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September 28, 2009

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Was this inspired by the ending to last night's Desperate Housewives? (Unfortunately I was exposed to it, outside my control...)

Coming soon, "Is all righteousness good????"

Why is this considered "debatable"?...unless we have trouble with the meaning of "is". But.. If sin is defined as "Any want of or lack of conformity to the law of God"...we ought not have to have a PHd to work through this....

Greg...are you running low on discussion topics?

Finally, something we can all agree on. :)

What entailed last nights ending of Desperate Housewives, kirk?

The ending narrative talked about how "there is a difference between sin and evil." In the show, someone had done something wrong, but at the end someone killed someone. I think they were trying to portray sin as small, and evil as big.

I happened to catch that little tidbit last night, and wondered if it prompted Greg's video this morning. :)

Suggestions for topics:

(1) Will God ever completely rid the world of all suffering, or will suffering enjoy an eternal future in some form or other?

(2) Before the Fall, did animals devour each other, starve to death, and languish in pain and suffering? If so, in what sense is the pre-Fall world perfect? If not, then what of old earth creationism?

(3) Suppose the evidence concerning Christianity simply didn’t weigh heavily in either direction. Would it still be rational to believe in Christianity?

(4) Could there be circumstances so torturous and hopeless that it is permissible to commit suicide?

(5) If God can command us to kill our children and to kill entire nations, could God also command us to sexually use our children or other nations against their will? If not, why not?

sin v evil? I guess it's a valid distinction today, as many people I know don't believe sin exists (or else they don't take it seriously – it falls under lifestyle choice – or "if it doesn't hurt anyone it's not bad"). Whereas they admit to evil in the world, eg the london bombings, 911, nazism etc.

Good to see you on vid Greg. I haven't seen you talk before (only heard you via podcast). You have a friendly face. :)

Dear Pyrrho - these are good questions! Its obvious you're curious about who God is and I commend you for that. I hope that since you asked all of your questions in a black or white type of matter, that you won't be discouraged to find out that there are other answers besides the choices you give.
1. Actually, it's not suffering that will be rid of but the world itself. Read about the new heaven and earth in Revelation 21.
2. You assume that carnivores were always meat eaters. There will again come a day when the lion lies with the lamb - what do you think the lion will eat?
3. There is nothing "rational" about having a beautiful and loving relationship with the God of the universe who called all things into being with His Word!
4. It is never hopeless to live when you have the Spirit of God living in you - no matter your cirucumstances!
5. I'm not sure what bible you read that said it is OK to kill your own child, but I assure you, God does not command us to do this. He did command the children of Israel to utterly destroy the inhabitants of their new land - and it was in fact due to their immorality! As a matter of fact, there are many other passages of scripture where people are killed for their sexual immorality.

Thats interesting, Kirk

All sin is evil, but the question is all evil sin is a valid one.
You could ask... is it evil that a baby playing near a pool accidently falls in and dies. Its fair to initially say that there isint neccessairily sin involved in this tragic incident...

Hi Everyone

I wouldn't say all sin is evil, because evil contains the idea of egregious wrong. (Although the definition for evil is morally wrong or bad).

I would say all sin is morally wrong, but some sins are worse than others.

This question is one of the reasons I don't listen to Dennis Praeger any more. He has stated on multiple occasions that all evil is sin, but not all sin is evil. Thus he reveals a profound fundamental confusion about morality, which is the core topic about which he cares and speaks of most. (Listening to him isn't bad and might have use as an exercise in identifying fallacious reasoning, but I only have so many listening hours in a day.)

Hi Cory

I think Dennis sees it the same as I do.

He doesn't want to call all sin evil, because it lessens the effect of the word evil.

That is, all sin is morally wrong or bad, but some sin is much more so (evil).

It sounds unreasonable to call murder, and stealing a pencil, evil. Murder is evil, stealing a pencil is wrong, both are sins.

Not that I completely agree with Dennis about everything.

Just to add, I think the difficulty with this, is seeing the terms good and evil as opposites, where I think in general, good and bad are opposites.

