Sunday, July 06, 2008

quote for the week

The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight - a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be....

In biblical thinking, we can understand neither shalom nor sin apart from reference to God. Sin is a religious concept, not just a moral one. For example, when we are thinking religiously, we view a shopkeeper's defrauding of a customer not merely as an instance of lawlessness but also of faithlessness, and we think of the fraud as faithless not only to the customer but also to God. Criminal and moral misadventures qualify as sin because they offend and betray God. Sin is not only the breaking of law but also the breaking of covenant with one's savior. Sin is the smearing of a relationship, the grieving of one's divine parent and benefactor, a betrayal of the partner to whom one is joined by a holy bond.

Hence in the most famous of the penitential psalms, traditionally ascribed to David after his adultery with Bathsheba, the author views his sin primarily, perhaps exclusively, as a sin against God....

All sin has first and finally a Godward force. Let us say that a sin is any act - any thought, desire, emotion, word, or deed - or its particular absence, that displeases God and deserves blame. Let us add that the disposition to commit sins also displeases God and deserves blame, and let us therefore use the word sin to refer to such instances of both act and disposition. Sin is a culpable and personal affront to a personal God.

But once we possess the concept of shalom, we are in position to enlarge and specify this understanding of sin. God is, after all, not arbitrarily offended. 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 short, sin is culpable shalom-breaking.

Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, by Cornelius Plantinga Jr. (pages 10, 12-14)

4 comments:

-bill said...

Thanks for sharing this. It gives the shalom-blessing much deeper significance. May your life be saturated with "shalom" this week.

Andrew said...

Thanks, Ted. Excellent use of commas!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks, Bill. We all need it. It seems to want to break down so easily, fragile. Yet it can also seem to be flourishing in some places, even if it's small with plenty of room for more growth.

But I too like the way Plantinga describes it here, as well as the entire book. It's helpful, and one of those books to keep rereading through the years.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Good, Andrew. And feel free to critique me at any time, by email if you like!