A liberation theologian’s view of sin does not include the necessity for one to have spiritual redemption and transformation that can only be achieved by God in Christ (Hebrews 8:6-13). Scripture informs us of what that transformation looks like (new hearts and minds) and who is responsible for the transformation (God alone).
In order to understand salvation, one must be able to have some concept of sin. Sin is not limited to something that someone does outwardly, like lying or stealing, but includes our disposition, where sin subsumes our thoughts and mind as well. The definition of disposition is the inherent qualities of someone’s mind and character. Basically, when we pull back the layers of what we believe makes up our identity, we are left with our internal disposition.
A Biblical model of sin primarily takes into account original sin (Rom 5:12-19), or inherited corruption that consists of the imputation of Adam and Eve’s sin onto the rest of humanity. In 1 Corinthians 15:22, Paul not only reinforces the concept of imputation of original sin when he writes, “as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive”, but he also informs that the opposite effect of being “in Adam”, which leads to death, is being “in Christ”, which leads to life. A succinct definition of sin is any lack of conformity, active or passive to the moral law of God, whether matter of act, thought, or inner disposition.
The Bible has a variety of characterizations of sin that include unbelief, rebellion, perversity, missing the mark, lack of integrity, absence of righteousness, transgression, and treachery. There are also consequences for sin, which include restlessness that comes from wickedness, becoming evil, guilt, and bringing trouble on oneself. The effects of sin include becoming enslaved to sin (Romans 6:17), the inability to face reality or suppression of truth (Hebrew 9:27, Romans 6:23), blatantly denying sin that either comes in the form of being unwilling to admit wrongful actions or not taking responsibility for one’s actions, in other words, shifting blame, (Gen 3:11-12), which started with humanity’s first parents. Self deceit (Jer 17:9), insensitivity (1 Tim 4:2, Rom 1:21, Matt 12:24), self centered-ness that calls attention to our “good” qualities and accomplishments, minimizing our shortcomings, along with self righteousness that compares ourselves to others (Luke 18:9-14), are ALL effects of sin.
The effects listed above and the consequences of sin lead to humanity’s inability to connect and establish healthy and Godly relationship with others. Competition (James 4:1-2), lack of empathy (Phil:2:3-5), rejecting authority and an inability to respond to the welfare of others, or lack of love, shows the far reaching impact that sin has on the world.
It is important to differentiate that there are natural human desires that have the potential to expand the effects of sin into our families, our relationships and humanity overall, but, in and of themselves, are not inherently sinful.
For example, the desire to enjoy things, like our babies, our families, or our spouse, are blessings to enjoy because they are gifts from God and to enjoy them is not sinful.
The desire to obtain tangible goods through sacrifice and self discipline is not considered sinful.
The desire to achieve, via a healthy work ethic that can potentially lead to a job promotion or earning a degree that can improve one’s social standing should not be viewed as sin.
Though these desires are not sinful, when they become lusts of the flesh, lust of the eyes (greed), and the pride of life, which is taking pride in one’s ability to accomplish (1 John 2:16), these desires can give birth to sin that not only effect an individual person but can also cause one to sin against others, which can be described as relational sin, familial sin, and social sin.
Ignoring personal, relational, or familial sin, liberation theologians will exclusively magnify social sin as the root of various forms of social injustices, while also embracing the ideology that various aspects of social sin has wide social dimensions that require a distinct theology to understand and “liberate it”.