Monday, June 29, 2009

I Don't Believe In Sin

I had a thought recently about people who claim not to believe in sin. I say "claim" because, as you'll see, they actually do believe in sin. It came about because I have contact with someone who claims not to believe in sin… that is, this person denies that there's such a thing as sin, and will even say that they do not agree that there are things a person should not do. This is a very common idea, particularly in the new age movement.

It occurred to me, however, that I've seen the very people who express this view become angry at or disappointed in another person or group of people when that person (or persons) has done something that they don't approve of or otherwise doesn't meet their expectation. When they do this they're demonstrating a firm belief in sin, regardless of their claims to the contrary.

First, we should understand just what the word "sin" means. The word "sin" is really an old archery term which means to "miss the mark" or "fall short of a standard." That's a pretty broad idea. Although we wouldn't use it this way today, it would actually be correct to say that missing the bullseye on a target is a "sin." The bullseye is the target, the "standard," and you missed it. But notice that it doesn't say whose standard has been missed or what that particular standard might have been. Even though we usually think of a "sin" being a violation of God's standard, if you think about what the word really means, it turns out it can be anyone's standard pertaining to virtually anything.

So that means that you could set a standard that you want me to meet. Doesn't matter what it is. Maybe you want me to mow your lawn by the end of next week. Whatever. If Saturday comes and I haven't mowed your lawn, then you could say I've "sinned".

Now just because I didn't mow your lawn when you wanted me to doesn't mean I've sinned against God. Again, the basic concept of sin involves a standard, set by someone, but that someone may or may not be God. The Bible represents God's standards it's easy to see that everyone falls short of that standard. You could give someone another set of standards and although you might hold a person to those standards, God might not. It just depends on what those standards are.

The bottom line is that "sin" need not be such a scary word. People don't like it because of the spiritual or religious connotation it usually carries. But it's really much more broad than that.

The point is, it's a kind of hard to say you "don't believe in sin" if you understand properly what the word means. You see, the person who says they don't believe in sin will find themselves in an awful predicament the next time someone they know, maybe a spouse or a friend or family member, falls short of their own expectations. They claim not to believe in falling short of expectations, after all.

Forget about God's standards for a moment and think of a married couple. Each spouse has set a standard for the other to meet: One of those standards is fidelity. Each spouse expects the other to be faithful. That's the standard. Now if the husband fails to meet this standard (again, we're not talking about God's standard) the wife is likely to get very angry and very disappointed. Why? Because her standard was not met. But if the wife is someone who doesn't believe in falling short of a standard, then just what does she have to get upset about? Why should she have the standard to begin with? She should have absolutely no negative reaction at all to her husband's infidelity if there is really no such thing as sin. In fact, if there is no such thing as sin, then none of us has the right to get angry at anyone, or to be disappointed in anyone, when our standards are not met. In anything.

So, if someone steals your bag of groceries, just shrug it off. They didn't fall short of your standard, because there's no such thing as falling short of a standard. If your friend stabs you in the back, just shrug it off. No such thing as sin, remember? The checker shorts you $20 in change? Don't get angry. No such thing as falling short of a standard, remember? If a politician breaks a promise, not to worry. No such thing as falling short.

Maybe I'm not being fair. After all, when people say they don't believe in sin, what they're talking about is God's standard. They're saying they don't believe in a god who has a standard. They're not saying they can't have a standard. Right?

Exactly right. They think it's okay for them to set a standard and hold people accountable to it, but it's not okay for God to set a standard and hold them accountable to it. I mean if God can't have a standard, then why should we have a standard? I'm going to object to God setting a standard and holding me to it, but then I'm going to set standards for others and hold them to my standard? How hypocritical is that?

There's no easy way out of this one, I'm afraid. A person who really, honestly believes there's no such thing as sin has absolutely no right to ever get angry at anyone for anything. If they do get angry at someone for something, then they're either a hypocrite or they have to admit that there's such a thing as sin. No way out.


  1. Fun argument -- especially if you also know that being angry and disappointed is also a "sin" (according to God's standards).

  2. It's the mental sins, IMO (Dee, that means In My Opinion), that are actually where the biggest battle is constantly being waged.

    I can see temptation coming, and it's hard to push it back. It's a full time job to stay in fellowship.

    I know people who just don't understand the power of sin, and although they wouldn't claim to have a halo over their heads, they don't consider themselves to be "sinners." In their minds, sinners are people who commit crimes. They don't understand that simply being vain is a sin.