Self-glorification and Sin (Bavinck)

Reformed Ethics: Created, Fallen, and Converted Humanity In the second chapter of the first volume of Reformed Ethics, Herman Bavinck discussed the organizing principle and classification of sins.  He mentioned, of course, that sin is disobeying God’s law and is the opposite of the good.  He also gave a good explanation of how sin is an attempt to dethrone God and enthrone the self:

“…Who now is humanity’s god?  They must have gods for whom they live and to whom they dedicate themselves.  Sin consists concretely in placing a substitute on the throne.  That substitute is not another creature in general, not even the neighbor, but the human self, the ‘ego’ or ‘I.’  The organizing principle of sin is self-glorification, self-divination; stated more broadly: self-love or egocentricity.  A person wants to be an ‘I,’ either without, next to, or in the place of God.  Turning away from God is simultaneously a turning to self.

Prior to this, God was the center of all human thought and action; now it is the person’s ‘I.” Humanity not only surrendered its true center but also replaced it with a false center.  On the one hand, sin is a decentralization of all things away from God, a loosening, an undoing of bonds with God – atomism, individualism.  On the other hand, it is at the same time also a concentration of everything around the human self, an attempt to subjugate everything to an individual ‘ego.’  Thus sin is not only a matter of turning away from the existing order – in effect, undermining order – but also an establishing of another order, which actually is a disorder.  Sin produces not only an alternative or counterorder but an anti-order; in a word: revolution.”

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1, p, 105.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

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