As I noticed in Part One, a glaring problem with this booklet is not primarily what the authors say but what they do not say. In Section 1, they neglect to speak of the character of God, apparently content to present God as King and Creator while neglecting to mention his attributes of holiness, justice and wrath. These are vital attributes to include when presenting the gospel because what makes sin so bad is that it is perpetrated against a most holy God who is opposed to lawlessness with the utmost hostility and vehemence. The truth is that God is severe toward iniquity, as Paul makes quite clear in Romans 11:22: “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.”

Like Section 1, Section 2, which talks about sin, makes a good start but is strangely silent on some vital points. To their credit, the authors do describe sin in a straightforward manner:

The sad truth is that, from the very beginning, men and women everywhere have rejected God by doing things their own way. We all do this. We don’t like someone telling us what to do or how to live—least of all God—and so we rebel against him in lots of different ways. We ignore him and just get on with our own lives; or we disobey his instructions for living in his world; or we shake our puny fists in his face and tell him to get lost…. This rebellious, self-sufficient attitude is what the Bible calls ‘sin’.

The authors’ use of words such as “rebel,” “ignore” and “disobey,” along with the phrase, “shake our puny fists in his face and tell him to get lost,” are all very up front. The authors are to be commended for not pulling punches in their description of humanity’s rebellion against God. Far from downplaying sin by calling it a mistake or attributing it to human ignorance, they rightly describe it as a conscious, deliberate act of defiance.

All the same, the vagueness of the description is a bit troubling. One has to wonder why the authors did not make use of the commandments to drive home the reality of sin. After all, the Bible defines sin in terms of the law: “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). In addition, Paul wrote that “through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).

Another concern about this section is the authors’ weak description of the consequences of sin:

The trouble is, in rejecting God we make a mess not only of our own lives, but of our society and the world. The whole world is full of people bent on doing what suits them and not following God’s ways. We all act like little gods, with our own crowns, competing with one another. The result is misery. The suffering and injustice that we see around us all go back to our basic rebellion against God. By rebelling against God, we’ve made a terrible mess of things.

The authors show a curious tendency to steer clear of God and focus more on man. Notice the heavy emphasis on the effects of sin on our horizontal relationships—man’s relationship with man—and the silence about the effects of sin on man’s vertical relationship with God. The authors seem content to describe sin only in terms of its earthly consequences. One has to wonder why they would do this since sin is revealed in all its true ugliness only when shown against the backdrop of God’s holiness. Like their tendency to downplay God’s holiness, justice and wrath in Section 1, in this section we see again a neglect of reference to the character of God. This should not happen when describing sin. When David confessed his sin with Bathsheba and against her husband, he confessed it strictly as a violation against God:

Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment. (Psalm 51:4)

James wrote that sin committed against people is committed against the authority of God:

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” (James 2:10–11a)

God does not judge us based on percentages, counting our sins to see how well they stack up against our good deeds. God does not think, for example, “Okay, you’ve committed adultery, but you’ve never committed murder, so you’re guilty only of adultery.” One sin is grievous enough to nullify any other obedience to the law because it is a complete outrage against the authority of the lawgiver. Sin is severe precisely because of the character of the One against whom it is committed. Therefore, if the holiness and justice of God are not conveyed, then sin appears less heinous than it really is. It is not surprising, then, that James describes the severity of sin in light of God himself, not in light of its effects on people.

Continued in Part 3…

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

The author of this blog, Jeremy (Jehanne), is a Catholic who strives to think God's thoughts after Him and obey Christ's exhortation to take up the cross daily and follow Him on the way to Golgotha. He likes reading theology, evangelizing, and, of course, writing.