05
Nov
09

SEEING SIN AS A MULTIPICATION PROBLEM

     Over the years I have met many people who view sin as an addition problem.  They see sin as a minus.  But they also believe that if they have more pluses (good works, etc.) those pluses will outweigh the minuses and they will be OK.  I also see this in Mormonism – especially in the thought that a person can progress to perfection and in their talk about the law of the harvest.

     But that is not how the Bible views sin.  Instead of viewing sin as an addition problem, it sees it as a multiplication problem, in the sense that even one sin (one negative) makes everything negative.  Even a long string of positives is negated by just one negative.  That’s the point James makes in 2:10:  “For whosever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”  Just one sin makes us guilty of breaking the whole law.

     We see that same principle in courtrooms around the nation.  It is not uncommon to see a person, who had been law-abiding his entire life, on trial for a serious crime.  His previous law keeping doesn’t protect him from being sentenced and punished.  That one crime negates a lifetime of law keeping. For the rest of his life he will be seen as a felon.

     So also with sin.  There is no way that anybody can contribute to their perfection because “whosever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Whoever tries to contribute to their perfection will end up adding negatives (sins) to the equation.  That is nothing less than a formula for failure.

      The only formula for success is relying totally on Jesus and his sacrifice for us.    “By one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.”  (Hebrews 10:14)  If you are perfected forever, there is nothing left to be done.  And that is exactly what the Bible says.  “Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.”  (Hebrews 10:18).  To Jesus be the glory, honor and praise.

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13 Responses to “SEEING SIN AS A MULTIPICATION PROBLEM”


  1. 1 shematwater
    November 5, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    Your analogy of the courts is not really accurate to what you are saying. Yes, for felonies their past law abiding lives are of no consideration. However, for misdemeaners their past lives are, and in some cases their future lives.

    I received a ticket for driving without insurance. I bought insurance three days later, and when I went into court and showed them this they reduced the penalty.

    I do not think James is saying that all sin is equal in nature, he is simply saying that if you have violated one commandment you are in violation of the Law. He is telling us that even one sin puts us in opposition to God, and thus all of us require a savior. If he was saying all sins were equal he would be contradicting Christ, who stated that “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men,” thus proclaiming that at least one sin is on a different level than others, giving people reason to believe all sin is.

  2. 2 markcares
    November 6, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Please look at the context of James 2. He is talking about showing favoritism – v. 1-9. In verse 9 he says that that is sin and such persons are “convinced of the law as transgressors.” He then expands on that in v. 10-11 and talks about adultery and murder as transgressions of the law. It’s obvious that he is placing favoritism on the same level as murder and adultery.
    This becomes even more pointed in 3:2 where he uses the same word as he did in 2:10 “offend” to describe the sins of the tongue. There he makes the general statement: “For in many things we offend all.”
    When it comes to sin there are no misdemeanors. “The wages of sin is death”. It doesn’t say that the wages of serious sins, or a certain class of sin, is death.

  3. 3 shematwater
    November 6, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    If there are no misdemeanors than using earthly law is a bad comparrison as I said.

    As to James, I have read the whole context, and have considered it, and I still say that he did not intend to put all sin on an equal basis, but to point out that the law must apply to all. In other words, a person who is guilty of gross sin will receive his punishment accordingly, as will one who is only a minor offender. All will be subject to the demands of justice, regardless of how minor their actions are. We should not overlook the minor sins of one because he makes no major sins, as this is showing favoritism which is contrary to God’s law.

    You did not respond to the fact that Christ himself places at least one sin as being worse than any other.

  4. 4 RLO
    November 6, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Shematwater;

    When a person uses an analogy, they are not saying that one thing is identical to another thing in every respect, but they are saying one thing is similiar to another thing is certain respects. Analogies usually have one principal point of comparision. Rather than approaching the discussion from the perspective of pointing out the “non-points of comparision” (the ways in which one thing is not like another thing), why don’t you instead approach the discussion from the perspective of trying to understand the point of comparision?

    If you had been present when Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed…” would you have felt it necessary to point out to him the various ways in which the kingdom of heaven is “not” like a mustard seed? I would hope not.

  5. 5 markcares
    November 7, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Shematwater:
    The reason Jesus talks about the one sin as unforgiveable is beccause of its nature. By blasphemying the Holy Ghost a person is cutting himself off from the channel through which forgiveness is given – the Holy Ghost.

  6. November 8, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Another great post, Mark.

    Sin is sin is sin. Just one sin prohibits us from entering into God’s presense. Thus the need for the blood of Christ Jesus to wash even that one sin away.
    One of the things I did when I was mormon was hold on to the mistaken belief that I was not sinning, just “erring” or making “mistakes”. I really didn’t view myself as the sinner I was. It is commmon in Christian circles to hear one say ” I am a sinner” or what ” a wretch I was till Jesus came into my life”. These phrases are not common Mormon thoughts, beliefs or phrases. You would never for example hear on Fast Sunday testimony meeting the following: ” I am sinner. I am grateful for the grace of jesus Christ who cleanses my sins away. Oh, what I wretch I was until Jesus came into my life.” AS a Christian, I can not tell you how many, many times I have heard believers say those exact words.