The common definitional view of Evil currently has with it the idea of something really bad.

Todd says...stealing a pencil is only "wrong" (less than evil").

What causes this quandry is a refusal to affirm a BASIS for what we attempt to call right (righteousness) and wrong (sin).
If the basis IS "Any want or lack of conformity to the law of God.....then we HAVE the basis...and there is no quandry.. Stealing a million or a pencil is stealing ...and that classifies it not as just "wrong"...but as sinful.

Vic, I agree that stealing a pencil is wrong, and hence sin. I just don't think it is as bad a sin as something "evil" like murder.

Todd....

For all practical purposes it doesn't matter. Sin is sin is ...death.

Pretty servere? Perhaps...but try to think of any sin as a rebellion against the One who has given you every breath you take. (Now..On the other hand..you are indeed blessed if the worst sin you ever comitted was stealing a pencil!)

However....even in stealing that pencil, think of the seriousness of it. What you said to God when you did comitt that sin was "God you haven't given me enough...even though i really don't need this pencil that doesn't belong to me i'm going to take it simply because I have the power to do it. I KNOW it is wrong but i don't care and i don't care what you think about it either".

Sounds silly to make such a big deal over something so trivial...right? Perhaps...but the commandment was not obey when you feel like it" but rather.... "Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect". But then...do you think we have a right to think... He was just using a little hyperbole when He gave that command??

Hi Vic

I agree, the wages of sin is death. And we all sin, because it is in our nature to do so. I also agree that we will all be held accountable for our sin, and receive what is just. This is the bad news!

And I would agree with you that the good news is that God has provided a means to be forgiven of our sin. Faith in Christ.

But even so, I wouldn't call all sin evil. I would call all sin morally wrong or bad, but I would save the term evil of egregious sins.

Anyway, I think we are probably going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I'll give you the last word. Thanks for the dialog.

There are a number of different ideas getting confused here. This is because the word "evil" is ambiguous.

"Evil" can refer to bad consequences in this earthly life. Thus, the amputation of an arm is a kind of evil. I believe that the term "necessary evil" usually involves this sense of the word. Not all sin is evil in this sense. Some sins might have wonderful consequences in this life.

"Evil" can also refer to wicked action. Its opposite in this context is righteousness. All sin is evil in this sense, since all sin is wicked. This is the point Greg made in the video response.

At times, we think and speak as if we would like evil actions to result in evil consequences for evildoers. Often they do. But evil action and evil consequences are distinct ideas, and the connection in our fallen world is tenuous at best. The questioner might have been asking about this connection.

"Evil" may also be reserved as an intensive term. Thus stealing a pencil is a wicked act, as is murder, but the latter is far more wicked than the former, so the latter is termed evil. Likewise, stubbing my toe is bad, as is losing my arm, but the one is far worse than the other, so it is termed evil. This is the point Praeger (and Todd) was making.

Finally, evil may be considered not with respect to this life, but with respect to eternity. In that context, the intensive notions of evil collapse. The smallest amount of wickedness results in maximal calamity to an unredeemed soul. This was Vic's point

I don't think that any of these ways of using the terms "evil" and "sin" are incorrect as such. The important thing is to be clear about how they are being used.

Todd...Ok..thanks for the last word. I would just say it would seem to be pretty shaky whenever anyone attempts to lessen the seriousness of sin....any sin....by "grading" it. There is so much of that kind of rhetoric coming out of our modern churches as it is. Yes...thank you too, Todd. Keep up the good fight.

Well said...wisdom lover....

If the Nazis came to the door looking for Jews, would you be sinning to lie saying there are none hidden in your home, knowing they would persecute them?

Sin has more to do with hatred being the motive than the act itself.

Since Jesus said Love fulfills the Law. Hatred would logically be the essence of sin.

Many today are full of hatred, yet they are in church every Sunday. They also lead upstanding lifestyles. But they are some of the worst abusers.

WisdomLover ,

""Evil" can refer to bad consequences in this earthly life. Thus, the amputation of an arm is a kind of evil. I believe that the term "necessary evil" usually involves this sense of the word. Not all sin is evil in this sense. Some sins might have wonderful consequences in this life."

