Is Sin Biological?

The Bible is not about biology, or history, or archaeology, or mathematics. It is not exempt from mentioning any of these subjects, but the Bible is about God. It is a theological interpretation of all things. The key word here being “interpretation.” The red flag word here being “theological.” When it comes to the interpretations of life and our world it seems like the Bible is not invited to the dance because after all, it’s the Bible. Yet it seems that biologists, historians, archaeologists, and mathematicians of the strictly secular variety have no issue interpreting the truth of scripture according to the lenses of their own disciplines. For the most part this means that because the Bible is theological, secularists believe biology can prove that it is idiotic; as can history, archaeology, or mathematics. The predominant belief is that these are scientific disciplines and as such have the ability to stand alone. The scientific disciplines are a truth unto themselves. They are sufficient to explain all things.[1]

I believe theology, particularly Biblical scripture, has a lot to offer to the meaning of data, and as such the meaning of life. The advances in the field of genetics have added to our reservoir a vast amount of knowledge. Coupled with the lenses of a few other disciplines the interpreters are preaching that all things are purely biological. The ways you feel, think, and believe are purely biological constructs. Behavior, good and evil, are vices of one’s biological environment which encompasses everything from the brain to the evolution of the social environment. In time man will not only grow stronger, faster, and bigger, but at some point he will also advance beyond his biologically constructed belief in God.

The predominant lay Christian response to this sort of news has been to stand awkwardly in the corner far away from the dance floor. In doing so we have unwittingly conceded that science leads to atheism and that theology leads one away from science. I say to the kingdom of the theologians, “Dance baby dance!”

There is good evidence to support that those things the Bible calls “sin” like any sort of “ism” such as alcoholism can be explained genetically or chemically by certain biological predispositions of a person’s body. Evidence is beginning to show us that homosexuality, sexual addiction, most all of the sins mentioned in whispers under steeples may be explained by certain biological traits that give some people a predisposition toward these sorts of lifestyles. With theology off the dance floor the interpretation is that none of this can be labeled sin and those who would even dare to think such are archaic. Yet I ask through the lens of a practicing theologian, even if “sin” is biological is it not still “sin?”

The Book of Romans is one such theological lens that interprets the behavior of biological mankind. It condemns a variety of human behavior that would include most all of our “isms”, vices, perversions, and yes, even our interpretations. In it Paul offers a commentary of the degenerative impact of sin upon humanity. Science would say that man is naturally evolving away from his biological belief in God and experiencing that which is “good.” In most cases “good” is considered some form of hedonistic freedom. Paul would say man is indeed moving away from belief and the result will be a catastrophic collapse of the human soul. The product of this collapse will be a dangerous world in desperate need of rescue.

In Romans 5:12 Paul says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned –.” In a sense Paul is saying that sin spread through man like a biological plague. But the primary teaching of the verse is not why man is sinning, but it is an interpretation of why man is dying. What does this say about mankind biologically? If sin has caused the erosion of biological life why would we believe that sin has done nothing to DNA? If sin has caused man to be born with the propensity to die, why should I not also believe man can be born with an actual biologically explainable propensity to “ism”, perversion, and on and on. Biologically there may be no limit to what sin has done to us. It is killing us all. It will kill us all. What else has it done to our bodies, minds, emotions, and environments? Whether a genetic trait or a chemical reaction, sin is sin and death is death. Furthermore, Jesus is still the answer.

Paul follows his theological interpretation of the sin plague with a teaching that explains that sin is a very real threat even to those who follow Christ. The only proper way to deal with this threat is through denial and behavior modification which Paul calls simply “presentation.”

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (Romans 6:12, 13)

Psychology and sociology have proven that almost any behavior can be modified. And yes, science has shown us that such modifications can even altar us biologically. The body and the brain produce chemicals, growth and alterations that reflect constant reinforcement. Paul teaches in Romans 6 that man can deny sin. That is not to say that an “ism” will never cease to be a very real threat to a man who was once given to “ism”, but it does mean that man can deal with “ism.” If positive reinforcement, therapy, etc. can make a profound behavioral and biological impact on people’s lives, imagine what the salvation of Christ can do to them. Romans chapters 1 – 3 and 5 do not dismiss the idea that there are biological explanations for sin, but neither does it dismiss the idea that sin is sin. Man is still accountable as exhibited by his own impending biological death (which is the context of Scripture is a theological death as well). Romans 6 does not dismiss the disciplines that speak to the behavioral modification of man, but it does teach that subject to Christ and His salvation these disciplines become even more powerful and life altering for mankind.

Let theology dance. The scientific disciplines add to knowledge but interpretation is limited when all lenses are not allowed a look at the data. There is something more operating in our world and in our bodies that cannot be sampled in a test tube. I offer an excerpt from an article entitled “Therapy can trigger brain changes, awaken disabled limbs.”[2] It is the story of a little boy who had a large portion of his brain removed as a means to treat severe seizures. Through an advance called CI therapy he is making profound progress which includes the ability to use limbs that were once unusable. The article cites the findings of Dr. Edward Taub of University of Alabama Birmingham who has found that the brain has “an innate ability to rewire itself.” In summarizing the findings the article makes a profound scentific, yet theological statement,

“For instance, tests have shown that CI therapy causes changes in the brain’s gray matter, and that Taub said the same tests have shown that there is much less brain change without the transfer package. It’s still too early to tell what exactly is triggering brain growth, but Taub’s work appears to support a new line of thinking among some scientists. There is startling evidence that the brain may be more a product of consciousness, rather than consciousness being mostly a product of the brain.”

The Bible is not primarily a scientific book, but it has something to say about science. All disciplines to the floor. Let’s dance.[3]

[1] For another offering on my ideas regarding Scientism see “The Meaning of Car.”
[2] D. Parks. Sunday, September, 2008 edition of the Birmingham News,.
[3] Gracias Jason Dollar for your editorial help on this article.


Biggles said…
This article has a claim to the visionary. Our clouded sight is obscured by scientific dogma which has made a false provision: that biology and sin are separate. I submit that they are referencing the same thing.

If we now understand that alcoholism, mental illness, and even sexual deviancy - homosexuality - is sin, the next question becomes: God made me this way, why would he make me inherently sinful if he is a good God? If sin made its way into the DNA, are we now being punished for the sins of our forefathers? relation to addictions and deviancy especially.

I am not suggesting that God is not good nor am I suggesting that homosexuality is not a sin. What I am identifying is that their are some missing pieces that need explanation to bring it all together.

A sound theological model in our day and age, would, without bending to culture, traverse the duality of the Christian God - love/inclusiveness & condemnation/judgment - to human history and to human genetic disease. Scientists fault the folks 2000 years ago for not knowing about molecular structure. Imagine if Jesus lived today and was crucified. What would he say about God and genetic disease? Would be so interesting.

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