sins are situational

In claiming that all lies are not sins, I have been accused of situational ethics.

The term “situational ethics” is popularly known by the concept “the ends justify the means”. Of course, this is a false concept. It would be wrong for me to kill an innocent baby to save the entire world (the baby would die in either case). Me killing the baby would be an active sin. I would be taking the life of an innocent. However, if I didn’t kill the baby, the entire world would be destroyed by someone/something else. It would be their sin, not mine. As Paul says, “we do not do evil that good may come“.

My claim is not that the “ends justify the means”, but that it is NOT immoral to NOT sin to save someone. More to the point: anything that is not a sin is at liberty to be pursued. It is not a sin to lie to those who want to kill you.

When talking about sin, everyone uses qualifiers. In a sense, all sins are situational in the sense that they are only sins based on a very specific set of circumstances. To illustrate:

Sex is not a sin in and of itself. Sex is blessed in some circumstances and cursed in others. Here are a few situations:

A man and woman are having sex.

If the man is married and the woman is not, this is a sin for both.
If the man is married to the woman, this is not a sin for both.
If the man is married to the woman but thinks he is having sex with another woman, this is a sin for him but not for his wife.
If the man is married, but it turns out his wife was really a man, this was not a sin for him but a sin for his “wife”.
If the man and woman are not married, this is a sin for both.

The situation can be morphed in literally endless ways, in turn, toggling who is sinning and who is not. Sin then has everything to do with situations. Subcategories of sex that are sins sometimes are conveniently named (“adultery”, “homosexuality”, “rape”). Sometimes they aren’t. But we should not let lack of language determine at what level to say “all of that is a sin”, such as the case with “lying“.

Situations change whether something is a sin or not. The action can be the same exact action, but the players and their motives are what change an “action” into a “sin”. This is not just being made up. The Bible explicitly talks like this when talking about killing:

Deu 19:4 “And this is the case of the manslayer who flees there, that he may live: Whoever kills his neighbor unintentionally, not having hated him in time past—
Deu 19:5 as when a man goes to the woods with his neighbor to cut timber, and his hand swings a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies—he shall flee to one of these cities and live;
Deu 19:6 lest the avenger of blood, while his anger is hot, pursue the manslayer and overtake him, because the way is long, and kill him, though he was not deserving of death, since he had not hated the victim in time past.

Deu 19:11 “But if anyone hates his neighbor, lies in wait for him, rises against him and strikes him mortally, so that he dies, and he flees to one of these cities,
Deu 19:12 then the elders of his city shall send and bring him from there, and deliver him over to the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die.

Num 35:26 But if the manslayer at any time goes outside the limits of the city of refuge where he fled,
Num 35:27 and the avenger of blood finds him outside the limits of his city of refuge, and the avenger of blood kills the manslayer, he shall not be guilty of blood,

The logistics are tricky: if someone kills someone else and were planning to do so, they are guilty of blood, unless they are avenging blood, but they also can flee to the city of refuge if the murder was unintended, however they can be killed without guilt by the avenger if they are not in the city (even if they committed the killing unintentionally). Wow. Situations change everything. In every act described there is one individual killing another, but some are sins and some are not. The details are what change the same action from a sin to a justified action. The details (actors and motives) make the difference.

All Christians claim God cannot sin. The gnostic Marcion understood this and using his Platonic concept of god, decided the the God of the Old Testament was not the true God. In the Old Testament, we find God engaging in wars, using judgment, using deception, and being all around condemned by modern liberals. Cultural Christians will agree with modern Marcionism and claim that the actions, on face value, in the Old Testament were evil. They, like Marcion, claim that those stories do not depict the true God and then reinterpret those verses to meet their personal standard of God. Real Christians understand how righteousness works and use God’s own actions to show he was righteous. God wars against his enemies. God judges the wicked. God uses deception to kill his those who would kill his people. God does not sin.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
This entry was posted in Bible, God, History, Morality, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

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