Thursday, 1 June 2017

Atheists don't understand sin...

So there is no point in discussing the subject.

Christian sin is a concept relating to the reality of God and his plan of salvation. Normal, mainstream, secular people deny this framework; hence they equate sin with illegal, and assume that sin implies some kind of physical punishment.

Such a misunderstanding is inevitable - if you don't believe that God is real, then naturally all morality must be secular, hence ultimately legalistic.

But it is an easy trap to engage in talking at cross purposes. Therefore, if a secular person asks 'do you/ Christians regard X as a sin?' - then you need to ask-back: 'What do you mean by 'sin' and what are its implications for you?'

Only then can you give an answer. There is no point in saying 'Yes! I/ we regard X as a sin' if that statement is absolutely certain to be misunderstood.

The only possibility for going further than such a denial is when there is a genuine interest from the other party in understanding what is meant by sin; and such a conversation would take at least several minutes of exposition and clarification. Most people can't be bothered; indeed they prefer to misunderstand.

The interesting thing is that  - by the above test - 'liberal Christians' (e.g. the type who make a point of advertising the Diversity of their churches, or who make a point of apologising for past bad behaviour .. not by themselves, but of their predecessors); such types also fail to understand the nature of sin - in this respect they are just as ignorant as mainstream atheists; however much they dress-up their ignorance in Christian terminology.

(Which should, itself, be enough to remove any lingering doubts you may have gullibly entertained regarding their Christian falseness and fakery.)


13 comments:

Anonymous said...

>Normal, mainstream, secular people deny this framework; hence they equate sin with illegal, and assume that sin implies some kind of physical punishment.

It's interesting that you phrase it this way, because I find the biggest tell for atheist/secular thinking is that they think IF it's a sin then it CAN'T be illegal. Like, it's okay to ban smoking just because you think it's aesthetically distasteful or modestly unhealthy, but if you think something is a sin then it can't be legislated.

In my own limited understanding, God has ordained the powers of the earth in order that they might punish sins, even though sinfulness itself is beyond human power.

~quaslacrimas

Bruce Charlton said...

This is not the point I was making above, but:

I make a different interpretation. Modern people are metaphysically incoherent - so they are necessarily inconsistent. They may say 'you can't legislate morality' - but they don't mean it; because they are totalitarian in micro-legislating their own (incoherent) morality.

They merely mean that they do not want the law to support Christian morality.

Because, if the law did Not support morality, then the law would be utterly abitrary hence immoral; and we would have zero obligation to obey it. However, in practice they want Christians to acknowledge the morality of anti-Christian laws - such that (for modern secualr people) when the law changes, morality changes - and Christians are supposed to acknowledge this.

Like I said - it is inconsistent - all the way down...

Anonymous said...

Dr.Charlton,
the problem with modern morality is that it puts all stress on the acts. If somebody does a 'wrong act', then he is an immoral person. This misunderstanding it shares with legalistic Christianity, only that over there they call it 'sin' instead.

But this is simply wrong understanding; as trying to root out 'sin' or 'wrong acts' only produces evil in the end. The reality is that what you /do/ does not matter that much; what matters is what you /are/, the motivation behind your act.

As a certain wise person put it: "Love God, and then do what you will".

LaoTze

Bruce Charlton said...

@LT - Actually, I think that plenty of secular modern people understand the distinction between motivation and action, and that motivation is primary - but that isn't enough to understand sin. Indeed, I would say that sin cannot be understood without first understanding the basic set-up of things, and what God wants - because sin is defined against that.

Donna Brown said...

actually there is now an even more modern approach to "wrongdoing" that you are leaving out. You describe modern sins/wrongs as legally defined, but that is not really true any more: people define them "situationally", based on moral relativism, not legally. So a wrong in our post-modern world is defined by hurting someone's feelings (which happens based on their interpretation of the so-called wrongdoer's acts/words) so wrongs have become entirely subjective. Legal definitions of wrongdoing are actually better than these subjective definitions, since the latter are open to gross abuse. So using your schema, there are 3, not 2, ways of defining wrongs: acts against God's plan; acts against known laws or standards; and acts that may be neither but someone subjectively interprets them as hurtful...

Bruce Charlton said...

@Donna "So a wrong in our post-modern world is defined by hurting someone's feelings" - Yes indeed. This has been the basis of many of the Political Correctness witch-hunts that I have been involved in - directed at myself, friends, colleagues etc.

But a further aspect of having feelings hurt is whether you are in a victim group, and the relative status of your victim group wrt to 'hurter' and 'hurtee'. As an elderly, white, English, native born, Christian, middle class, married man then I am 100 percent privileged and to blame for everything. Thus objectively at the bottom of all possible pecking orders.

But joking aside, and to be exact, the being-offended ethic isn't consistent; and is applied, or not-applied, to situations by the mass media or bureaucrats according to unpredictably expedient grounds - but to be accused is certainly to be guilty.

