What is sin? Throughout church history, many notable theologians have sought to describe the essence of sin and evil. Prominent in the list of root sins have been pride (drawing on Prov. 16:18), humility (at least from a feminist perspective of historical female subjugation), the curve of the self into the self (Luther), self-love, lawlessness (drawing on 1 Jn. 3:4), concupiscence, and a host of other theses. Different theological traditions have often shown family resemblances on this question. Perhaps the most obvious testament to the elusiveness of ascertaining the essence of sin lies in the ongoing attempts to define it. It is in reflecting on these various voices and in hope of describing (rather than defining) the problem of sin that the French theologian Henri Blocher offers the following:
“The fact of sin possesses enough unity and organization so that one may push aside certain propositions from its principle; it does not seem to have in it enough for any better proposition to sweep away conviction of it. The essence of sin escapes in the moment where one believes to grab it: one never controls anything except one of the tentacles of the octopus!