Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sin as Stealing? Part Two

Here are three observations I have in thinking about Baba's definition of sin from yesterday ("There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft"):

1. Baba's definition works....for a while.

Baba's definition of sin is not logically inconsistent. At least not on the surface. It actually makes a good deal of sense. If a man kills, he steals a wife's right to a husband. If a woman lies, she steals another person's right to the truth. Fair enough. But all this talk about rights raises the question, What happens when perceived rights conflict? A thief may believe it is his right to do what he pleases. What then? Does Baba's explanation leave room for the possibility that I may not be an impartial judge when it comes to determining what I'm entitled to?

2. Baba leaves God out of the picture.

Amir's father is not a believer. Therefore, it is fitting that his understanding of sin does not include God. Fitting, but tragic. The question of sin becomes clear when we understand that God created us. We owe our existence to him. It would follow, then, that God's rights ought to determine our notions of morality. This is the testimony of the Bible: "Has the potter no right over the clay....?" (Romans 9:21). "Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4). The fact that we are deeply resistant to this possibility may indicate more about our hearts than it does about reality.

3. Sin is stealing......from God.

What is God entitled to? What is the Right that trumps all our creaturely notions? In a word, it is glory. God, as our Creator, is entitled to all honor and praise. He says, "I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols" (Isaiah 42:8). When I do anything that attempts to exalt myself as supreme, I steal glory from God. This is the heart of all sin.

Murder is sin, not ultimately because it steals a wife's right to a husband, but because it steals God's right to determine the length of a man's days. Lying is sin, not mainly because it steals another person's right to the truth, but because it exalts me as supreme over another person's mind. Cheating is sin, not finally because it steals a man's right to fairness, but because it places my desires on the throne of the universe.

The reason Baba's definition won't work isn't because it's implausible. It won't work because it's idolatrous. It never leaves the swamp of man-centered reasoning. In fact, rather than defining sin, Baba's definition compounds it by insisting that the creature's rights are divine. If only his idea was as fictional as his character......

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