without cause, keep a grudge, turn away from God, act selfishly, have a selfish attitude even though I act unselfishly, perpetrate injustice, refuse to give justice - these are all sin, and so are many more things.
Now, I don't want to become all technical, about the difference between sinful acts and deep-rooted sinfulness. Instead, I want to separate out and understand the different kinds of sin and sinfulness. I find Dooyeweerd's aspects useful here.
Explanation of aspects: Aspects are not just categories, but also 'spheres of law', i.e. ways of being lawful or its opposite, ways of being good or bad. Dooyeweerd found fifteen distinct aspects - some mathematical, some governing plants and animals and our biological and emotional life, some cognitive, some social, and some societal. Of the fifteen, nine especially are 'normative', that is, we can live and act either with or against their laws.
Each aspect gives us a different kind of sin:
Quantitative aspect |
Spatial aspect ||-|
Kinematic aspect |
Physical aspect |
(Forces, energy, mass)
Biotic/organic aspect |
Sensitive/psychic aspect |
(Sensing, feeling, emotion)
Analytical aspect |
|Covering up, obfuscation|
Formative aspect |
Technology, skill, history)
|Laziness||Not achieving, under-achieving|
Lingual aspect |
Truth is distored; |
People believe something that is untrue;
Social aspect |
|Enmity, hating||Breakup of relationships, community or society|
Economic aspect |
(Frugality, resources; Management)
|Waste, greed, excess, carelessness||Wasted life, poverty||Ephesians 5:18|
Aesthetic aspect |
|Boring, refusing to give of my best with others?||DIscord, chaos, boredom|
Juridical aspect |
|Injustice, inappropriateness||Bad laws, corruption, nepotism, etc.|
Ethical aspect |
(Attitude, Self-giving love)
|Selfishness, defensiveness, self-centredness||Defensive, competitive attitude spreads, which is hard to go against|
Pistic/Faith aspect |
(Faith, commitment, belief;
Vision of who we are)
|DIsloyalty, faithlessness||Idolatry; mistrust spreads|
So sin can be many different kinds. No kind of sin can be reduced to any other, and all are important in the eyes of God. Dooyeweerd held that no one aspect is more or less important than others; all are equally important. Likewise, each kind of sin is equally important. If we think that telling a lie is less important than murder, then let us remember that Jesus chose to characterize the Devil as a liar - someone who distorts truth. Does not James also hold this view, when he says that whatever kind of wrong we do, we are still guilty.
This makes sense, because God intended his creation to be a place of diverse kinds of goodness, all working together like instruments in an orchestra. Any one instrument that goes wrong disrupts the whole.
The most important response is repentance.
This page, "http://www.abxn.org/sin.html", is offered to God as on-going work. Comments, queries welcome.
Copyright (c) Andrew Basden at all dates below. But you may use this material subject to certain easy conditions.
Part of his www.abxn.org pages, that open up discussion and exploration from a Christian ('xn') perspective. Written on the Amiga with Protext.
Created: Last updated: Created: Version 1, 31 October 1998 but never completed; Version 2, 31 March 2013. Last updated: 27 April 2019 link to repentance; rid empty table; new .end, .nav; link to nv/sin and nv/; corrected link.