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We confess that, beginning with Adam and
Eve, humanity has disobeyed God, given way to the tempter, and chosen
to sin. Because of sin, all have fallen short of the Creator's intent,
marred the image of God in which they were created, disrupted order in
the world, and limited their love for others. Because of sin, humanity
has been given over to the enslaving powers of evil and death.1
Sin is turning away from God and making gods of creation and of
ourselves. We sin by making individual and group choices to do unrighteousness
We sin by omitting to do good and neglecting to give God the glory due
our Creator and Redeemer. In sinning, we become unfaithful to the covenant
with God and with God's people, destroy right relationships, use power
selfishly, do violence, and become separated from God. As a result, we
are not able to worship God rightly.3
Through sin, the powers of domination, division, destruction, and death
have been unleashed in humanity and in all of creation. They have, in
turn, further subjected human beings to the power of sin and evil, and
have increased burdensome work and barren rest. The more we sin, the more
we become trapped in sin. By our sin we open ourselves to the bondage
of demonic powers.4
Because of sin and its consequences, the efforts of human be-ins on their
own to do the good and to know the truth are constantly corrupted.5
The enslaving nature of sin is apparent in the powers of evil, which
work through both individuals and groups and in the entire created order.
These powers, principalities, and elemental spirits of the universe often
hold people captive and work through political, economic, social, and
even religious systems to turn people away from justice and righteousness.6
But thanks be to God, who has not allowed the powers to reign supreme
over creation or left humanity without hope.
Sin is a reality, not an illusion. We cannot explain away sin by
blaming it on illness or by claiming we are victims of circumstances
or of evil. Sin involves personal responsibility and has real consequences.
In Scripture, responsibility for sin and evil is ascribed not only
to men and women. It is also ascribed to a personal power who is given
various names: "serpent" (Genesis 3:1; 2 Corinthians 11:3), "tempter"
(Matthew 4:3), "Satan" (Zechariah 3:1), "father of lies" (John 8:44),
the "evil one" (Matthew 6:13), and "the devil" (James 4:7).
In addition, "powers," "principalities," "gods of the nations,"
and "elemental spirits of the universe," though not necessarily evil,
are prone to distort God's purposes for them. They can corrupt and
enslave humanity (Isaiah 42:17; 45:20; Galatians 4:9; Ephesians 2:1-3;
6:12; Colossians 2:15). Sin is thus not only an individual matter,
but involves groups, nations, and structures. Such organizations have
a "spirit" that can incite persons to do evil they would not have
chosen on their own. Governments, military forces, economic systems,
educational or religious institutions, family systems, and structures
determined by class, race, gender, or nationality are susceptible
to demonic spirits. Human violence toward each other, enmity between
peoples, the domination of men over women, and the adverse conditions
of life and work in the world--these are all signs of sin in humanity
and in all creation (Genesis 3:14-19; 4:3-16; 6:11-13; 11:1-9; Romans
People sin not only by breaking particular divine laws, but also
by breaking the covenant God offers to all. A covenant is an agreement
that establishes a relationship. In the Bible, God initiates the covenant
with God's people (Joshua 24:16-18; Jeremiah 7:23; 31:31-34; Hosea
2:18-23). Faith or faithfulness (English words used to translate the
same word in the biblical languages) means living rightly within the
covenant relationship. Thus, sin is fundamentally unfaithfulness to
our relationship with God and disobedience to God's will. Unrighteousness
and injustice include all sin; the same word in the biblical languages
can be translated with either English word. Hebrew and Greek do not
divide (as English does) between the individual dimension of sin (unrighteousness)
and sin's social dimension (injustice).
Sin is part of the human condition; we all participate in it. The
sin of Adam and Eve affects all (Romans 5:12, 19); at the same time,
we are held accountable for our own behavior. As the Anabaptist leader
Pilgram Marpeck wrote, any heritage we have received from our first
parents does not deprive us of our own final responsibility before
God (Ezekiel 18). Although human beings have free will, choice is
limited. By the grace of God, we have been given the freedom to choose
the bond of covenant relationship with God or to choose bondage to
sin (Romans 6:16-18), which leads to final separation from God. The
Scriptures issue stern warnings that those who do not fear God, but
persist in anger, lust, power mongering, and the like, face the destruction
of hell (Matthew 5:22, 29; 18:9). See "The Reign
of God" (Article 24).
Human sinfulness affects the entire person. No one aspect of human
beings, such as reason or sexuality or the physical body, should be
singled out as the primary carrier of sinfulness. Giving way to the
"flesh" is expressed in a variety of sinful attitudes and behaviors
(Romans 13:14; Galatians 5:16, 24; 1 Corinthians 11:18-30; Phillipians
Just as sin has marred the relations between human beings, so the
effects of sin and evil have distorted human work and rest. Work has
not been cursed by God (Psalms 104:23-24), but neither should it be
idealized. According to Genesis 3:17, God did not curse work directly,
but the "ground," that is, the conditions under which work is carried
out in a world affected by sin and evil.
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- Genesis 2:17; 3:22-24; 6:11-12; Romans 1:21-32; 6:23.
- Daniel 9.
- Isaiah 1:12-17.
- Romans 6:12-18; Ephesians 6:10-12.
- Psalms 14:2-4; Romans 3:9-18.
- Ephesians 2:1-3; Galatians 4:1-3.