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Friday, February 27, 2015

A Few Questions About Sin

Herbert Armstrong and his followers liked to make religious issues plain, clear and simple. The problem with this approach is that things are rarely as plain, clear and simple as they seem - especially when one is dealing with a book as complex as The Bible. Armstrong was fond of quoting I John 3:4 as the quintessential definition of sin: "sin is the transgression of the law." He was also fond of reminding everyone about the penalty for sin: "For the wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23).

Well, that's plain enough isn't it?

Let's take a closer look at this topic by asking a few questions:

What "law" is referred to in I John 3:4? Does this encompass the entire law? Does this reference encompass the entire Pentateuch/Torah (the first five books of the Bible - the Law of Moses)? Does it refer to the Ten Commandments? OR does it refer to all of the commandments, statutes, ordinances and judgments contained in both the Old and New Testaments? Does the fact that YHWH gave Moses the Ten Commandments in a separate audience (and personally wrote them on two tablets of stone) suggest that they are God's fundamental and preeminent law?

Are some laws/commandments more important than others? If not, why didn't Jesus challenge the individual who asked him about the greatest commandment of the law (Matthew 22:34-40 and Mark 12:28-34)? Does his answer suggest that the entire law can be summarized by two principles (Matthew 22:40)? What did Paul mean when he told the Romans that love was the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10)? If love is the fulfillment of the law, does that mean that hate is the ultimate definition of sin? If the premise behind the law is love, does that mean that any behaviors that replace or supersede our devotion to God or hurt/harm us or our fellow man constitute sin? Did Paul tell the Galatians that the entire law is fulfilled by loving your neighbor as yourself (Galatians 5:14) because the way to demonstrate our love for God is by loving our brother (I John 4:7-21)?

What did Paul mean when he said "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind" (Romans 14:5)? Is an awareness that something is wrong essential to that something being labeled as sin (James 4:17)? What did Paul mean when he said "whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23)? Does that imply that anything that violates our conscience is a sin? Does God consider a person's intent when evaluating sin (Leviticus 4:2-3 and Numbers 15:22-36)?

If the Israelite notion that everything that pollutes a person should be regarded as an abomination and sin is correct, then why did Christ tell the multitude that it was "not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man" (Matthew 15:11)? Is it possible to obey the letter of the law and violate its spirit or intent?

Does homosexuality always meet the criteria established above for defining sin? Does homosexual behavior always hurt or harm someone? If we are to regard Leviticus 18:22 (Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination) as a clear indication that all homosexual behavior is sin, why is it acceptable for Herbert Armstrong and his followers to ignore God's clear instructions regarding the Feast of Tabernacles? Wasn't the only appropriate feast site Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16:16 and I Kings 9:3)? Didn't all of the observances of the Feast of Tabernacles recorded in Scripture clearly take place in Jerusalem, including Christ's observance and those prophesied to occur in the Kingdom? Didn't God instruct His people to build temporary shelters out of the branches of various kinds of trees (Leviticus 23:40-43)? Is it acceptable to substitute tents, campers and hotels instead of following these clear instructions? Does deviating from God's clear instructions constitute a sin in this instance?

If the penalty for all sin is death, then what did John mean when he wrote: "If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death." (I John 5:16-17)?

Do we begin to appreciate the PLAIN TRUTH about sin?


  1. You quote the [discredited] Bible as an authority; you're still hooked on superstition.

  2. You may not believe it, but I enjoy your comments. As you know, although you and I agree on the fact that there are many errors and contradictions in Scripture, we clearly disagree that they discredit the whole thing. In this piece, I was specifically dealing with the Armstrong Church of God culture. As you also know, they consider the Bible to be the ultimate and final authority in matters of faith. I do not view Scripture in the same way. However, if one is going to challenge their notions about sin, one must appeal to the only source which they recognize as legitimate to do so. It is my hope that in demonstrating that their viewpoint is too narrow and simplistic, even from a Scriptural perspective, that they may rethink some of the premises that underpin their prejudices relative to homosexuality and other "sins." By the way, you and I could probably also agree that there is a great deal of superstitious stuff in the Bible - I'm not "hooked" on it or blindly supportive of that kind of material simply because it appears in Scripture.

  3. Hi Miller, thanks for your effort. I find it encouraging to read someone who has seen the Bible in the same way I have and yet has faith in God. Sorry to say my faith has been shot to pieces, yet I still hold on!!?