The past couple of days I’ve been in off and on discussions over this post here by Kevin DeYoung. He takes issue with the word brokenness citing an overuse that leads to an undermining of sin. Specifically he says
But as a metaphor for sin, “brokenness” is seriously limited. The term does not convey a strong sense of moral culpability. If anything, it suggests a helplessness in the face of external forces and circumstances. It gets nothing of the Godward direction of sin. In fact, the term “brokenness” sometimes feels like a safer, less-offensive euphemism for sin. Instead of confessing rebellion, disobedience, guilt, or moral evil, we only have to acknowledge that somethin’ ain’t right. We don’t work the way we should. We’ve been wounded before. We’ve had a hard go of it. I’m not suggesting those who use the term “brokenness” are trying to avoid their sins or the minimize the sins of others. But the language can have that effect.
First, I think its quite the projection on his part to assume that people are using it as a metaphor. People are basically speaking what they know – that they are broken. And we are broken because of sin. Sin leads to brokenness. They are two sides of the same coin. The impact of the fall has had much damaging consequences on God’s creation. It groans. It bites. It growls. It attacks.
Second, he starts the post indicating that in Christianity words matter. Now I am all for theological integrity and articulation. But in Christianity people also matter. Perhaps the average Joe Christian cannot articulate the doctrine of hamartiology with his precision, but anyone who has suffered the impact of sin knows its very real presence. That’s not undermining, that’s just truth. Neither does it mean they are going soft on sin or translating brokenness into a lack of culpability. It just means they hurt because the wages of sin is death. To advocate dismissal of the word, also dismisses real human experience. And that is dishonest. I think the body of Christ is better served with honesty than an unnecessary wrangling of words and unfortunate exaggeration.
I also think this points to another issue also that I’m not necessarily projecting into DeYoung’s post but is pretty commonplace. People generally understand brokenness to the extent that they experience it and I often find a certain smugness exists with those who haven’t really experienced a great deal of it. It then becomes kind of easy to be dismissive of deep expressions of life ache then accuse the sufferer of lack of Christian commitment.