Spiritual Question 3

Is there such a thing as sin?

Which is to say, is there any real meaning to our understanding of how people ought to behave? We talk a lot about right and wrong, or about good and evil. This Question 3 is to explore the spiritual question of sin v. righteousness. Are our ideas about how people ought to behave just conceptual? Is there any reality to the concept of sin? Are there any real spiritual consequences, other than logical life consequences, involved with sin?

Before we get very far with this, we have to have a definition for what we mean by “sin.” It is clear that there are Ratburghers who think of “sin” as a personal shortcoming, like a lack of musical talent or poor eyesight or weak willpower. However, I mean something very different. Here is a dictionary definition:

an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law.

Traditionalist Christianity, of course, offers a highly developed view of sin. Some groups of Christians, such as the Roman Catholic Church, have a very detailed and nuanced teachings regarding sin. Other groups of Christians keep it simple. But I wasn’t looking for a debate among Christians; I am hoping to hear some views from our non-Christians.

Atheists will mostly say that sin is just a concept that helps us communicate with each other and that it is an evolutionary development that somehow helped the group of primitive pre-human hominids to enforce behaviors that promoted group cohesion and group survival.

How about the rest of you?

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29 thoughts on “Spiritual Question 3”

  1. I once heard the Ten  Commandments ,whose disregard is considered a sin,  described in terms of traffic rules. Disregard a red light chance being T- boned, drive on the wrong side f the road chance a head on collision. Society needs rules to avoid anarchy both in living together and driving together. Obviously a lot of sinning goes on in both arenas. BTW I am not an atheist, I am a Catholic that needs a lot of practice.

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  2. PhCheese:
    I once heard the Ten  Commandments ,whose disregard is considered a sin,  described in terms of traffic rules. Disregard a red light chance being T- boned, drive on the wrong side f the road chance a head on collision. Society needs rules to avoid anarchy both in living together and driving together. Obviously a lot of sinning goes on in both arenas. BTW I am not an atheist, I am a Catholic that needs a lot of practice.

    This is exactly the thing.   Solomon pointed out that righteous living has rewards in this life.   But the reason to keep the Law of Moses was not because you would end up prosperous, because that is never guaranteed.   The reason to keep the Law was because God demands it.   Breaking a Commandment may be a sin against your neighbor, or not, but it is always a sin against God.

    But if you don’t believe in the God of the Bible, then how do you regard sin?

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  3. Kevin Schulte:
    I feel so excluded. 😉

    I would rather hear from non-Christians first.   Christian thinking ought to already be well-known, though it is clear that there are many misconceptions regarding Christian teachings in circulation.

    We hear a lot of noise from non-Christians who carp at Christianity, but we seldom hear non-Christians expound on their religious ideas.

    When it comes to inside-baseball Christian theology, I would not mind to review the Reformation, hammer and tongs.   We did that at R>, and, in fact, if I keep asking spiritual questions, I am bound to get into that ground sooner or later.   But my sense is that there is not much appetite for that among the Ratburghers.

    (As a Lutheran, you can count on me to argue with the Catholics against the Baptists regarding the sacraments, and with the Baptists against the Catholics regarding authority.)

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  4. MJBubba:
    But my sense is that there is not much appetite for that among the Ratburghers.

    The pond is smaller here. However, I do like it’s inhabitants (all of them)

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  5. MJBubba:

    EThompson:

    Robert A. McReynolds:
    Sin certainly exists. Its effect is to dehumize us and remove that which is our  spiritual essence

    I’d also comment that quite a bit of mental illness is involved as well.

    Mental illness?  How do you mean?

    Comment #9. I’m not clear how and why sociopathic behavior occurs. Is it genetic, learned behavior, domestic abuse?

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  6. I am puzzled by the turn to sociopathy.   That is a phenomenon that is quite rare, and, while a sociopath typically has no concept of sin, that seems not to be a very helpful topic for the rest of us to consider in our development of our own concepts regarding sin.

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  7. MJBubba:
    I am puzzled by the turn to sociopathy.   That is a phenomenon that is quite rare, and, while a sociopath typically has no concept of sin, that seems not to be a very helpful topic for the rest of us to consider in our development of our own concepts regarding sin.

