Evaluation of the Christian Answer to Worldview Question #2 – Part 2: Does Sin Exist?

Evaluation of the Christian Answer to Worldview Question #2 – Part 2: Does Sin Exist? October 12, 2020

WHERE WE ARE

There are four basic questions that can be used to analyze a worldview. In this post, I will begin to evaluate the Christian answer to worldview question #2.

 

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 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?

In Part 1 of this series of posts, I clarified the meaning of the word “sin” as being purposeful or intentional disobedience to the will of God.  Here is a formal definition of “sin”:

Person  P commits a sin S by doing action A IF AND ONLY IF:

(a) person P’s doing action A violates a law or command L,
(b)  L is a law or command of God to persons (or to some sub-set of persons of which P is a member),
(c) P KNOWS that (a) is the case when P does A,
AND
(d) P KNOWS that (b) is the case when P does A.  

Conditions (c) and (d) are needed to restrict the concept of “sin” to purposeful or intentional violations of the will of God.  One must be aware that God has issued a particular command or law in order for one’s violation of that command or law to be an intentional violation of the will of God.

In Part 1 of this series I also pointed out that the Bible indicates that there are two different ways a person can sin, or two different ways a person can be aware of the laws or commands of God.  First, one can know that a command or law comes from God, because the command or law was revealed by God through one of his prophets.  For example, according to the Bible, God revealed the Ten Commandments through the prophet Moses.

Second, one can know of a command or law of God because of one’s conscience, because God has “hardwired” some of his commands or laws into the minds of human beings, as a bit of innate knowledge, knowledge that we don’t have to learn from a parent or teacher or prophet or priest.

 

HAS ANY HUMAN BEING EVER SINNED?

If there is no such thing as SIN, then the occurrence of sins by human beings CANNOT be used as an explanation for anything.  If sin does not exist, then sin cannot be said to be the CAUSE of any human problem.

In my view, there is no such thing as SIN.  No human being has ever committed a SIN.  This is because there is no God.  If there is no God, then it follows that there are no laws or commands that come from God.  Any laws or commands that exist must come from humans or from other intelligent beings who are not God.  If there are no laws or commands that come from God, then it is NOT POSSIBLE for any person to ever violate a law or command of God, and thus the first two necessary conditions for the occurrence of a sin cannot be met by the actions of any person.  Therefore, if there is no God, then there never has been and never will be any human actions that violate a law or command of God.  Thus, if there is no God, then there never has been or ever will be any human actions that are SINs.

Of course, Christians, Jews, and Muslims are convinced that God does exist, so this argument won’t persuade them to believe that SIN does not exist, unless one can persuade such a believer that God does not exist, which is difficult to do.

There are, however, other reasons for believing that SIN does not exist.  Another necessary condition for the existence of SIN is human KNOWLEDGE that a particular law or command comes from God:

Person  P commits a sin S by doing action A IF AND ONLY IF:

(a) person P’s doing action A violates a law or command L,
(b)  L is a law or command of God to persons (or to some sub-set of persons of which P is a member),
(c) P KNOWS that (a) is the case when P does A,
AND
(d) P KNOWS that (b) is the case when P does A.  

In order for a person to KNOW that (b) is the case, that person must KNOW that God exists. Even if we assume that God exists, this leaves open the question of whether any human being KNOWS that God exists.  There are very good reasons for doubting that any human being KNOWS that God exists.

Most contemporary philosophers, for example, do NOT believe that the existence of God has ever been proven.  Many contemporary philosophers believe that some arguments provide evidence that supports the existence of God, but that this evidence is not sufficient to establish that anyone KNOWS that God exists.  One can believe in the existence of God while also admitting that this belief does NOT constitute KNOWING that God exists.  Since it is doubtful that anyone KNOWS that God exists, it is also doubtful that any human action has ever met the necessary condition (d) for the occurrence of a SIN.

In order for a person to KNOW that (b) is the case, that person must also KNOW that a particular law or command came from God.  It is not sufficient to KNOW that God exists or even to KNOW that God has at some time issued some sort of laws or commands.  One must KNOW that some particular law or particular command (having clear and specific content that is KNOWN to the person in question) came from God.

This is even more difficult to KNOW, and it is highly dubious that any human being has ever had such KNOWLEDGE.  To the extent that it is dubious that any humans have KNOWN that some law or command came from God, it is dubious that any actions by any humans have ever satisfied necessary condition (d) for the occurrence of a SIN.  If it is dubious that any humans have KNOWN that some law or command came from God, then it is dubious that any human actions have ever constituted a SIN.

One of the main ways of humans becoming aware of a law or command of God, according to the Bible, is for God to reveal a law or command through a prophet.  For example, the Bible teaches that God revealed the Ten Commandments to humans through the prophet Moses.  But how do we KNOW that Moses is a true prophet, and that God in fact communicated to humans through Moses?

One key reason given for believing that Moses was a true prophet is that Moses allegedly performed some amazing miracles.  But most scholars who study the Old Testament have serious doubts about whether Moses actually existed.  So, obviously, most scholars who study the Old Testament also doubt that Moses performed the various miracles that are found in Old Testament stories about Moses.  This way of establishing the divine authority of Moses as a true prophet will not work.

