Evaluation of the Christian Answer to Worldview Question #2 – Part 1: SIN

Evaluation of the Christian Answer to Worldview Question #2 – Part 1: SIN October 9, 2020

In this post I will begin work on an evaluation of the Christian answer to worldview question #2, in preparation for creating the next podcast in my series of podcasts called Thinking Critically About: Is Christianity True?

 

THE FOUR BASIC WORLDVIEW QUESTIONS

There are four basic worldview questions, four questions that can be used to analyze the content of a worldview:

Q1. What are the most important problems of human life? (Symptoms of Disease)

Q2. What is the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Diagnosis of the Disease)

Q3. What is the solution to what is (allegedly) the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Cure for the Disease)

Q4. How should we implement what is (allegedly) the solution to what is (allegedly) the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Treatment Plan for the Patients)

 

CHRISTIAN ANSWERS TO THE FIRST TWO WORLDVIEW QUESTIONS 

The following is a short version of what I take to be the Christian answers to the first two worldview questions:

Q1. What are the most important problems of human life? (Symptoms of Disease)
Alienation or separation from God, conflict and disharmony between people, mental and physical suffering, disease, death, and in the next life: divine eternal punishment.

Q2. What is the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Diagnosis of the Disease)
Sin (disobedience to God) is the root cause problem of separation from God, conflict and disharmony between people, mental and physical suffering, disease, death, and ultimately results in eternal divine punishment.

 

FURTHER ANALYSIS OF THE CHRISTIAN ANSWER TO WORLDVIEW QUESTION #2

The Christian answer to worldview question #2, like the answer to worldview question #1, can be analyzed into four categories: spiritual, physical, mental, and social (click on the image below for a clearer view of the chart):  

WHAT DOES THE WORD “SIN” MEAN?

The DIAGNOSIS of a disease involves the making of CAUSAL claims.  To say that “Donald Trump’s fever and shortness of breath is because of a COVID-19 infection” implies that a particular type of virus is CAUSING those symptoms of fever and shortness of breath.  Similarly, to claim that SIN is the reason for human alienation from God, disease, death, and disharmony between human beings, is to make CAUSAL claims about the relationship between SIN and those various alleged human problems.

A CAUSAL claim should be doubted and set aside unless someone can provide good reasons to believe the CAUSAL claim.  So, the Christian answers to worldview question #2 should be doubted and set aside unless someone can provide good reasons to believe the CAUSAL claims that are asserted or assumed by those Christian answers.

But before we can evaluate such CAUSAL claims or reasons provided in support of them, we must first have a CLEAR understanding of what those causal claims mean.  Since SIN is supposed to be the root cause of all of the most important human problems (according to Christianity), we must first have a CLEAR understanding of what the word “sin” means, before we can evaluate causal claims involving the concept of SIN.

Here is a helpful comment from the Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms:

The Bible presents sin as both fallen humanity’s state of separation and alienation from God and as a person’s purposeful disobedience to God’s will as evidenced in concrete thought or act.  (p.107)

This comment points out two different aspects of the idea of “sin”.  First there is sin as the state of “separation and alienation from God”.  Second, there is sin as “purposeful disobedience to God’s will”.  These two different aspects or notions of sin must be separated for our investigation, because a basic claim of the Christian worldview is that SIN is the root-cause of the problem of human alienation from God.

In order to take that claim seriously, we obviously cannot take the word “sin” to mean a state of alienation from God, because that would make a basic claim of the Christian worldview into an insignificant tautology:

Being in a state of alienation from God makes a person alienated from God.

This is a worthless and useless claim.  This is clearly NOT a basic claim of the Christian worldview.

So, for purposes of our investigation, we have to separate the two different aspects or senses of the concept of SIN, and use the sense that allows the Christian answers to worldview question #2 to make some sense.

Consider the following Christian answer to the question “What is the root cause of the problem of human alienation from God?”:

Sin causes a person to be alienated from God.

If we just use the second aspect or sense of “sin” from the Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, we can make sense of this CAUSAL claim:

Disobedience to the will of God causes a person to be alienated from God.

The definition of “sin” above also specifies that this disobedience must be “purposeful”.  Presumably, the idea there is that accidentally or unintentionally violating God’s will does not count as SIN (or is, at most, a borderline case of sin).

How can one purposefully or intentionally disobey the will of God?  The Bible clearly indicates that this happens when humans knowingly disobey some command or law that God has revealed to those humans.  The very first sins, according to the Bible, occurred when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s explicit command to not eat the fruit from a particular tree:

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”  (Genesis 2:15-17, New Revised Standard Version)

After Adam ate the forbidden fruit, God cursed Adam and all of his descendants:

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,
    and have eaten of the tree
about which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
    in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.”   (Genesis 3:17-19, New Revised Standard Version)

Adam and Eve purposefully and intentionally violated God’s explicit command to NOT eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  They committed the first SINS.

Later, according to the Bible, God revealed the Ten Commandments through the prophet Moses, plus many other laws, to the Israelites.  So, when an Israelite violated one of the Ten Commandments, they were, according to the Bible, purposefully and intentionally violating a command of God, and thus committing a SIN.

There were, according to the Bible, thousands of years between Adam’s first SIN, and the revelation of the Ten Commandments by Moses.  So, how could people purposefully and intentionally violate a command of God in the time after Adam and before the arrival of the prophet Moses?

According to Paul, who is the author of most of the New Testament, God placed some of his “laws” into the hearts of humans:

12 All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. 15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.  (Romans 2:12-16, New Revised Standard Version)

According to Paul, “what the law requires” is “written on their (non-Jews) hearts”.  In addition to revelation of the Ten Commandments and other laws through the prophet Moses, God also builds some of his commands or laws into human “hearts” or a person’s “conscience”.  So, there are two different kinds of divine commands or laws:  (1) God’s commands explicitly revealed through prophets (like Moses), and (2) God’s commands that are somehow hardwired into the minds of humans by God.  So, there are two different ways to purposefully and intentionally disobey the will of God.  There are two different ways to SIN, according to the Bible.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

 

 

 

 


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