This is a fine example of ice cream concept of good/evil. It takes into consideration what a person likes as being good and what a person dislikes as being evil and makes both subjective items rather than objective ones. It is the subject that determines what is good or evil, not the thing under examination. This does not square up with the Christian world view of moral objectivism.

Louis-

Sorry, but no. When I said that Some sins might have wonderful consequences, I meant that they might have objectively good consequences...not just what I like. I feel a bit silly defending this claim, since it's obviously true.

How about this. Christianity is responsible for pretty much all of the advances and improvements in life that we enjoy in western civilization. Without the death of Christ, there would have been no Christianity. In that case, we would have none of the benefits of Christianity. And there would have been no death of Christ had Judas not betrayed Him.

Judas' sin has, thus, probably had the most objectively beneficial consequences of any act in the history of the world.

But it was still a sin.

Oh what a tangled web I weave when I attempt to define God by what pleases me.

"Sorry, but no. When I said that Some sins might have wonderful consequences, I meant that they might have objectively good consequences...not just what I like. I feel a bit silly defending this claim, since it's obviously true."

What consequences they have does not define what they are in themselves. Simply because God can use evil to accomplish good ends, does not cause evil to become good by associating with good results. Something is not good by association any more than something being evil by association. The same is true of objectivity. Simply because some objective evil might be used by God for an objective good result, does not cause that objective evil to become an objective good. Evil continues to be evil in nature as it is in itself.

"How about this. Christianity is responsible for pretty much all of the advances and improvements in life that we enjoy in western civilization."

I am not sure that is true.

" Without the death of Christ, there would have been no Christianity."

Actually, without the resurrection there would be no Christianity. If Jesus died there might not be any Christianity.

"In that case, we would have none of the benefits of Christianity."

What benefits are YOU talking about?

"And there would have been no death of Christ had Judas not betrayed Him. "

His death is not enough to accomplish anything. Betrayal would not kick-off Christianity any more than Jesus' death would. So, I am a bit confused where you are going with this. Am I missing something critical in your response that makes your meaning crystal clear?

"Judas' sin has, thus, probably had the most objectively beneficial consequences of any act in the history of the world."

As I echo Paul's statement in a paraphrased way, if Jesus is not risen we are yet in our sins and we are of men the most to be pitied...as Christians that is. So, if Jesus is not who He said He was and is not able to deliver on His promises, Christianity is a false religion among the many others that claim to be the one true one. These other things you mention do nothing to change that fact and it is not born of the sinful nature of Judas even if it was used in God's plan to have His sinless Son execute the rescue operation detailed in the bible. Judas' betrayal is evil non-the-less and the fact God used it for good, is not as if rubbing shoulders with something good makes something bad a good thing because the good rubs off on it. I am sorry, WisdomLover , but so far, I don't see how your position is defensible.

Louis,

I don't mean to step in the middle here but only desire to share that I did not read WisdomLover as putting forth a proposition that "good results makes a sin good". In fact, I read him to be arguing your point ... that a sin is a sin regardless of the value of its fallout.

WisdomLover took pains to differentiate "sin" from "consequences of sin" by examining fairly various rhetorical combinations.

"I don't mean to step in the middle here but only desire to share that I did not read WisdomLover as putting forth a proposition that "good results makes a sin good". In fact, I read him to be arguing your point ... that a sin is a sin regardless of the value of its fallout."

I would prefer to be wrong on this one. I'll let WisdomLover correct me if that is the case and will be happy to hear that this is the view he holds and just as happy to be mistaken.

Louis-

"What consequences they have does not define what they are in themselves." -LK

Of course it doesn't. I think that that was the entire point of my second post. Judas' act was sin, even though it had good consequences.

I had to make this point because you took issue with a claim that I made in my first post that sins can have good consequences. The reason I made that point in the first post was to identify one sense of the word "evil" such that not all sin is evil. (And, please, before you go off on that, please note that I identified several senses of the word "evil" in my first post.)

