Denying that some sins are more heinous than others

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by Pilgrim, Jul 19, 2019.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Has anyone else noticed this tendency on the part of people who should know better? (For any newcomers who may be puzzled by this idea, see Westminster Larger Catechism questions 150 and 151 and their proof texts.)

    It seems to me that it is reaching almost epidemic proportions among people who claim to be Reformed if my internet reading is any indication. One person who seems to deny this quoted Paul David Tripp. Does Tripp deny that some sins are more heinous than others in the sight of God? Does some other Biblical counseling or "Christian living" type material that is endorsed in broadly Calvinistic or evangelical circles deny it?

    I've also seen sex abuse victims and their advocates assert that pastors and counselors have engaged in "sin leveling" where physical or sexual abuse are essentially said to be no more heinous than any bitterness or anger harbored by the victim. The victim is told to repent of her bitterness, the admitted abuser "repents" of sex or physical abuse and they apologize to each other or whatever, with the abuser getting hardly more than a slap on the wrist, if that. I've seen enough of this sin leveling (i.e. denying that some sins are more heinous than others and maybe even denying that some sins require more urgent attention than others) on the internet to suspect that it does happen.

    In another twist, I recently had a conversation with a partial preterist Calvinistic Baptist pastor who said that certain passages in the Gospels where Jesus said that there will be worse judgment for certain sins and sinners only applied to the "judgment" in 70 AD. He then proceeded to outright deny that there are different degrees of punishment in the final judgment. So reminiscent of Scofieldism, his eschatology is driving the bus. I haven't read much preterist literature in recent years, but hopefully his views are an anomaly.
  2. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    I've known people with this sentiment as well. I think it comes from the idea that every sin makes us deserving of eternal punishment. In this sense, we are under God's eternal judgment for any sin which in their mind makes degree of sin irrelevant. Sometimes they also appeal to places where Christ compares the thought of adultery to the act of adultery. Regardless, they are not considering a thorough biblical representation of sin, its consequences, and it's punishment.
  3. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I think it may be an overreaction against church people who think about sins as being largely limited to things like drinking, smoking, modesty, prostitution, and so on, and who are focused on the sin of "those people over there" rather than the sin in their own hearts.
  4. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    I believed this sort of thing into my twenties. It seems to be popular in modern evangelicalism. I remember a conversation with a Roman Catholic friend in which he explained to me that "the act adds something to the thought". To me now it seems obvious enough, but if you grow up swallowing shallow evangelical theology... you don't see a lot that should be plain.

    In my case, the WLC served as an effective antidote to the toxin.
  5. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    My opinion, for what it's worth (consider I'm not a pastor or elder), is if anyone is guilty of sexual assault they should told by their pastor to turn themselves in or face excommunication. I understand confidentially but surely there's someway to do that.
    In my own life I've faced this in family and friends about people unprovoked attacking me and defended myself and was told I was wrong, and worse than the attacker, for defending myself.
    As much as I have tried to explain that the law sees a difference between the two acts and so should we. The law, through natural law, sees differences so should we.
  6. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Chris, I think you're spot on that this kind of thinking can arise from a tendency to only care about certain sins, mostly those characteristic of others. All sins are offenses against the same God, infractions of the same law, and deserving of the extreme penalty, and so have a great deal in common. When that high-altitude view is emphasized, it's not hard to understand how aggravations of one sin over another can slip out of view. And that perspective is useful as an antidote to the self-righteousness founded on comparing ourselves with others.

    But it too can be abused. Within the realm of horizontal relationships, especially, those aggravations of guilt can be the decisive element in determining who owes restitution to whom, and so forth.
  7. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Junior

    I think we need to not lean too heavy on either side. I completely agree that there are degrees of sins, but at the same time, all sin is, well it's sin. Everything that's wrong is terrible, and we should be greatly humbled by that, but at the same time, a murder is much different than a failure to give a hungry person some food.
  8. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Junior

    I would say they should turn themselves in AND face excommunication until such a time as they bring forth evident fruits of repentance.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2019
  9. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Scenarios I've heard about:

    1. A woman is sexually abused in a church context. The church doesn't report it to the police, but handles it (badly) internally. The abuser fakes repentance and does some sort of church discipline and is restored over time (when he should have been imprisoned). Years go by. The woman continues to be mad or leaves the church. She is then told she is bitter. Or is faced with church discipline for leaving.

    Many churches act as if they've got no common sense. Of course she is mad. She has every right to be. Of course she wants to leave.

    2. A husband and wife is sent out to SE Asia by a famous church with a Permanence View of marriage (no divorce). The husband sleeps with hookers many times. The wife continues to minister faithfully until she finds out. They divorce. The wife is now barred from any sort of service for the rest of her life because of the sins of her husband due to the faulty view of marriage. She is also told she can never remarry.

