House for All Sinners and Saints

  • House for All Sinners and Saints
    I am the mission developer for House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. We are an urban liturgical community with a progressive yet deeply rooted theological imagination. Check out our site for more info.

Cafe Press store for HFASS merch

  • Buy House for All Sinners and Saints stuff!
    You can go to our Cafe Press store and buy t-shirts and other stuff with out Parchment with a nail at the top logo on the front - and "radical protestants; nailing sh*t to the church door since 1517" on the back.
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books and magazines i dig



  • Chris Enstad
    The blog of a dad, husband, Lutheran pastor, emerging, failing, conversing, confessing.
  • Ian Mobsby
    Ian is the Anglican Priest at Moot in London.
  • Matt Stone
    This is a great blog from Down Under which explores Christianity and religious pluralism
  • Luther Punk
    Like Ward Cleaver with tattoos
  • Ian Adams
    Ian is the priest of the MayBe community in Oxford...I think he's pretty stinkin' cool.
  • Rachael
    cool chick...check her out
  • MayBe
    This is a great emerging church community we spent time with in Oxford. Their website is well worth a look, especially the page "the spirit of MayBe"
  • Mad Priest
    If I'm the Sarcastic Lutheran, he's certainly the Sarcastic Anglican...
  • Steve Collins
    Steve's an interesting and articulate emerging church brit.
  • The Mercy Seat
    This is a really groovey new church plant in NorthEast Minneapolis, amazing jazz liturgy. Their website is well worth checking out

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« Holy Ghost gallery | Main | sin. leadership. authority. »


I like the gumball machine analogy . . . never heard it described in that way.

Sin is serious business, something I struggle with, too - particularly because culture and class norms always influence our understanding of right and wrong, sinful and holy. . . .

However, I hesitate (ever so slightly) to reduce sin to a label that describes any behavior that leads to injury. It seems to me that much - most - of the law embodies this perspective (what I know of it - I am no scholar). But defining sin as any behavior leading to injury, perhaps, turns sin and the law into something purely functional - a code of interpersonal behavior. By defining sin as behavior leading to injury, we replace the revealed understanding of sin with a psyco-social understanding of sin. No longer is sin what the Bible or tradition or church says, but sin is a violation of a common-sense code of interpersonal behavior. What does our way of defining "sin" say about our hermaneutic?

Where does faith in or obedience to God come into the picture? What about the first table of the law? Is it possible to sin against God without sinning against a neighbor? Are there "spiritual" sins?

Crap. I said the "o" word. "Obedience" is such a problematic concept that I probably shouldn't have typed those nine letters. But if "sin" describes those things which we are not to do - those thoughts, words and deeds which contradict the Christian life - then it seems to me that sin is bigger than interpersonal behavior.

These are just some questions that keep nagging me. I hesitate to jettison established teachings - such as on pre-martial sex or drunkenness - just because, in my opinion, I do not harm anyone by doing these behaviors. Is there a greater wisdom, a call to obedience, in these teachings that we should heed? Whether from adopting certain behaviors or from living a life of obedience to a tradition, how may I grow in spirit and life by upholding these teachings?

Thanks for your post.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I think the idea of how a sin harms the self ie. that it is not life giving, but is that which draws us farther from God , is quite important to this conversation. This focus allows us to see sin as broader than interpersonal relationships.
I hesitate to use the Biblical text as a rule book. It is the cradle that holds the incarnated, crucified and risen Christ as well as a text which tells of human experience of God and is an endless wellspring of meaning for us, but not a rule book (to me). I do think that we should use the text to discern the spirit of the law and not the word of the law. If one were to take the Biblical text and list all the rules, law, strictures, etc.., and then see which we uphold and which we do not, it would be a bit telling.
Obedience. Yeah, that's totally sticky isn't it? I'm not an antinomian. As someone who has had a "problem" with authority, I have chosen to submit to the candidacy process in my denomination. I respect my Bishop and submit to the church's authority. But I do so fully intending to fight against the policies of the ELCA which I find unjust.

BTW, there's a good commentary in today's New York Times about the moderated, cautious approach to sexuality in recent literature. A quote from the piece:

"[People in today's society] want to go back to a more convential sexuality, morality, whatever," said Mr. Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College. "But they do not want to go back to an era of repression. So a kind of muddled, middle position is where it seems to me that most Americans are these days."

Yeah, it's a muddled mess . . . that's the gray area to which I think God calls us. That's the gray area of paradox, of sinner/saint, two kingdoms, already/not yet, etc. etc..

