Monday, June 14, 2010

Trivializing Sin

The awareness of sin used to be our shadow. Christians hated sin, feared it, fled from it, grieved over it. Some of our grandparents agonized over their sins. A man who lost his temper might wonder whether he could still go to Holy Communion. A woman who for years envied her more attractive and intelligent sister might worry that this sin threatened her very salvation.

[Today] preachers mumble about sin. The other custodians of moral awareness often ignore, trivialize, or evade it.

- Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way It's Supposed to Be, 1995, H/T: T19


Anonymous said...

I agree Matt, sin isn't preached about as it used to be or should be these days. It is at times like these where we get comfortable living in sin, walking with one foot in the world and one in the church. We then, being trapped by sin, fall into leading mediocre lives instead of living passionately for the Lord and letting His light shine through us!
A time of repentance and revival is hopefully coming soon.


P.S. Best wishes finishing these last few weeks of the semester, God be with you.

Ed said...

If I may be so bold, I think that Dr. Plantinga's observations are due to a massive "secularization" of Christianity.

Instead of a biblical vision, in which it is written, "if we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received a knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins in left" and "no one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him," there is a "slap on the wrist" theology.

I see this in large manner due to the proliferation of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints extracted from its original Calvinist context. In other words, much of modern, American Christianity believes that because they have pledged themselves to God in the past (usually by some form of "sinner's prayer"), they cannot be damned, no matter how many times they divorce and remarry. The doctrine of eternal security and its permutations in our culture have aided and abetted the transformation of American Christianity from a predominantly eschatological orientation, to a primarily hedonistic or materialistic orientation. After all, if Christ's merits have already been applied to all your past, present, and future sins, why worry about them? Why even bother to try to avoid them? Because after you've said the sinner's prayer, it's all been taken care of.

Matt Perkins said...

A.J.: Thanks for the comment and your blessing!


To some degree I might I agree with you, although I do believe in the perseverance of the saints. I will say this though, anecdotally I've never met anyone who told me that they were fine with living in sin because they had prayed some prayer in the past and all their sins, including whatever one they were currently living in, was already taken care of. Instead, what I've seen, with the majority of my close friends whom I'm around now being somewhat strict Calvinists, are people who are strongly convicted of any sin in their lives, who confess sin to one another, and who strive for holiness. So, from my experience, Calvinists and Reformed folk who actively practice their religion are not anymore prone than any other group of Christians to down-playing the wickedness of sin and the necessity of battling it. In fact, I would say I saw more people when I was around mostly Arminians who would trivialize sin.

And Ed, you refer to American culture, which I agree is for the most part hedonistic and decadent, and you suggest that this may be related to some perversion of Reformed doctrine. But what about the culture in countries where Orthodoxy is prevalent? Why are they decadent and hedonistic? I will admit that I've never been to Eastern Europe but I have read a lot about it, I've known many people from there and I've seen a good number of educational programs about those areas and they are certainly no less depraved or hedonistic than more Protestant areas. I guess if you want to make what impact a religion has on a culture your standard then maybe you should become Muslim - Saudi Arabia seems pretty anti-hedonism to me. You also once suggested on my blog that Atheism was more prevalent in areas affected by Calvinistic doctrine. But it wasn't a country which had once embraced Calvinism that first enshrined Atheism as central to the philosophy of its government. It was Soviet Russia, the heartland of Orthodox Christianity, which did that in 1917.

But in the end it has nothing to do with the culture. All men are totally depraved and any move away from hedonism or decadence or sin in any culture comes only by the grace of God which is ours only through Christ's atoning death and His resurrection.

Thanks for the comment Ed!

Ed said...

Please note that I did mention that it was not Calvinism that was the problem itself here (although as a Christian and a biblical student I do think it is a problem, generally), but rather an American post-revivalist misappropriation of a specific Calvinist doctrine.

That being said, didn't France enshrine atheism in the late 1700s? (Not a rhetorical question.)

Also, I'm not sure you can argue that Russian atheism was exactly "home grown." To me it looks more of German invention, both as philosophy and stratagem. But even so, no doubt the vicissitudes of history are no reason to be found without holiness, and perhaps this can be said equally of New England, the Netherlands, Greece and Russia, I don't know.

What I do know is that the Orthodox faith is the only one that makes the Holy Scriptures make sense to me and has been the only place I have found a Christianity that did not feel fundamentally contrived. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'll pay for it with hellfire, but I hope not.

Matt Perkins said...

Hey Ed...
Sorry I was a little harsh, a few too many 80 hour work weeks on the Internal Medicine wards maybe. Hmm... France in the late 1700's? Did they actually enshrine Atheism? I knew that the revolution had a lot of negative consequences for the RCC there and I know they were certainly secularists but wasn't sure that they enshrined Atheism. I guess I thought a lot of them were deists or something... might as well be Atheist, I guess. Didn't mean to suggest I thought you were facing hellfire and I've never suggested that my friend. Maybe I will avoid posting after a long day of work in the future. May God bless you.