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 worldview 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 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 worldbuilding.  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.”   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.  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 an instantiation of the worldview that allowed adultery.  One may, for whatever reason, not be able to act on that secular worldview component, but it will still poison that part of the Christian worldview.

But what about physical weaknesses of the flesh?  Drug addiction, etc?  Not all drug addicts *want* to be drug addicts, yet most Christians would agree that drug addiction — to the point of self-destruction at least — is a sin.  As Jesus noted in Gethsemane, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”  The disciples waiting for Him to pray did not fall asleep because of a deficiency in their worldview.  They were physically weak.

In my personal opinion, and it’s just opinion, I believe that this is a failure of the discipline associated with the Christian worldview.  While these posts have been about worldview, which is a cognitive and basically abstract issue, it must be remembered that worldviews express themselves through actions.  A worldview that creates an obligation for charity will result in charitable actions by someone who truly has that worldview.

But here’s the key.  Most of the “sins of the flesh” that are not structural worldview choices are some form of addiction, particularly if one considers a habit of impulsive behavior to be a behavioral addiction.  The important thing about these things is that addictive behavior like this results in longstanding physical changes in the brain.  For instance, functional PET scanning of the brain shows physical differences in the brains of people with drug addiction compared to people who are not addicted.  Further, it can take  years of abstinence to completely reverse those changes.  During those years, even though one had completely “detoxed,” one will still have severe addictive urges. As such, they are the long-term physical manifestations of worldview choices that can persist for a period even after the worldview has changed.  I can testify to this from personal experience.  I smoked tobacco for many years, but quit when I got married in 1990.  The first year after I quit, it was very hard — I constantly wanted a cigarette. The second year was not so bad.  The third year, I had the urge only intermittently.  I haven’t thought about a cigarette for 20 years — but it took awhile to get away from the urge.

One action component of the Christian worldview is discipline.  The physical manifestation of that worldview is to *fight* to do the Christian thing in one’s life in the face of external *and internal* resistance.  In the case of addiction, for instance, the Christian worldview understands that we are all works in progress.  It doesn’t demand perfection, it demands *effort* in the right direction.  Thus, these sins represent the physical manifestations of a previous worldview, or of a non-Christian worldview adaptation within the Christian worldview that are still works in progress for the Christian.  To the degree that the Christian, with the help of God, successfully combats this lingering manifestation, he or she is successfully continuing to build his or her Christian worldview and enter more fully to the Kingdom of God.  To the degree that he or she is unsuccessful, he or she is suffering a temporary setback in removing this non-Christian component.  To the degree that he or she accepts or defends this manifestation, then he or she is accommodating the non-Christian worldview component.

The unfortunate thing is that all of us have these failings.  For instance, more people in the US die of complications of obesity than drug addiction — yet many Christians are complacent about the sin of gluttony. We tend to condemn the the sins we don’t have a lot invested in, but are sympathetic to the ones we cling to.  It’s easy for me to condemn opiate addiction while I have my second large order fries at McDonalds.  The acknowledgement that “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” is not an excuse.  It is an acknowledgement that we need to focus more on discipline, because the physical manifestations of non-Christian wordviews linger and can only be erased by focused Christian effort.  In fact, most of us do not have the strength or discipline to do it without the aid of our Christian brethren through the congregation.  To the degree that we choose not to make that *effort* we are choosing the non-Christian worldview.  And, as previously discussed, this is why encouragement, correction, and support within the context of the church is so important.

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