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The book “Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin” by Cornelius Plantinga delves into the intricacies and discernments of sin and its impact on human beings through the presentation of its dynamics and nature. The book focuses on both Christians and non-Christians. The author hopes that Christians will gain a better understanding of sin and examine their lives for sin and guilt. He hopes to stimulate them so that they may see the beauty of God’s creations. Plantinga provides non-Christians with a means of gaining knowledge about the spread of sin in the world. He also assists them in viewing their personal sins through posting some examples that display the moral decline of humanity. He believes that one cannot comprehend God’s grace without having robust awareness and knowledge of the grotesquery of sin. Presenting the argument, Plantinga begins with defining sin as a disruption of harmony and opposition to divine renewal of that harmony. He states that sin resists and disrupts the essential relationship between human beings and God (Plantinga, 1995).
“The Vandalism of Shalom” is the title for chapter 1, and it introduces the biblical concept of Shalom. Hebrew prophets believe that shalom entails joining of God, human beings and all creation in fulfillment, delight and justice. The Bible defines shalom as the universal flourishing, delight and wholeness. In other words, shalom entails the way things ought to be (Plantinga, 1995). Sin and shalom cannot be understood without reference to God. Plantinga states that sin is smearing a relationship, grieving an individual’s divine parent and benefactor. Anti-shalom acts are objective sins. It is a betrayal of a partner joined by a holy bond. Chapter 1 views sin as conducting anti-shalom activities knowingly. When a person understands that a given action is a sin and continues to do it, he is guilty and sinful. This becomes a subjective sin.
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“Spiritual Hygiene and Corruption” is the title for chapter 2, and it focuses on such concept of the fall of man as corruption. Corruption is a dynamic motif. It is a spiritual AIDS (Plantinga, 1995). Sin has to be viewed as an anti-creation because, during creation, God joined what he meant to join, and put asunder what he did not want joined. Sin corrupts since it joins what God put asunder and divides what God put together. Creation gets imploded and exploded by corruption. It takes it back to the “formless void” from where it came (Plantinga, 1995). The inordinate joining and separation spread over the entire humanity since Adam passed the corruption on to his progeny. The nature of humanity has become despoiled by corruption. Despoiling involves wrecking wholeness and integrity. Spiritual hygiene is vital to the relationship between human beings and God. Spiritually hygienic people seek God in everything, and this increases shalom in the universe. Spiritual people observe their actions with ease as a result of the discipline that they have developed due to the intimate harmonious connection with God.
“Perversion, Pollution and Disintegration” is the title for chapter 3. The author probes into the three elements within corruption. Perversion is an end-purpose disease. It turns energy, desire and loyalty away from God’s project in the universe. Perverting something is twisting it so that it serves an unworthy end or a wrong end (Plantinga, 1995). The contemporary culture has perversion integrated into it, for instance, sports have turned into war, and war into sports. Pollution closely relates to perversion, since perversion is usually a part of spiritual and moral pollution. Pollution is defilement. It is a dimension of sin that contaminates communities and people. It negatively impacts the relationship between human beings and God. Pollution weakens an entity through the addition of foreign element. Adultery and idolatry are examples of pollution in the world. They create both division and addition. Idolatry creates division in the religious loyalty to God, between God and false gods. Adultery in a marriage creates division when a third person gets involved as a lover. The irony in this discussion lies in bringing together that which should be kept apart and divides that which should be kept together (Plantinga, 1995). Disintegration is the main issue in corruption. It involves breaking down social integrity, the loss of purpose, strength and shape to make some entity an “entirety” (Plantinga, 1995). Sin disintegrates both the perpetrators and victims. Disintegration is always weakening, the preamble and postlude to death. Perhaps, spiritual and physical death is the most vivid consequence of sin. Death is deterioration. As people explore deep evil, they begin to seek pleasure in dynamics of sin. People find joy in evil, either consciously or subconsciously. This corruption culminates in transforming proper good and love to love of death.
Chapter 4 talks about the “Progress of Corruption”. Similar to the manner in which a man infected with AIDS impregnates and infects a woman, sin kills and reproduces. Just like cancer, it kills because it reproduces (Plantinga, 1995). Victims of sin victimize others, and since every person is a victim, no one is willing to take the blame for their actions. Sin drives the sinful actions of humanity. The heart always wants to achieve what it wants, no matter what or who gets destroyed in the process. The self-focus is pervasive to such an extent that it has an inward curve leaving behind a shadow of the human being. However, nobody takes the blame for the inward curvature. Sin yields sin and the constant sowing and harvesting of sin grows through imitation. It desensitizes societies and people to the horrors of sin.
