In my previous post, I argued that locating the sinlessness of Christ within the circumstances of Christ's biological origin is a major and glaring theological mistake. To this effect, I forcefully suggested that such an approach is effectively a denial of the reality of the Incarnation. As such a perspective ultimately makes Christ "other than" humanity in that Christ needs a special means of biological genesis in order to evade human sinfulness, it is difficult to see how 1.) one can affirm the orthodox belief that Christ is truly, fully and completely human and 2.) that Christ, as fully human, is the savior of humanity. In this sense, if sinfulness is a biologically heritable entity, Christ cannot be savior for Christ cannot assume that which Christ is thought to redeem (the full ontology of the human person) while remaining sinless.

If the biological nature of the transmission of sin is to be rejected, how is one to positively speak of Christ's sinlessness?

The first step is to properly define sin. In the previous discussion, I pointed out a few (not all, by any means!) of the conceptual problems which accompany understanding sin to be a biological entity that can be–and is–transmitted from human to human genetically. Let us explore this a bit more.

One classic consequence of viewing sin as a biologically heritable entity is that of equating biological death with sinfulness. As the thinking goes, humanity (regardless of whether or not one conceives of the literal existence of the individuals, Adam and Eve) was created in some state of biological existence that was transcendent of biological death (in previous discussions, I have pointed out the biological and theological unlikehood of this assertion). However, upon the advent of sin (whatever the circumstances of this might have been), the biology of humanity became subject to decay and death. While this is an attractive perspective (especially within the context of the discussion of theodicy), its logic breaks down when applied within Atonement theology. For example, if biological death is the direct consequence of sinfulness, it is inconceivable why death still reigns after the Atonement. If one seriously believes that Christ has dealt with sin on the cross, one must further question why those who are united to Christ and rescued from the power of sin still die. More directly, if the "power" of sin really is biological death, those who are free from its power should not continue to die. And yet all humans die. Therefore, there are only two possible conclusions: 1.) Christ has not actually conquered death, for even believers are still subject to its power (biological death) or 2.) Sin is not located in the biology of the human person (i.e., the cessation of biological processes being the inherent consequence thereof).

I would strongly suggest that the second option is the correct one. However, if this is assumed and sin is not a biologically heritable entity, how are we to make sense of the sinfulness of humanity which stretches across generations and is no respector of persons?

First, and as mentioned above, one must conceive of sin in a proper light. We have already explored one example of what sin is not. Let us now speak of what it is. Human sinfulness, in the simplest expression, is a relational dysfunction between humanity and God, others, and itself. In the human/God interaction, sinfulness is expressed in that humanity persistently desires that which is antithetical to the will of God. Although God is the source of being and sustainer of all things, human sinfulness asserts that this is, in fact, fallacious and that humanity itself is its own originator/sustainer. On the human/human level, sinfulness in demonstrated in humanity's antipathy for others. Where love, peace and equality are to be the hallmarks of human interrelatedness, sinfulness atomizes the individaul and places one over and against all others. And in relation to the self, sinfulness distorts one's perspective of the self, perverting it to contradict the purposes of God for human life.

This "relational" nature of sinfulness, then, gives a hint into how one can speak intelligibly of Christ's sinlessness. Instead of sinfulness being a biologically heritable quality to which all are prone simply by virtue of their genetic origin, this perspective locates sinfulness in the existential dynamic of relational dysfunction with God, others and self. In this way, Christ's sinlessness can be spoken in terms of the his relationship to the Father. Christ is sinless, not because of the means of his birth, but rather because in all things, Christ submitted himself to the will of God. Where sinful humanity distorts the purpose and intentions of God in its quest for self-actualization and autonomy, Christ, conversely, stands diametrically opposed to the destructiveness of this relational dysfunction. Even in death, instead of seeking self-justisification against the injustice of his murder at the hands of sinful humanity, Christ refuses to confront the power of sinfulness on its own terms (destruction, violence, etc.). Rather, and paradoxically, he submits to its judgement, revealing the powers of sinfulness to be entirely perveted. In his resurrection, the Father vindicates Christ's faithfulness, showing that the power of sinfulness is not only entirely depraved, but now also entirely impotent, as they cannot even hold the one fully abandoned to their powers.

It is my contention that this envisioning of the nature of Christ's sinlessness not only properly conceives of the salient issues involved, but moreover provides a helpful paradigm through which to understand the lives to which followers of Christ are called to conform. If Christ's sinlessness were conceived of as a biological anomaly in which Christ bears little or no resemblence to the sinful humanity he intends to save, atonement and sanctification quickly lose any meaningful content. After all, no matter how "holy" one becomes, one cannot change one's biology. If sinfulness is actually a biologically heritable quality, there is no way in which one can become "like Christ" for an infinitely insurmountable obstacle will forever separate humanity from its savior. However, if the issue of "sinlessness" is understood as a reality relating to the way in which one is related to God, self, and others, the call to become "like Christ" becomes possible, for as believers are led by the Spirit of God, like Christ they can learn submission to the will of God and in all things exist within proper relationship to God, self and others.