1149) Do We Have to Talk About Sin?


From The Road to Character, by David Brooks, (Random House, 2015), 53-54:

     Today, the word “sin” has lost its power and awesome intensity.  It’s used most frequently in the context of fattening desserts.  Most people in daily conversation don’t talk much about individual sin.  If they talk about human evil at all, that evil is most often located in the structures of society– in inequality, oppression, racism, and so on– not in the human heart…

     But in truth, “sin,” like “vocation” and “soul,” is one of those words that it is impossible to do without…

     Sin is a necessary piece of our mental furniture because it reminds us that life is a moral affair.  No matter how hard we try to reduce everything to deterministic brain chemistry, no matter how hard we try to reduce behavior to the sort of herd instinct that is captured in big data, no matter how hard we strive to replace sin with non-moral words, like “mistake” or “error” or “weakness,” the most essential parts of life are matters of individual responsibility and moral choice:  whether to be brave or cowardly, honest or deceitful, compassionate or callous, faithful or disloyal.  When modern culture tries to replace sin with ideas like error or insensitivity, or tries to banish words like “virtue,” “character,” “evil,” and “vice” altogether, that doesn’t make life any less moral; it just means we have obscured the inescapable moral core of life with shallow language.  It just means we think and talk about these choices less clearly, and thus become increasingly blind to the moral stakes of everyday life…

     The concept of sin is necessary because it is radically true. 


I John 1:8-9  —   If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

James 4:17  —  If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

I Peter 2:11  —  Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.

Romans 3:22-24  —  This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.


PSALM 32:1-5:

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven,
    whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them
    and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave the guilt of my sin.