Identifying Sin for What it Is
The following conversation risks angering many people. I sincerely regret this. I stand to lose friends over it. But, it needs to be said and it cannot be avoided. The longer we sweep it under the rug, the more damage it will cause, so we need to try to put a stop to it right now.
Before you blow your stack, I urge you to read your Bible through carefully from cover to cover. I don’t want anyone to think I’m pulling a fast one over. I want everybody to understand that I’m doing my very best to explain Scripture exactly as it is written without adding anything to it or taking anything from it. You should see that, if you have a dispute, it’s not with me; it’s with the authors of Scripture. I’m just a messenger; my job is to stand and deliver.
What if you have a dispute with the authors? God is the principal Author of Scripture. The human co-authors of Scripture are all chosen by God. If you have a dispute with these authors, either you do not correctly understand what you are studying, or you are wrong. Kicking against men is sometimes acceptable and justified. Kicking against God will only bring you more trouble than you already have: you don’t need it, it cannot be made acceptable, and it is never justified. Among other things, this Word of God tells you about all the wonderful things that God has done for you, including the gift of science. Rejecting this Word and kicking against God is just plain old rude, ungrateful, unthankful behavior. If you really want to go there, you are on your own.
If the Bible specifically identifies a particular behavior as sin, then it’s sin. You’re not going to get me to say otherwise. You have a right to believe what you want to believe, but you’re not going to get God to change His mind. Is your opinion really worth losing His friendship, love, and respect over? Or, are you better off with, “Not My will, but Thine be done?”
A Very Specific Example
The following passage and discussion is extremely ugly, controversial, frightening, and filled with violent sexual language. Please think twice before allowing any child, not yet adolescent, to read this at all. If you decide otherwise, never let a child read this material without the immediate presence and supervision of the child’s parent or legally appointed guardian. Parents or guardians should be present at all times, read the passage and discussion with the child, and carefully explain the meaning using simple, non-threatening words.
“ Ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ἄδικοι βασιλείαν Θεοῦ οὐ κληρονομήσουσι; Μὴ πλανᾶσθε οὔτε πόρνοι, οὔτε εἰδωλολάτραι, οὔτε μοιχοὶ, οὔτε μαλακοὶ, οὔτε αρσενοκοῖται, οὔτε κλέπται, οὔτε πλεονέκται, οὔτε μέθυσοι, οὐ λοίδοροι, οὐχ ἅρπαγες, βασιλείαν Θεοῦ οὐ κληρονομήσουσι. Καὶ ταῦτά τινες ἦτε∙ ἀλλὰ ἀπελούσασθε ἀλλὰ ἡγιάσθητε, ἀλλ’ ἐδικαιώθητε ἐν τῷω ὀνόματι τοῦ Κυρίου Ἰησοῦ καὶ ἐν τῷ Πνεύματι τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμῶν.”
“Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit [the] kingdom of God? Don’t be misled: neither prostitutes, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor weaklings, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor coveters, nor drunkards; not railers, not robbers, [these] will not inherit [the] kingdom of God. And you were some of these things: but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and in the Spirit of our God.”
Common Errors in Handling this Passage
It is wrong, even sinful, to single out any thing from this item list and emphasize it exclusively. There are at least two very good reasons for not singling out any one thing from Paul’s item list.
The first reason: James writes, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Paul certainly has the Ten Commandments in mind as he writes. Paul can single out sins for instruction, he’s an Apostle, we are not. Singling out any one sin (other than for purposes of illustration) for undue attention suggests that somehow or other we can be guilty of one sin but innocent of the rest. This is simply not true. Rousas John Rushdoony was fond of saying, “The Law is a seamless garment.” It cannot be torn or even frayed without ruining it.
Let us use the non-controversial and non-threatening word “klepto” as an example. A thief has sinned. He has broken The Law, the Ten Commandments, not just one of them, all of them. Consequently, a thief is also a worshiper, maker, and slave of idols. He is a Sabbath breaker, an abuser of God’s Name, a hater of parents and authority, a murderer, an adulterer, coveter, fornicator, homosexual, pedophile, pimp, prostitute, robber, and lest we leave anything out, etc....
We are simply forbidden to single out theft for special attention by subjecting thieves to special cruel and unusual punishment, by inventing terms like kleptophobia or klepto-bashing (especially if we intend to use these terms for abusing others). On the other hand, we are also forbidden to deny the same remedy for sin that avails for almost all other sin.
The second reason: I might get the silly idea into my head that my sin is not as bad as that sin. For example, “I admit it, I’m a railer, but I’m not nearly as bad as a drunkard, a coveter, or a robber. I’m certainly not as bad as a thief; they’re the bottom of the barrel as far as I’m concerned.”
