Five Views of Sin in a Believer’s Life

Many Christians today don’t like to talk about sin. [MORE]


Autumn Mom said...

Absolutely...without question, IMHO.

All sin offends God, but is all sin equal before him?


Larry said...

It is possible that the future (present?) acceptance of homosexuality will not be understood as the toleration of sin but as the "decrimininalization" of it.

We will move toward "understanding" human behavior and being "realistic" about human sexual needs.

Sin? We'll shy away from so pejorative a label. "Shortcomings," that's what we'll call them.

JohnLDrury said...

This is a great test case for our doctrine of sin and grace. Thanks.

I will have to agree with Larry that the question of "how do we treat this particular sin" will quickly move into the question of "is this is a sin or not?" That is the more crucial question to stake one's position on (because even category #1 is still not regarded by the wider culture as an affirming position).

luke middleton said...

To be sure, there is a great difference between someone who struggles with a particular sin while seeking to mortify it and someone who embraces and justifies a sin they are given to.

Also, it seems as though the doctrines of condemning sin and indwelling sin would be helpful in this discussion.

Our question ultimately is this: what does Scripture tell us about sin?

Aaron said...

YEAH! Well done Coach. I really liked this one.

I'm amazed at those who say "all sin is equal and you can't help but sin." and then demonize the "easy sins" (drunks, pornography, homosexuality) while letting "their sins" (gossip, slander, ect) go.

What a gut check!

brownie said...

We are currently moving to an elder model in our church, and the topic of gambling came up with respect to qualifications to be an elder. This led to a discussion of "the Bible doesn't say it's a sin" with respect to some of our faithful who don't see the harm in a lottery ticket every now and then or a sports office pool. I guess I'm proposing another category: "I'm not so sure that what the church has called sin throughout the years really is sin." Please help! I'm so confused!

Denniston said...

Great article Coach! When I got to about #2 in the second list it was like the train wistle was blowing in my head (I saw where you were going with #5)

I find it interesting that when people say that "all sins are the same", i've never heard anyoune put it in the context of making their little sin on par with others big sins. i.e. they never say my (little) gossip is just they same as other peoples (big) sexual sins.

John Mark said...

A few hopefully related and coherent thoughts:
I am reading a book by a Catholic priest who points out that many people are guilty of gossip or overeating (one of my struggles) and have no intention of ever really dealing with these kinds of (venial) sins. He thinks we can and should by grace and human determination "put to death" these lesser sins.

It does seem to be obvious that sin does have different consequences in the human sense, but perhaps not with God. I may get away with lust and even get sympathy for my struggles with it, but if I impregnate someone then a bigger price has to be paid. Still, Jesus made attitudes equivalent with action, did he not?

Larry is on the money when he suggests that we are redefining sin (addictions, human frailty, etc.) to suit ourselves, or the prevailing winds of culture.

My tradition has always been proud of the fact that we never believed in a sinning religion. I have a lot of Calvinists (Baptists) in my church who insist they never heard of such a thing. I suppose they never read much of Charles Stanley, whom I personally like, and have some connection with, having had family involved for years in Atlanta First Baptist. He believes that you don't have to sin if the Holy Spirit is really operating in your life, but he also teaches unconditional eternal security. Like all Pastors and Theologians, he gets his ideas from scripture.

Which leads me to wonder aloud, how can we do theology objectively? Can we ever? On any subject?
Hopefully the avnswer is yes.

Keith Drury said...

It didn't take long for the "decriminalization" issue to rise here. Chris bounds, our resident theologian (who reviewed this column) predicted that it would. American Christians have been on a journey of switching labels--things that used to be considered "sin to be delivered from" are becoming "addictions to be in recovery with." It is the modern way to be sinless-re-label sins as addictions.

But this column still asks the troubling question of how my doctrine of sin plays out on the "nasty sins" I think others shouldn't do, like homosexual acts or adultery. While many of the upper doctrines are popular today many evangelicals refuse to allow "really bad sinners" to use them--they reserve them for themselves and their own sins which denies their own doctrine "all sins are equal."

Me? I agree with Augustine--all sins are NOT the same, and I believe view #5.

Autumn Mom said...

OK, Keith....explain...why are all sins not the same. ;-)

I too agree with Augustine and #5 as well, but would like to see the argument in print!


P.S. I also wouldn't mind if you explained this:

"Your illustrations with slavery and the like fall before church history"

a quote some anonymous person put here...and idea that I would love to have developed further:


about drinking. ;-)

Ryan Budde said...


I completely agree with you, both about #5, and about levels of sin. Sin is not just "Breaking the law," it is defying God's word.

I know you aren't big on "proof texts," but we have to use scripture to define sin, and to help people defeat sin. I would like to hear more of that side of the discussion from you to give teeth to your, "I believe..." statements.

Anonymous said...

Yea...I agree. I have become increasingly uncomfortable with addiction language. Even though it is a language system I have used extensively in the past. But in "anonymous" style groups focused on "recovery" the concept is "once an addict always an addict."

