Friday, February 27, 2009

Deadly Sins

In Catholic theology, we talk about the Seven Deadly Sins. Human's love to catorigize and lable so that things are easire to deal with. Anyway, the seven deadly sins can easily be remember by a wonderful acronmyn (and being a computer programmer by trade and the son of an Air Force Officer by birth, I love acronyms). Fr. Doug Travis taught me this acronym: APESLAG.


I had often wondered what it is about sin that leads to death. We all know that the wages of sin is death. We all know that Sin do not coexist. So, why does God hate sin so much? What is it about sin that causes God to cast us away from Himself?

When I was in college, I often wondered about death and hell. What was just about God condemning a man to eternity of punishment for 70 or 80 or even 100 years of sins - no matter how heinous the sins were? How could I reconcile God's justice and love with this rather imbalanced equation (100 years of sin = eternity of punishment).

I prayed and asked questions. Perhaps the most important work for me on this subject was C. S. Lewis' book The Great Divorce. In it, Lewis sees people making the same choices that keep the from heaven and he sees a few leave hell. It is a wonderful book on the nature of time and eternity.

Another book that was instrumental to my image of sin and hell was Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Inferno. It is a "rewrite" of Dante's Inferno, but updated for the 20th Century. (As an aside, they have a sequel out, Escape From Hell, which is wonderful as well.) There is one scene that showed me a possible reason for hell. The protagonist of the story (Allen Carpenter, a science fiction author), sees a psychiatrist in the pit of Falsifiers and Counterfiters. The psychiatrist tells the story of putting a catatonic in a hot box until the catatonic reacted and when they got to box up to 130 degrees, the catatonic said his first worsd in sixteen years: "Get me the f$%# out of here!" The story continues:

The mad eyes found me, and his face seemed to cae in. The cherubic
smile vanished. Urgently he said, "Get me the f$%# out of here!"

I reasoned the same as Niven and Pournelle - that Hell was Heaven's insane asylum. Like Lewis, I thought it possible to leave Hell (at which point it becomes purgatory). Now I don't know if that is true or not and I have no real desire to find out personally, but I like the idea.

Now, what is it about Sin that causes us to enter Hell? What causes us to be judged?
When I think of sin as part of our nature - our ontology or our being rather than specific acts, I get a better idea. Sin is living or thinking as if God does not exist. Sin takes us away from God, not because God sends us away, but because It is virtually impossible to reach your destination by stearing away from it. Sin is not just rebellion against God, it is acting as if you are God yourself and God Himself does not exist. Sin is unreality. Sin is death because it takes us away from the Author of Life Himself - God. The Seven Deadly Sins are so labled because they cause us to deviate from the Path that God set for us to reach Him.

There are two correctives for sin. First, of course, is confession. Naming your sin and confessing it and taking responsibility for it and receiving God's forgiveness is a wonderful and freeing exercise. The second, and more permanent is to be made new. To be filled with God's grace and to have our new life operate within us so that we sin less and less.

Over the next several days, we will discuss each of the Seven Deadly Sins in more detail.

Phil Snyder

The First "A" - Anger


Anonymous said...


Excellent start for your series. I think there are also seven virtues intended to offset the seven deadly sins. "Overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21
Dcn Dale

plsdeacon said...

Yes, Dale. There are the seven virtues. I don't know if they "offset" the seven deadly sins or not, but they are there. The virtues are divided in to two groups. The first, the Cardinal Virtues, are virtues that any person can develop: Temporance, Fortitude (courage), Prudence, and Justice. The other three are the Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope and Love.

Phil Snyder

Anonymous said...

Virtue is like sunlight. If you pass it through a prism you get quite a variety. I especially like the KJV of the woman with an issue of blood who is healed as Jesus notices a "virtue" leaving him. Not too many folks think of virtue as power. Dcn Dale