    I think this false belief contributes or leads to pride. When we get “comfty” thinking we are not a sinner, or that there are degress of sin (eg: I may have pride but oh no I have never robbed a bank before, etc.) … the bible does not speak about “degrees” of sin. Sin is sin. Period. We are all sinners, all of us. All of us need Jesus. I think Satan has beguiled people to think they no longer sin, or are not capable of sin only ‘mistakes’. This is such a dangerous way to think, because it leads one away from the cleansing blood of Jesus.

    Until we are right with God — thru the cleansing power of the Blood of the Lamb ,that sin , whatever it is, stands in the way before us and heaven.

    God bless,
    gloria

  7. 7 shematwater
    November 9, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    RLO

    Christ’s comparrison is perfect. There is nothing to be said against it. A mustard seed is tiny, one of the smallest seeds known. Thus what he is saying is that even the smallest amount of faith can move mountains. In the camparrison he is drawing on only the size of the seed, and not on other aspects of it, and thus there is nothing wrong with his comparrison.

    However, Mark drew on more than just the aspect of felonies in his comparrison. He spoke of how the courts treat a person who has violted the law. This was his point of comparrison, and he only compared part of it to God’s law. My point is that using this point of comparrison is not a very good way to do it, for the reasons I said.

    I think the comparrison is a good one, if you agree that God’s law is also graded, giving no breaks for the serious sins, but doing so for the smaller one, as the court system does. But to say that the law of God is like the court system, and then speak only to the committing of felonies is a bad comparrison.

  8. 8 Echo
    November 10, 2009 at 3:29 am

    Shemawater,

    Mark’s point is that all sin is a felony.

  9. 9 shematwater
    November 10, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    I know his point, and as such the comparrison he made to Earthly courts is not very good, for he included all courts in it.

    Personally, I think his entire argument is not really that good, but that is just me.

    Thinking of Multiplication in regards to sin, since multiplying two negatives makes a positive, than every other sin would be a good deed (a positive).

    As to the idea of arguing points, these are points that Mark brought into his argument, not me. Thus I am justified in pointing out the flaws. Of course it would be very difficult to make these comparrisons without using these points, which is why they are not very good comparrisons.

    Now, I also understand that you don’t really care as you seem to agree with his point, so it doesn’t matter if the comparrison is faulty. My point is not to contradict, but to get people to analyse things better so that they will become better at making such comparrisons.

  10. 10 RLO
    November 10, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Shematwater;

    There are any number of ways in which a mustard seed does not resemble the kingdom of heaven, all of which, of course, fall beyond the point of comparison Jesus was making. So any argument against his comparison based on the ways in which a mustard seed does not resemble the kingdom of heaven would carry no validity. And I believe you have said as much yourself.

    Now look at what Mark said in his initial post on this subject where he used one aspect of an admittedly flawed human justice system, with which his readers may be more familiar, in order to illustrate a greater truth about God’s perfect justice system, with which his readers may be less familiar:

    Mark said: “…It is not uncommon to see a person, who had been law-abiding his entire life, on trial for a serious crime…”

    Notice he is speaking of, “a serious crime.”

    Mark continues: “…His previous law keeping doesn’t protect him from being sentenced and punished. That one crime negates a lifetime of law keeping. For the rest of his life he will be seen as a felon…”

    Which by your own admission, is accurate within our criminal justice system.

    (Shematwater: “…Yes, for felonies their past law abiding lives are of no consideration…)

    But then you bring up misdemeanors, and even traffic infractions, failing to recognize how these aspects fall beyond the point of comparison Mark has made – ways in which our flawed human justice system does not resemble God’s perfect justice system, ways in which a mustard seed does not resemble the kingdom of heaven.

    Later you take aim, with the same line of reasoning, at Mark’s multiplication analogy:

    Mark said: “…But that is not how the Bible views sin. Instead of viewing sin as an addition problem, it sees it as a multiplication problem, in the sense that even one sin (one negative) makes everything negative…”

    Again, notice his words, “…in the sense that…”

    Mark does not suggest that sin conforms perfectly to all of our mathematical properties. Instead, he makes a single point of comparison. But again, instead of trying to grasp the single point of comparison in order to understand the greater truth – –

    (Shematwater: “…Thinking of Multiplication in regards to sin, since multiplying two negatives makes a positive, then every other sin would be a good deed (a positive).)

    – – you choose once more skirt the issue, to point out a way, beyond the single point of comparison, in which sin does not conform to our mathematical properties, to point out how a mustard seed is not like the kingdom of heaven.

    You boldly assert: “…Thus I am justified in pointing out the flaws…”

    I would assert that you have pointed out no flaws. You have merely demonstrated your capacity to squeeze analogies, beyond their points of comparison, in order to show how one thing is not like another thing, to order to show how a mustard seed is not like the kingdom of heaven.