Thank God, I’m not in charge. However, God is in charge, and as far as He is concerned all of these sins are worthy of eternal death: for, none of these will “inherit [the] kingdom of God.” Is there anyone so obtuse they don’t realize that this means all who persist in doing such things will be cast into the Lake of Fire, which we more commonly call Hell. My sin is every bit as bad as yours is; it deserves and receives the same punishment.
It is wrong to say that any single thing in this item list is not sin.
It is what it is. It’s sin. It receives the same condemnation and punishment. Let’s call it what it is. Hiding behind metaphors does not lessen the offense in the eyes of God, and it obstructs the search for healing. The faithful physician must not only call the disease cancer, he must also identify the precise form and extent of the cancer before he can apply an effective treatment.
The Church is a fully equipped hospital for the healing of sinners. It has extensive emergency facilities, all necessary ICUs, as well as thorough long term, even eternal care units. There is nothing the Church cannot do for the healing and care of sinners: for the Father has given the Son to be the Chief Physician and director of Hospital Church, and the Holy Spirit to be its Chief Administrator and director of eternal care.
It’s theft. It’s not borrowing, recreational liberation, habitual lifting, light pilfering, or freeing items from abusive bondage. It’s theft. Let’s call it what it is. Let’s stop hiding behind metaphors.
Sin is sin, let’s get it fixed.
It is wrong to approve of any behavior specified in this item list.
Here is the main point of what we are driving at. It’s bad enough to call a sin something else. It’s inexcusable when individuals approve of their own sins or the sins of others. But, when churches approve of sin and write that approval into their canonical documents, their corporate legal minute books, they have destroyed their own churches.
Paul makes this point very clear. “And you were some of these things: but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and in the Spirit of our God.” The job of the churches is dispensing grace: baptism, Chrismation, and absolution.
Churches that deny a sin exists or grant approval of sin have eliminated their own reason for existence. There is absolutely no warrant for approving of theft, granting thieves access to the pulpit, or openly declaring that theft is not a sin. If this happens to you it is time to insist that your church leave its denomination, or for you to find another church in which to worship. Get out now; there is nothing positive to accomplish by remaining trapped in this kind of senseless compromise.
It is wrong not to distinguish between the premeditated, habitual practice, and the accidental repentant occasional falling into sin.
It’s one thing to be a thief, to plan to be a thief, to declare to the world that I’m a thief, and to set about to practice theft on a daily basis. It’s another thing to be sorely tempted and take something that doesn’t belong to you. It’s yet one other thing to deny the theft, to show no remorse, to refuse confession, and do nothing to make amends (like giving the item back or paying for it, with evident shame and apology). It’s still another to be sincerely sorrowful, confess, make every attempt to make amends, and purpose by God’s grace and mercy never to commit that sin again. The “one” things are without remedy. The “another” things have complete remedy.
In recognition of these facts, the sincere Christian realizes that these things seize upon us every minute of every day and such Christians undertake the serious exhortation to pray without ceasing. Christian and Christiana maintain regular attendance at worship, fully recognizing that this is the work of God’s mercy. They read and study, even memorize Scripture, and in general live changed lives. If they are overwhelmed with temptation, they are kleptomaniacs, they rapidly seek out the help of pastors, priests, and other Christians to whom they can be accountable. With the help of others, they put controls in place that will prohibit the commission of that sin again. Perhaps they never, henceforth, shop alone, escorted by someone who knows their problem and is wise in ways of preventing it. Perhaps they let others do all their shopping for them.
A wise person once said, “We cannot prevent the birds from flying overhead; but, we don’t have to let them build a nest in our hair.”
There is a clear distinction between a thief and a theft. There is a clear distinction between adamant resistance against God and repentance toward God.
Results of Common Errors
The Destruction of Churches
Churches that violate these principles are destroyed and are no longer churches. Both the church that singles out sin with the intent or result of denying grace, and the church that singles out sin with the intent of approving it, denying its existence are equally at fault. Churches are ultimately dispensers of God’s judgement and justice. God’s standard of justice is always mercy. Both of these faults result in the denial of mercy to the sinner. It’s not merciful to tell a sinner he’s okay or to beat him up for his sin. A church without mercy is no church at all.
Leading the Innocent Astray
Both the corruption of denying grace and the corruption of approving sin mislead the innocent, particularly children into false belief and stumbling. Before we continue on either of these roads any farther, we should give careful attention to Jesus words in Matthew 18.
