Friday, January 9, 2009

Disturbing the Peace

Whoa, I just realized that it's been awhile since I posted - probably long enough that 50 Cent could've produced two or three albums in the same amount of time.
I really liked reading Plantinga's Not the Way It's Supposed to Be for Dr. Jacobson's class. (Am I allowed to say that I enjoyed a book on sin?) There were a couple concepts in there that I wanted to bring up for more discussion. So here goes the first...
When Plantinga talks about the characteristics of sin, he devotes a section to talking about sin as actions that disturb "Shalom," that is, activities that disrupt the way God intends for things to work. If all people were to follow God's prescription for society, then the Hebrew concept of shalom would be realized, and people would live together in peace, security and well-being. However, when we defy God’s pattern for life, we disrupt shalom. Harm to others and society is characteristic of sin. Murder, slander, adultery, and stealing are clear examples of how this works, because their destructive effects on others are easily seen. These sins are against other people, because it harms them with its immediate, secondary and tertiary effects, and it is against God because it defies his instructions for life’s patterns. God created things the way they’re supposed to be; sin wrecked and continues to wreck things so that they’re not the way they’re supposed to be.

As we answer the questions of the segments of our culture who are very concerned with healing the world and want to know whether Christianity has anything to offer in this regard, I think this is an important concept to point out. Sinful actions cause suffering, injustice, oppression, emotional and physical pain – we could even argue environmental pollution, if we view short-sighted material gain as the cause. (Debatable, I know.) While we may not see how all commands/prohibitions fit into this paradigm, there is a general pattern that the things the Bible tells us to do usually improve the conditions in our sphere of influence, while the things the Bible tells us not to do tend to make conditions worse.

This generalizing causes me to think that this principle could be a good guide in matters of conscience. If something is not expressly spoken of in Scripture and I have to make a decision whether or not to do it, it is wise to ask the question “How will this affect shalom in my world? Will it add to or disturb the peace and well-being of those around me?”

With this concept in mind, we can see clearly that speaking truthfully about sin and exhorting people to stop sinning is an important and effective way of changing the world for the better. Although evangelicals take much criticism for their intolerance and close mindedness because of the sins they condemn, the reality is that pointing out the destructive power of sin is the first and most critical step towards building a better world. Sin disrupts shalom. Winking at sin means winking at the source of society’s problems.

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