I think you are absolutely correct with your definition of sin and I believe the ministry of Jesus Christ backs you up. When people came to him and told him he was breaking a law (no doubt believing him to be sinning against God), if he, or his followers were not causing hurt or, even more so, if the action was loving or caring (even in respect of animals) he would tell the complainers not to be stupid. Also, where hurt was being caused, especially towards women, children and the sick, he would invent "laws" where there was no law before. Yes, Jesus upheld the law, but not when the law was an ass (as we say in these parts).

Indeed. The beauty of Lutheran preaches to postmoderns no?

MP, I adore you.

thanks for the thought-provoking discussion. A book group I held at my church read a number of short stories from the book God:stories (don't know if you've heard of it). They aren't religious stories per se, but are a good jumpinig-off place for religoius/spiritual discussions. I'm going to look up one (can't remember title right now) that resulted in a deep conversation about the pervasiveness of human sin. Not as any particular action, but as our fatal tendency always to circle back on ourselves, to make everything about us. The concept of the story was that this person didn't believe in God, but somehow came to the realization that the concept of "God" was helpful for just that reason -- to get us out of ourselves.

Love it, as always, SL. I love Tillich's concept that sin is that which separates us from God, self or others. Which is how we spend much of our lives, actually, in a state of separation. Thus, sin is more state than act, though actions make manifest the separation. And we all depend on grace, absolutely.

Your flowing spring analogy reminds me of Karl Rahner's theology of uncreated grace, where God's grace is constantly 'falling from the sky' as it were, and that we 'catch it' in the moments that we are 'authentically human': when we fully accept that we are both finite and infinite beings simultaneously. Every time we share communion, every act of selfless love, we are dying with Christ and rising with Christ. We're the sinner and the saint, and that's when we're truly alive.
I know Rahner was Catholic, and helped write Vatican II, but he was also well accepted in Lutheran circles I believe.
Anyway I love the topic, thanks for the post.

well said... this truth is liberating.

beautiful images and very encouraging - as we hit the fire of Pentecost, I'm reminded of how red hot my anger can get and how I need to cool off ... Also, bending down gives me at least a chance to stop and think without acting reflectively - I have a tendency to shoot from the hip and after a few people told me to "knock it off," I realized I need to stop, drink, reflect and then speak.

could not agree more with your exposition on sexual morality. thank you for your thoughts.

oh, the real reason i am posting, thought it might interest you, a link to dr. gonzalez's keynote address:

loved the pub! who knew a former Baptist pastor could find such community in the frothy head of good beer and diverse friends.
ok, sin- so not the point, it is the distraction. i completely agree that morality or law is intended as a loving act of God. but, i must come to grips with some of His suggestions that feel like bull-shit to me. i sin not by accident, but with this full sense that He is wrong. i also admit, that is not working out so well for me, but somehow that does not prevent me from trying it again. and again. i sometimes wonder am i "sinful" or just stupid? hmmm...

i really enjoyed the pub. will be back for sure. i agree, this over-focus on sin as a "behavior" rather than something within my heart so limits me. i can control my behavior and appear that i am doing the right things and still be the worst of sinners, primarily because my heart is closed off toward God...that's the sin i am most painfully aware of, my self-reliance, my pride, my false sense that i really don't need anyone else in this world, especially not God. notice the "my's" unwillingness to let God in & accept the "always and already" is what often gets me stuck...

So the big "O Word" has been unleashed in this thread. It's hard to talk about sin without talking about obedience, though, isn't it?

I like Tillich's definition of sin that was pointed out above: separation from God, self and others. With that definition, we can flip it over and define "obedience" as CONNECTION with God, self and others. I particularly like that because a critical point in my spiritual journey was when I recognized that obedience to God's will is precisely the same as accepting the blessings and gifts God wants to give me.

I sin when I turn my back on God, when I follow my own will rather than God's will. I'm the one severing the connection, I'm the one separating from God. Even with the best of intentions, I cannot help but cause harm to myself and others when I try to be in charge. At the very least, I am harming myself by rejecting the blessings and gifts that God is handing to me.

When I seek to conform my will and my behavior to God's purposes -- when I seek to obey God -- then I'm becoming willing to accept God's connection with me, willing to accept His gifts and blessings, willing to accept His forgiveness of my sins.

To the extent that I'm willing to accept God's renewal of my relationship with Him, again and again, after I have turned my back on Him, again and again, that is the extent to which I can accept the promise and obey the command, "Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more."

I depend utterly on God to overcome my sinfulness through His forgiveness, and to make me an instrument of His peace. I am not forgiven because I repent -- rather, I repent because I am forgiven.

Very helpful and well said. Thank you.

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