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Just so we’re clear…

Sin Is Cosmic Treason


from Aug 05, 2013 (Reposted from the Ligonier Ministries blog)

The question, “What is sin?” is raised in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. The answer provided to this catechetical question is simply this: “Sin is any want of conformity to or transgression of the law of God.”


Let us examine some of the elements of this catechetical response. In the first instance, sin is identified as some kind of want or lack. In the middle ages, Christian theologians tried to define evil or sin in terms of privation (privatio) or negation (negatio). In these terms, evil or sin was defined by its lack of conformity to goodness. The negative terminology associated with sin may be seen in biblical words such as disobedience, godlessness, or immorality. In all of these terms, we see the negative being stressed. Further illustrations would include words such as dishonor, antichrist, and others.


However, to gain a complete view of sin, we have to see that it involves more than a negation of the good, or more than a simple lack of virtue. We may be inclined to think that sin, if defined exclusively in negative terms, is merely an illusion. But the ravages of sin point dramatically to the reality of its power, which reality can never be explained away by appeals to illusion. The reformers added to the idea of privatio the notion of actuality or activity, so that evil is therefore seen in the phrase, “privatio actuosa.” This stresses the active character of sin. In the catechism, sin is defined not only as a want of conformity but an act of transgression, an action that involves an overstepping or violation of a standard.

In order to grasp the meaning of sin, we cannot define it apart from its relationship to law. It is God’s law that determines what sin is.

Read the rest of the post here.