    Is sociopathy a result of sin? Other than genetic disorders, what about domestic abuse or learned dysfunctional behavior ? I’m no shrink but I truly believe sin is determined by your upbringing. I can’t imagine wreaking havoc on moral, societal norms without bearing severe consequences not only by my family but society in general.

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  8. EThompson:

    MJBubba:
    I am puzzled by the turn to sociopathy.   That is a phenomenon that is quite rare, and, while a sociopath typically has no concept of sin, that seems not to be a very helpful topic for the rest of us to consider in our development of our own concepts regarding sin.

    Is sociopathy a result of sin?

    Probably in part.   The causes have a strong genetic indication, but it is clearly not entirely genetic.   Rather, it seems to be a genetic proclivity that then may or may not be triggered by environmental factors during childhood.   Those environmental factors may be brought about through sins of the parents.

    Christians seem to generally agree that the genetic element of sociopathy and similar mental illnesses is a flaw in the DNA that is a result of the general corruption of Creation by sin, so not necessarily a result of any person’s particular sin, but a result of Adam’s sin that brought about the Fall.

     

    Other than genetic disorders, what about domestic abuse or learned dysfunctional behavior ? I’m no shrink but I truly believe sin is determined by your upbringing. I can’t imagine wreaking havoc on moral, societal norms without bearing severe consequences not only by my family but society in general.

    By “sin is determined by your upbringing,” do you mean that some folk with more righteous upbringing should be expected never to sin?   Or do you mean that what is sin for some may not be sin for others, depending on their upbringing?   Do you get excused from some sin by blaming your parents?

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  9. Obama’s view of sin

    FALSANI: “Do you believe in sin?”

    OBAMA: “Yes.”

    FALSANI: “What is sin?”

    OBAMA: “Being out of alignment with my values.”

    FALSANI: “What happens if you have sin in your life?”

    OBAMA: “I think it’s the same thing as the question about heaven. In the same way that if I’m true to myself and my faith that that is its own reward; when I’m not true to it, it’s its own punishment.”

    http://www.bpnews.net/37310/obama-sin-is-what-doesnt-match-my-values

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  10. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and  the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is  faithful and just to forgive us our sins and  to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  10 If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and  His word is not in us.

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  11. MJBubba:
    By “sin is determined by your upbringing,” do you mean that some folk with more righteous upbringing should be expected never to sin?   Or do you mean that what is sin for some may not be sin for others, depending on their upbringing?

    Neither.

    I do believe that sin abounds without a sound and moral background. It’s too easy to compare, say, home-schooled kids from nice neighborhoods to the wolfpacks that run the streets in southside Chicago. Obviously, nobody is perfect but when I compare my greatest “sin” as a kid (breaking curfew- ha!) to gang shootings, it’s clear one’s family and environment have to be making an impact.

    In other words, I don’t believe sin simply exists without some form of sociopathy or negligent upbringing to encourage it.

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  12. EThompson:

    MJBubba:
    By “sin is determined by your upbringing,” do you mean that some folk with more righteous upbringing should be expected never to sin?   Or do you mean that what is sin for some may not be sin for others, depending on their upbringing?

    Neither.

    I do believe that sin abounds without a sound and moral background. It’s too easy to compare, say, home-schooled kids from nice neighborhoods to the wolfpacks that run the streets in southside Chicago. Obviously, nobody is perfect but when I compare my greatest “sin” as a kid (breaking curfew- ha!) to gang shootings, it’s clear one’s family and environment have to be making an impact.

    In other words, I don’t believe sin simply exists without some form of sociopathy or negligent upbringing to encourage it.

    So, are suburban homeschool kids free from sin?

    When you were a kid, was breaking curfew an actual sin or a pretend sin ?   Is that disobedience not a sin?

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  13. MJBubba:
    So, are suburban homeschool kids free from sin?

    Heck no! Drugs, date rape, you name it go on everywhere but the values are generally different than in the ghettos.

    My point is that parents and family can help control aberrant behavior even  as the power of peer group pressure becomes more intense and dangerous. To be a parent has always been difficult, but I don’t envy the challenges mothers and fathers face today. You’ll ask me why? and my theory is time spent with family seems to be at a premium.

    I sense you and I share similar values but we differ somewhat as to how they can be administered.

