Sin and Free Will

What is sin? If I had to define the word, I would typically say something like "missing the mark." This implies a focus on missing a standard which we naturally conclude to be the Law.  As you think of sin, what is the root?  I have always understood and concluded that it was a breaking of the law. The law's purpose is to crush and reveal our sin.  However, is sin deeper than breaking the law?

I have started reading a book called Lutheran Theology by Steven Paulson because I wanted to better understand Martin Luther as the key turning point in protestantism. I know enough church history to remember his 95 theses, but really didn't know much more about his theology. If I had to summarize what I knew, it would have been "salvation by faith alone by grace alone."

As I have been reading this book, a few thoughts have begun to percolate. They relate to sin and free will. Let's look at sin first. Luther defined sin as "incurvatus se" which means being curved back into the self. Luther seems to understand and explain the root of sin as a self-focus or self-worship. Why do I sin?  Because I miss the mark. Yes, but it is deeper, I sin because deep down, I want to worship and justify myself. The root problem is not just rebellion against law, but instead selfishness.

The next thought relates to free will.  We all have been taught that we have free will to explain a lot of the mysterious theologies in the Bible.  Free will to us humans is a good thing.  We have choices and therefore we are not robots. It  can explain how as parents, our kids can make poor choices that hurt us and hurt them and therefore don’t reflect whether we were good parents or not.  We like the focus to be on us and our choice.

However, Luther seemed to see free will as bad. Here is another quote about Lutheran theology from Paulson, "God's wrath at sin is revealed by giving the wicked free will, not taking it away...how does wrath feel...like freedom of will. What does free will do for us? It makes us focus on self and again on self-justification.  As I look at my free will, I discover that my choices often are me-centered. Could free will actually be evil? Could this choice we have keep us focused on self when instead we need to focus on Jesus? As I have talked with others and through more about free will, I think we need to focus on what the will is being led by? Flesh or Holy Spirit?  I think I can honestly say when led by my flesh, it is bad.  But if led by the Holy Spirit, then the free will could be good. So, it can be both.

I am still processing and praying through these thoughts, but in many ways they seem to make a lot of sense.  What do you think?  Is sin more than just breaking a rule and instead about self-worship or self-focus? Could our free will that we explain in positive terms actually be bad depending on what is influencing it
? I would appreciate your responses and thoughts.

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