What are some sinful teachings about sin?

I [Jesus] came not to call the righteous, but sinners. Mark 2:17

Because sin is a humanity-wide problem, answers for the definition, source, and cause of sin are postulated from seemingly every conceivable ideology. By examining some sinful views of sin, we are able to better understand erroneous views and help explain biblical truth to those holding these positions.

In materialism that believes in no spiritual reality, “sin” is the result of electro-chemical imbalances leading to biological dysfunction. Therefore, the solution to evil and sin is medical and chemical improvement of the human body.

In evolutionism, “sin” is essentially anything that hinders the perceived progress of the human race rather than any offense against a personal God.

In psychologism, “sin” is caused by low self-esteem that results in the repression of one’s true feelings. Subsequently, the answer to sinful behavior is not repentance and faith in God for help, but rather love and acceptance of oneself.

In humanism, “sin” is reduced to attitudes or actions that hurt other people. Because humanists also tend to see human beings as essentially good, the answer to evil behavior is better education and social conditioning to help people act out of the goodness of their nature.

In environmentalism, “sin” results from not acting on the truth that the earth is ultimately our mother and living as if all living things—from plants to animals—were of equal value to oneself. People are encouraged to be one with and live in harmony with the rest of creation as the means by which they can overcome sinful actions.

In pantheism and panentheism, “sin” is being out of balance with our immediate environment and living out of harmony with the rest of the earth. So, the answer to evil behavior is for people to meditate and do yoga to connect with the cosmic consciousness and tap into their innate spirituality.

There are also many errors that people who profess to be Christians believe about sin. As a result, their lives, holiness, and happiness sadly suffer.

Some see sin as only breaking the rules of God. Sin does include this, but people who restrict sin to just this sadly fail to see that sin is fundamentally violating the relationship with God and a personal betrayal of a loving Father. Thus, they tend to reduce their faith to rule keeping rather than to loving relationship with God that underlies, empowers, and enables obedience.

Some wrongly believe that since Jesus died for their sins, they need not fight for holiness and repent when they fail. What they fail to realize is that, because Jesus died for their sins, they are supposed to join him by putting their sins to death.

Some think that unless they confess every sin, they will wind up in hell because not all of their sins would have been forgiven. The truth is that because Jesus died for all of our sins, we can and should repent of all the sins we are aware of while realizing that our imperfection includes an imperfect sensitivity to our sins, causing us to be unaware of all our transgressions.

Some think that as long as they are nice and have a “good heart” God will not be displeased by their sin. But God is concerned both with our inner life and our outer life. Moreover, since our life is simply the outworking of our heart, it is nonsensical to consider someone as having a good heart but bad actions.

Some consider sin and fun synonymous and therefore continue in sin in the name of having fun. However, because sin leads to death, it kills everything it touches, particularly joy. Therefore, while a sin may appear to be fun initially, the distance it brings from God, the guilt it causes, and the damage it does to oneself and others are ultimately anything but fun. Sin poses as an attraction before becoming an affliction because it is deceptive and ultimately a lie.

Some wrongly believe that if no one is hurt then their sin does not really matter. But this is untrue on many accounts. Because our sin is against God, it grieves him and distances us from him. Additionally, sin hurts our church, family, friends, and those we are in community with, even if they are unaware of our sin, because our sin affects and changes us negatively. Lastly, our sin also hurts us because we were not made for sin, and to live in sin unrepentantly is to damage oneself. On this point, Plantinga says, “Sin hurts other people and grieves God, but it also corrodes us. Sin is a form of self-abuse.”1

Some wrongly believe that sin is not a problem unless one is caught, so they persist in secret sin. But sin is never secret, because God knows all, the sinner knows, and those who know the sinner often know something is wrong even if they are unaware of the particular sin being committed.

Some think that if a sin is popular, then it is okay because everyone is doing it. Sometimes a culture even labels a vice as a virtue. However, the Bible speaks often about the world in a negative sense; the Bible is saying that the popular majority and their cultures are prone toward sin and therefore are not to replace God and his Word as the standard for holiness and unholiness.2

Lastly, some think that sin and mistakes are synonymous, when they are in fact different things. A sin is a moral wrong, and a mistake is a morally neutral imperfection. Those who do not understand this distinction painfully try to live lives of perfectionism and are devastated at mistakes that do not trouble God and therefore should not trouble them. Even more painfully, parents that fail to recognize this distinction commonly discipline their children not only for sins but also for mistakes. As an example, I once saw a family eating dinner at a restaurant, and a very young child was drinking out of an open cup. Because her motor skills were not yet well developed, she accidentally spilled a bit of her milk. Rather than simply wiping it up since it was a morally neutral mistake, the parents yelled at the child as if she had sinned, though she had not.

Are any of these sinful views of sin one’s that you have believed or currently believe?

1Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 124, emphasis in original.
2 John 1:29; 3:6; Rom. 1:18–32; 1 Cor. 1:20–21, 27–28; 11:32; Gal. 3:22; 4:3; Eph. 2:2, 12; Col. 2:8, 20–33; 1 Pet. 2:11; 2 Pet. 1:4; 1 John 2:15, 17; 3:1, 13; 4:1, 5.

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