Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Theology and Reality

Milt Stanley recently quoted - extensively for Milt - J.D. Hatfield on "differences in sin:"
Is all sin the same? No, when Jesus said that to even so much as look at a woman with lust is adultery, He wasn’t saying that you might as well go ahead and do it. You have to have the sin in your heart and mind before you do it in action, but to add the act adds more sin. See?

There's a difference in degree (seriousness), a difference in progression (how far the sin has gone), and a difference in consequences. All sin has been paid for and all sin is damning, but different sins have different temporal consequences.

People often miss the point about the consequences of sin. The simplistic notion that to make more of a deal over some sins than others is somehow wrong reveals ignorance instead of a more mature understanding of the heinousness of all sin, whatever its kind.

Some sins are worse than others. Yes they are. They are worse in what they do. They wreck you faster and more completely. They damage others more severely. They reach out further and make it harder for you to come back to God. Oh, His hand isn’t so short it cannot save you, but the further you are away, the more it is going to hurt you to get back, that is for sure.
This discussion struck me because of how little people are able to differentiate between theology and reality.

Theologically speaking, all sin is the same. In terms of our understanding of salvation, all sin separates us from God and therefore is the same in its eternal affect. But it is not all the same in the here and now. God did not come to only to save us for eternity - He came to save us right now.

I must take an analogy from physics. Newton's laws of motion work much better in space than they do on earth. They are the same laws, they just work better. Force always equals mass multiplied by acceleration. In space where there is nothing to interfere (atmosphere, subsequent winds, magnetic forces, gravitational field variations...) I can tell you exactly where and how hard an asteroid is going to hit the moon. But on Earth, those interferences do what we call "perturb" the equation. The calculations get a whole lot more complex and error is introduced because I just have to guess at some of the stuff, and educated guess to be sure, but a guess nonetheless. The asteroid is going to hit the earth, but the precisely where and how hard is going to get a little, if not a lot, fuzzy.

The theological statement "all sin is the same" is kind of like that. When it comes to living the Christian life, I can say that, but it leaves a whole lot of fuzzy details, and there are many perturbations to consider.

I wrote about the confusing theology and reality from a different angle back in May. It got some interesting comment. I am not attempting to say here that there is no role for our intellects in our faith. But I am attempting to say:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. - Prov 3:5
Here's the thing. Just like things get fuzzy with the asteroid, they get fuzzy in the day-to-day living with Christ. Sometimes when we try to understand everything (theology) we make a hash of it - like the example that Hatfield has so richly described.

I have been in physics classes where students quite rightly applied the basic equations to an experimental problem and boldly proclaimed the outcome - only to find out they were grossly wrong. They forgot to include the perturbations into their calculations.

When it comes to Christianity, we may never know all the perturbations - I take that as a given, human behavior and all. But we have a fall back - the Holy Spirit.

We need to learn to listen - and exercise the related corollary - obey.

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