Causes of Common Errors
How do churches get snared in these traps? Paul says that “the flesh lusts against the spirit and the sprit lusts against the flesh.” The perpetually evil human will is always in play. We wrestle continually against the world, the flesh, and the devil. However, the flesh is the most corrupt and dangerous of these enemies by far. The problem runs right down the center of our bodies through the middle of our pituitary glands. “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
In the parable of “the Camel with the Cold Nose,” the herdsman begins his night asleep in his warm tent. He’s awakened in the middle of the night by his camel who is complaining of a cold nose, so in gentleness and mercy he lets the poor camel sleep with his nose inside the tent door-flap. Before the night ends, indeed within that very hour, the camel is sleeping in the tent and the herdsman is outside in the cold.
We all know about slippery slope logic. It starts with, “It was only a little sin.” I’m not going to attempt to detail for you what that little sin might be. Or, it is excessive attention to a sin that blows it all out of proportion to reality, often with cruel and unusual punishment attached. Frequently, both of these errors are going on at the same time in the same place. It’s your job to figure out what went wrong, where the train started to go off the track, no one else can do that for you. I’ve got a pretty good idea of things that have derailed my life, but I won’t pretend to have a clue about what happened in your life. Yet, whatever it is, it was some slight disregard of God’s Word, some little weed that grew to become a raging monster. A little sin unrepented, is quickly followed by bigger and bigger sins, until death takes charge.
Expressions like, “We’re so glad that the Holy Spirit has brought is to this understanding, that theft is not sin and we now fully approve of theft,” are just obfuscations and outright lies. Claims like, “You’re being legalistic,” or “You’re not a very loving person,” are just smokescreens to cover the treachery of human willfulness. The most loving, righteous, and Holy Spirit honoring action is to rip the mask off of the human willfulness and bring healing to the sin that lies underneath.
Improper Application of Science
What does this have to do with science? This is the primary reason we wrote our first paper on Christianity and Science. These issues in Paul’s list are too large to put into a test-tube for evaluation. Science may give us helpful little pieces of information, but science is incapable of seeing; let alone solving the whole puzzle.
If science should discover that there is a genetic sequence for theft, and that this genetic sequence makes people that have it irresistibly prone to theft, very little has changed. Theft is still theft, and still sin. Science does not give us the right to approve of this sin. What science does teach us is that this sin is more dangerous than we previously thought, and we must take extra and very wise care in its prevention. Science does not give us a license to permit sin or approve it. The practice of sin must be restrained in a well-ordered society. The full weight of grace and mercy must be brought against sin in a well-ordered church. Science simply has nothing to say about the definition of sin. The definition of sin is under the exclusive authority and power of God as He has written it in His Bible. No one has the right to tamper with the Divine definitions or their remedies and punishments.
Equally problematic is bad science. Science makes makes mistakes. Most of these mistakes are innocent. Given two effects, there may be an interaction between them that is hard to find. Science is largely about discovering and describing such effects and interactions. This can be a very arduous task. Many interactions have gone unnoticed for centuries. Others of these mistakes are outright frauds. In both cases, finding and eliminating errors is even more difficult than the discovery that led to the original mistake.
It is extremely important that we not let science unduly inform our theology. In most cases, science has nothing to say about history, poetry, or theology. In all cases, science has nothing to say about morality.
Poor or Devious Interpretation of Scripture
One of the most surprising and difficult problems was the difficulty of making an honest translation, interpretation, and explanation of this very passage. Nearly every word in Paul’s list is disputed. In every instance, we disclosed all of the source information available to us, even when we disagreed with the argument. Theologians on both sides of the debate have an axe to grind. Often enough, both sides have erred. We have sorted through these arguments and attempted to resolve conflicts. These proposed solutions are all subject to your examination. Our reasoning could be flawed. You decide.
There is one point about which we have made no error. No individual: not pastor, priest, bishop, or Pope; no group of individuals: not church, synod, or council has the authority or power to approve of behavior, which is identified as sin in God’s Holy Word. No one of these has the right to exaggerate or trivialize the seriousness of any sin. No one of these has the right to deny the means of grace to suffering sinners. Christianity does not excuse sin, rather it points out the way of repentance. Hiding sin is not love. God’s rich mercy provides redemption for all these things. It is not our place to tamper. Tampering destroys churches.
 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: Η Καινη Διαθηκη, Novum Testamentum, The Greek New Testament (Dallas Theological Seminary): we reject the text critical work of both Westcott-Hort (1881) and Nestle-Aland (1952) out of hand. This Dallas Theological Seminary reprint of Η Καινη Διαθηκη is as close as we can get to the text published under the authority of the Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch. We believe that Η Καινη Διαθηκη, preserved by Greek scholars for centuries is the correct text. We do not understand overthrowing the faithful labors of scholars whose first language is Greek, in favor of scholars who only possess second-hand knowledge of Greek and whose language skills are necessarily inferior. In any case, we reviewed other texts and no significant variations were found.