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"Christianity is responsible for pretty much all of the advances...in western civilization." -WL

"I am not sure that is true." -LK

I won't go into details about this. Try Dinesh D'Souza's What's So Great About Christianity? It's a pretty good read on this subject.

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"Without the death of Christ, there would have been no Christianity." -WL

"Actually, without the resurrection there would be no Christianity." -LK

And resurrection requires prior death. Ergo...

-------------------

"What benefits are YOU talking about?"

If you go back to my first post (the part of it that you took issue with, thus precipitating my second post), you will see that I identified one sense of the word "evil" that refers to bad consequences in this life. Thus, you might call the amputation of an arm an evil. I also mentioned that the term "Necessary Evil" is often used in connection with this type of evil.

The flip side of this is that "Good" or "Benefit" simply refers to good consequences in this life. Christianity has had massively good social consequences in this life (but see D'Souza for the full rundown on that). This is not to say that Christians never suffer or anything like that. Nothing is perfect on this side of heaven.

Still, there has been no force for good in this life as great Christianity. And that would not have happened without Judas' sin.

Before you start accusing me of excusing Judas, notice first that I called his act a sin. It may be the worst sin that has ever been committed (I expect that Judas knew exactly who Jesus was and betrayed him anyway). And Judas certainly didn't intend or foresee any of the good (both in this life and in the next) that his act would lead to. But there's no sense in denying that it did lead to those goods.

If you still can't stand any of this. Why not revisit the story of Joseph? What was the punch-line of that one?

"You, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."

Joseph's brothers sinned against him and against their father and against God. But it had the good consequence of preserving many people alive (not the least of which were Joseph's brothers).

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"I am sorry, WisdomLover , but so far, I don't see how your position is defensible."

I've identified several senses of the word "evil" (and I've probably missed some). You've tried to take issue with this in certain ways, but they invariably involve confusing the senses of the word.

I am certainly not trying to defend any particular use of the word as somehow 'correct'. There's no point in insisting on a particular use of the word "evil". Just as it makes no sense to insist on a particular use of the word "font" (is it for baptism, or typing?) or "cat" (do you pet it, or drive it or sail it?).

If I have any position that I really want to defend it's that we need to recognize this ambiguity in the English language and be clear about which sense or senses of the word "evil" are being used in any given case.

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JoeH -

Thanks for the kind words I think you made the most important point I wanted to make and in fewer words (so good for you). I'm posting this mammoth anyway to cover some of the other details.

""What consequences they have does not define what they are in themselves." -LK

Of course it doesn't. I think that that was the entire point of my second post. Judas' act was sin, even though it had good consequences."

I think we agree on this point.

I have to ask you something regarding the first post so that I can understand where you are coming from. You said that the word "evil" is ambiguous...fair enough. When we attach sin to that word, would you say that it retains or loses its ambiguity as a combination?

I think the word remains ambiguous no matter what. That's why I think that there are senses of the word "evil" such that all sin is evil. And there are senses of the word "evil" such that not all sin is evil. The important thing is to be sensitive to these uses so that you don't end up talking past someone.

wisdomlover said:
"Judas' sin has, thus, probably had the most objectively beneficial consequences of any act in the history of the world."

This is actually completely wrong. The only consequences of Judas' betrayal were:
1) Jesus was arrested and taken to trial before the Sanhedrin, who beat Him and spit on Him. This began the series of trials that included severe floggings of our Lord and eventually led to His being crucified by the Romans. (Do not also praise the hands that nailed Him to the cross!!! This is the error of the madman Rasputin...)
2) Judas was filled with regret when he saw what was happening to Jesus, and in his remorse he hung himself to death.

The only consequences of JUDAS' betrayal were Christ's innocent suffering, mockery, and death, along with his own suicide and damnation. All of the beneficial consequences of the events surrounding Christ's crucifixion were directly due to God's work in atoning for man's sins. God gets ALL of the credit! He shares none of the glory with man, let alone a guilty, unrepentant betrayer.

"God gets ALL of the credit! He shares none of the glory with man, let alone a guilty, unrepentant betrayer."

