Unless you are a professional oceanographer or a logophile who’s addicted to The New York Times Sunday crossword, the term archipelago (ar-ke-PEL-a-go) isn’t often used in conversation. At the risk of oversimplifying, an archipelago is a cluster of islands in a body of water like the Greek Islands, the Caribbean, the Hawaiian Islands, Japan, and Indonesia just to name a few. What’s fascinating about many archipelagos is that the islands we see jutting out of the ocean are actually land peaks or mountains from an underwater land mass submerged just underneath the ocean’s surface. For example, New Zealand’s islands are the highest peaks of a submerged continent called Zealandia that’s actually larger than the entire subcontinent of India. And Java, Borneo, and Sumatra are all peaks of a submerged landmass called Sundaland. In the southern Indian ocean there are a series of tiny island chains called the Kerguelen and McDonald Islands, that, when considered as part of the same underwater continent, the land mass is more than three times larger than all of Japan. On a common, two-dimensional map, islands such as these appear to be distinct and unrelated because their relationships are hidden by the surface of the ocean. But, when examined closely by the trained eye of a scientist, these islands are far from distinct. Instead, they are biologically interconnected, share identical geological characteristics and are unified by the same tectonic histories and destinies.
So why do I call this essay, “The Sin Archipelago”? Because there is something about archipelagos that have helped me understand the true nature of sin as it is understood by Christian Orthodoxy. In essence, all sins listed in the Bible are visible peaks (no matter how different or distinct they may appear at first) interconnected by a underlying, unifying land mass. And it is that common connection that ties together so many biblical themes and simplifies so much theology. (more…)