Let My People Think

In my earlier post on what sin is, I explained that sin is entropy, or disorder, in an ordered system. Since that post, I’ve arrived at even better explanation. That right here ought to tell you that my views are not static, and I progress in understand more things that uncover the beauty of God’s original design, and his plan for restoration of that original design (perfection can only be restored, it cannot be improved upon, by definition). I am amazed at the plan’s coherence, orchestration, and simplicity (it actually is simple if you abstract your thinking above the majestic complexity of its inner workings).

Let’s start with this: imagine a perfect symbiotic system – everything is perfect, the interrelationships are perfect, nothing is wasted. Then at some point malfunction gets introduced into the system. One part of the system is not perfect now, and since everything is interrelated, the malfunction spreads to other parts of the system, sort of like a virus. You see where I am going with this. The system is the “world / universe”, and that systemic malfunction is what the Scriptures call “sin” – a noun in singular. The specific effects or expressions of that malfunction, which would be manifested as specific breakdowns, are “sins” (a noun in plural).

Let’s just put off the mantle and the gavel of a moral arbiter for this exercise, and let’s examine this issue from an engineer perspective.

It doesn’t take much malfunction for a complex system to start breaking down. If you take any disease and measure the amount of disorder that’s symptomatic to that disease, relative to the order in the rest of the body, you will find that miniscule fractions of a percent of such disorder wreck the entire body. Throw in procreation and systemic interdependence into the picture, and now you see the full impact.

Romans 5:12
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—

Let’s plumb the depth of this verse in Greek. The word sin here is ἁμαρτία – “hamartia” (Strong’s 266), which comes from two words: ἁ (a negation particle) and μέρος – part, portion. In other words, sin is being a-part from God-designed perfection. It’s also translated as “missing the mark” – God’s mark being, again, perfection (again – don’t think moral perfection for the purposes of this discussion, think systemic perfection and freedom from malfunctions and breakdowns).

Now, please understand that perfection implies that nothing wears out, grows old, gets wasted, and there’s nothing keeping anything in existence from existing perpetually, or as the Scriptures call it, eternally. If something is apart from (or has no part in) that state of being, then it means that it will be dying away (process) until it’s dead, or fully destroyed (finality). In fact, that was precisely the warning given in the garden of Eden:

Genesis 2:17
Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)
17 and of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou dost not eat of it, for in the day of thine eating of it — dying thou dost die.’

Most translations miss what God said to Adam – dying (i.e., dying as a process) thou dost die (until you are dead and are no more). Young’s Literal translates this well from the original Hebrew. Usually it’s translated as “you will surely die”, which completely misses the point of what is being said here. God doesn’t repeat the word “die” just to make a stronger point.

So back to Romans 5:12:

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—

Death (entropy being an outward expression of death in process) entered into the world through systemic malfunction, or sin. Death spread to all men – and here’s an interesting part – because “all sinned”. Right? Well, not quite the way we might be accustomed to understanding this. First, it’s obvious that the malfunction started with Adam and genetically transmitted from there on out. So it was entirely and singularly through Adam, not through “all”. Also, the verb “sinned” here in Greek is in aorist tense. Aorist doesn’t really indicate the temporal aspect (although it might indirectly imply that). It points to a summary occurrence, placing no exclusive emphasis either on the time of the occurrence, or the progress thereof. Translating that tense with an English past tense misses out on that aspect. What’s important here is the condition resulting from the action – here, it’s sin, or malfunction.

To understand what the passage it talking about, simply substitute the verb “to malfunction” in the indefinite aspect for the verb “to sin”, and it will become clear what this is talking about: “death (breaking down and dying out) spread to all men because all malfunction”. That’s a lot more clear.

If something malfunctions, its existence will be characterized by a gradual breaking down (death as a process, dying, or increasing entropy). The end of it is destruction (de-struction, or de-structuring, which is opposite of con-struction, or of together-structuring), or death as finality.

Note one important point about all this. The process of death can not be eternal – the whole notion of death as a “process” is predicated upon the time aspect, and any process of destruction is time-limited and cannot be further sustained when there’s nothing left of the entity in question. Only the state of being fully dead, or destroyed, or non-existent, can only be thought of “eternal”. So when people refer to the process of death as eternal (either directly or as implied by what they mean), that notion really makes no sense, once you think it through.

Now, with this understanding, let’s consider the concept of God being “holy”. Holy is a religious word that means something else now, but at its core, it simply means “separate (adjective) from” (that’s what it means in Greek). Another meaning is “whole”, as in “not broken, not fragmented”. Now you see what that word means – God stand separate from what is contaminated, and is whole and unbroken, without that malfunction, or sin, infecting him. That compartmentalization expressed in the idea of “holiness” is a necessity – think a scientist in a anti-radiation suit in a radioactive area. He has to stay separate from the outside. That’s the same idea here, and that compartmentalization is the primary semantic of the adjective “holy”, or the verb “sanctify”, or the noun “saint”. It all has to do with being separate from the destruction on the outside. That’s why God’s goal is to make us “holy”, or separate us from death and destruction, and thus restore us to complete wholeness. It’s an existential, practical matter, not some religious wishy-washy undefined “holinesssss” (pronounced in a hissing, ominous, mysteriously spooky voice).

And here’s the main point that I am trying to get across here. What runs through the entire Scripture is the idea that God designed a perfect, highly interdependent system capable of functioning perpetually. No breakdowns, no slowdowns, no sickness, no death. However, that system was not immune to interference. Humankind was placed in charge of that system. They didn’t cope with their responsibility, they have introduced malfunction into what was perfect, and things have been breaking down and winding down ever since.

(view part 2 and part 3).

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