Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Theological Questions Children Ask, Pt. 2

Out of the blue the question came, my reaction to it is slow and easy like mountain molasses.  I'm used to my daughter asking me profound questions.  Often I begin with, "That's a good question, honey.  I don't really know...."  She had asked, "Dad, what is sin?  Is it a thing?" By "thing," she means something tangible. 

Brynne, at eight years old (nine in October) is asking an ontological question, wondering about the essence or being of a thing.  She knows from her catechetical training that "Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God" (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q.14).  She knows, more simply, that sin is breaking God's law, even simpler, that sin is something "bad" that a person does.  Her question however, was the follow-up of what type of thing sin is.  "Sin isn't like a gas, like the air, right?" she inquires.  

Breathing out a drawn breath, I begin with an example of a sin.  "You know, when someone steals something, they take something that doesn't rightly belong to them, and this is an action that is a sin.  At the same time, though, the person who stole the thing decided in his heart and mind to steal first.  So, sin is more than the action of stealing; it's something that is in the heart first of all, which makes it really hard to explain exactly what that is."  

Lying on the love seat after a meal, I threw my legs over the side and stared at the ceiling, trying to think of ways to explain it to her.  She sits on the couch with her knees to her chest, staring at the ground, thinking.  

Let's take her back to the beginning and try to do theology with the story of Scripture.  "You know, think of Adam and Eve (she wasn't named "Eve" yet, but that's not all that important at this point).  It was Eve that took the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and then gave it to Adam.  So, as the Apostle Paul says, it was Eve that was the transgressor--" (1 Timothy 2:12-14).  

"But wasn't it Satan that caused them to sin?" 

"Yes, well, the deceiver.  He lied to Adam and Eve, telling them that they could be like God if they ate of the tree, so yes, the sin is imputed to the devil, even before Adam and Eve sinned.  So the devil had some kind of sin going on in him before Adam and Eve sinned."

"They told me in school (years ago) that Satan fell from heaven and had a different name--" 
"Lucifer, right." 
"Yeah, but we know that that's not necessarily true." 
"Right.  Some people think the Bible tells us about the fall of the devil (in Isaiah 14:3-21; Ezekiel 28: 1-19), but we know less about that than what people say.  What we do know is what Jesus said about him, that he is a liar and a deceiver and that when he tells a lie he speaks his native language," (John 8:44) [1].

"But we don't believe that." 
"Not really, no.  So, the deal with sin is that it's this thing that is a mystery.  People have a hard time understanding what it really is." 
"Is it like gas?  Because I have gas, and I could let out a toot right now."  

She chuckles. "Like the air?"

"No, it's not like gas.  It's like this thing that exists within our hearts and minds.  

"So, if Adam and Eve hadn't sinned, the baby birds wouldn't have died in our chimney.  And when Jesus makes the new heavens and the new earth, there won't be death." 
"That's right." 

"What would have happened if Eve had sinned, but Adam hadn't?"  

"Well, I don't know.  God could have destroyed Eve and given him a new wife, or he could have redeemed her.  But the sin Adam committed is the reason why we have death.  Adam is what we call the covenant head--he bore the responsibility for he and his wife, and the sin and death in the world isn't the fault of the devil or of the woman, but of Adam (Romans 5:12)." [2]

"So, if God hadn't created, sin wouldn't exist?"
"That's right."
"So, God created everything, and he created sin too?"
"Ah yeah.  Great question.  No, God didn't create sin, because God is good and there is no evil or darkness in him.  And this is why people for 1,000's of years have been trying to figure out your question of what sin actually is.  It didn't come from God, because he's good and not sinful, and sin doesn't exist in him.  So, he's not the author of sin.  That's why sin is a mystery, honey.  It's hard to figure out."  

"It is. Can I have a popsicle?"

1. "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

2. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.  Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

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