Here’s a thesis Mark Biddle, in his excellent new study on sin (Missing the Mark), defends in his last chapter: “Sin creates a real circumstance that lingers in the world until it comes to fruition — sometimes with the assistance of accusers and sometimes with God’s ‘permission’ or even encouragement — or until it is deactivated” (118). In other words, sin is an act, it is guilt and it entails consequences. It can take on a life of its own.
Unaddressed, sin matures into systemic evil, injustice, and violence.
Biddle shows how this notion illuminates how sins can be felt for three and four generations and how this notion helps us understand original sin. Furthermore, he moves in the direction of seeing the wrath of God as the organic outworking of God’s moral order rather than simply God’s invasion into the world in an act of punishment. Some today want to do away with wrath, but can only do so by erasing lots of verses in the Bible. What they want to erase, for the most part, is an unbiblical concept of wrath: which is not the external act of God but the internal workings of God’s world. What needs to be maintained, in my estimation, is that wrath is still the work of God. There is, in other words, no such thing as an “impersonal” wrath but instead no such thing as an “external” expression of God’s wrath. (Most of this paragraph is reflection that derives from stuff I read in Biddle’s book.)
Biddle thinks modernity’s individualism blocks it from seeing the systemic nature of sin and blocks it from taking responsibility for systemic evil; the biblical concept of sin is more organic and it describes sin as something alive and well and in need of being removed.
This chp has good discussions about the various terms around the notion of removing sin and he has a good study of David and Bathsheba and Manasseh, Jeremiah, and the Babylonians.
This is a good book and could be a steady textbook for seminarians in both biblical theology or systematics.