Faith and worldview, part 6 — on sin

In this post, I am going to integrate a number of the issues of worldview into my idea of sin.  If you have plowed through the first five parts of this, then it should be straightforward (and thank you, by the way).

It works like this:

  1. Being a mature Christian means building an (almost) entirely Christian worldview — entering more fully into the Kingdom of God.
  2. That worldview, again,  *is* the Kingdom of God, and exists at multiple resolutions — that of the individual, that of the church, and ultimately it’s instantiation in the new Heaven and new Earth.
  3. The Christian and the non-Christian worldviews are incompatible.
  4. Any intrusion of an incompatible structural element of a worldview into another weakens the second worldview.
  5. Intrusion of an incompatible element of a worldview requires massive and continuous defensive efforts by the non-Christian worldview to keep that element viable, and triggers defensive elements by the Christian worldview to protect it from the attack inherent in the incompatible element.
  6. This conflict weakens the host worldview. If the Christian is consumed with the conflict of attempting to host two worldviews, he or she cannot mature as a Christian. With increasing intrusion and increasing acceptance of non-Christian worldview elements, the non-Christian worldview can become dominant.
  7. The effort to maintain and strengthen a Christian worldview requires a number of tools.  These include worldview support provided by the church, training provided by the pastor and congregation, instruction from the word of God, revelation from the Holy Spirit, and others.  One other important defense of the Christian worldview is removal of non-Christian structural components and the defensive mechanisms used to protect these foreign elements from the defenses of the Christian worldview.
  8. Sin, then, can be viewed in part as choosing non-Christian elements of a worldview over Christian elements to the detriment of the Christian worldview.

The first three points have been discussed at length, and I won’t reiterate it here.  The third point has been mentioned, but needs repreating.  The Christian and non-Christian worldviews are fundamentally incompatible.  You cannot follow two masters.  One worldview *must* be dominant, and will always be in conflict with alternatives.  As noted in previous sections, the only real option when one tries to maintain two worldviews is either to accommodate and incorporate portions of the alternate worldview, or to attempt to compartmentalize different worldview into different “magesteria,” as previously described.  But it never works.

The fourth point is that as one attempts to accommodate the non-Christian worldview, one necessarily *replaces* that part of the Christian worldview with its non-Christian alternative. This dismantling of portions of the Christian worldview weakens the remaining portions. To the degree that a Christian accommodates portions of the secular worldview, the worldview is less Christian and the believer is less part of the Kingdom of God.  If this continues, it can destroy the Christian worldview as an effective structure.

The fifth point is that, again as noted previously, it takes *work* to maintain a worldview, and it takes *work* to defend one’s worldview against threats.  When one incorporates part of the secular worldview into the Christian one, it is necessary to defend that intrusion against the Christian worldview.  Thus, to the degree that the Christian clings to that component of the non-Christian world, one is actually fighting *against* the Christian worldview.  Clearly, if one is busy defending various incompatible portions of one’s worldview from each other, one cannot focus on maturation and forward development of the Christian worldview.  In order to create a more perfect Christian worldview, it is not only necessary to incorporate more and stronger Christian elements but also remove incompatible elements.  This can not be done if one devotes one’s energy to protecting the incompatible elements.

Worse, because it is incompatible with the Christian worldview, those portions of the Christian worldview that are affected by this intrusion are structurally weakened.  If one, for instance, makes “tolerance” in the sense of acceptance and affirmation of one kind of sexual immorality a structural component of a worldview, then all those Christian components surrounding this pillar are weakened.  If one accepts the non-Christian acceptance of, say, polyamory, then it becomes less likely to stand against adultery or other forms of infidelity. This goes back to the discussion of apostates in post #2 in this category.  These apostates never abandoned basic non-Christian structural elements of their worldview, but instead attempted to incorporate Christian worldview components into their secular worldview, thinking this made them “Christian.”  Eventually, the conflicts between incompatible pillars became so bad that they had to *really* choose one or the other, and they chose the non-Christian worldview.

Finally, as previously noted, there are a number of tools made available to the Christian in order to strengthen and fine tune his or her Christian worldview.  Some have already been mentioned. All of these tools, however, only work when not actively opposed by the Christian, and a Christian whose worldview incorporates too many non-Christian elements will not be able to take advantage of them.  Church attendance is a classic example.  The church and her pastor are invaluable tools in Christian world building.  However, Christians with significant non-Christian components to their worldview are made *uncomfortable* by church attendance. Why?  Because the worldview provided by the Bride of Christ is too incompatible with the mixed Christian and non-Christian worldview of the person.

