Still feeling crummy – so here’s part 4, ahead of schedule.
*Note* This series comes from an integrative theology paper that I wrote on the intersection of the doctrine of sin and identity development in young adolescent girls. You can read part one here and part two here and part three here
Hamartiology: Theology of Sin
Theologians have tried to answer the question of the root of sin for millennia and have thus far been able to reach consensus. Augustine argued that pride (hubris) was to blame. Thomas Aquinas said that flesh-y desire (concupiscence), Luther and Calvin declared that unfaith is the root. For Stanley Grenz and others sin is essentially a disruption of community, while for Millard Erickson, sin is simply a failure to let God be God.
Hamartiology Women and Girls
Like the field of adolescent development, theology is a field that until recently was exclusively male. The perspective of female theologians has been a great gift to expanding our understanding of theology. Phyllis Trible in particular offers a helpful look at the creation/fall narrative in Genesis 2 and 3 to assist in our understanding of sin.
According to Trible, our traditional interpretations of the Genesis narrative are flawed. Particularly in regards to the doctrine of sin, these are the mistakes that theologians often make: 1-God created woman second, therefore she is inferior to man; 2-it was the temptation of the woman that caused the man to sin, therefore, she is responsible for the sin of the entire world; 3-women therefore are “untrustworthy, gullible, and simpleminded;” and finally 4- God has given the right to men to rule over and control women.
Trible challenges these ideas by looking at the narrative as if it were a fresh work of art. First off, she points out that the word “helper,” used to describe the purpose of woman does not denote inferiority or assistant, but rather is the same word used to describe Yahweh as the help of Israel. In fact, the man’s declaration, when seeing woman, “This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh,” signifies equality and mutuality, not inferiority. Next, she looks at the dialogue between the woman and the serpent. Trible notes that the serpent uses a plural verb form to address the woman, this signifies that by addressing the woman, the serpent is viewing her as the spokesperson for the couple. The woman takes the fruit, eats it and gives it to the man, there is no hint of seduction or temptation in the narrative. Therefore, both the man and the woman are responsible for disobeying God. In Genesis 3:12, the man turns against the woman and betrays her to God, what was once “one flesh” is now split. But God says that the woman will always yearn for the original unity of male and female. However the man will not reciprocate this desire, but will instead desire to rule over her. Therefore, in sin the nature of woman is damaged by her becoming a slave, the nature of man is damaged by his becoming a master. What once was harmonious equality is now the dissonance of hierarchy. The man now, just as he had done to the animals, calls her name Eve, and signifies his assertion of power and sinful authority over her.
Young women’s longing for “her man,” as mistaken salvation is reflected in another one of Selena Goméz song’s “A Year With Out Rain.”
Can you feel me / When I think about you / With every breath I take / Every minute / No matter what I do / My world is an empty place…I’m missing you so much /Can’t help it, I’m in love / A day without you is like a year without rain / I need you by my side / Don’t know how I’ll survive / It’s like the ground is crumbling underneath my feet / Won’t you save me / There’s gonna be a monsoon /When you get back to me /
Another feminist theologian, Rosemary Reuther, argues that sin is the result of alienation and broken community. When we are reborn, we return to our authentic selves, and discover that we have personhood and a unique God-given identity. Too often, Reuther says, Christians have viewed anger and pride as the root of sin. In order to become Christ like women accept cruelty and exploitation. The early Jesus movement, Reuther says was notable in that it held women were, “equal with men in the divine mandate of creation, restored to this equality in Christ; the gifts of the Spirit poured out on men and women alike; the Church as the messianic society, not over against creation but over against the systems of domination.”