Sin


smoking-nuns11Most American Christians have identified smoking or chewing tobacco as sinful, but what is the Biblical basis for this conclusion?  There is no verse that says “Thou shalt not smoke.”  So why should we think it’s morally wrong?

The two reasons I typically hear are related to (1) health and (2) addiction.  Regarding health, the verse appealed to is often 1 Corinthians 3:17 in which Paul says God will destroy those who defile the temple of God.  The temple is understood to be the human body, so anything that destroys the human body is sinful.  I’m not convinced this is the right interpretation of the verse, but let’s run with it for the sake of argument.  There’s no question that smoking cigarettes is not good for the body.  It’s unhealthy and thus unwise, but is this enough to warrant considering it sinful?  How many other things do we consume that are unhealthy for us?  Are we prepared to call too much consumption of chocolate, ice cream, soda, red meat, and the like sinful as well?  These are also unhealthy when consumed too much.  One may object that while these things are unhealthy, they do not typically kill the person who consumes them.  That may be true of each item individually, but not necessarily as a whole.  A person who consumes too much sugar, fat, etc. often develops diseases such as diabetes or cancer, and some die as a result.  If we’re not prepared to consider it a sin to eat too much ice cream  or drink too much soda, then why are we so quick to consider smoking a sin?  Perhaps we should consider both to be sin, but I doubt most would see it that way (you can pry my ice cream container away from my cold, dead hands!!).

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I am no prophet, but based on the current trends in our culture, I think the following may be the cultural and moral battles of the near future:

  1. Normalization of sex between adults and underage teens (age ~14-17)
  2. Genetically modified designer babies (for health, longevity, intelligence, etc.)
  3. Sexual reproduction to be replaced by the scientific engineering of babies (babies created and grown in the lab – artificial wombs)
  4. Temporary marriages
  5. Marriage to robots and animals
  6. Normalization of adultery and open marriages
  7. Parental “ownership” of their children will be denied
  8. Some animals will be deemed “persons” with rights
  9. Nature rights will spread
  10. Infanticide

Do you agree or disagree?  Any items you would add to or remove from the list?

Finally, something has been done about the Episcopalian Church’s flagrant acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex marriage in defiance of Church of England’s teaching. The pessimist in me thinks this disciplinary action is not enough, is just delaying the inevitable split of the church, and was probably forced upon the Church of England’s native leaders by its conservative bodies abroad.  I would love to hear the thoughts of anyone living in England or part of the Episcopalian Church.

Cohabit - Not MarriageThe American College of Pediatricians explains why cohabitation is bad for society in just about every way imaginable.  And yet cohabitation continues to rise as the folk wisdom says it will increase one’s chances of marital success.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The most happiness does not come from receiving the benefits of marriage (sex, playing house) without actual marriage, but from marriage itself.

 

See also: The sociology of cohabitation: “Shacking up” isn’t such a good idea after all

Empty BedThe predominant sexual ethic today is built on three moral principles: 1) Consent; 2) No harm involved; 3) Whatever feels good.  As long as it feels good, no one is getting hurt, and those involved are consenting to it, it is deemed to be morally acceptable.  Timothy Hsiao has written a great article showing why consent and harmlessness are not sufficient to justify a sexual behavior.

Regarding consent, Hsiao argues that consent ought to be based on what is good for us (not just desired by us), and thus the inherent goodness of the act – not just consent – is required. Furthermore, to give consent is to give someone moral permission to do what they would not be justified in doing absent the consent. Giving consent, then, presumes that one has the moral authority to give that permission to another. But if one lacks the moral authority to grant such permissions, consent is not sufficient to make an act ethical. If the act in question is not morally good, then the consenter lacks the proper authority to give consent.

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LifeWay Research conducted a survey of 1000 American adults and 1000 Protestant pastors to get their take on what is considered a justifiable divorce and what is not.  Only 38% of Americans think it is a sin to get a divorce on the grounds that a couple no longer loves one another.  It’s no wonder we have so much divorce.

Ironically, the percentage of American people who see divorce as being wrong is consistent, despite the reason.  For example, 39% think it is sin to divorce one’s spouse for adultery, and 37% think it’s a sin to divorce one’s spouse due to physical abuse.  Protestant pastors, on the other hand, were much more discriminate.  Here is a chart detailing the responses:

divorce-is-a-sin-when-1024x950

CohabitationCohabitation – the politically correct term for what used to be called “shacking up” – has become very common in our day.  Nearly 8 million opposite-sex couples live together today, compared to less than 1 million 30 years ago.  Nearly 10% of all opposite-sex couples are cohabiting, and over half of all first marriages are preceded by a period of cohabitation.

How did we get here?

How did cohabitation go from being illegal in all states prior to 1970 and held in moral contempt by society at large to being so ubiquitous and accepted today?  There are several reasons:

  • The sexual revolution removed the moral stigma of premarital sex.
  • Our culture has moved from a culture of traditions and social conformity to a culture of individualism and personal gratification.
  • We shifted from a deontological view of morality to a pragmatic and relativistic view of morality in which any activity that does not cause harm to others is morally permissible.
  • The recognition of the fragility of marriage, and a corresponding fear of divorce.
  • The rise of feminism which rejected the traditional roles played by married women. Cohabitation promised personal autonomy and more relationship equity.
  • The increasing economic independence of women made marriage less necessary for them. And men, who are generally more fearful of commitment, supported the arrangement since it still provided for their needs of sexual gratification and domestic support.[1]

Cohabitation is not what it seems

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