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THEOLOGY > Sin > The Character of Sin >  Separation


With the entrance of sin into the created order, the original unity of creation was fractured; instead of order there was chaos. The harmony of all things was destroyed, resulting in continuing divisions that cannot be mended apart from Supernatural intervention.

Numerous writers reference the tragic separations that resulted from the introduction of sin into the life of man and the world. Sin does not change God, but it does change man, alienating man in multiple dimensions. And these separations culminate in profound predicaments. Thus man’s existence is really a lonely and tragic struggle for peace.

Separation from God – Moral Problem

“Adam and his wife hid themselves from the Lord” (Gen. 3:8); this statement says it all. The first couple hid from God because they felt shame and guilt, and also because they realized that they were unworthy to appear before their Creator. They felt separation and isolation; fellowship between God and man was broken.

The problem was their sin of disobedience, theologically known as the Fall (see: Man's Disobedience). Instead of bringing likeness to God as promised by the Tempter, their actions estranged them from God. Sin separates, therefore, alienation is the state in which man lives. The prophet understands this reality:  “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you” (Isa. 59:2). When God’s face is hidden, He is looking upon the sinner who has no favor before Him; and when favor is not extended, then judgment is assured.

Separation from God creates man’s greatest dilemma which is a moral problem; it is man’s problem with God. It is not that God is the problem but that man has a problem with God because God does not accept him.

Incapable of appearing before God and fellowshipping with God, man is filled with dread and emptiness. In the familiar words of Augustine is the essence of the quandary: “Our heart is restless until it rests in Thee.”

Separation from Man – Social Problems

To be separated from God is to be separated from man; all men are “alien and hostile in their attitude not only toward God but also toward each other” (Reymond, New Systematic Theology, 448). And this universal separation of man from man is the basis for the social problems that plague society. Because individuals cannot get along, families cannot properly relate, groups cannot peacefully exist, and nations war against nations. James understood the problem:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you. You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel (4:1-3).

The passions which focus on self (see: Elevation of Self) and bring separation from God make it impossible for individuals to relate properly toward each other in the interim or over extended periods of time. Behind any façade of accommodation and peace there is a house of resentment and hatred within the heart of every individual toward other individuals. In his natural state (see: The Natural Man) the interest of man is man; man is at the center of his world. And this fact translates into conflict with others who are in the same predicament because every person seeks his own satisfaction, even at the expense of others.

Separation from Self – Psychological Problems

Not only is man separated from God and from other individuals, but he is also separated from himself. In fact, man does not even know himself, a truth taught by Jeremiah:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick;
who can understand it?

“Heart” speaks of the mind, the soul, the individual; therefore, according to Jeremiah, the individual is deceitful and desperately sick, meaning that the individual is neither good nor whole, but is evil and divided. And the individual does not grasp this state, in fact, he does not even have that capability within him—man not only does not grasp, he cannot grasp. Such is the tragic state of man’s existence.

This splintered state and the inability of the individual to comprehend his condition contribute to the psychological problems with which man is confronted. Man is torn and tossed, he is a mixture of emotions that he cannot control and does not understand. This lack of understanding is complicated by man’s multifaceted existence, both conscious and unconscious. There are deep well springs that contribute to and dictate man's actions, but the “heart” is unknown, a mysterious resevoir known only to God.

An attempt to understand man must not begin with his internal makeup or his external circumstances but must originate with the Revelation of God. It is God who knows man, and it must be God who informs man of the facts regarding him. Without the definitive Word from God, man is left to struggle in the midst of questions and doubt, with no hope of insight and no hope of improvement. For there to be understanding, God must speak and man must listen; or man will continue to dwell in darkness.

Simple factors regarding man are found in the Scriptures, and these form the foundation for further investigation. Without the following truths in place there is not even partial understanding:

Man is a creature, meaning that he is created, created by God (see: Created by God and Creature);

Man is made in the image of God, meaning that man is not from the animals or like the animals (see: Image of God, From the Dust, and Question of Evolution);

God’s image in man has been marred by sin (see: Darkened Image);

Man is a sinner in both nature and conduct (see: Man’s Original State, Adam’s Rebellion, Death, and Depravity);

Man’s fundamental problem is moral, which presupposes a Lawgiver, a command, a responsibility, and an accountability;

Because man is a moral creature, there must be repentance and forgiveness;

Man’s purpose must be understood in terms of God (see: Purpose of Man).

Man’s problem is that he is not whole, he is not unified. Instead of unity there is fracture and brokenness, meaning there is guilt and regret. And out of this chaos multiple psychological deficiencies manifest themselves. Brokenness—man’s separation from himself—is the direct result of his separation from God; therefore psychological problems originate in the moral problem. How can man be reconciled to himself while he is not reconciled to God? How can the creature be at peace when he is at war with the Creator? The real problem of man is not himself but God. It is with God that man has to do.

The crux of the issue is the finished work of Christ—only in His brokenness can our brokenness be healed. Only in the Cross is there forgiveness and reconciliation. In the cross man sees the depths of his wretchedness and finds in the same event his only salvation.

Separation from World – Environmental Problems

Man is dependent upon the existence of the environment, its precise nature, and the complexity of its operation for his survival; but, on the other hand, man is often the victim of his environment. Originally in the Garden of Eden the environment was man’s friend but now, because of the entrance of sin, it has become man’s enemy, resulting in a struggle for man to survive. In regards to man the environment, in all of its dimensions, is now characterized by thorns and thistles (Gen. 3:18; see: A Very Good Creation).

And the presence of thorns and thistles, both literally and symbolically, translates into a continual fight for man to maintain life in this contrary environment. Man works the land but it does not produce due to lack of fertility, not enough rain, or the ever-present pests. Man builds a house, only to have it destroyed by termites or some other infestation; if this does not happen then the house can be lost to some weather calamity, like a tornado or storm. At any time there may be an unexpected natural disaster, such as earthquake or volcano. On the personal level there is fear of violent animals and the aggravation by the myriad of insects. In numerous ways the natural world is not a friend of man.

Involved in this aspect of separation is man’s abuse of the earth. While the earth was made for man and not the reverse, man does have the responsibility to manage his dominion properly (see: Dominion Mandate), but he has not done so. In both secular and religious literature, accounts of man’s abuse of the earth can be found, so examples will not be given here.

The abuses do lead to judgment. An interesting verse in Revelation 11:10 depicts the twenty-four elders giving thanks to God because He will “destroy those who destroy the earth.” There is justice in the universe, and God will judge those who have no regard for the earth that He has created.

Return to: The Character of Sin;  Next Article: Slaves to Sin 

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