Aaron said...

"I would say that sin cannot be understood without first understanding the basic set-up of things, and what God wants - because sin is defined against that."

That sounds like Nominalism, unless I haven't understood.

Surely, rough, uneducated people with very little capacity to understand the basic set of things can, or what God wants, know what sin is.

Surely it isn't an intellectual thing?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Aaron - Sin is a consequence of our metaphysical assumptions - these need not be explicit, but as soon as somebody tries to critique then they must be come explicit. The situation we are in here and now in the West is one in which our natural, spontaneous metaphysics has been subverted, and indeed inverted in some instances - so we have reached the point where we must be explicit about our assumptions as a step toward correcting their falsity.

The current situation is unprecedented. And it is worse than ever before (that we know of) precisely because the demonic powers have succeeded in inverting some of our deepest intuitions. That is why the past solutions are ineffectual.

On the other hand, this was a challenge that we probably must face sooner or later on the path of theosis - the greatest challenge. If we (as individuals) can overcome it, then we will in some respects have succeeded at an even deeper level than the challenge itself.

Aaron said...

Thanks for your explanation, Bruce.

I would agree with you that sin is a consequence of our implicit metaphysical assumptions, even if unstated.

A persons behavior always implies an unspoken metaphysics...

And it is important (and has always been, even if less so than now) to spell out metaphysical assumptions to help us avoid sin.

I would merely add that one need not have a comprehensive and well-worked out intellectual understanding of the set up of the world and God, but must surely have 'correct' metaphysics on at least a few key points even if only on the intuitive level (like the falseness of materialism, life after death, etc)

But I basically agree with you here...



Bruce Charlton said...

@Aaron - Good.

Your point is one I also make: Christianity is for children and simple people as much as for intellectuals - so it cannot be necessarily intellectually complex or difficult. It must ultimately be 'easy' enough to grasp to be comprehensible by anyone for the purpose of salvation and living well.

However, that is in the natural situation; but now children and simple people are corrupted and confused ever more rapidly - they are pre-immunised against the simplicity of Christianity; or they are led, as adolescents - mostly, to see Christianity as simplistic.

This is why our modern situation is different. In the past, many/ most people had a natural sense of sin, and of virtue - and their own shortfall; conversion to Christianity was gratefully received so long as people believed it was true (of course, in practice the simple Good News of Christianity was always to some extent, sometimes a large extent, warped and corrupted into oppressive social control by the sinful human institution of The Church).

But now the problem for most people is not whether or not Christianity is true; but that they have been led to believe that even ideal Christianity is actually evil; or at least inferior to secular Leftist morality.

This is down to false, and incoherent, metaphysical assumptions from modern culture that are invisible and/ or denied.

Aaron said...

Yes, in some ways we are worse then ever, and more confused than ever, but I do believe in some ways this is a very propitious moment for religion, more so than ever in the past 500 years...

For the past 500 years the real aims of Europeans have been pursuit of power, wealth, and self-aggrandizement, and indeed this was all seen as compatible with a Christian life...

But it is clear that power and self-aggrandizement no longer have the power to seriously motivate Europeans en mass, we have "seen though" all that, we are no longer spellbound by the great charade of worldly pomp and splendor...

Yes, we are more confused than ever, depressed and uncertain, aimless, we may even allow ourselves to be colonized by Muslims...

But at least we are freed from a very pernicious spell, that is more hostile to true spirituality than perhaps anything else...

We are utterly "decadent"...

But original Christianity grew up precisely in such conditions...not at the height of the pomp and splendor of the Roman empire, but during its "decadent" period...

Such conditions are fertile ground, highly propitious, in my view...

We seem to be in a "pre-Buddhistic" phase, that can transition into genuine Christianity (not power and glory Christianity)..

PC and the "left", with all their insanity and evil and confusion (which I would not deny for a moment) and as much as they are co-opted by selfish insincere elements, contain a germ of hope...

And our "death wish" is also a hopeful sign, paradoxically, as out of the ashes of death new things arise...

But - on the other hand, we are also further than ever from key metaphysical understandings, as you say, and we may not, in the end, choose the right path...

But I don't necessarily agree that this is the worst moment in history...its true meaning seems very murky and unclear to me now...

Bruce Charlton said...

@A - I think you may have conflated a report on our current condition with prediction. I believe we are spiritually in the worst state so far - but the future depends on human agency, so remains undecided.

But what you describe for Now seems more like that situation in the early 1970s, when it evolved into consumerism-on-steroids and mass media cubed.

There aren't close spiritual parallels between now and AD 30 - the Romans were extremely religious, as well as being what we would regard as superstitious; and pagans usually convert easily to Christianity.

There has never been a society like there is now. So what will happen can't really be predicted, only prophesied.

Aaron said...

Good, points, Bruce.

But even the ancient Hindus and Buddhists had to deal with a sect of materialists (the Charvaka), so there is hope for us.

Time will tell.