Tough Questions Answered

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Are All Sins Equal? Part 2

Post Author: Bill Pratt

So we’ve seen that the Bible does teach that some sins are more serious than others and that some virtues are greater than others.  There is a moral law hierarchy.  But what does this practically mean?

First, let’s look at debates over public policy.  When determining where to focus your efforts on a particular law, you must consider its seriousness.  A great example is abortion.  Many Christians focus on the abortion issue because it is such a serious moral failure in our country.  Abortion kills over a million lives every year.  Taking innocent human life is pretty high up the moral law measuring stick.

Some people ask why Christians aren’t more outspoken about global warming.  My answer to that question is, “The death of millions of innocent babies today is far more serious a moral issue than the possible rise in temperature of the earth over the next 100 years.”  The consequences of global warming are surely speculative and uncertain, as any future prediction of ultra-complex climate activity must be, whereas we have a definite problem, abortion, staring us in the face today.

We have to make these kinds of decisions all the time.  What are the most serious moral issues of the day for our nation?  If we just say that all moral issues are equal, we are unable to focus our efforts on what matters more.

Second, what about the Christian life in particular?  In this life, the worse we sin, the more out of touch with God we are.  As my wife likes to say, “God keeps us from sin, and sin keeps us from God.”  If you, as a Christian, are engaging in adultery, then clearly this sin will have greater effect on your walk with God than if you once neglect to call your mother to wish her “Happy Birthday.”

Paul taught that a particular kind of sexual immorality (a man having sexual relations with his father’s wife)  should cause the expulsion of the man committing this sin (1 Cor. 5), but he didn’t write a letter demanding expulsion for someone scrawling graffiti in the streets of Corinth.  Graffiti may be a sin, but it is less serious than sleeping with your father’s wife.  Different sins demand different punishments.

There are also rewards in heaven for the Christian, based on her moral behavior in this life.  In 1 Cor. 3 Paul teaches that the good works we bring to God after we die determine our rewards in heaven.  Some of our works will be so worthless that they will be “burned up.”  Those works of high quality will survive the flames.  The kinds of moral actions we pursue in this life matter for eternity.  The Bible seems to teach that the quality of our good works on earth will determine our ability to enjoy heaven.  Again, our sins and our virtues matter for eternity.

So, how can we summarize?  All sins are equal in that they condemn us before a perfect God.  This is an important point to make when we are evangelizing the lost.  But all sins are not equal when it comes to public legislation, temporal punishment and praise, sanctification (our walk with God where we become more like Christ), and eternal rewards.  When we talk about sin, let’s make sure we consider the situation and apply the correct teaching.


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Comments

  • Raphael

    Bill,

    (1) Is there really a hierarchy? Or were the Pharisees at fault because they thought that there was such a hierarchy?

    (3) Global Warming is more complex than just “a possible rise in temperature over the next 100 years”. For one thing, it is occurring now, not in the future. For another, Global Warming affects the river currents, which cause climatological shifts. Depending on where you are in the world, your country might get hotter or colder. So Global Warming results in the Asian Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and the recent extended snow-spell across Europe and Russia and China. And all of these affect millions, no, billions of people around the world.

    (5) Cliches are nice, but do you know what they mean?

    (6) Different punishments doesn’t mean that the sins have a different quality.

    (7) Your second part is correct; your first part is somewhat off-track. It is this kind of attitude about “rewards in heaven” that drive people away from the Church and Christians. And I thought that protestants believe in Sola Fide? Where does works come in?

  • Bill Pratt

    “So Global Warming results in the Asian Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and the recent extended snow-spell across Europe and Russia and China.”

    Are you saying that these kinds of things (tsunamis, hurricanes, and extended snow-spells) would not occur if there was not global warming?

    “And I thought that protestants believe in Sola Fide? Where does works come in?”

    Sola Fide has to do with getting into heaven. Works have to do with the quality of our lives in heaven (rewards).

  • Raphael

    Bill,

    (1) Yes, I am arguing that extended snow-spells will not occur without global warming. No, I am not arguing that Hurricanes and Tsunamis will not occur without global warming, but that they will occur less and at a lower intensity.

    (2) And where does attitude come in?

  • Bill Pratt

    Raphael,
    I am trying to understand the effects of global warming. My understanding is that the purpose of Copenhagen was to put agreements into place that would mitigate the effects of global warming over the next several decades. The warnings have always been that if we don’t act now, catastrophic climate change will occur in the future. This puts the effects in the future, and nobody can convince me that our climate models are able to predict with any precision the next several decades.

    I work in the semiconductor industry and am very familiar with modeling complex physical processes. Climate change would be orders of magnitude more difficult to model than semiconductor processes (models which are already difficult to solve and which are extremely well funded). I find it incredible that all of the variables that could significantly impact climate are included in present-day models, based on my background as an engineer.

