Friday, 28 January 2022

What is Sin?

 I seem to be writing quite a few articles in response to other people's work at the moment. This is another such, inspired by Bruce Charlton's post about why souls might reject Heaven. Because in our time many do. These individuals would probably not put it like that, or even think of it like that, but it is what a person does and what he is that counts not what he says or even what he thinks with the outer mind. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" as it says in the book of Proverbs. And many people do reject Heaven because they reject the mindset that is required to get there. Like attracts like. You only get to the true heavenly world if there is that in you that corresponds to that world. If you are on some level made of the same stuff, spiritually speaking. In fact, to get to heaven you must already be a subject (it's a kingdom not a state) of that world.

A major factor in the rejection of Heaven is unrepented sin which means identifying yourself with a sin to the extent that you will not or cannot renounce it. You may even no longer accept that it is a sin because it has become part of your sense of self. It has become what you think of as you. 

A commenter on Bruce's post asked the question in the title of this one. He went on to answer it himself and said that sin is loving the physical over the spiritual. That is right as far as it goes though I would change the word loving to desiring. But we can unpack this idea of sin a little more and I suggested in a further comment that sin is not loving the physical over the spiritual so much as loving oneself over God or putting oneself before God. That is not to say one should hate oneself, that also is a sin as we are God's creation, but God comes first.

Bruce Charlton defined sin as not being aligned with God's will and divine creative purpose. This sums it up. We are all sinners to some extent because we are all in thrall to the ego. It is the mismatch between ego and God or the human self and the Divine Self that is the root of sin. As long as the human self seeks its fulfilment in something other than the Divine Self it is a sinner and this might even include  those who seek absorption in impersonal being. They may be sinners of omission rather than active sinners but they have rejected God as a personal being and so they have rejected love. That is a sin of sorts and will have its consequences, even if these are what the individual in this case wants or thinks he does. So he may get what he wants but it is not the best that God has to offer the soul.

What is sin? Fundamentally, I would say it comes down to one thing and that is not loving God. Therefore you can be as virtuous as you like but if you don't love God you are a sinner. To those of an antinomian disposition who might claim that loving God excuses you of all moral obligations or lapses I would say that "If you love me you keep my commandments". The true love of God automatically makes a person behave in a godly fashion or, at least, aspire to behave like that. He may fall short but he always seeks to stand in the light and to reflect that light as best he can. To claim you love God and carry on disobeying his commandments shows that not only do you not love God, you don't even begin to know him.


Bruce Charlton said...

@William "The true love of God automatically makes a person behave in a godly fashion or, at least, aspire to behave like that. He may fall short but he always seeks to stand in the light and to reflect that light as best he can. To claim you love God and carry on disobeying his commandments shows that not only do you not love God, you don't even begin to know him."

I actually don't agree with this, for several reasons. It seems clear to me that the ability actually to obey commandments depends on factors such as personality, intelligence, and circumstances. Surely the important thing is to know that it is right to obey them, to wish to obey them and the repent disobedience. I can easily imagine someone of 'weak will' or timidity would would be unable to resist temptation, would lapse again and again, but would who acknowledge/ repent his (repeated) wrongdoing. And this would not interfere with his ability to love God and desire salvation - indeed it might well increase such love and desire.

The Earth is a School idea, suggests to me that we are here to learn lessons, but not to achieve anything like perfect virtue or sinlessness - including we are not here to lead a life in perfect accord with commandments.

I think this is supported by the Fourth Gospel account of Jesus's teaching in the Authorized Version, so long as we are careful not to assume that 'commandment' has its modern meaning, but to infer the intended meaning from the context of usage.

Other than this aspect, I certainly agree with the rest of the post!

William Wildblood said...

I don't think we disagree really. It's the will that counts. What I mean is that the person who truly loves God loves truth and tries to abide by that. He may, he will, fall short, sometimes well short, and that's where personality, intelligence and circumstances come in. But he wants to obey and when he does fall short he will repent.

Heaven knows I fall short on many occasions!

What I was really referring to was people who claim to love God but use that to justify sinning like certain sects in the Middle Ages. So they don't repent. They may even celebrate their sin. It's all ok because I love God or however they phrase it. But Jesus did say (John 14:15) "If you love me, keep my commandments."

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - Just to remind you that I think keeping commandments means something different from 'obeying orders' in the Fourth Gospel:

If we think of the ideal extended-family as the primary analogy - and how such a family would encourage its desired attitudes and behaviours; then I think we get a clearer idea of what 'keeping commandments' was probably intended to mean.

William Wildblood said...

It means observe my teachings or listen to what I say or follow my lead. Obeying orders is not a spiritual practice because in spirituality you must act with your whole being and in line with your own will and motivation not someone else's, not even God's. That is, you do God's will but because you recognise it to be truth not because you are following orders as though God were your commanding officer.

Lady Mermaid said...

I once heard in a church sermon that "You won't stop sinning as a Christian, but you will not be happy in your sins". One's attitude toward sin determines how one is following Christ. I remember hearing at a revival that David was a man after God's own heart even though if you look at his history, he was not a model citizen. However, he always repented and knew that God would eventually deliver him from sin in the resurrection. Of course, we should work to become as Christ like as possible, but we can be saved as long as the spirit is willing despite weak flesh.

The danger of today is sin is continually being redefined as virtuous (sexual revolution). Many people insist that their sins are wonderful and will become furious if you dare criticize them in any fashion. There was another really good post elaborating on this.

jana gatien said...

Perhaps love is an action/behavior and not sentiment. Love IS works. If one gets up at 5am to walk the dog in -20 weather, there is devotion and sacrifice, however humble (and not always instantly glad). Someone could could also say, "I love, love, love my dog" but not get up, let the dog whimper a while, then ultimately pee on the floor without getting any exercise. A crude analogy, of course, but love must manifest and be evidenced. Otherwise it's perhaps vain claim while serving one's own comforts.