Weblog of a Christian philosophy student

Weblog of a Christian philosophy student. Please feel free to comment. All of my posts are public domain. Subscribe to posts [Atom]. Email me at countaltair [at] yahoo.com.au. I also run a Chinese to English translation business at www.willfanyi.com.

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Classifying sin

One of the problems that people can have with Christianity is that what is considered sin sometimes doesn't resonate on an emotional level. So, for example, sins can be things like murder, rape, and assault, but people often include within sin many minor things, such as wasting one's time, being silly, liking certain kinds of music, etc which don't feel particularly wrong or evil.

There is a problem with sins that do not feel very wrong (or wrong at all). This problem is that a Christian, in that situation, sort of has to force themselves to repent and to act like something is wrong, but they themselves do not actually feel it is really hurting anyone and so they cannot really make themselves feel, rather than think, it is wrong.

I believe this could be an influence that motivates Christians to give up their faith, because people get tired of saying things are evil or sinful when they don't actually feel those acts hurt anyone.

Here are some interesting verses written in Psalm 119 about this issue:

18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
27 Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.

34 Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.
73 Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
125 I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes.

The psalmist prays specifically for understanding of God's laws, to see why they are right or how they make sense. So the psalmist is praying not to follow God's law out of an iron sense of obligation, but to follow it because they can say, 'I can actually agree with that command, I can see how that makes sense and is the right thing to do'. Then they can feel the rightness or wrongness of a command because it makes sense.

So it seems that it's important to be able to rationally see how something is a sin if you say it is a sin, and for many people that means tracing it to some kind of harm - self-harm, harm of others, or harm of God.

So one conclusion is that some things we consider sins may actually not be sins, and we are being too hard on ourselves, because we cannot trace it back to a rational basis. A verse that relates to this is from 1 Corinthians 4:6, where people in the church had been adding to what the Bible said:

"Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other."

Another conclusion is that we can trace it to a rational basis after thinking about it a lot, and this will help us do it joyously rather than from inexplicable guilt, e.g. "I can see now how that action might be harmful in some way and why I shouldn't do it".

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Blogger Arlen said...

Will, I found your latest post to be very interesting. Tell me Will, in your opinion, is drinking a little wine occasionally a sin? I know that the book of Proverbs warns us of the effect of wine and that Paul admonished us to not be drunk, but filled with the Holy Spirit. I know that Jesus turned water into wine. I was just curious on your take because you have some deep thoughts. Thank you, Arlen

Blogger Will G said...

Hey thanks Arlen,

I'm just an average Christian so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I would say that some important verses on this are:

Rom 14:14: "I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong."

Titus 1:15: "Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted."

I think these verses indicate that what would make drinking wine sinful is a) for it to be considered an issue in their Christian walk by the drinker or b) to be done from impure motives.

1 Co 6:12: ""Everything is permissible for me"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"--but I will not be mastered by anything."

So one issue that might come up with any kind of drinking is whether or not the drinking interferes with someone's life in any way. We cannot allow ourselves to be mastered by something that will cause us to make decisions that common sense would say is stupid or addictive.


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