The embodied power of sin — rethinking anthropology and harmitology

Typically evangelical theology emphasizes that sin is an inner state and a power that dominates our hearts and minds. It usually holds that sinful actions arise from the heart (Matt 7:18-23). Contemporary theology seeks to avoid dualism which treats the physical as evil and is wary of associating the body with sin. Yet sin has a connection with bodily life.
This is highlighted by Paul’s use of the term sarx (a notoriously difficult expression in Paul’s theological vocabulary). Its semantic range overlaps with soma and arguably all its occurrences have some reference to embodied life. This implies that the power of sin is, at least in part, in the human body in its fallen state. Paul directly associates the body with sin (Rom 6:6; 8:13), especially in his discussion of the power sin wields over his inner preferences (Rom 7:22-24). John and Peter recognize the power of sin related to the desires of the flesh (1 Jn 2:16; 2 Pet. 2:10, 18).
This New Testament theme should prompt us to recognize the embodiedness of sin. A satisfactory doctrine of embodied sin will require a careful articulation of the “body-soul” soul relationship. Neurophysiological studies suggest ways in which human sinfulness is related to and at least reinforced by brain structures.
A doctrine of embodied sin will insist that embodiedness is not necessarily sinful as demonstrated most clearly by the incarnation. It will trace how the power of sin is deeply bound to the bodily state in the fallen condition. It will also recognize the power of sin in the inner, unseen life and the integration of the inner life and embodied existence. A doctrine of embodied sin suggests why spiritual disciplines which focus on the body contribute to sanctification. It also helps to explain why the Christian struggles with sin until the end of life in the fallen body, whether in the intermediate state or in glory.
A doctrine of embodied sin provides a perspective on general anthropological questions about embodiedness. Providing a test case in which we can think about the importance of bodies and the relationship between body and soul.

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