Many people understand that sin is destructive and, when left unaddressed, it has eternal consequences, but do you know that the degree to which we are involved in sin is the degree to which we forgo becoming God’s artists, creating the world He has in mind? If you and I intend to fully express ourselves as God’s image-bearers, furthering His creative works through our creative abilities, we must revisit sin, forgiveness, and God’s divine purposes.
Theologically, the definition of sin is multifaceted, but fundamentally, sin is a failure to conform to the character and nature of God. The Greek word harmatia means “to miss the mark,” “to err,” or “to cause offense.” This is why Romans 3:23 declares “[A]ll have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. All have missed the mark—have failed to measure up to the standard of God’s glorious character and nature. In other words, sin is any attitude, intent, or action that is different from what God would do.
At first glance, this appears to be extraordinarily narcissistic. If God is compelled to purge from His creation anything that is not what He Himself would do, then why not simply create a mirror rather than a complex universe filled with diversity and sentient creatures possessing the ability to act independently? How is it fair for God to create us with free will and then condemn us for acting in a manner other than how He Himself would act? However, this view fails to appreciate that creation and all its functions can be likened to a work of art expressing the qualities of the artist.
God created this complex and diverse creation as an overflow of His divine attributes—particularly His creativity. In a sense, creation is, indeed, a mirror that reflects the attributes and glory of God because the creation has been imbued with God’s divine attributes that testify to His glory (Psa. 19:1; Rom. 1:20). However, one creature stands apart from all others. Mankind was created to be the ultimate reflection of God among His creation and we were uniquely given the ability to join God in creating what this world should be like and our future.
As the visible representation of God within creation (Gen. 1:26), mankind was created to participate with God in His creative act, having been given rule over the creation and tasked with subduing and cultivating the earth to become an extension of God’s abode. (For reasons we cannot get into in this article, Eden was God’s dwelling place.) The Garden of Eden was unique (Gen. 2:8), and God tasked Adam and Eve with subduing and ruling His creation to make all of Earth Edenic (Gen. 1:28). As such, mankind has been entrusted to act on God’s behalf, utilizing divine attributes—such as creativity—that have been granted us for the purpose of accomplishing God’s will of further refining His creation into an even greater reflection of His glory.
It is not narcissistic for an artist to imbue his creation with qualities that reflect the artist. Neither is it narcissistic for an artist to expect his art to accurately reflect those qualities. Instead, art only transcends the mundane and becomes extraordinary when it is designed to reflect something greater. And we would expect an artist to continue to refine his work until its flaws were removed. In this sense, there is nothing unusual or inappropriate about God seeking to purge from His creation anything that does not accurately reflect Himself. But the greater issue is how sin affects mankind’s ability to accomplish God’s purposes.
We could think of sin as a form of base coding within our being. Our original coding was to accomplish God’s heart intent for His creation, but like a virus, sin has overwritten this coding with a command to reject God’s heart intent for His creation. As such, we find ourselves gravitating toward selfishness rather than selflessness, deception rather than truth, destruction rather than creation, and death rather than life. As C.S. Lewis notes, our nature is now bent away from God and His heart intent for creation.
We can only accurately image God and rule as God Himself would rule if we are in perfect alignment with God’s heart and vision for creation. When governed by sin, it is impossible to fulfill our original purpose. Instead, as the representative head over creation, we consistently guide all of creation away from God and His purposes. When Adam and Eve chose to reject God’s command in Eden and to align with God’s enemy, they allowed their natures—their base coding—to be overwritten by sin, thus receiving a new nature—a new base coding that governed them. And this sinful nature has been passed along to all of their offspring. Therefore, it is necessary that God purge mankind of its sin. God must remove the overriding code of sin and restore our original purpose. However, God must do so in a manner that does not violate mankind’s free will.
Mankind was granted free will to better accomplish God’s purposes. It is a necessary attribute in order to accurately image God within creation; therefore, it would be meaningless if God corrected the corrupting influence of sin over His imagers by overriding this divinely-bestowed attribute. Such a solution may resolve the problem of sin, but it would prevent mankind from ever accomplishing its original purpose of imaging God as His mini-creators. Instead, God must redeem His creation in a manner that preserves mankind’s ability to choose.
The story of the Bible is an account of how God is actively working to change the governing principle that now dominates and governs His creation in order to restore His original purpose. As such, the issue of sin is at the center of God’s redemptive plan. Sin destroys God’s original purpose for creation. Mankind voluntarily aligned itself with God’s enemy and permitted sin to override its base code, but God has refused to allow His creation to succumb to the destructive elements of sin and to perish as this would reflect through creation an inadequacy among God’s attributes. Instead, God has executed an elaborate plan to change the governing principle that dominates and governs His creation in an effort to restore His original purpose. As such, God cannot accommodate sinful behavior. He expects that His people will likewise reject and oppose sin wherever it may be found—coming into alignment with His purposes—so that we can participate with Him in creating a glorious world that accurately reflects the Master Artist (Rom. 12:2; 1 Pet. 1:14–16).
1. Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology, Revised and Expanded, 324. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014.