One could try to establish the divine authority of Moses as a true prophet of God, by appealing to the sayings and teachings of Jesus.  The existence of Jesus can reasonably be questioned, but most NT scholars believe that Jesus existed.  However, there are a couple of problems with this approach to establishing the divine authority of Moses.

First, most NT scholars do not view the Gospel accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus as being historically reliable.  Although most NT scholars believe Jesus existed, they are often very skeptical about specific historical claims about what Jesus said or did.  Thus, intelligent and educated readers of the NT cannot simply assume that because a Gospel claims that “Jesus said X” that the historical Jesus did in fact say X.  NT scholars generally believe that we can only infer probabilities about what Jesus said or did.  We cannot KNOW that “Jesus said X” and we cannot KNOW that “Jesus did Y”.  So, using the teachings of Jesus to confirm the divine authority of Moses cannot produce KNOWLEDGE that Moses was a true prophet.

Furthermore, even if we could somehow KNOW that “Jesus said X” and that this implies that Jesus believed that Moses was a true prophet of God, it doesn’t follow logically that Moses was in fact a true prophet of God.  Jesus could be mistaken.  Why should we accept what Jesus said about Moses as being the absolute truth?

Christians believe that Jesus is the divine Son of God, that Jesus is God incarnate.  But we are trying to evaluate the truth of the Christian worldview here, so it would beg the question to simply assume that this basic theological belief of Christianity was true.  In order to establish that Moses is a true prophet on the basis of the teachings of Jesus, one must FIRST prove that Jesus is the divine Son of God, or God incarnate.   This is NOT an easy thing for Christians to do.

How can we KNOW that Jesus is the divine Son of God or God incarnate?  One key reason given in support of this claim is that Jesus performed miracles and that Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of God.  But many NT scholars doubt both of these claims.  Although NT scholars generally believe that Jesus existed, they are often skeptical about miracle stories in the Gospels, and they are often skeptical about claims in the Gospels that “Jesus said X”, especially when Jesus saying X implies that Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of God or God incarnate.

Many, perhaps most, NT scholars believe that these theological views about Jesus evolved AFTER Jesus died on the cross, and AFTER the belief that Jesus rose from the dead became widespread among the followers of Jesus.  So, the two main assumptions supporting the view that Jesus is the divine Son of God are assumptions that many or most NT scholar doubt or do not accept.  This sort of dubious argument cannot produce KNOWLEDGE that Jesus was the divine Son of God.

There is a further problem with these lines of argument used to support the claim that Moses was a true prophet of God.  In order to identify an event as being a “miracle” one must first KNOW some of the plans and purposes of God.  We cannot see, touch, hear, smell, or taste God’s presence or activity.  God is, by definition, a bodiless person, so God does not interact with the world using a physical body.  Thus our normal ways of KNOWING that a particular person caused an event do NOT apply to God.

The only aspect of our normal ways of KNOWING that a particular person caused an event  that seems to apply to God is that of MOTIVATION.  Part of how a detective identifies a murder suspect is by figuring out who had a MOTIVE to kill the victim.  This method seems like one that can be applied to God, but only if we KNOW some of God’s plans and purposes. But we don’t even KNOW that God exists, so KNOWING God’s plans and purposes is pretty much out of the question.

Again, a Christian will be tempted to point to the Bible or “divine revelation” for information about the plans and purposes of God.  But the Bible in general, just like Moses and Jesus in particular, cannot simply be assumed to be absolutely true.  Why should we accept what the Bible has to say about God?  Why should we accept what Moses has to say about God in the first five books of the Bible?  Why should we accept what Jesus has to say about God in the Gospels?

The key reason generally given by Christians is to point to miracles as evidence of the divine inspiration of the Bible.  But this means, for example, pointing to the alleged miracles of Moses to prove that Moses was a true prophet of God.  And this means, for example, pointing to the alleged miracles of Jesus to prove that Jesus was the divine Son of God.  We have already seen that such a line of reasoning cannot produce KNOWLEDGE about the alleged divine authority of Moses or Jesus.

Furthermore, none of the alleged miracles of Moses or Jesus can be proven to be miracles UNLESS someone FIRST proves some claims about the purposes and plans of God.  But the source of information that Christians point us to, to find out about the plans and purposes of God is the Bible, the teachings of Moses, and the teachings of Jesus.  So, they are now REASONING in a CIRCLE.

One cannot determine that a miracle has occurred unless and until one proves some specific claims about the plans and purposes of God, but this requires that one establish some person or some book as having divine authority, but in order to establish that some person or some book has divine authority, one must first prove that a miracle has occurred.  Thus, it is not possible to prove that a miracle has in fact occurred.  Therefore, no person or book can be proven to have divine authority.

 

CONCLUSION

For the above reasons, it is doubtful that one can KNOW that some particular law or command came from God, and therefore it is doubtful that a necessary condition of SIN, namely condition (d), has ever been satisfied by any action of any human being.  Therefore, it is doubtful that any human being has ever performed an action that is a SIN.

The reason that I have not concluded that it is clearly the case that no human has ever committed a SIN, is that I have not yet examined the second possible way that a human can allegedly KNOW that a particular law or command is from God (i.e. conscience or innate knowledge of laws or commands of God).


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