 Standard definitions are: a pornos (nominative plural) is a catamite, a male prostitute, or either party in a pedophilial relationship, especially the child: for example, Zeus and Ganymede (Catamitus in Latin), a pederast, any person who treats the sexual nature casually or indecently. The Analytical Greek Lexicon (Zondervan) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catamite, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pederast. We reject these standard definitions for the following reasons. Paul may have the First Commandment in mind here: namely, as the disgusting fornicatious relationship with any false god. On the other hand, 1 Corinthians 7:2 seems to use the same term more generally; that is sexually immoral people: namely, idolaters, adulterers, catamites, homosexuals. According to this view, the first word introduces the broad topic of sexually immorality while the following words list specific examples. However, both TDNT and Vine (http://www.the-goldenrule.name/Fornication_Greek-PERNEMI.htm) show that πόρνη derives from πέρνημι: to sell. This places the emphasis on the professional aspect of this act, not on its sordid details, which might be anything sexual for sale. Hence, πόρνοι, in 6:9 must be translated prostitutes and in 7:2, πoρνείας should be translated prostitution. Paul is most evidently concerned about this rampant cultural practice in Corinth. Such prostitution was commonly associated with the worship of false gods. This definitely reinforces the idea that the first commandment is in view.
 An eidoloatres (nominative plural) is a slave of an idol. This is a compound word, idol-slave or idol-servant. Paul may have the Second and Third Commandments in mind here, and overall, he may be simply summarizing the Ten Commandments.
 This (nominative plural) word involves the specifically sexual sin of violating the marriage covenant or sacrament. The emphasis is on the betrayal of the covenant or sacrament, not on the nature of any bizarre acts that might be involved.
 The (nominative plural) word is problematic. It cannot refer to physical infirmity. Hence, it probably refers to some sort of spiritual infirmity such as unbelief or double mindedness. Jesus came to “save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).” The failure to trust, or to vacillate in trust concerning God’s ability to save is a heinous although curable sin. This is the nature of the disease or weakness of unbelief (lack of faith, distrust of God). We reject the less likely, it refers to effeminacy, trans-gender behavior, or a catamite. Paul clearly includes this idea of pedophilia in his use of other terms: there is no reason to believe that he is beating the topic to death with unnecessary repetition here. http://www.gaychristian101.com/Define-Malakoi.html
 The (nominative plural) word αρσενοκοῖται literally means man-bedder. In the context of classical languages, this always means a man who beds another man (with or without love). The emphasis of the word is on the people doing the act, not on their motivations or reasons for doing it, no matter how well intended or sincere. To be blunt, a man who performs man-coitus. http://www.catalystresources.org/issues/222dodd.html. An opposing view is expressed in http://www. facebook.com/notes/christian-bigotry-kills/a-study-in-gaffed-greek/243578985758938. However, we reject the idea that love somehow makes the behavior different or less sinful. The flaws in this line of reasoning are adequately developed in the first article.
 This (nominative plural) word simply means thief, one who steals by stealth rather than with violence. This is the “klepto” in kleptomania.
 The (nominative plural) πλεονέκται indicates ones who are extremely covetous, even to the point of avarice, extortion, and fraud.
 Those who are habitually drunk, use alcoholic beverages to excess, active alcoholics. “One is fun, two is too much, three is never enough.” Christians are not required to abstain, but to keep the use of all things under control at all times.
 People who attack and intimidate others through the use of abusive, harsh, insulting, vituperative language; who curse or vilify.
 This (nominative plural) word indicates one who steals with violence rather than by stealth.
 This is obviously the work of God in baptism, Chrismation, and absolution. The three aorist (simple past tense) verbs may indicate a stative condition rather than a past act: “but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified.”
 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: our own translation
 James 2:10 KJV
 There is such a thing as unforgivable sin, but every sin in this list may be forgiven.
 Many churches call this confirmation. It is that aspect of baptismal services, whether conducted immediately or years later, which bestows the gift and power of the Holy Spirit.
 In the reality of being “in the world, yet not of the world” Christians necessarily get their feet dirty. This requires the ongoing renewal of baptism in foot washing which is also called confession, and in God granted forgiveness, which is also called absolution. These things work together to give us complete access to the fellowship and communion of God’s great banquet table, not someday, but here and now. In this process, we are declared righteous; but over time and after death we are being made ultimately righteous; and the damage done to our bodies and creation by our sin is being obliterated. We are being, and will someday be completely healed, not in this life.
 Walt Kelly, I Go Pogo.