“One of the great advantages of being a Christian is that we are in a lifetime project to discover how to confess our sins. To be able to confess our sins is a theological achievement that our baptisms have made possible. For sin, as Karl Barth maintained, is only known in the light of Christ. Thus from Barth’s perspective, our fundamental sin consists in the presumption that we can know our sin without having become a disciple of Christ. In short, to be a Christian means we must be trained to be a sinner. Christ has not only freed us from the power of sin, but through Christ we are offered more than we could imagine. The salvation wrought in the cross heals our brokenness by giving us wonderful and compelling work to do that breaks the back of the self-fascination our sin invites.
I fear the American revival tradition, the tradition of the tents, has distorted our understanding of sin. That tradition assumed that you must be convinced that you are first and foremost a sinner before you could be forgiven for what you have done. In some contexts, this could lead to quite entertaining lists and descriptions of sins that had been committed. That made it possible for those tents to become football stadiums and more recently enormous church buildings that seem to have been inspired by warehouse architects. Though such accounts of sin could be quite entertaining—particularly when sin became primarily thought of as “sins”—sin so conceived is fundamentally mistaken. It is mistaken because it lets sin determine the work of Christ, rather than recognizing that the work of Christ determines our sin. You only know your sin on your way out of it. In short, God refuses our rejection by giving us the very life of his Son who has come that we might have the abundant life called love.”1
This is the twenty-seventh in a series of posts highlighting captivating, provocative, or simply entertaining quotes from the newly published book Minding the Web: Making Theological Connections by Stanley Hauerwas edited by Robert J. Dean (Cascade).
- Stanley Hauerwas, “Sin,” in Minding the Web: Making Theological Connections, edited by Robert J. Dean (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2018), 267-268. ↩