Thursday, 15 September 2011

When sin is abolished

When society abolishes the theological idea of "sin" from its thinking, two things can happen to actual sins.

On the one hand we can deny they are a real problem at all, and then reap the consequences of letting the elephant in the room run amok. For example trying to fund the government from money that belongs to our children precipitates huge financial crises. Well, blow me down, you say! Failing to stigmatise unmarried sexual relationships leads to a generation of the inner-city fatherless.... who'd have thought?

On the other hand, we can admit that sins are real problems, but medicalise them; they are some kind of illness. They're not moral offences; they're unfortunate diseases the victim is suffering from. The solution is then not punishment, restitution, forgiveness and restoration, but medical treatment. Repentance is not the answer: psychiatry and the drug companies are.

"Unfortunately", ideas have consequences. Since original sin exists even when we pretend it doesn't, we have end up defining every child as ill. Sadly they all behave badly more or less (and more if it's not dealt with properly). So it seems we have to end up agreeing that they're all ill. Instead of a kindly rebuke and perhaps (horrors!) a smack and a cuddle, we set off down the road to medicalising every boy and girl born into the world. Been spiteful more than once in the last half-year? That'll be "oppositional defiant disorder"; here are some sedatives. Once the medicalisation juggernaut gets going, it knows no bounds - even things which are hardly issues at all get caught in the net. Is your child shy? That must be "social anxiety disorder"; have some Prozac.

When you don't know what the problem is, you can't know the solution. These are symptoms of a society in deep decline; the West doesn't even know how to respond to childishness. The day-to-day behaviour of children stumps it.

This is why the Bible says that Christians are the light of the world. Whilst the world fumbles around in darkness because it doesn't even know the basic categories of our existence (God, creation, sin, judgment, redemption, forgiveness, etc.), Christians, living by the book, can shine all the brighter. We can point the way. We can have "ordinary" families, where ordinary means that when kids do wrong or haven't yet learnt how to handle a situation maturely, it's dealt with and we then move forward. We don't have a crisis and call in the Psychiatric Association because it completely stumped us. Non-Christians will tell us that we were "lucky" to have such good kids born to us; we'll be able to tell them it was because we followed God's Word, trusted Jesus and with his grace they can get the same results too.

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