Copyright Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. 1992



Hamartiology is a theological term used for the doctrine of sin.

It comes from a Greek word, hamartanein which relates to the archer that has sent an arrow on its way, but the arrow misses the target. In simple terms it is doing what is wrong or not doing what is right. Someone has suggested tragic flaw. I don't know how theological TRAGIC FLAW is, but it sums up the thought of sin quite well. Not only is sin a flaw, but it is a tragic flaw in that it detracts from what we were when God created Adam!

There are two approaches to the study of sin:

1. EXEGETICAL: This is the study of the Scripture and setting down a conclusion of what sin is.

2. SPECULATIVE: This is the study of man, philosophy and experience and setting down a conclusion of what sin is based on the observations.

Within the speculative area of study we have some systems of thought of which you should be aware.

HUMANISM: Nothing is sin unless it is wrong for you. No sin - if it's okay for me, I will do it, but if it's wrong for you, don't do it. The idea current in our society, "If it feels good, do it" is a result of this philosophy.

ASCETICISM: This teaching believes that everything enjoyable is sin. If it feels good then experience tells us it will become a habit, thus sin, and thus enjoyable things are sinful. This led to the self abuse and self denial of some of the Roman Catholic groups in the pre-reformation days.

It may tend to affect Fundamentalist thinking in some of the do and don't lists that are formed. By following a list we will avoid all sin. This is not wrong, for God Himself has lists - the ten commandments for one - but it is really hard to list all the sins that are listed in the Bible. The problem comes when the list contains things which God does not prohibit. The fundamentalists of the 1950's were very harsh will people that did not conform to their thought of conservative dress. God does not spell out the requirements of dress in the Word, except in some instances. Within all that God says about dress, there is a wide latitude of what is okay.

Now a practical application of this thought for students would run along this line of thinking. I like tests, so I will habitually like to take tests thus tests are sin and I should avoid them. WRONG!

MAN IS BASICALLY GOOD: We by experience see that man is basically good and since we are created in God's image then man must be good. Thus, sin is not a problem except for those that are, say, murderers and fornicators. Some of the Holiness movement set forth this thought, in that they can be perfect in this life - without sin - because the everyday wrongs that they find themselves in are only errors, not sin. The sin of this life is murder, adultery etc.

Question. Do you see a link between any of the speculative systems and what we have seen in the Church in recent years labeled, "GRAY AREAS?"

Is there not a very clear teaching in the Word about many things and then other areas where it is personal choice. We need to be very careful what we call a gray area. Many gray areas that I have heard about, are gray only because the person speaking has not consulted the whole council of God.

Chafer mentions that when we minimize the doctrine of sin we impoverish redemption. This is quite true and can be seen in some of the ologies of the liberal camp. The Theology of Hope makes redemption and the gospel, the topic of mere "hoping" that something will come to pass to help man's state. The thought of sin is down played by many of the theologies of our day.

Many of the things that God clearly displays as wrong in the Word are held by liberal people to be only different life styles, as in the field of homosexuality, or women's rights, or in the field of abortion.

I believe that as your view of sin lowers so lowers your view of salvation, of Christ's work in salvation, and of God's love in sending Christ.

I like how one of my students once related to this thought. "If we lower our view low enough we will have no need of redemption. This translates to no need of God." One is left to wonder if this is what happened in Sweden. They entered the area of free love, etc. many years ago. They as a society allowed most anything that the individual wanted to do. Today they have no god. Many do not even know if god exists.

When we emphasis the virtue, or goodness of man, we basically put sin into the background, and call God's Word into question. We cannot hide the fact of sin - indeed, much of mankind displays the fact of sin on a daily, if not an hourly basis.

Some might suggest that sin is so awful and terrible that there is nothing anyone can do. WRONG! Christ did all that was needed and all we have to do is accept it.

God and all that He is, remains HOLY no matter what man might say. He is pure, and true holiness. Evil on the other hand is unholiness - pure and simple! Evil is centered in the god of this world, the Devil. All moral values derive themselves from God and His Word. Immoral values derive themselves from evil, unholiness, and Satan.


GOD/GOOD                              SATAN/EVIL
GOD                                     SATAN
HOLINESS                                EVILNESS
 God's Word teaches that man is totally depraved. Even Christians at times do not react well to God's estimation of man. Many Christians even see that there is good in lost man. These Christians are not looking to the Word for their estimation of man, but probably are looking to man's philosophy.

Sin is viewed in relation to God's standard. If God's standard is rejected then what becomes the standard? Let us consider this question for a few moments. There are systems of right and wrong that have and do exist. Let us consider them.