    3. Or Karen Hinkley finds out her husband is a pedophile and leaves her husband and the Village church disciplines HER.

    Many churches are unbelievably stupid when it comes to handling conflicts such as these. They grasp onto small technicalities and forget about the big picture (straining at gnats but swallowing camels). The victim is often chided for continuing to be mad because they know that justice has not been done. Or they get fed up and leave and the church punishes them on the way out due to a mechanical view of church discipline. The focus becomes the rules instead of the well-being of the victim. This happens a lot and there are dozens of examples.
  11. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    I have noticed before that this anti-confessional view of divorce and remarriage is a gift to men who wish to play the field with little or no consequences for them, while the innocent party is the one who suffers. Such an erroneous view of divorce and remarriage puts scripture at odds with natural justice.
  12. Jo_Was

    Jo_Was Puritan Board Freshman

    It also may be partly due to a reaction against the Roman Catholic levels of sins, which take the varying levels of heinous sin concept to a different level, and carries with it a lot of other legalistic and unscriptural effects (everything from confession to purgatory) in how they handle these sin "levels." So, some have taken and swung the other way to emphasize that sin is still sin, and I think comes with the more evangelical flair of anti-nomianism in general that disregards the importance of the law, and overemphasizes grace (to be cheap grace). If all sin is sin, it is easier to have a light view of the law and its role in convicting us of sin and our need for repentance, because "big" things are just like "small" things that we can shrug away. We are not as driven to repentance when we do not have the full weight of the law and the grave state of our misery understood.
  13. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    If repentance is present, then no. Should such an evil-doer be held outside of full communion? Yes. Should he be subject to the full extent of the civil authorities. Yes. Should a congregation use extreme caution to protect the membership? Absolutely. But there is no hope of salvation apart from the church. Placing someone with even the faintest glimmer of repentance and faith outside the fold goes further than what the scriptures maintain.
  14. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Junior

    In the case of something as serious and aggravated as sexual assault, I do not agree. I submit the following for your consideration...

    Of Scandalous Persons Guilty of Gross Acts of Immorality

    Quest. How is a Church to proceed in case of open and notorious Scandals?

    The Answer is, “the matter of Fact, as such, being beyond all question; the Church is to proceed immediately to censure, to vindicate the Honour of Christ and his Church, and to manifest to the World their just Indignation against such Notorious Offenders, and wait for a well-grounded and tryed Evidence of his true Repentance under that Ordinance of Christ which is appointed to that end.” (1 Tim. 5:24; Act. 5:1-11; Jude 23; 1 Cor. 5:1-5, esp. vv. 2&3; 2 Cor. 7:11)

    Observe, It is the opinion of the Doctor [Chauncy], that though the Person be penitent, yet because his Sin is open and scandalous, he ought to be cast out to vindicate the Honour of Christ and the Church, as part of his just Punishment (that being one reason of the Ordinance of Excommunication) as well as to bring the Person to thorough Repentance; and we are of his Mind. Paul takes no notice in the case of the Incestuous Person of his immediate Repentance; or if he repent not, then, &c. But says he, deliver such a one to Satan, &c. Saith the Lord, if her Father had but spit in her Face, should she not be ashamed seven Days? Let her be shut out from the Camp Seven Days: (speaking of Miriam) and after that let her be received in again (Num. 12:14).

    —Benjamin Keach, The Glory of a True Church, And Its Discipline Displayed (1697)
  15. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    Civil crimes merit civil punishment. That is the God-given rôle of the magistrate.

    If a member of my church commits embezzlement, rape or murder, then it is my duty as a citizen* and as a Christian to report it.

    There was a South Korean president, Lee Myung-Bak, who was last year found guilty of shocking levels of corruption. He denied all wrongdoing, claiming he was framed or something along those lines. He is a member of a large Presbyterian church. Should his church have protected him when the police came to take him?

    If a church will not respect a country's laws, then what respect does it expect to receive in turn?

    *I am not a citizen of the country in which I currently reside, but I still reside here and I have respect for the law.
  16. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    please reread my post. The civil law must be followed. My primary concern has to do with ecclesiastical responsiblity. The two may not be conflated.
  17. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    This certainly gives some grounds to be considered. My reading of the WCF does not give the same cut and dried approach when someone is repentant. In any case, "sweep it under the rug" is never an option and that is, sadly, what we've seen in many denominations.
  18. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    Forgive me as it appears I have misunderstood you I am, however, still confused by these words:
  19. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Jesus and Paul both seemed to state that sexual sins were of a particular grievous nature, as would be murder.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page