In the first three chapters of "Let's Start With Jesus: A New Way of Doing Theology," all that is covered leads to what author Dennis F. Kinlaw identifies as "the problem of problems." (Kinlaw, p. 107) Man was made for love, but love in Mankind is part of a moral character that gives us power to sin. The good seems unattainable while evil reigns. In the Scriptures sin has already reached its full potential in Man by Gen. 6:5. Man gives no glory to God; Man expresses no gratitude to his creator and sustainer. (see also Is. 59:3,10, 13, Ezk. 22, see v. 30) Dr. Kinlaw quotes Rom. 3: 10-18 describing Man's wretched state of sin with Old Testament parallels, mostly from the Psalms: Rom. 3: 10-12 (Ps. 14:1-3), Rom. 3:13 (Ps. 5:9, 140:3), Rom. 3: 14 (Ps. 140:3), Rom. 3: 15-18 (Is. 59: 7-8, Ps. 36:1). All creation including Man, groans for redemption. (Rom. 8:19-22) God is not the problem, Man is. Therefore, the problem must be solved where Mankind dwells. Hence, the necessity of the Incarnation. No good man or woman exists on earth. So Christ was born.
What went wrong? Man and God were seperated by Man's sin. Man's only connection to the source of holy love was broken. The one responsible for this seperation was Adam. (Rom. 5: 12, 18) What was the nature of Adam's sin, according to Kinlaw? It wasn't the violation of a moral code as the Law was not a factor in Eden. Adam and Eve chose a relationship of mistrust, distance, suspicion and disobedience toward the Creator where before the relationship was characterized by open and loving trust, friendship and obedience. They chose to become self-serving rather than other-oriented. This is described in Is. 53:6. This is Kinlaw's commentary on this verse: "We have all strayed, but not like the innocent wandering of sheep. The Hebrew word panah, translated here as 'turned', is actually the root from which comes the Hebrew word for 'face' (panim). A literal translation of the verse could be, 'We have faced everyone his own way.' We have shifted our attention from the source of all good and turned in an act of rejection and rebellion to our own individual interests." (Kinlaw, p. 112-113) Rom. 2:8 uses the Greek word eritheia (self-seekers) to describe Man. Man has deliberately reoriented himself and made the self the ultimate point of reference. Luther referred to the result of this reorientation as "the heart curved in on itself ." Adam and Eve mistakenly thought this reorientation would make them like God.
The only way for individuals to restore this broken relationship is through repentance. "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength." (Is. 30: 15) The meaning of repentance "...must be understood in contrast to the Greek understanding of repentance (metanoia) which literally means 'a change of mind' or 'an after-mind.' For the Greek, the change can be simply a rational one. The Hebrew implies a change of relationship that is personal, not just cognitive. So Adam's sin was a turning away from the one from whose hand he came, the one who gave and sustained his life." (Kinlaw, p. 116-117)
As we are cut off from God, so are we cut off from each other. As we are not open to God, we are not open to each other. The way we treat others is the way we treat God, using each other for our own advantage, not relating to others in openness and holy love. We fear others are as untrustworthy as we know ourselves to be.
This seperation is so total that Paul uses one word as a metonym for this: flesh (sarx). When Paul writes of the flesh, he is not referring to some Greek dualism such as the flesh v. the Spirit. Adam and Eve experienced life in the Spirit before they sinned. Life in the flesh is life lived in our own strength and desires. Kinlaw quotes Lesslie Newbigin to illustrate this: "The words 'flesh' and 'Spirit' do not refer to parallel and analogous realities in our experience, such as 'visible' and 'invisible' or 'lower nature' and 'higher nature.'...Flesh...denotes the whole of our creaturely being insofar as it seeks to organize itself and to exist in its own power apart from the continually renewed presence and power of God 'from above.' " (Kinlaw, p. 119)
Humans are capable of all evil because they have severed their tie to the source of all holiness, not because they exist in human bodies or because of the limitations of finitude that characterizes creatureliness. Kinlaw gives as evidence for this the fact that God took on human flesh with all its limitations in the Incarnation and maintains that flesh, redeemed, in his resurrected and ascended life. For Paul, the flesh is not evil. The moral character of a man or woman is determined by their relationship to the Holy One. If they are centered on God, their flesh is infused with the Holy Spirit and they are characterized by agape love. This is to be the pattern of life for all believers. (Gal. 5: 13-17, 2Cor. 5: 14-15) The life Jesus had on earth in the flesh was not just a moral/ethical example for us to follow, but a pattern of true personhood. None of us is complete if the Holy Spirit is not living within, liberating us from self interest. (Rom. 8:6-8) "Our completeness, our healthy personhood as it was created to be, is found not in ourselves, but perichoretically in God's Spirit. The person who knows that completenessis truly a new creature, as human as God intended the human creature to be." (Kinlaw, p. 122)
Dr. Kinlaw has examined the problem in chapter four; in the next chapter he deals with the solution.