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  14. MJBubba:

    Robert A. McReynolds:
    Sin certainly exists. Its effect is to dehumize us and remove that which is our  spiritual essence

    What do you mean by “dehumanize” ?

    Part of being human is that we are created in God’s image. Well when we sin we chip away at that image. We denigrate that which makes us human. Catholics call this mortal sin and we cannot participate in the Mass until we confess those sins. It’s important to hold on to what makes us human and the only way to do that is through a relationship with Christ.

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  15. EThompson:

    MJBubba:
    By “sin is determined by your upbringing,” do you mean that some folk with more righteous upbringing should be expected never to sin?   Or do you mean that what is sin for some may not be sin for others, depending on their upbringing?

    Neither.

    I do believe that sin abounds without a sound and moral background. It’s too easy to compare, say, home-schooled kids from nice neighborhoods to the wolfpacks that run the streets in southside Chicago. Obviously, nobody is perfect but when I compare my greatest “sin” as a kid (breaking curfew- ha!) to gang shootings, it’s clear one’s family and environment have to be making an impact.

    In other words, I don’t believe sin simply exists without some form of sociopathy or negligent upbringing to encourage it.

    I find it interesting you focus on illegal or socially condemned things as sin.

    What about, lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride, covetous .  The internal things that are easily hidden from those around us. These things do not have to be taught to a child. They have to be nurtured to a minimum and shown to be destructive. However, they can’t be eradicated from the human condition. Even from stellar homes.

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  16. Kevin Schulte:
    What about, lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride, covetous.

    Because most of those sins are covered under the category of illegally or socially condemned things. For instance, I wouldn’t consider envying a friend’s new dress a “sin.” Pride in a new car doesn’t strike me as one either.

    When they become true sins:

    Lust and covetousness= adultery

    Gluttony and greed= robbery or fraud

    Sloth= Welfare mothers whose partners have deserted and refuse to support the family

    Wrath, envy and pride are neatly summarized by jihadist activities.

    You and I may differ to the degree of and the harm created by all of the above.

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  17. EThompson:

    MJBubba:
    So, are suburban homeschool kids free from sin?

    Heck no! Drugs, date rape, you name it go on everywhere but the values are generally different than in the ghettos.

    My point is that parents and family can help control aberrant behavior even  as the power of peer group pressure becomes more intense and dangerous. To be a parent has always been difficult, but I don’t envy the challenges mothers and fathers face today. You’ll ask me why? and my theory is time spent with family seems to be at a premium.

    I sense you and I share similar values but we differ somewhat as to how they can be administered.

    Yes, we share what has famously been called “bourgeois values.”   That incorporates prohibitions on a lot of sins.

    But I share with my Christian brothers an additional sense of sins against God, which mostly consists of the life of the mind.  Unrighteous thoughts tend to send me into ungodly actions.   Righteous thoughts keep me on the straight and narrow.   Selfish thoughts keep me preoccupied with personal pursuits instead of the good I could be doing for my neighbors.   It takes prayer and discipline to put away impulses to selfish or prideful ways of thinking.

    There are good reasons to be concerned for these sorts of internal sins.   They eventually lead to apostasy.   They result in friction within families.   They set a bad model as an example to our friends and loved ones.   They might even trigger unfortunate coping mechanisms in our childrens’ psyches.

    As we observed above, there are rewards from righteous living in this life.   But for the Christian, we are concerned about all sin because it tends to separate us from the eternal salvation offered to us by Jesus the Christ.

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  18. Robert A. McReynolds:

    EThompson:

    MJBubba:

    Robert A. McReynolds:
    Sin certainly exists. Its effect is to dehumize us and remove that which is our  spiritual essence

    What do you mean by “dehumanize” ?

    I’ll guess Robert was referring t0 sociopaths.

    No I am talking about spiritual sin. I would equate sociopaths to being possessed by demons.

    There are some Christians who are so spooked by mental illnesses that they think all mental illness indicates demon possession.   I do not think that this is the case at all.   But it does seem to me that the soul of a sociopath would make a fine dwelling for a demon who was so inclined.    Some cases of demon possession have been resolved through exorcism and left no underlying mental illness exposed, so it is clear that there are many cases in which there is no overlap between demonic activity and mental illness.

    The topic of demons came up twice before in the past two months.   I will have to write a fresh post.

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