Are Some Sins Easier to Condemn, Easier to Erase?

What if bigotry were as hard to discern and remedy as same-sex attraction and concupiscence?

Think about the categories used in the PCA report on Human Sexuality:

Second, according to the system of the Westminster Confession of Faith, we should not be surprised, but rather expect that concupiscence in general, and specific instances like homosexual attraction bigotry, would continue in the life of a believer. The Confession is clear; corruption remains “in every part” (13.2). We would never say to a new believer who has a history of destructive anger, “Now that you are a Christian, you will never again feel a rush of anger rise up within you at the wrong time, for a selfish reason, out of proportion to the situation, or in any other way that contradicts God’s law.” Neither should we communicate to a believer with a history of homosexual attraction bigotry the expectation that this will simply disappear.

“…according to the doctrinal system of the Westminster Confession of Faith, we should not rule out, but rather expect that concupiscence in general antipathy to others, and specific instances like homosexual attraction bigotry, would be areas in which the believer would see some progress toward truly righteous feelings and actions. Our previous point had to do with the danger of creating the expectation that our experience of corruption will entirely disappear in this life if we are regenerate. This point addresses what might be considered an error on the other end of the spectrum, the error of asserting that change is not possible or not to be sought. But just as the Confession is clear that corruption remains in every part, it is also clear that the sanctifying work of the Spirit is felt in the “whole man.” Someone with homosexual attraction who hates other groups ought not close himself or herself off to the pursuit of, and hope of, real change in those attractions inclinations, even if that change is incomplete and mixed. …

Finally, we can discern a very practical value to the distinction between the sin that is constituted by our “corruption of nature…and all the motions thereof” and the “actual transgressions” that proceed from it. Even where original sin is manifested in the form of sinfully disordered desires or feelings inclinations, including homosexual attraction bigotry, there is significant moral difference between that initial “motion” of corruption and the decision to cultivate or act on it. To feel a sinfully disordered sexual attraction hatred (of any kind) is properly to be called sin—and all sin, “both original and actual” earns God’s wrath (WCF 6.6)—but it is significantly less heinous (using the language of the WLC 151) than any level of acting upon it in thought or deed. The point here is not to encourage those with homosexual attraction who are bigoted to become comfortable with or accepting of it. Rather, it is to counter the undue heaping of shame upon them as if the presence of homosexual attraction bigotry itself makes them the most heinous of sinners. On the contrary, their experience is representative of the present life of all Christians. John Owen has said, “…yet sin doth so remain, so act and work in the best of believers, whilst they live in this world, that the constant daily mortification of it is all their days incumbent upon them.” Our brothers and sisters who resist and repent of enduring feelings of same-sex attraction bigotry are powerful examples to us all of what this “daily mortification” looks like in “the best of believers.” We should be encouraged and challenged by their example and eager to join in fellowship with them for the mutual strengthening of our faith, hope, and love.

Is it possible to think about tribalism, bigotry, undue attachment to groups, or racial supremacy the way the PCA instructs officers and members to think about same sex attraction? Both are disordered inclinations. But when people condemn bigotry between racial groups, they tend not to see it as something that lurks in a fallen human being, even in a regenerate soul:

​Racism should be denounced by religious and civic leaders in no uncertain terms. Equivocal talk about racist groups gives those groups sanction, something no politician or pastor should ever do. As Christian scholars, we affirm the reality that all humans are created in the image of God and should be treated with respect and dignity. There is no good moral, biblical, or theological reason to denigrate others on the basis of race or ethnicity, to exalt one race over others, or to countenance those who do.

Would the authors and signers of this statement ever add, “there go I but for the grace of God”? Or is such a condemnation an indication to others that you do not approve of racism in those who are. As such, a statement is mainly a way to avoid confusion. By signing or issuing a statement, I too show that I am not a racist and detest those who are.

Wait. What about hate the sin, love the sinner?

Even more difficult – what if the sins of the sixth and seventh commandments — heck the whole darned Decalogue — reside in each and every Christian’s heart? That might produce statements that are less finger wagging, and more understanding like the PCA’s report.

It might also indicate that human beings are not Pelagian when it comes to racial bigotry. That is, the soul does not have a racist switch that you flick on after coming into the world loving and kind, and then flick off when you repent and condemn racism in yourself and others.

In fact, if sin can be systemic, no better place to look than not in bureaucracy but in the human heart.

4 thoughts on “Are Some Sins Easier to Condemn, Easier to Erase?

  1. Bias vs. another racial group is obviously an evil fallen people are able to avoid. Bias vs. “rednecks,” Republicans, non-college graduates, etc. (“deplorables” in general) are, of course, part of the fallen human inclination to prefer “us” over “them”–to be resisted, naturally, but never disappearing in this life.

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  2. Hi, thanks for this.

    It looks like you’ve done a reading to reimagine a PCA statement on homosexuality as though it were about racism. This makes sense since the Biblical’s clear teaching is against racism and homosexuality.

    But I wonder would you consider doing the converse, organizing along the culture’s definition of “hate”? Reimagine a PCA statement against racism as though it were actually in favor of homosexuality.

    I’ll put an example here. I don’t know how to cross out words in the text like you did so I’m just going to pull a few quotes, out of context, but without changing any words.

    Best,
    Joe in St Louis

    Inasmuch as we fail to love our diverse neighbors in both word and deed, we are rebelling against the Lord, contradicting our Christian identity, and working at cross-purposes with our stated mission. It should be said that cross-cultural love has nothing to do with being politically correct. Rather, this cross-cultural love has everything to do with faithfulness to God’s Word and its central message: the good news of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

    The dying world longs to hear God’s people speak truth in love that we might become the mature body in Christ (Eph. 4:15). Theologically, our goal is not to seek diversity as an end in itself because this would be too small an endeavor relative to God’s mission. Rather the great end of this pursuit is doxology through diversity. Our goal should be to glorify our Savior by cultivating a cross-cultural community that maintains a cross-cultural witness to the grace and glory of God. When rightly considered, the Christian life and community should be a symphonic expression of the “breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ” (Eph. 3:18). This love requires humble listening, teachability, and wisdom as well as the proactive pursuit of individual and institutional change. By God’s grace, as God changes us, we will become a foretaste of God’s Kingdom. Again, diversity is not and never should be our ultimate goal; God’s glory is.

    To fail to see these issues as “Gospel issues,” that is as the proper ethical response to biblical teaching, is to fail to live faithfully to our own confessional standards.

    God’s Law regulates the way we as Christians live with one another (LC 97). And especially the second table of the God’s Law urges us to “love our neighbor as ourselves”: we honor those in every station of life, “inferiors, superiors, and equals,” by seeking to “regard the dignity and worth of each other, in giving honor to go one before another, and to rejoice in each other’s gifts and advancement, as [our] own” (LC 131).

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