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of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, 1995
Article 7. Sin
We confess that,
beginning with Adam and Eve, humanity has disobeyed God, given way to
the tempter, and chosen to sin. Because of sin, all have fallen short
of the Creator's intent, marred the image of God in which they were
cre-ated, disrupted order in the world, and limited their love for
others. Because of sin, humanity has been given over to the enslaving
powers of evil and death. 
Sin is turning away from God and making gods of creation and of
ourselves. We sin by making individual and group choices to do
unrighteousness and injustice.  We sin
by omitting to do good and neglecting to give God the glory due our
Creator and Redeemer. In sinning, we become unfaithful to the covenant
with God and with God's people, destroy right relationships, use power
selfishly, do violence, and become separated from God. As a result, we
are not able to worship God rightly. 
Through sin, the powers
of domination, division, destruction, and death have been unleashed in
humanity and in all of creation. They have, in turn, further subjected
human beings to the power of sin and evil, and have increased
burdensome work and barren rest. The more we sin, the more we become
trapped in sin. By our sin we open ourselves to the bondage of demonic
powers.  Because of sin and its
consequences, the efforts of human be-ings on their own to do the good
and to know the truth are constantly corrupted. 
The enslaving nature of
sin is apparent in the powers of evil, which work through both
individuals and groups and in the entire created order. These powers,
principalities, and elemental spirits of the universe often hold people
captive and work through political, economic, social, and even
religious systems to turn people away from justice and righteousness.  But thanks be to God, who has not allowed
the powers to reign supreme over creation or left humanity without hope.
(1) Gen. 2:17; 3:22-24; 6:11-12; Rom. 1:21-32;
(2) Dan. 9.
(3) Isa. 1:12-17.
(4) Rom. 6:12-18; Eph. 6:10-12.
(5) Ps. 14:2-4; Rom. 3:9-18.
(6) Eph. 2:1-3; Gal. 4:1-3.
1. Sin is a reality, not an illusion. We cannot explain away sin by
blaming it on illness or by claiming we are victims of circumstances or
of evil. Sin involves personal responsibility and has real
consequences. In Scripture, responsibility for sin and evil is ascribed
not only to men and women. It is also ascribed to a personal power who
is given various names: "serpent" (Gen. 3:1; 2 Cor. 11:3), "tempter"
(Matt. 4:3), "Satan" (Zech. 3:1), "father of lies" (John 8:44), the
"evil one" (Matt. 6:13), and "the devil" (James 4:7).
2. In addition, "powers,"
"principalities," "gods of the nations," and "elemental spirits of the
universe," though not necessarily evil, are prone to distort God's
purposes for them. They can corrupt and enslave humanity (Isa. 42:17;
45:20; Gal. 4:9; Eph. 2:1-3; 6:12; Col. 2:15). Sin is thus not only an
individual matter, but involves groups, nations, and structures. Such
organizations have a "spirit" that can incite persons to do evil they
would not have chosen on their own. Governments, military forces,
economic systems, educational or religious institutions, family
systems, and structures determined by class, race, gender, or
nationality are susceptible to demonic spirits. Human violence toward
each other, enmity between peoples, the domination of men over women,
and the adverse conditions of life and work in the world--these are all
signs of sin in humanity and in all creation (Gen. 3:14-19; 4:3-16;
6:11-13; 11:1-9; Rom. 8:21).
3. People sin not only by
breaking particular divine laws, but also by breaking the covenant God
offers to all. A covenant is an agreement that establishes a
relationship. In the Bible, God initiates the covenant with God's
people (Josh. 24:16-18; Jer. 7:23; 31:31-34; Hos. 2:18-23). Faith or
faithfulness (English words used to translate the same word in the
biblical languages) means living rightly within the covenant
relationship. Thus, sin is fundamentally unfaithfulness to our
relationship with God and disobedience to God's will. Unrighteousness
and injustice include all sin; the same word in the biblical languages
can be translated with either English word. Hebrew and Greek do not
divide (as English does) between the individual dimension of sin
(unrighteousness) and sin's social dimension (injustice).
4. Sin is part of the
human condition; we all participate in it. The sin of Adam and Eve
affects all (Rom. 5:12, 19); at the same time, we are held accountable
for our own behavior. As the Anabaptist leader Pilgram Marpeck wrote,
any heritage we have received from our first parents does not deprive
us of our own final responsibility before God (Ezek. 18). Although
human beings have free will, choice is limited. By the grace of God, we
have been given the freedom to choose the bond of covenant relationship
with God or to choose bondage to sin (Rom. 6:16-18), which leads to
final separation from God. The Scriptures issue stern warnings that
those who do not fear God, but persist in anger, lust, power mongering,
and the like, face the destruction of hell (Matt. 5:22, 29; 18:9). See
"The Reign of God" (Article 24).
5. Human sinfulness
affects the entire person. No one aspect of human beings, such as
reason or sexuality or the physical body, should be singled out as the
primary carrier of sinfulness. Giving way to the "flesh" is expressed
in a variety of sinful attitudes and behaviors (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 5:16,
24; 1 Cor. 11:18-30; Phil. 3:3-7).
6. Just as sin has marred
the relations between human beings, so the effects of sin and evil have
distorted human work and rest. Work has not been cursed by God (Ps.
104:23-24), but neither should it be idealized. According to Genesis
3:17, God did not curse work directly, but the "ground," that is, the
conditions under which work is carried out in a world affected by sin
the delegates of Mennonite Church General Assembly, and of the General
Conference Mennonite Church Tricentennial Session, July 28, 1995,
Wichita, Kansas. Copyright © 1995 by Herald Press Scottdale PA
15683. Used by permission. Order print copies of Confession of
Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, and Summary Statement,
Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, From Herald Press, Scottdale,
Pa. Worship resources
based on this confession, and translations
are also available.
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