Who said anything about giving Judas credit?

I think that I repeatedly called his action sinful. At one point I wondered whether it was the worst sin in history (since I assume that Judas knew who Christ was).

In order to give someone credit for some good consequence (or, on the flip side, blame for a bad consequence) they must have foreseen and intended the outcome. As I have taken great pains to say, Judas did neither. But there's no denying that Judas' sin did have a good outcome (which only God foresaw and intended...only God could have foreseen and intended it).

But, you argue:

"The only consequences of JUDAS' betrayal [was] Christ's...death...All of the beneficial consequences...were directly due to God's work."

This, again, confuses credit with consequence. Yes, God gets all the credit. For one thing, God's plan included Judas' betrayal of Christ.

But to say what you said is to say that the cross was not needed to save man. Man was saved by the direct action of God (your words, are they not?). But if we are saved directly by God, then we aren't saved through any means. Least of all are we saved through a bloody tool of Roman torture.

This account makes God supremely wicked. For if He could save man directly, why didn't he do it earlier (say, about the time that Cain picked up the club to kill Abel) and why doesn't He save all. And the cross becomes some weird Kabuki theater.

But if God needed the cross to save man, then He needed the cross and everything that goes with it: nails, thorns, blood, betrayal, suffering, death etc. Or to look at it from a different perspective, the cross, and everything that goes with it, was part of God's plan of salvation.

Everything I just said about God's eternal work through the cross and the role of Judas' sin in it also applies to the temporal benefits (like hospitals and universities) of Christianity. You need the cross, and everything that goes with it, for all of those benefits.

WisdomLover

"I think the word remains ambiguous no matter what. That's why I think that there are senses of the word "evil" such that all sin is evil. And there are senses of the word "evil" such that not all sin is evil. The important thing is to be sensitive to these uses so that you don't end up talking past someone."

I am afraid that this is as I suspected. We disagree on this point. When attached to sin, evil obtains a narrow scope of meaning that absolutely excludes any hint/sense of goodness. I am willing to be convinced otherwise, but you will have to provide convincing evidence.

So either Joseph's brothers didn't sin because their actions resulted in good according to Joseph. Or Joseph was wrong about their actions resulting in good. Or both.

Is that what we are to conclude?

"So either Joseph's brothers didn't sin because their actions resulted in good according to Joseph. Or Joseph was wrong about their actions resulting in good. Or both.

Is that what we are to conclude?
"

False dichotomy. Joseph's brothers did sin regardless of the end result being good. Joseph was not wrong that the results ended in good. There is another player in Joseph's little drama that we should not ignore. God in that situation used evil as a slave to accomplish His good. Ultimately, evil is always a slave and one who embraces evil also becomes...a slave.

I noticed that you have yet to address the issue of the contextual challenge. The connection between sin and evil, clearly defines a narrow context that includes personal responsibility in the choices being made. When they face judgment before God, do you think that their actions toward Joseph will be rewarded thereby giving God's approval to them? I don't think so. Jealousy is hardly a virtue to be rewarded by God. It is certainly contrary to the will of God for mankind as it is not the purpose for man to wander this earth to develop his vices, but rather to develop virtue.

"False dichotomy"

It's your dichotomy my friend. You are the one who said that sin absolutely excludes goodness. If so, then it can't have good consequences.

"I noticed that you have yet to address the issue of the contextual challenge. The connection between sin and evil, clearly defines a narrow context that includes personal responsibility in the choices being made."

I don't think that I understood one word of that.

"When they face judgment before God, do you think that their actions toward Joseph will be rewarded thereby giving God's approval to them?"

Can you point to anything I've said that remotely suggests that anyone will be rewarded for sin in the hereafter? Indeed, I've denied it on multiple occasions.

""False dichotomy"

It's your dichotomy my friend. You are the one who said that sin absolutely excludes goodness. If so, then it can't have good consequences."

