In May of 2015, the Internet and the airwaves were abuzz with breaking news.
Josh Duggar–a member of one of television’s most famous Christian families–had committed an egregious crime against his own sisters.
What ensued was, as you can imagine, an Internet firestorm where suddenly the “Christian system” had broken down, Christ’s “morality” was substandard, and the “forgiveness of sin” was cheap and not a practical way to live in the world.
I cannot find the reference now, but shortly after learning of this incident I remember reading an article where the author condemned the use of the word “sin”–claiming that it was not a strong enough word for the matter.
In other words, “sin” is simply a term Christians use to dismiss any wrongdoing and place it under the comfortable umbrella of “grace.”
But is this really accurate?
From a Christian perspective, is using the term “sin” simply a cop-out when well-meaning and influential people commit a crime?
This is where the accuser’s argument breaks down.
A proper understanding of sin will cause one to shudder, and when one finally realizes this–or, “comes to himself” as the Bible describes in the story of the prodigal son–it will cause him to bow in repentance before a thrice-holy God.
But to really understand the relevance of sin to today’s culture, we must also have an understanding of relativism–the idea that absolutes do not exist.
What is Relativism?
Broadly speaking, relativism is the erroneous school of thinking that values—including truth and moral obligations—are not transcendent or objective.
In other words, they are subjective—flowing not from the object, but from the subject in question.
To use a gruesome but instructive example, we could reflect on what happened when Hitler led the Nazi’s in one of the darkest times in world history—the Holocaust.
I don’t know a single person who would not admit that Hitler’s actions were inhumane, vile, and wicked.
The problem is that a person who holds to a relativistic framework must admit that such actions are not actually wrong—they are simply not preferential on his own view.
So in order to be consistent, the relativist must concede that Hitler’s views were merely his preference and should not be considered wrong at all. I have written on this extensively here.
The problem with this view is that it does not match reality.
For example, truth cannot be relative.
If it was, one would be forced to conclude that it is true—objectively—that there is no objective truth. This position is obviously bankrupt, and for any thinking person to hold to such position is merely a demonstration of resistance to reality. (This, consequently, is what necessarily follows from resistance to acknowledging God as Creator—the condition described in Romans chapter one.)
The Nature of the Crime
Now that we have an understanding of relativism, we can examine the true nature of the crime–keeping in mind that it is the poison of relativism itself that often hinders one from seeing the issue.
In our modern-day legal systems, we often get hung up on the thinking that the nature of the crime is bound up in the actions associated with it.
For example, in our culture, it is certainly true that there is a more severe punishment for murder than for breaking-and-entering.
This understanding has, unfortunately, led to a misunderstanding of the nature of sin. The blogger I referenced above felt that stronger language was required by Mr. Duggar if he was to truly own up to his mistake. In other words, whatever sin is, it is not a heavy enough description of the crime.
But where does this objection to using the term “sin” stem from? There are at least two possible places:
First, a person may consider God to be imaginary. This is an understandable reason. If a person maintains that the idea of “God” is silly, then they will also associate the term “sin” with silliness.
From a Christian worldview perspective, it is not true that this person believes there is no God. Quite a claim, I realize. But if the Bible’s true, then so is my claim. This means that one’s denial of sin—and therefore, God—is not a disbelief, but merely a resistance to what they already know to be true.
Still we should be aware that a person who claims to disbelieve in God will also disbelieve in sin, and will use words that our culture already accepts—hate, crime, atrocity, violation—to describe such a scenario. Of course, this presents a problem for anyone claiming to be a relativist.
Why? Because if there is no God, remember, there is no such thing as wrong. If there’s no such thing as wrong, then words like hate, crime, atrocity, violation, etc., have no real foundation and are therefore meaningless. These are words associated with the opposite of “goodness,” but as I’ve written on before, you can’t have good without God.
Second—a person may betray a fundamental element of legal justice. See, not only is the punishment for a crime bound up in the action committed, but it is also bound up in the person against whom the action was committed.
I have been confronted countless times with the argument that it is silly to believe that God would punish all of mankind because Eve, and then Adam, ate a “forbidden fruit.” This entirely misses the point, however, and does not even begin to explain the gravity of sin.
I like to use the example of a sucker-punch. If you punch me, big deal. Punch the police chief–you’ll be spending some time in jail. Punch the President of the United States, and you’ll be behind bars for a very, very long time, if not worse.
The action associated with original sin may seem minor, but the Person against whom the crime was committed was the God of all glory–the Creator of the universe.
The crime was not eating a fruit–the crime was telling God that we wanted to be God–“knowing good from evil.”
Make no mistake–this was the worst crime that has ever been committed. So bad, in the sight of God, that a curse was placed upon humanity and even upon the Creation itself (Genesis 3:17).
So when Christians publicly admit that we’ve sinned against God, you can believe me, it’s a very. big. deal. And not something at all to be taken lightly.
Thankfully, that’s not the end of the story.
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