Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Who Do We Blame?

I am all for individual responsibility. The Scriptures teach that we are responsible for our own sins. No more shall it be said (heard) in Israel, "The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge."

Yet, our understanding of human nature bids us look beyond sin as something as a purely voluntary action of the will --and something that can be resisted by mere willpower.

It is an essentially Pelagian view of sin that says all we must do is resist sin, and, when we fail, it is a moral failing --purely our own "fault." Those who think thus need to own Romans 7.

Which brings me to the thorny problem of Who's Responsible? Conservative evangelicals tend to place sole blame on the sinner: if a person becomes addicted to a substance or experience, it is the moral weakness of that person that brought that about. And, implicitly, this gives rise to pride: I am of sterner moral stuff, because I didn't fall prey to lust, or greed, or drunkenness.

And, it tends to us reasoning that certain sins are more serious than others. Some sins, of course, are more serious than others, but not always the ones we think!

I wonder sometimes if our blame is largely misplaced, if loving the sinner and hating the sin actually means hating the purveyor of sin, while having restorative mercy to the one ensared in the sin. This is not quite moral man and immoral society --more like, sin-prone man, and temptation-proffering society. I am finding myself far more angry at the addictors than addicts these days. I abhor the gambling industry. The whole industry is aimed at addicting those who involve themselves in it --they study the psychology of the gambler, and feed off the addiction.

AS I read the Bible, I see both Satan and Jesus operating this way. Satan feeds off weak and sinful human nature --to entice people to slavery. God's condemnation to death rests upon Satan for this (Genesis 3). Jesus is incensed in the temple (no pun intended), not at those who are buying the doves, etc. (thus "driving the market!") but at the dovesellers! HIs anger rests not on the sinners, but the purveyors of sin.

We might say the same thing for porn, alcohol, or drugs. Our anger should at least be somewhat --and I would argue, mostly, directed at the purveyors. Yet, we throw drug addicts in jail. But, at least in 2 of those three things, the purveyors are protected under the free market, and freedom of speech.

Part of the church growing to understand grace must mean that sinners sins ought not to shock us. Indeed, we understand, empathize, and seek to deliver, not condemn. But, it also means directing our anger to the right places: those who profit off the sinful nature.


  1. Great points. I've never really examined this much beyond abortion -- I feel a deep-seated anger toward a doctor who would take the hypocratic oath "First do no harm" and then perform an abortion on a woman who is scared, alone, poor, embarassed, etc. Not that the woman is not at fault for her choice, but so often, vision is clouded by circumstance, fear and enslavement to sin. I've known several women who had abortions and I have trouble looking at them in anger when I see the after-effects of the procedure. But I am angry at the doctors who continue to murder without conscience.

    I guess it's the same in so many areas of sin -- clouded vision for many reasons. And if I am a conservative evangelical who takes it all on myself, my sigh is probably so very clouded that I don't realize just what I may be entrenched in myself... Though I'm still not sure who to blame.

    My 2 cents, though they may be worthless.

  2. Agreed. Another good example. Some people are enslaved by sin --the result being misery. Some set out to enslave others --the result being immediate condemnation. Apart from Christ, both end in both condemnation and misery.

  3. Christ's temptation in the wilderness defines three different types of sin that He overcomes. First, appetite, Second, fear, and Third, power. The sin I believe you are speaking of in this post is appetite and fear. In these cases, yes there is usually always a purveyor which entices a weakness in an individual which is usually a strong weakness of flesh, a desire, or obsession, or an addiction. These are by far in my opinion the absolute hardest temptations, the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. But the third type and Christ's last temptation is that of power and this particular one is one that I tend to lean toward complete individual responsibility. Some theologians say that the three temptations of Christ range from least to hardest. But I disagree, I believe the first was the hardest. For Christ was made human willingly and succumbed to hunger and after 40 days, He was starving. Temptation against the appetite and flesh can be absolutely debilitating in which one is trapped. But power and pride are not entrapments, they are individualistic attempts to promote self righteousness. These perhaps can be walked away from more easily, but require much humility to do so. The inappropriate advancement of power and pride lye solely on one's own shoulders.

  4. Good thoughts, anon.

    The thing about pride, though, is that it lies at the root of the human condition, being the first sin. Pride is really nothing other than selfishness.

    You are right; it is not an entrapping sin, but it is an endemic sin, because it is so hard to root out. One can even be boastful of his humility.

    I like the definition of humility that says what humility is not (false humility) but simply self-forgetfulness --not considering myself, my opinions, comfort, prerogatives, privilege, notice, etc etc.

  5. ditto.

    Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance. ~Saint Augustine