1. The customs of the culture. If the natives kill and eat human flesh and have common wives then it is okay.

2. What you can get away with must be okay. If it was wrong then God would stop me from doing it. This is the attitude of most criminals in the 90's. They can get away with it so it must be okay. Even if they are caught, the punishment is so light, if indeed there is one, that crime can't be very wrong.

3. What the judicial system allows must be okay. If some people get away with murder then it must be okay.

4. Ultimately Satan's standard will take over - complete evil. We have a couple of examples in recent history. Hitler, the Manson killings and the Jim Jones cult suicide.

These systems do not disprove sin. They only prove that man left without a standard will define his own standard and live by it. The standard that man selects is always considerably lower than the standard of God.

Chafer mentions three major demonstrations of the terribleness of sin. These are worth consideration at this point. Many believers today do not see sin as something terrible.

THE SIN OF SATAN: When Lucifer turned against God other angels also turned their back on their creator. They all are condemned to the Lake of Fire. That has application, oft times, when we sin, we take others with us, or at least cause others to be tempted. Matt. 25:41, II Pet. 2:4, Rev. 20:10.

THE SIN OF ADAM AND EVE: From this we have all human suffering and ultimate eternal torment for all who reject Christ. You should remember, however that you would have done the same thing Adam did, had you been there! Don't give Adam a bad rap!

THE FACT THAT CHRIST BECAME SIN: II Cor. 5:21 tells us, "For he hath made him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."

These examples of evil show the costliness of sin not only to man himself, but to God as well. He had to send His Son to the cross because of it all! Even if Adam and Eve had had no children after the fall, Christ would have been made sin to satisfy the problem.

Some wonder where did sin come from? Did God create sin - He created Satan? Did Satan create sin? Did Adam and Eve create sin?

We dare not suggest that God created, nor caused sin. This would not be consistent with His character or nature. We can say that God in his foreknowledge allowed, and still allows many things to happen. He allows the lost to sin, He allows the lost to condemn themselves to hell, and He allows Christians to sin. None of these items are A SURPRISE PARTY FOR GOD! He knew full well what would happen and laid plans from the foundation of the world to bring mankind to the end that He desires. Within that plan is a lot of room for man's free will to mess up his own life!

Some items that you must remember:

1. God is completely holy and perfect. Prior to the creation evil did not exist.

2. God created Angels - WAS THERE EVIL IMMEDIATELY? No, but the possibility was allowed in the creation.

3. Lucifer sinned, and from that point on evil was present. Lucifer was to blame, not God.

It might be asked if prior to Satans sin, was there evil?

Chafer mentions, "Evil may refer to that which, though latent or not expressed, is ever conceivable as the opposite of that which is good." (Chafer, Lewis Sperry; "SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY"; Dallas, TX: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947, p 228)

There was no outward manifestation of evil before the fall of Satan, however after the creation of angels the latent possibility existed because God chose to allow it.

In Lucifer, was the possibility of evil, but the evil did not bear fruit till he resolved to rebel. Before the first sin, evil was latent. During the first sin, evil became active. After the first sin the evil was latent and ready for action.

Since we know that evil was allowed for, and that sin was a latent possibility before Satan's fall, is there a difference between evil and sin, or are they the same?

Evil is the latent opposition to good, while sin is the active action against God. EVIL is the "possible" that is against God - the character difference between God and others. SIN is the act, or outworking of evil against God.

Yes, there is a difference. Evil carries no penalty in and of itself, yet sin does carry a penalty with it.

Isa 45:7 has brought some interest to some people. "I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I, the Lord, do all these things." From this some would attempt to build the thought that evil proceeds from God. Not so!

1. The New King James Version as well as the New American Standard Bible and the New International Version give the verse a completely different light. The NKJV translates the word calamity rather than evil.

2. The term "create" is "bara" and it is translated create at times. It at this point however, does not convey the thought of the text to translate it create. (create = Strong's 1254, "cut down" seems to be the thought of the word. It is translated create, as a yield of grain is created when the stocks are cut down. Cutting down to make peace - opposite is calamity. Create light - darkness is opposite.)

Leupold mentions of this verse and the way the King James translates it, "... the Hebrew would allow for such a translation. But it is not the morally good and the morally evil that are being attributed to Yahweh, but things good and bad are said to lie totally in his power, as far as their physical aspects and consequences are concerned." (Leupold, H.C.; "EXPOSITION OF ISAIAH"; Vol. I & II; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1968, p 122)

God allows and controls evil, but He did not create it.

It would seem that the thought of God being holy and good, would require that the opposite be automatically true and present. Evil is the natural result of the Holiness of God.

God allows sin. Since He did not create it and since He doesn't stop it, then it is required that He has allowed it.