Some months ago, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who said “I don’t go to church because I don’t need a bunch of people to tell me how I should be a Christian.  That’s between God and me and nobody else.”   This is a horrible thing for a Christian to think.  Would Jesus really tell a true believer that His bride is unimportant?  How many scriptures reinforce that it is *necessary* that believers test, discipline, teach and encourage each other?  Jesus almost always dealt with His followers as a *community.* The focus of Acts was how the Apostles built Christian *communities.*  This person is really saying is that he has constructed a worldview that incorporates so many non-Christian elements that he feels uncomfortable in the presence of other believers, doesn’t want to enter the communal Kingdom of God, and he is willing to forego all of the benefits of the Christian community in order to keep those non-Christian elements.

These choices are not purely abstract.  They are reflected in behavior and attitudes, and this choice of non-Christian over Christian elements is sin.  This, by the way, implies two components of sin — the first I’ll call sins of choice; the second sins of “weakness” and manifestations of living in a flawed physical world.  I’ll deal with the latter in the next post.

The sins of choice are exactly what one would think in this context — the choice to keep non-Christian portions of the worldview with the resulting actions flowing from that worldview. We think of various actions — adultery, theft, arrogance, etc. as “sin”, and they are, but they are “sin” because they are the physical manifestations of a flawed worldview in which the Christian clings to secular — and sinful — structural components.  As long as those components are there, the person will never give up that sin.

A number of people have argued that the decline of America and the decline of the American “dream,” began in the 1960s when popular culture adopted the cult of self-actualization.  The concept of “sin” was redefined away from failing to adhere to perpetual and absolute ideals of behavior and thought to failing to accept oneself as one was.   The highest moral ideal was not virtue, but learning to accept oneself.   We see this most obviously with relation to sexuality.   A hundred years ago, a young man who was uncomfortable with his masculinity was “diagnosed” by society as  failing to adapt to the position that nature, genetics, and God had provided him.  Thus, a person with “gender dysphoria” had task of learning to accept and adapt to being a man.  Today the opposite is true.  A young man who is uncomfortable with his masculinity is encouraged to reject it and pretend to be whatever he believes himself to be.   Thus a person with “gender dysphoria” has the task of rejecting the idea of manhood if it is uncomfortable and finding something he is comfortable with.  The goal is that comfort.   This extends to almost all aspects of life. If one has a taste for adultery, then the task is to be at home with infidelity.   Theft is morally neutral, and in some cases is viewed as a moral positive if it is done in the name of equity.   Most recently, pedophilia is being advanced on the grounds that “minor-attracted persons” don’t really have a “choice” about how they feel, and the important thing is that they learn to accept those urges within themselves.

This distinction between self-actualization as the ultimate goal, and the Kingdom of God as the ultimate goal is clear.  Jesus noted in Matthew 6: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things  will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”    Seeking the Kingdom of God first can aid in self-actualization, in part because it redefines it.  Seeking self-actualization first will never get you the Kingdom of God.

CS Lewis, in “Surprised by Joy” noted something similar.   Early in his life, he had a transcendental experience.  He then spent much of his early adult years chasing that experience again.  After becoming a Christian, he discovered that, at least to him, it was merely an occasional experiential byproduct of seeking the Christian life.  In the end, it was not even the most important one.  He writes:

But what, in conclusion, of Joy? For that, after all, is what the story has mainly been about. To tell you the truth, the subject has lost nearly all interest for me since I became a Christian. I cannot, indeed, complain, like Wordsworth, that the visionary gleam has passed away. I believe (if the thing were at all worth recording) that the old stab, the old bitter-sweet, has come to me as often and as sharply since my conversion as at any time of my life whatever. But I now know that the experience, considered as a state of my own mind, had never had the kind of importance I once gave it. It was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer. While that other was in doubt, the pointer naturally loomed large in my thoughts. When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter. He who first sees it cries ‘Look!’ The whole party gathers round and stares. But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up. But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold. ‘We would be at Jerusalem.’

This is in part why, I believe, Jesus noted that “lusting in the heart” was the same as adultery — because the act of adultery was just an instantiation of the worldview that permitted adultery. My interpretation of this statement by the Christ means that simple sexual attraction is not “lusting in the heart.”  To me, “lusting in the heart” means that the only barrier to acting out the sin is opportunity — one has already accepted the act within the context of one’s worldview. By strengthening a component of one’s worldview that accepts adultery, one is choosing against the Kingdom of God within one’s life.  One may, for whatever reason, not be able to act on that secular worldview component, but it will still weaken the Christian components of one’s worldview.   And that choosing against the Kingdom of God is the sin.

In the next post, I’ll discuss sins of “weakness” and “original sin.”




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