It absolutely excludes goodness from the sinner side. The goodness does not come from the sin or the sinner. It is God directing events, even evil ones, toward a final good outcome. So, when we speak of sin, we are pretty much talking about man being the source and it is evil in that context. That God can take something evil and make it into good is just like taking someone who is sick and making him well. No surprise there.
The context on your side keeps getting set aside for some reason that I have trouble understanding. The context is twofold or two contexts...one from the God side (his plan) and the other from man's side (sin and evil).

"I noticed that you have yet to address the issue of the contextual challenge. The connection between sin and evil, clearly defines a narrow context that includes personal responsibility in the choices being made."
"I don't think that I understood one word of that."

I believe you are telling the absolute truth here. The word "evil" is modified by "sin" in such a way as to narrow the scope of its meaning. The concept of evil has a broader application than the evil of sin. I don't know if this will not serve only to confuse you more.

""When they face judgment before God, do you think that their actions toward Joseph will be rewarded thereby giving God's approval to them?"

Can you point to anything I've said that remotely suggests that anyone will be rewarded for sin in the hereafter? Indeed, I've denied it on multiple occasions."

You are really not alone in this and it really baffles me why so many folks have a problem with confining their understanding to the specific context something is being used in.

Can you point to anything I said that points to anything other than my question pointing out the simple fact that sin is in the sight of God an evil thing regardless of the temporal outcome? The question was meant to emphasize that point not point fingers. My line of reasoning and dialog so far should have provided a clear context that made that obvious. However, I can see if such context is ignored how one might draw a mistaken conclusion as to my motives. I could just as easily have made such a mistake.

"Can you point to anything I said that points to anything other than my question pointing out the simple fact that sin is in the sight of God an evil thing regardless of the temporal outcome?"

There's way too much pointing going on here. But I think you are trying to say this:

"Sin is evil regardless of the temporal outcome"

Let us examine that sentence in light of some of the senses of the word "evil" that I have identified.
------------------
Definition:
Evil = Bad consequences in this life.
Example:
The amputation of an arm.
Analysis of "Sin is evil regardless of the temporal outcome"
Straight substitution of definiens for definiendum gives us "Sin has bad consequences in this life regardless of the temporal outcome". This seems to be saying that sin has bad consequences in this life regardless of the consequences that it has in this life. This is a contradiction and therefore untrue.
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Definition:
Evil = Morally wicked action.
Example:
Amputating someone's arm just for fun.
Analysis of "Sin is evil regardless of the temporal outcome"
This seems to me to be analytic. (Even if you ultimately define moral wickedness as that which causes bad consequences in this life...which I don't). The reason for this is that "sin" seems to be a synonym for "morally wicked action". As such, the sentence is saying that morally wicked action is morally wicked. Which is quite true, but not earth-shaking.
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Definition:
Evil = Bad consequences in eternity.
Example:
Burning in Hell.
Analysis of "Sin is evil regardless of the temporal outcome"
Straight substitution of definiens for definiendum gives us "Sin has bad consequences in eternity regardless of the temporal outcome". This seems to be saying that sin has bad consequences in eternity regardless of the consequences that it has in this life. This claim is neither straightforwardly contradictory nor straightforwardly analytic. I believe that it is true. Though the bad consequences are not always that the sinner burns (thank God!). The sinner may suffer the consequences. Or it may be that God suffers in his place.
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So we see that the claim "Sin is evil regardless of the temporal outcome" can have (at least) three different evaluations depending on the sense of "evil" that is meant.

BTW adding "in the sight of God" to any of these analyses does nothing. If, for example, God were considering the sentence "Sin is evil regardless of the temporal outcome", and He were taking evil to mean "bad consequences in this life", He'd also find the statement to be not only false, but contradictory.

Yes, all sin is evil because sin is the absence of righteousness, and evil is the absence of good, check this out, this is a fictional account of Albert Einstein as a child having a run in with his professor (the person who posted the video on tangle.com says it's a true story but it isn't unfortunately, although very thought provoking):

http://www.tangle.com/view_video?viewkey=77647fc3ce406950d943&utm_source=newsletter0930&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weeklytopvideos

Just copy and paste it and enjoy guys...God bless ;)

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