What ever happened to sin?

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The word sin,which seems to have disappeared, was a proud word. It was once a strong word, an ominous and serious word. It described a central point in every civilized human beings life plan and life style. But the word went away. It has almost disappeared—the word, along with the notion. Why? Doesnt anyone sin anymore? Doesnt anyone believe in sin?” 

The above paragraph was taken from the book What Ever Happened to Sin? (Later renamed What Ever Became of Sin?) first published in 1973 by Karl Menninger, M.D., a doctor of psychiatry. It’s not written from a Christian perspective, but from a psychiatric one. Whether you are a Christian or not, believing that we are all often prone to doing the wrong thing explains a lot about human nature. We are all likely, in varying degrees, to do the selfish thing. Being good doesn’t naturally spring from our sweet angelic selves; it almost always involves overcoming evil, because evil is often the first impulse. Being our best means overcoming our worst selves.

If you ever wonder about this, just watch small children throw temper tantrums, grab for what they want and express jealousy towards other children, sometimes even hurting each other. Any parent who doesn’t believe in original sin has turned a blind eye toward their own kids.

But regardless, like Dr. Menninger observed almost fifty years ago, sin is almost an obsolete concept. About the only place you were guaranteed to hear about sin in the last 50 years was at a Billy Graham Crusade, and now since he’s gone, we hardly hear about sin at all, even in church. We hear about mental illness, psychotherapy, addictions, abuse, but sin? It’s outdated. 

Numerous surveys show that over 50% of people (self-proclaiming Christians included) believe we were born good, or born neutral and we make choices in life whether to be good or bad. The concept of original sin from the Bible — that we all fell along with the first man, Adam, and we are all born with a bent toward sin — is in the minority.

If there is no sin, there is no need for the cross, no forgiveness, no humility, no possibility of being wrong.

Even worse, theologian H. Richard Niebuhr has postulated that much of Christianity today promotes a pseudo gospel in which “a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” This is why, after discovering that neither millennials nor their parents give much thought to repentance from sin, the National Study of Youth and Religion concluded that “a significant part of Christianity in the United States is actually only tenuously Christian in any sense that is seriously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition.” That’s a nice way of saying that a lot of Christians in this country are not Christians at all.

Remove sin from the equation and everything falls apart. Everything. Christ … the cross … grace … No wonder we can’t have any civil discourse. The problem is always going to be with the other guy, never with me. 

I used to think that I was right

A lonely candle in the night

And while the heart of the world was breaking

I could not feel the aching

The mantle had passed down to me

This thing was my destiny

And while the world was out there dying

I was in here lying to myself

 

For all the knowledge I had gained

Put me on a higher plain

And I became another

No one was my brother

And the loving message He brought down

Turned into a hollow sound

And then I heard Him calling

And His words sent me falling to my knees

 

You’re not the only one with truth

You’re not the only one with eyes

You’re not the only one — the only one who cries

You’re not the only one

 

And suddenly there was with me

An ocean of humanity

A sea of many faces

In waves of warm embraces

And while I questioned how to judge them all

Who would rise and who would fall

I found myself among them

And it mattered little who was wrong or right 

 

And then I saw Him lifted up

The wounded one who drank the cup

Of death for all the dying

The end of justifying

And I laid my mantle on the ground

And felt the rain come pouring down

The rain of my religion

Falling down like weeping from the sky

 

You’re not the only one with truth

You’re not the only one with eyes

You’re not the only one — the only one who cries

You’re not the only one

                   from “Not the Only One,” by John Fischer

These current Catches and BlogTalkRadio interviews are critical. Especially last night’s interview with Kristin Kobes Du Mez author of Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. This is a must-hear podcast now. Click here to listen.

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3 Responses to What ever happened to sin?

  1. Toni Petrella says:

    Don’t hear about the word sin but, its there no matter what. We all make mistakes, sin and fall short. Only thru repentance and faith do we move forward and acting like it doesn’t exist is not good. So true about the mental illness when someone makes a horrible mistake. The word sin I still think about very much and I hope that many others have not forgotten that word.

  2. Pingback: Poignant words from John Fischer – Two Minutes for Cross-Checking!

  3. Steve Bratz says:

    Thanks for the refreshment on how our world today attempts to hide sin, pretending it’s not there rather than dealing with its reality and the grace He provided for us to deal with it the right way!!

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