I have long been a fan of N.T. Wright's ideas about Paul, although I have only dipped lightly into his works. The latest dip is N.T. Wright's idea of sin ... it seems to me to go something like this: The traditional view is that sin is the wilful rejection of God, from the moment Adam and Eve chose to ignore God's instruction not to eat the fruit, on. It's presented as a moral problem. A common critique then is God is presented as an unforgiving father-figure whom we have offended, and who has taken offence and is punishing us for that offence. It's all rather personal. Modernity seeks to soften this view: we were young. How can we be blamed for what we did not know? That for what is essentially a 'shortcoming' or 'mistake' we are subject to an eternal punishment. Both arguments are, in Wright's mind, rather naive: The normal Greek word for ‘sin’ namely hamartia, means ‘missing the mark’: shooting at a target and failing to hit it. This is subtly but importantly different from being given a long and fussy list of things you must and mustn’t do and failing to observe them all. He expounds his theory: ... humans were created for a purpose, and Israel was called for a purpose, and the purpose was not simply 'to keep the rules, 'to be with God', or 'to go to heaven' ... Humans were made to be 'image-bearers'... As such we were created and called to be intermediaries between God and creation, between the Infinite and the finite, the Transcendent and the contingent, the Absolute and the relative. As humans we are 'open' to the other in a way that the rest of nature is not. This intermediation is the true nature of 'priesthood'. The idea is of heaven here and now. Scripture says seek within, and really the injunction is then make the outside like the inside. But we continue to subjectify and personalise. So we seek within for our own personal good. As the meme has it, we want to find ourselves, and continue along the same erroneous and ultimately fatal path. It's not about us. It never was. Wright defines sin as a failure to live up to our birthright. If sin is 'missing the mark', our sin is not just about falling short of God or God's commandments, etc. It's about falling short of our own inherent natures. A falling short of being authentically human. Wright says: When humans sin, they hand to non-divine forces a power and authority that those forces were never supposed to have. This doesn’t dilute or soften the traditional idea of sin. Rather, it shows how sin is more consequentially damaging because not only do we sever the link with God, but we do so by placing an idol in place of God. We put selfish self-serving self-interest first. This idolatry can be named many things: money, fame, power, etc., Contemplated this way the symbolism of the Garden takes on a different meaning. Suffice to say relegate the serpent to a psychological drama, a dialogue in the head. But see the fruit for what it is — something natural, with all the allure of nature, something by which we traded participation for possession, and in so doing, lost everything. So sin is all about defying God's will and earning His wrath and failing to do what we're told and breaking the rules and being punished and blah, blah, blah ... it's about something more and something more important. We betrayed ourselves. We sold ourselves short. +++ Still exploring, but there's some really interesting ideas there.