“Parasite” is the title of chapter 5. There are numerous similarities between sin and parasites. A parasite does not have enough life of its own; therefore, it steals life from its host in order to survive. The more the life that the host loses to the parasite, the less time the host has remaining before dying (Plantinga, 1995). It is ironic that sin corrupts religion, its public enemy. This is a common occurrence since evil and good appear together. This is most illustrated in pride. Proud people think a lot about themselves. They seek what is good in their eyes, and due to lack of humility, they have affairs with themselves harming others, for example, society, creation and human beings. Sin is anti-God, anti-life, anti-spirit, anti-righteousness, and anti-law (Plantinga, 1995). The parasitic nature of sin explains the complex and ironic ways in which evil and good appear in tandem. Even if a person is “good”, when he/she sins, the sin grows and multiplies. Just like a parasite, sin attaches to the forces and dynamics of the life of its host.
“Masquerade” is the title of chapter 6. The chapter illustrates how people masquerade as actors when sinning. They hide themselves behind attractiveness, intelligence and other desirable traits. However, underneath the facade, there is nothing like the desirable qualities on display. There is a diabolical and treacherous destroyer, who is potentially deadly aberrant. The same way that people wear, they keep appearances and refuse to take into consideration the sins in their character. The pretense extends beyond an individual into the society and finally becomes a culture. Once it becomes embodied into the culture, the society loses its moral borders. The society deceives itself and then convinces itself that it is not deceiving itself (Plantinga, 1995). This develops into a situation where the society’s most religious point may be the worst spiritually and morally. This shows that the society is aware of the incorrectness and sinful nature of some of the good that it seeks. The society wants to maintain the masquerade of its image of the image of God.
“Sin and Folly” is the title for chapter 5. It improves on the absurdity of sin when compared with the Scripture’s knowledge and wisdom. The Bible states that wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. It also adds that knowledge also starts with the fear of the Lord; however, fools despise knowledge and wisdom. In order to understand reality, it is important to get the biblical concept of wisdom. There is harmonious unity in the order of creation. Attentiveness to this order enables people to act, accommodate and speak through the reality. Sin is futile and foolish because it turns an individual’s energies, disposition and life away from the omnipotent Creator making him/her a lowly creature (Plantinga, 1995). In this turning, individuals believe that they are gaining some good. They believe that they gain “good” by turning away from the overall good one, God. For that reason, sin must be the most grotesque insanity form. It equates to pulling the plug of one’s own resuscitator. The modern age and generation is full of sin. Wisdom is the only cure, and it comes from the fear of the Lord.
“The Tragedy of Addiction” is the title of chapter 8. It gives a comparison between the symptoms of addiction and those of sin. Addiction is an injurious, progressive, complex, and disabling attachment to behavior or substance (Plantinga, 1995). Addicts seek to remedy their despair though continuous indulgence into their obsession. This escalates with demon-like relentlessness to a point where addicts fall deep down into addiction. An addict seeks relief in behavior or substance that causes lack of it (Plantinga, 1995). Similarly, sin traps human beings into an addiction cycle. People deceive themselves and seek their favorite sinful pleasures because they think that it remedies the hardships that they face. However, the pleasure facades anguish. Therefore, seeking the pleasure can only mask the anguish and numb the pain. Along with being the motivation for sinful pleasure seeking, anguish is the incapacitating effect of seeking it out. Similar to a sex or drug addict, a sin addict gives in to failure through seeking a solution in the same substance or behavior that caused the failure. This erupt a war within the person. Addiction is one of the suicide types. Addiction is frightening because it relates to people’s thirsts and hungers, their ultimate concerns, the longing and clinging of their hearts, and giving themselves over to these things (Plantinga, 1995). Addiction is like idolatry. Addicts can do anything for their idols, including dying for them. Every human being has an addiction to a sin, and the cure for the addiction is seeking God.
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“Attack” is the title for chapter 9. The chapter focuses on “envy” to represent other attack sins. Cain, Saul and Salieri from Amadeus are a few paradigms of envy. The envious people theorized that envy is more than coveting. Coveting entails desiring something or someone who belongs to another. Envy is more than coveting because it not only involves desiring another persons’ belonging, but also desiring them not to have it. For instance, Cain wanted not only God’s approval but also his brother’s death. Similarly, Saul wanted not only the approval of the Israel Kingdom, but also the death of David, who was a rival in his eyes. Salieri not only wanted Mozart’s talent, but also wanted him not to have it anymore so that the manifestation of his shortcomings would reduce. Envy creates corrupted resentment that results in anger towards whomever or whatever the envier views as unjust, degrading, insulting or demeaning. An envier not only envies, but also wants to be envied (Plantinga, 1995).
Chapter 10 is the last chapter, and its title is “Flight”. It demonstrates various ways through which human beings flee from the responsibility for sin. Human beings make attempts towards justifying their actions and fleeing from the responsibilities accrued to these actions. Various evasions employed by the people in flight include conniving, conforming, specializing, leaving town, cocooning, amusing themselves to death, minimizing and going limp (Plantinga, 1995). People also flee from shalom. People evade the knowledge of their responsibility for maintaining shalom, and, therefore, fail to meet it.
In conclusion, the book makes evaluations of the human condition. Additionally, different chapters discuss various dimensions of sin. It enables a reader to see the beauty salvation.