Saturday, March 15, 2008

Berkhof on The Essential Character of Sin

Among the many systematic theologians out there and the systematic theologies they produce, Berkhof is among the standards for those of us in the reformed and Presbyterian camp. On page 227 of his Systematic Theology he says this about sin:

"Sin is one of the saddest but also one of the most common phenomena of human life. It is a part of the common experience of mankind, and therefore forces itself upon the attention of all those who do not deliberately close their eyes to the realities of human life. Some may for a time dream of the essential goodness of man and speak indulgently of those separate words and actions that do not measure up to the ethical standards of good society as mere foibles and weaknesses, for which man is not responsible, and which readily yield to corrective measures; but as time goes on, and all measures of external reform fail, and the suppression of one evil merely serves to release another, such persons are inevitably disillusioned. They become conscious of the fact they that they have merely been fighting the symptoms of some deep-seated malady, and that they are confronted, not merely with the problem of sins, that is, of separate sinful deeds, but with the much greater and deeper problem of sin, of an evil that is inherent in human nature."

This statement sums up nicely the reason that a proper understanding and appreciation for the devastating depths and penetration of sin in ourselves is so important in our proclamation of the gospel, both to ourselves and to those not yet found. If sin is merely an annoying illness from which we suffer, then the gospel is frankly to be rejected as too sober and in the final analysis an absurd response to sin on the part of God. When, to the contrary, we recognize that sin, as an aspect of our very nature, has brought death, the required remedy of which is life, then the gospel becomes the only satisfactory means of hope.

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