I have divided a longer post into two shorter parts for clarity. In part one, I hoped to show that the language of brokenness is imprecise and that Millennials are increasing the uncritical use of this term. In part two, I hope to show the dangers inherent in substituting brokenness language for the concept of sin and sinfulness. Finally, I’ll offer some guesses on why these shifts have occurred.
As we’ve seen, the concept of brokenness itself is imprecise. But it becomes even more problematic when we uncritically substitute it for the historic language of sin, for at least three reasons. First, it ignores the breadth of the historic understanding of sin. Sin and sinfulness are broad and thick concepts in Scripture, as evidenced by all the different experiential and philosophical descriptions for it. Consider some of the other Biblical metaphors for sin:
- A hard heart or a stiff neck
- Missing the mark
- A beast crouching at the door (Genesis 4)
Those who adhere to the Westminster Confession recognize sin as any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God. Theologian Cornelius Plantinga describes sin as “disruption of created harmony and then resistance to divine restoration of that harmony”.1 Notice that each statement addresses sin both as human moral agency and human circumstances. We are simultaneously culprit and victim. The real concern in this conversation is that brokenness is reductionist. It primarily identifies the human problem in the area of circumstance and then communicates it using the language of victimhood. If I see myself mainly as broken, I am tempted to allow that characteristic to explain more of my life than it should.