    When you wrote me to claim that hurricanes, tsunamis, and extended snow spells are all the present effects of global warming, I am looking at this as an engineer. We have those things present all the time. You claim that they are more intense, but you have to define “more intense.” There have been few hurricanes on the US east coast in the last several years – it seems that counts against your thesis. There have been tsunamis for as long as recorded history, so why should we believe that tsunamis now are being caused by global warming. And remember, you are talking about human-induced global warming, not the natural climate cycles of the earth.

    How is your assertion that these effects are caused by global warming falsifiable? What precise predictions are you making about the climate over the next 3 years, let’s say, that we could observe the results. If you are right, then we say your model has some promise. If you are wrong, we say your model needs a lot of work. I don’t ever see this kind of science being done with climate change. I see predictions made that don’t come true, and I see climate change folks say things like, “Well, climate is complex and you’re just going to have to trust us. There really is man-made global warming.”

    Do you see where I’m coming from? I’m all for addressing the problem, if it’s real. I’m just not convinced of the predictions being made. I believe they are speculative. It’s not reasonable for you to assign every natural disaster that comes along to global warming without showing that those things would not happen without man-made global warming.

  • http://cagirl65@gmail.com Joanna

    After reading all the comments I find it interesting that almost everyone responded to global warming and no one responded to the number of babies that are destroyed each year…!…WOW
    The global warming, all the storms are exactly what our Lord talked about when He told us that these things would happen before He came again…It should be a sign to all of us to stay awake and to keep holding onto Him, our refuge in the storms..
    Abortion is a choice, the signs of the times are our Lords warning to keep viligent and know that He is GOD…
    We should never do things for a reward, we should do them out of love not only our love for God but also to show love to all His children.
    If rewards come, great, but if they don’t we will still know and see how Gods love for humanity exists…It must exist through us by having it first existing in us..Giving and doing for others should be a reward in and of itself. Because it is true, it’s better to give than to receive..
    I don’t have a lot, but when I’m able to help someone else in anyway I can’t explain how wonderful that feels inside, that’s my reward!

  • Raphael

    Joanna,

    It is comments like the one you have made about the storms that are driving people away from the Church. No non-Christian or true Christian to boot feels comfortable with this kind of bald assertion. Such cliche-quoting doesn’t show any understanding of the Bible, despite what you may think. In fact, it has the bad form of treating God as a painkiller, which is not quite the correct Christian attitude.

    I agree … Abortion is a choice. But I think that we have already established the importance of abortion. I chose to comment on Global Warming because that was being put down.

    And no, we should never do things for rewards, and yet which denominations are the ones talking about “storing rewards in heaven”?

    I think though, that you do have the right approach to life, even if you don’t have to right attitude to reasoning out that approach. Some people have Knowledge, others Understanding, and others Wisdom. Perhaps Bill has the Knowledge, I have the Understanding, and you have the Wisdom.

    May God bless!!

  • Raphael

    Bill,

    (1) Yes, catastropic change will happen in the future if we don’t change our ways. But catastropic change does not happen suddenly. It happens as a result of the accumulated small changes that are occurring yearly, monthly, and daily. And meanwhile, these small changes are occurring. Scientists have already been observing the melting of the Ice-Caps for the last 100 years (they only started taking the observations in the 1960s). Glaciers in India are receding day-by-day as I type here.

    (2) Indeed, to produce a totally-detailed replication of climate-change is not feasible (nothing is impossible). But to produce a model to show trends in climatological data is feasible, and is what scientists have done.
    Engineering models are prototypes; scientific models are schemas and specifications; they are two diseparate entities.

    “More intense” = larger magnitude and longer duration, and hence larger death toll. Death toll is a human-influenced factor, but the other two are not. Or in science, Death Toll is an independent variable (to this case), but magnitude and longer duration are dependent variables.

    (3) And of course, the USA is not the entire world. Tsunamis and Hurricanes are not the only result of Global-warming. Increased severity of floods in Balngladesh and the Philippines, snow spells in the Mediterranean, all these are part of Global Warming too.

    Tsunamis and Hurricanes are formed through the interaction of convection currents in the air and in the oceans. Global warming hurts the pattern of these currents.

    (4) They are flasifiable if you can show that the pattern of the convection currents have been affected by means other than Global Warming.

    (5) I did not say that these things do not happen without global warming. I am saying that they would not be as severe without global warming.

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  • Bill Rice

    I prefer to look at the global disasters as Christ put them in Matt 24. We are in a time of unprecedented “natural disasters” that just can’t be explained away by global warming. Either way I am not alarmed by whats to come as I am content in Christ’s promises.

    Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,[a]‘ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains. MATT 24:4-8

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