Call me old fashioned but I think I prefer the bondage/prison/slavery/deliverance/freedom language. It not only has more hope, seems to make more sense. And since i have met some...I am encouraged.

But more to the issue...I think those who say that all sins are the same are usually logically inconsistent. We say that in the abstract (I have been guilty of thinking it in the past) but then against concrete situations where our own sense of justice is tested we disagree with ourselves. Is the man who drooled over a car and dreamed of stealing it but resisted adn walked away as guilty as the actual thief? Of course not? Person who imagines murder in bed before sleep then chases it away as guilty as a murderer?

I think the key qualifying phrase Jesus used was "in your heart." Adultery in bed is different from adultery in the heart. No two ways around it. Even if they are the same path.

Am I on the right track? Coach me... ;)

Ken said...

Isn't it possible to believe in all five at once, simultaneously?

After all, I really DO believe that I'm a "sinner and saint," even as I write this. Yet, I also believe my sins have all been forgiven - past, present, and future. I have victory over some sin, but others I do no. I agree that Christians don't have to sin, but I also know they do. And still, to wrap it all up, I believe in the ability of God to deliver us from all sin, and even the inclination to sin.

I know, I know... I sound like someone who doesn't want to answer the question. But believe me, I really do. Here's my take, with what I firmly believe mentioned toward the end.

1) Sinners and saints at once... all sin IS equal, but some sins have greater consequences. Gossip is no different than adultery or homosexuality, but there is a bigger price to pay for some types of sin. Isn't that why Paul wrote (concerning sexual immorality) that "all other sins a man commits outside his body, but sexual sin he commits against himself"? Isn't Paul advocating that certain sins have a more dangerous, long-term effect (and perhaps not only on the individual, but society as well)?

2. Sinners already forgiven... my sin IS forgiven, but I still have to transact that sin when grace is required. Just because my future sins are forgiven doesn't mean I don't need to acknowledge them as sin, or keep myself from sinning. That's why Paul wrote, "Shall we keep on sinning so that grace may abound? Absolutely not!"

3. Victory over some sin... God can deliver us - from everything. If conquering death and the grave wasn't sufficient, then who are we to believe God can have victory over ANYTHING? I believe we underestimate our own ability to win the battles of the flesh and the mind, and point #3 simply underscores the contemporary Christian's inability to believe that there is "wonder working power in the blood."

4. Victory over sin... I believe this - we can have victory over sin. Not only that, but we can find #5... deliverance from the inclination to sin. In fact, let's go right there...

5. Deliverance from the inclination to sin... What about the "old man being discarded, and the new man being put on"? I believe Christians underestimate the ability of God to change our thoughts, actions, and desires. I believe we don't preach it enough, study it enough, or testify to it enough. God bless Beth Moore for talking about deliverance more than most evangelical pastors today.

To be honest, I find myself believing in #5 but teaching #4 most the time. I think most Christians hang out in the 1-3 categories, and find #4 idealistic and #5 unattainable. So, if I can simply encourage someone to see that God can help them stop what God doesn't want (or start what he does) then that seems good enough. Put in your illustration, if I can convince a person with homosexual tendencies (or adulterous, wandering tendencies, or gossip, or etc.) to be a NON-practicing homosexual, it seems pretty good.

Now remember, I believe in #5, and I believe God wants to and is capable of delivering us from even the inclination to sin, but if I can help people even move toward a non-practicing position I feel like I've succeeded.

I have so much more to say, but I've written too much already. Perhaps someone would like to comment on my observations?

-Ken DePeal

Anonymous said...

How about encouraging them in a positive realm like the closer you move towards God, there is no way sin can remain. Like in a marriage, the closer and more intimate and satified you are with your spouse, committed folk naturally lose their tendency to wander....or so it would seem.

Holiness folk talk about spiritual surgery to remove the cancer of sin. Well, every patient who has ever undergone surgery has a period of healing and it usually isn't pretty. And considering that sin is considered deep and difficult surgery, one might think that recover could take a while.

It is nice to have great ideals, high hopes and deep beliefs but there is a reality....we are indeed still human and no matter how hard we try to be "perfect" in action and love, we fall short. Even the best of holiness folk/preachers fall short!

I recently heard one Nazarene preacher explain it something like this for folks who are exceedingly tired. When one is tired they lose all ability in the physical realm to fight which impacts their ability to function in the spiritual realm and therefore even the best of holiness folk need to be very careful at these times in their lives and should somewhere find/receive support from those around them.

Second point, when the children of Israel were circumcised in body, some did not remain "in the covenant" or slipped, moved back and forth, etc.

Why do you think that it is any different with heart circumcision? If having the Spirit makes this possible and the Spirit does not force folks in any way, what happens when folks just get too tired or down physically and cannot fight or depend on the Spirit? Please address those issues please. Thanks.