Monday, March 25, 2013

ALL Sin Deprives Someone of Their Freedom

The FAQ series continues....but this is not one of them.

I think the concept of "deprivation of freedom" is essential to the concept of sin.

My friend Justin, said this to me once, and I thought it was wrong. After all, don't people who sin exercise lots of freedom to do whatever they want, regardless of morality?

Philosopher Richard Swinburne defines God as a person with only three attributes: perfect power, perfect knowledge....and surprisingly...perfect freedom.

Swinburne derives God's moral goodness from his freedom. According to Kantian ethics, unethical decisions are by nature irrational. God being perfectly free, is not constrained by irrational desires or other persons. This "frees" him up to make only rational decisions. Since God makes only rational decisions every time, he only makes morally good decisions every time.

I think this idea can be extended to people. I will draw a metaphor from political philosophy. According to libertarian political philosophy, depriving a person of their liberties (or freedoms), is the chief evil. If only the government (and people) let us alone, then this would be the ideal.

This makes sense. Any wrong we do to another person effectively deprives them of consent, or the freedom to choose whether or not it happens to them or not.

But what about all those seemingly arbitrary sexual rules in the New Testament that don't affect anyone else? What about various sexual sins, alcoholism, and even witchcraft? How does this relate to the deprivation of freedom?

It's very simple.

All sin hurts at least two parties: God and the offended party. In cases of interpersonal sins, the offended party is someone else. In the case of a "secret" or (so called) "victim-less" sin, the offended party is yourself...

In the case of interpersonal sins, you are depriving someone else of their consent (freedom). In a sin against yourself, you are depriving yourself of consent and becoming more deeply enslaved by it. The test is very simple to determine if a personal act is a sin. Here is the test:

"If, before I was born, I could choose to have or not have this desire or impulse, would I keep it and act on it?"

No one chooses to be an alcoholic someday. No wishes that one day they will become a porn addict or addicted to promiscuous sex. No one wishes that someday, they would be overcome by sexual desire for the same sex, or worse, a sexual desire for children or animals.

This reminds me of a verse on sexual immorality:

"“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything." 1 Corinthians 6:12 (emphasis added)

This is where the deprivation of freedom comes in. "Victimless" sins actually victimize yourself, because you are becoming enslaved to desires you do not wish to become enslaved to. They deprive you of the freedom to choose what you do in your life. Giving into desires you do not want actually want causes you to become progressively impaired and mastered by them. This causes you to feel helpless and stuck serving something that even you would consider to be undesirable.

1 Corinthians 6 also implies that sinning sexually is in some way sinning against yourself.

Why is being deprived of freedom such a bad thing? First, it has a very negative effect on the person it affects. Depriving other people's freedom causes them much pain. Depriving yourself of freedom causes yourself a lot of pain, because you are enslaved by desires you don't want.

But depriving yourself or others of freedom has a a worse effect than either of these things. A perfectly rational being would voluntarily try to serve and worship God, the most beautiful and loving being in the universe, because they would find it to be the most satisfying and beneficial thing to do.

Sins entice a person to become slave to something other than God. My litmus test for sin in the Christian ethic can be applied to both interpersonal and isolated sins.

"If, before I was born, I could choose to have or not have this desire or impulse, would I keep it and act on it?"

No one wishes that one day, they would overreact to an insult. No one wishes that one day, money would become so important to them that armed robbery is an option. No one wishes that one day, they would have trouble controlling their temper. No one wishes that one day, other people's stuff would become so important they are consumed by wanting it. 

This comes full circle. Jesus says that everyone who sins is a slave to sin. But He says the Son can set you free. He specifically says he is a "humble" and "gentle" Master, because his "yoke is easy and burden is light."  Whatever other slave-masters we have to give up, Jesus says he is way easier to serve than all of them. They may shout at us to come back and serve them, but serving Jesus will always be less controlling than our sinful desires.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

So basically, if doing something deprives you or anyone else of freedom, it is a sin. Sins don't just hurt you or other people. They hurt God, because sinful desires try to get you to serve a master less worthy than the most perfect, beautiful, and deserving being in the universe: God Himself. 

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