The New Sin List–I

English: envy- 7 deadly sins

English: envy- 7 deadly sins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Lenten season provokes a surge of articles and commentary in the media, many of which have little to do with religious beliefs but which seem designed to dumb down or explain away some aspect of Christian faith. I guess they figure if they can create conflict or give credibility to some “deeply insightful” take on long-held religious beliefs, they will attract new readers and sell more newspapers.

One such article appeared in the February 10 issue of The Sunday Oregonian, to revise the list of the seven deadly sins. Modernize it, as they put it, “to better fit today’s cultural values,” whatever that means. Their “authority” was predictably not a religious person. This all makes sense, doesn’t it?

The old list first: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. This list was generated in the fourth century by a Greek monastic and edited 200 years later by Pope Gregory I.

Proverbs 6:16-19 was doubtless the original list:

“There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.“

I looked at the new list of seven deadly sins, and was shocked at its shallowness: distraction, selfishness, apathy, dishonesty, hypocrisy, cowardice, and ignorance. These are not good things but I must be missing something.

So let’s examine the creator of the modern list—John Frohnmayer, who says he’s “parted ways” with the Christian church. I think I know why. The paper says that “sin is still on his mind,” and that Frohnmayer was once a seminary student. The Sunday Oregonian also says he is the former director of the National Endowment for the Humanities. That’s not right; JF is the former director of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

If you recall, Mr. Frohnmayer served less than three years as director of the NEA under President G.H.W. Bush because of the furor that erupted regarding NEA grants awarded to several artists whose work was patently offensive to religious people; e.g., a crucifix submerged in a vat of the artist’s urine.

Well, I once thought of going to seminary, and I used to think about sin more than I’d like to admit. However, I’m not nearly as smart as John Frohnmayer—Stanford, Univ. of Chicago, etc. Nevertheless, to presume to redefine sin seems to be a prideful blunder, especially if you try to upstage the wisest mortal who ever lived, that being King Solomon, who wrote most of the Proverbs, including those listed above as “those (sins) the LORD hates.”

Let’s discuss the first part of Frohnmayer’s take on the list “that doesn’t work for him anymore.” He says that human beings need a healthy sense of pride in themselves, so “when Muhammad Ali declared, ‘I am the greatest,’ he was just telling the truth.” JF was quoted as saying that “(e)nvy is positive when it inspires us to do better.”

He said that “sin, or whatever you want to call it … really is much more important if it offends society now than a higher power.” Really now?

According to researchers, JF’s list of big sins indeed reflects the changing attitudes of our society. So, do you think society’s mores are more important than God’s view of sin?

And what do you think about JF’s two views on “modernizing” pride and envy? Your thoughts, then we’ll deal with those questions and the remaining Big Five in a later blog.

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About samuelehall

A follower of Jesus, husband, father of 3 adult children, writer and learner.
This entry was posted in Liberty, Sin, The Reality of God and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The New Sin List–I

  1. Jesus said, “I promise you that any of the sinful things you say or do can be forgiven, no matter how terrible those things are. But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven. That sin will be held against you forever.” — Mark 3:28-29 (CEV) This is the “deadliest” sin.

    I wonder what caused John Frohnmayer to diverge from Christianity. His position is Biblically indefensible. However, I wonder what wounds or temptations led him astray from the pure simplicity of following Christ. I pray the prodigal son will return. God is a God of restoration and hope.

    God said, When “My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” I pray that all those, like John Frohnmayer, who have turned to wicked ways, will humble themselves, pray and seek God’s face, so our land can be healed. There is hope, as long as God delays His judgment and extends mercy, for restoration.

  2. Jerry says:

    It seems, Sam, that St. Augustine of Hippo and John Calvin disagree with you about Jesus having been mortal while he was here in human form, as described in the excerpts from the following websites:

    Was Christ’s suffering and crucifixion really God’s plan or could our salvation have been achieved some other way and why did Jesus have to suffer as brutally as He did to accomplish our salvation? These questions are not new. Sixteen centuries ago St. Augustine addressed the same questions, and he noted that he was not the first theologian to discuss these issues. He wrote: “There are those who say ‘What did God have no other way to free men from the misery of this mortality? No other way than to will that the only begotten Son […] should become man by putting on a human soul and flesh, becoming mortal so He could endure death”'s_views_on_Mary

    Calvin takes note of the divinity often associated with the title Lord, saying: “[Elizabeth] calls Mary the mother of her Lord. This denotes a unity of person in the two natures of Christ; as if she had said, that he who was begotten a mortal man in the womb of Mary is, at the same time, the eternal God….

