Missing the Mark, chp. 3, by Mark Biddle. I began wondering where Biddle might lead us when he titles this chapter “Sin: Failure to Embrace Authentic Freedom,” but by the time he was done I thought it was a profound set of reflections on a crucial element of sin. Do you see sin as falling short of the Image of God? Does this mean atonement is about empowerment?
Let me begin with a personal note: this will be a very busy week for me. Monday has some meetings; I teach Tuesday and then fly to Philadelphia for all-day meetings Wednesday at Biblical Theological Seminary with my friend David Dunbar; then Thursday teaching and then Kris and I fly to Santa Barbara that night where I will be speaking at Montecito Covenant Saturday night and Sunday morning. I should be able to get to this blog for response to comments each day, but it may be in snippets or at the end of each day. But, do carry on this conversation. Later this week I will begin a series on evangelism and the emerging movement.
Now, back to Biddle.
Here’s the big picture: authentic freedom and humanity (which I might have called personhood) is to be Christ-like, the perfect and true Image of God (what I call the Eikon of God). Biddle has shown that one dimension of sin is pride or hubris or striving to be more than God made us to be. This chapter shows the reverse: sometimes we fail to become what God summons us to be: the Image of God, or Christlikeness. And Biddle is accurate and insightful: if we stop with striving to be too much, we fail to see that many fail to be what they are called to be. This is very good. Please buy this book for this chp alone!
Exegetically, he anchors observations in the Hebrew and Greek for “missing the mark” and he tends to define this by its goal: Christlikeness. So we “fall short” by failing to become what we are called to be. OT texts include nice long stops in Wisdom literature, 2 Peter and Jude, and the importance of seeing Christlikeness for defining sin.
Something he doesn’t dwell on but should be mentioned because it is everywhere implicit and sometimes explicit is this: if sin is falling short of Christlikeness, then atonement or redemption is empowerment through God’s Spirit to become what we are meant to be. If that doesn’t excite you, then, I’m sorry because it overwhelmed me at times.
“The image of God is more a capacity to be realized than an inherent state of being” (66). Bingo! Biddle, you’ve got it. Keep it coming!
Pastorally, Biddle deals with addictions and the willingness of some to believe the lie of their worthlessness when God “worthies” them (my expression; not a good one, but still it gets to the point). And here’s another insight: “people become afraid of freedom and love” (70). They fall into stunted maturation.
He ties in atonement too, though I’d like a little more: “Jesus’ life and death not only demonstrate authentic humanity but also, in the mystery of redemption, make it possible for his disciples” (73).
“The ideal, then, would be ‘right relation,’ the proper balance between being-for-oneself and being-for-others-in-relation” (74).