I fear we (meaning not only everyone, but you and me) do not take sin seriously. Sure we know it as a biblical construct, that sin is negative and such, but we tend to think of sin as independent of its effects. If there are consequences from our choices, we insist on being agnostic about them. After all, since we can’t possibly know the future, it’s easy to disassociate consequences from causes. and therein lies our fatal mistake.
Why do we fail to take consequences seriously? Is it partly due to the culture in which we live? Everywhere we turn our culture screams at us about the importance of exercising our freedom to choose (the presupposition of all advertising), but hardly anyone whispers to us about the consequences of our choices (notwithstanding commercials on medical products that warn us of endless “possible side-effects”).
I wonder, is minimizing the impact of consequences rooted in a particular view of the world? After all, consequences presuppose a connection; something like cause-and-effect — “if this, then that.” We live in a society that increasingly insists upon a materialist worldview where all that exists is made up of matter and energy; non-material realities are non-existent. This worldview eschews any notion of metaphysical realities, of which cause-and-effect is one.
You see, if cause-and-effect relationships are admitted in relation to our choices, then suggesting any kind of moral accountability is not a far distance to travel. In fact, moral accountability depends upon this relation. But, if choices are independent of consequences because the existence of metaphysical realities is denied, then there can be no connection between my choices and their consequences. The net (logical and ethical) effect is that nothing ultimately matters. Incidentally, this must include choices with seemingly positive results, so any “Thank you for….” would hardly have any moral worth either. In fact, the only meaningful statement would be something like the post-modernist, existentially bankrupt mantra, “WHATEVER!”
Given this analysis, it follows that “sin” to the materialist is about as meaningful as a “square circle” or a “married bachelor” in a world with no metaphysical realities. Of course, the Bible paints a much different picture and John Stott, in his classic Basic Christianity, frames the import of sin’s effects. Chapter 6, “The Consequences of Sin,” Stott lays out three results from sin:
- Sin alienates us from God.
- Sin enslaves us to moral depravity.
- Sin disorders all our relationships.
If Stott is correct, then each time we have a desire to go against what we know God desires for us, three entailments follow:
- Every act of sin is a commitment to isolation.
- Every act of sin is a commitment to bondage.
- Every act of sin is a commitment to chaos.
- Every act of obedience is a commitment to community. Scripture says: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2:18).
- Every act of obedience is a commitment to freedom. Scripture says: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free” (Gal. 5:1).
- Every act of obedience is a commitment to order. Scripture says: “God is not a God of disorder” (1 Cor 14:33; Jm 3:16).
- Obedience draws us close to God.
- Obedience frees us to be morally upright.
- Obedience orders all our relationships.
Isolation versus community.
Bondage versus freedom.
Chaos versus order.
The choice may be yours, but the consequences are indelibly tied to your choices.
Isolation versus community. Bondage versus freedom. Chaos versus order.
Challenging thoughts in this post. I agree. I read this book several years ago: Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be : A Breviary of Sin by Cornelius Plantinga Jr. I remember some similar emphasis in this book on the far-reaching consequences and effects of sin.
Thanks for commenting. I’ve not read C Plantinga so thanks for the pointer!