  3. Herb Hofmann says:

    Step 1. Reject God the Creator of the heavens and the Earth.
    Step 2. Reject the authority of God’s precious gift of His Word (both living and written).
    Step 3. Make stuff up and wait for people to say, “Ooooh, that’s brilliant!”
    Step 4. Apply for a grant.

  4. Jerry says:

    You have an interesting subject, Sam, and you have addressed it well. However, in order for this to be an even more thought provoking conversation, I thought I might throw some wood on the fire. First, is Solomon a wiser man than Jesus, God incarnate, omniscient human being? If not, then he may not be the wisest mortal who ever lived, since my dictionary defines mortal as “human being”, and Jesus was a human being from birth until he was crucified, at least.

    Then, we might have to define “deadly sins”. Apparently, the sin would bring about death to the person committing the sin. Would the death be through natural causes, societal punishment, God’s intervention in this world, or eternal death?

    Exodus (Chapters 21 and 22) describes capital offenses, punishable by society, evidently. Those that I found included striking a man, striking one’s father or mother, stealing a man, cursing one’s father or mother, an ox owner, after being warned, allowing the ox to gore someone more than once, intercourse with an animal, witchcraft, sacrificing unto other gods, molesting or oppressing aliens. In Exodus 22:22, God will kill a person who ill-treats widows or orphans, if the widows or orphans appeal to Him for help.

    Jesus tells one of the scribes in Mark that the greatest commandment of all is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” So, if there is no commandment greater than these, and if there are such things as deadly sins, I suggest that breaking these two commandments may be the two deadliest sins. Mark suggests that punishment for these sins may be keeping the person from entering the kingdom of God.

    • samuelehall says:

      And you have a very interesting response, my friend. Thanks, Jerry. I have to step back a bit from the burning faggots of the conflagration you started, lest I lose my eyebrows.
      A comment or two:
      Solomon can still be considered the wisest mortal who ever lived. Certainly, he would have bowed to Jesus’ intellect. First, Jesus was, and is, immortal. Scripture–which I daresay is more inspired than your dictionary–makes this clear. For example, Matthew 1:22-23 … what the Lord said thru the prophet: “The virgin will be with child … and they shall call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”
      Your last paragraph really captures what are the “greatest commandments.” Good work. All the offenses you mention from Exodus 21-22 are violations of those two commandments, as do the original “seven deadly sins.”
      I’ll discuss John Frohnmayer’s list in greater detail in my next posting.

  5. This hurts my heart. But God is still bigger than John Frohnmayer regardless of whether Frohnmayer thinks so or not.

    • samuelehall says:

      Sarah, thank you for your words, and for sharing your heart feelings. I think Mr. Frohnmayer is trying to create his own truth. I would like to talk with him.

  6. The unsaved resort to other authority… usually to themselves as authority. It’s no better than guessing. What kind of veracity or stability is that? We are mere mortals! All truth must be found in God.

    • samuelehall says:

      Thank you, Alan, for your salient comment. The interesting thing with such “learned” guessing is that when pressed for who/what their authority is, they really don’t have an answer. Which comes down to making themselves the sole authority for truth.
      That would be a scary proposition!

  7. Duane j. Young says:

    Those who define sin often do so with themselves outside the narrow circle they force others to live in. God’s word gets it right- all men have sinned.

    • samuelehall says:

      Thanks, DJ, for your comment. You are correct, and that will be more evident as we continue looking at this “new” list of the 7 deadly sins.

      • Jim Erb says:

        I would define sin as anything that separates us from God. That is why we need a savior as we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. So Frohnmayer’s premise that offending society is more important than offending God seems to be secular and pretty flawed.

      • samuelehall says:

        Hey, Jim! Thanks for joining the conversation. Yes, Frohnmayer’s premise is decidedly secular–a position that he probably wouldn’t deny and perhaps would embrace. Were he to consider the basis/root/foundation of his list, I think he’d have to acknowledge its arbitrariness, its lack of depth. His list names real problems in our culture but “the 7 deadly sins”? His authority for each one would be himself, I suppose.
        Too bad he’s not part of the discussion.

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