Let us consider why God might have allowed evil to continue:

GOD IS PROVING MAN'S REBELLION: Since Satan is at the focal point of Job's problems one must wonder if there isn't a divine defense going on. God proving to Satan that something is true. Possibly He desires to prove to the angelic host that man will fail and reject God in all situations of life - all dispensations have ended in judgment except Grace and we are told that it will also end in judgment. (The warring between the principalities and powers etc. may relate to this thought, Eph. 6:12)

GOD HAS A PURPOSE THAT WE ARE NOT TOLD OF: God has a purpose that is completely foreign to us and we have no information on it. The world progresses as He has decreed it, in His perfection, holiness, and desire. By faith we trust in His perfection, justice and holiness. All is, and progresses as He planned it.

GOD GAVE HIS CREATURES A FREE WILL: Since free will exists, there must be a possibility of choices. Evil was needed to allow this choice. God is in business of seeking a people for Himself; those that by free choice, chose God over Satan and good over evil. Since the choice between good and evil necessitates evil's presence - God allows it to continue.

GOD DESIRED MAN TO LEARN OF HIM: To know the holiness of God, we must observe it in relation to its opposite, evil. Thus evil must be allowed as a part of our teaching situation.

GOD DESIRED TO DEMONSTRATE HIS HATRED FOR EVIL: This is one of Chafer's suggested reasons for God allowing evil. God will in judgment demonstrate His hate for evil. There is some truth to this point, however He could have done that centuries ago - there is no need for evil to continue.

GOD DESIRED TO DEMONSTRATE HIS GRACE: The angels had not seen His grace in action. Sin and evil brought the need of Christ and His work, thus a demonstration of God's grace was given.

Chafer suggests that evil is allowed for the instruction of angels. Angels are viewing the situation and are learning from what they observe. There is a problem in this line of thinking. This makes man a pawn in an angelic school of higher learning, and we see God allowing man to suffer for the education of other beings. I don't believe that this is a reason for God allowing evil, but rather it is a side effect, or benefit to man's bent toward evil.


1. Chafer makes a statement that bears repeating. "GOD IS HIMSELF THE STANDARD OF HOLINESS AND HIS CHARACTER IS THAT WHICH DETERMINES THE SINFULNESS OF SIN." (SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY, p 228) You might contemplate that sometime and just jot down your reactions to it. You may find that you are in the process of gathering sermon material and ideas.

2. We need in our lives to learn to know God's view of sin. My wife hates bugs. When one violates her airspace there is little that controls her, or the volume of her voice! Take something that you hate, then try to imagine how a PERFECTLY HOLY GOD must react to sin.

3. We need to learn to know the effect of sin on man. It is not just a little sin now and then, it is a life style, it is a part of the lost man's being. Sin's effect is complete and destructive. We tend to see sin as a little error that we need not be overly concerned with. Confess it and it's gone. True, it is gone, yet its effect may remain.

4. We need to learn to know sin so that we can avoid it! Joseph, when Potaphor's wife grabbed his cloak knew sin, and he knew how to avoid it. HE RAN! HE DIDN'T STAND AROUND DISCUSSING WITH HIMSELF IF THIS WAS SIN OR NOT. HE ALREADY KNEW, SO HE RAN!

5. We need to be realistic in our view of Holy - Gray Area - Sin. We like to label some things as gray areas. We don't know if it is wrong or right. If we follow this color coding, holiness would be pure white, and sin would be black. What we view as gray today is usually gray because we don't want to view it as black. They call that denial in the mind sciences. God's Word often is interpreted gray when it is really black. If we were to gain God's view of sin, we would see it as black more often than gray.

To illustrate our difficulty in perception, think of the graying of immorality. When it comes to proper relations between men and women it is hard to see God's view, in light of one's own fleshly views. Immorality at one time was pure, unadulterated black, but in our society today, even Christians have grayed the matter.

6. A good study for your future would be to look over Ezek. 28:11-17 and Isa. 14:12-17 and list the traits of Satan. You can learn much from knowing your adversary.

7. Some verses that relate, and that may be a blessing to you. Ps. 103:12; Isa. 38:17; Jer. 50:20; Mic. 7:19; Col. 2:13; Heb. 10:17; I Jn. 11:7.

I would like to include a chart that I received from one of my theology professors, Mr. Harvey Stranske. I think that if you consider it and study it, you will increase your appreciation for holiness, and your hate for sin.




Defilement Holiness II Cor. 7:1 Impurity

Disorderliness Spiritual discernment Abnormal desires

I Cor. 2:13-14

Paralysis Power Weakness

Bondage Freedom Slavery

Misery Peace Sorrow

Guilt Righteousness Children of


Death Life Separation and