    Recognize that all analogies, all metaphors, all similes, all comparisons, will fail at some point when you stretch them beyond what they were intending to express. You appear to be less concerned about the content of what is being express here, and more concerned about the language in which it is being presented.

  11. 11 shematwater
    November 11, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    RLO

    Mark said “We see that same principle in courtrooms around the nation.” He has not singled out any particular court, but in this statement asserts that all the courts operate this way. He than gives one example.
    I have simply pointed out that not all courts work this way. He made the assertion, not me. If he was going to say that we see the same principle in felony courts he would have had a good comparison, but he doesn’t. He states simply in courtrooms.
    This is why I said what I said. When I read this my thoughts were instantly drawn to the fact that not all courts operate like this. This is not because I disagree (although I do) but because he implied it with his words.
    I understand what he was saying, but he said it in a bad way.

    As to the multiplication, I agree, I am more or less drawing out everything I can. However, it does not make it any less accurate. His point of comparison was that sin makes everything negative because it is multiplied. but if it is multiplied every time than every other sin would be a positive. The comparison can be made without these problems, and it would be quite simple.
    Sin is all added together, and since it is all negative it remains negative. It is then multiplied by all your good works, making the whole thing negative. The comparison works if you speak to keeping two separate records, one of sin and one of righteousness, and than multiplying the final results.
    Again, I know what Mark’s intention was, but I think it could have been said better, without any way for others to find flaws in it, and that is my point.

    My intention here is not to argue with his intended point, but to get people to think more in depth on the actual words used.

  12. 12 RLO
    November 12, 2009 at 1:22 am

    Shematwater: “Mark said “We see that same principle in courtrooms around the nation.” He has not singled out any particular court, but in this statement asserts that all the courts operate this way. He than gives one example…If he was going to say that we see the same principle in felony courts he would have had a good comparison, but he doesn’t. He states simply in courtrooms.”

    So is this all about Mark not including the word “felony” in front of the word “court” in his original post? In spite of the fact it is clearly implied in his very next sentence with “…on trial for a serious crime…”?

    And you don’t think you’re being just a little too “picky-yew-nish” on this?

    Shematwater: “…my thoughts were instantly drawn to the fact that not all courts operate like this…”

    Because you have failed to read two consecutive sentences in context? Because you were looking for perceived flaws? Because you have failed to grasp the single point of comparison?

    Regarding the whole multiplication thing: Again,”picky-yew-nish.” Mark didn’t say it exactly the same way you would have, or exactly the same way I would have, or exactly the same way someone else would have. So what!? This is not a language blog, or a grammar blog, or a spelling blog, or a english composition blog. Or a mathematics blog, for that matter. If Mark, or you, or I, were taken to task every time we said something in less than a perfectly elequent manner, we would get so bogged down we would never discuss what’s important.

    Shematwater: “My intention here is not to argue with his intended point, but to get people to think more in depth on the actual words used.”

    And my suggestion to you is to start focusing more on the intended point, and less on the actual words used. There are posters on this blog from a wide variety of language backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, religious backgrounds, educational backgrounds. Let’s try being a little more gracious to them all.

    I hope you’ve had time to read Mark’s new thread from earlier today. He talks a little about communication there, how difficult it can sometimes be, and how important it is to be a good listener.

    Communication can be difficult enough as it is, without intentionally setting up roadblocks and detours. Maybe we should all make efforts to understand what someone else is try to say, rather than picking apart the way in which they have said it.

    Enough with all this “picky-yew-nish-ness.”

    Let’s get back to “Speaking the truth in love to Mormons.”

  13. 13 shematwater
    November 12, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    RLO

    The intended point makes no difference if it is lost in the words that are used. this particular one was not lost to us because we have seen similar things done and have a background to enable us to see the intention.
    However, as you said, there are many backgrounds and cultures here. It is not the listener’s resposibility to decipher the true meaning of the speaker, but the speakers responsibility to make his point with words the listen can easily understand. This was not done as effectively as it could have been.

    In my first post I included a comment on the actual argument, which Mark responded to. The rest was simply a constructive critisism of the way it was written, which all of us can use.

    In general when I make comparrisons I state that it is not perfect, frequently even showing the flaws in it, and then explaining why I used it anyway. If you want to show me how I could say it better I would welcome such comments.

    As to the actual argument, I disagree because God treats different sins with verying degrees of harshness in the scriptures. If all sin was Equal way was Aaron just scolded while Miriam was cursed with leprosy? If they are all equal why were some punished by death and others by fines? I mentioned the one sin that Christ himself said is unforgivable, putting it at a different level than all others, and the only response was “because of the nature of the sin.” Well, Murder has a very different nature than a little white lie, so why are they not on different levels.
    The only verse in Bible, that I am aware of, that supports this idea is the one in James, which can easily have the meaning I gave in my first posts.


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