IN THEORY: A modern update on the seven deadly sins

The Vatican has reportedly updated its traditional seven deadly sins.

New sins include those that the church says are becoming more prevalent in an era of “unstoppable globalization.”

Drug pushers, the obscenely wealthy and “manipulative” scientists are reportedly among those included who are at risk of damnation.

New mortal sins also include abortion, pedophilia and causing social injustice.

In updating the list of mortal sins, Pope Benedict said that people are losing a “notion of sin,” and without confessing them, we risk losing our “spiritual rhythm.”

What do you think of the update, and the importance of defining sin in a new age? Is society losing its sense of sin?

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One of my Bible dictionaries defines sin as “everything in the disposition and purpose and conduct of God's moral creatures that is contrary to the expressed will of God.”

I think that's a solid, timeless definition. God told Israel: “I, the Lord, do not change” (Malachi 3:6, New American Standard Bible). And because all morality is based upon His unchanging nature (not upon the fickle whims of people), what is righteous and what is sin never truly changes.

Henry Holloman, one of my dear seminary professors, used to tell us that today's cults are just yesterday's heresies “dressed up in space suits.” And that's the way it is with sins particular to and prevalent in our times. They are simply specific applications of the same old moral failures. John the Apostle writes that these fall into at least one of three general categories: “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” (1 John 2:16, New American Standard Bible). Solomon was right: “there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Romans 6:23 says, “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

The same old problem is solved by the same eternal solution: Believe in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, and rose again on the third day. And if you do that, you truly will have, and I certainly wish you, a happy Easter.

PASTOR JON BARTA

Valley Baptist Church

Burbank

I find the Vatican's addition of seven new deadly sins quite interesting and actually reassuring.

First of all, I find it interesting, because it reminds me of the fact that the Catholic Church divides sins into two categories: venial and mortal.

While I need not get into the theology of these categories, the message here is that some sins are more serious than others, which I believe is true. This is recognized even in my own faith tradition. For example, in my religious community an individual may be disciplined for violating certain biblical principles, but it's the seriousness of the sin or infraction that determines how that discipline is administered.

Second, I find the Vatican's action reassuring because it indicates that there are absolutes. In other words, in an age where it seems that everything is relative, this addition of seven new deadly sins suggests that is not the case.

Furthermore, it reminds me that people of faith should not be afraid to speak out.

Jesus challenges us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. What this means to me is that we should do everything we can to make this world a better place to live in. When we see an injustice, we should speak out. When we see immorality, we should point it out.

In the end, hopefully people of faith will continue to make a positive impact in the world today.

AL GARCILAZO

Senior Chaplain

Glendale Adventist Medical Center

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I am very interested in the results based on the declaration of seven additional sins.

Each of the “new” seven sins, which include polluting, genetic engineering, being obscenely rich, drug dealing, abortion, pedophilia and causing social injustice, are very harmful to life on Earth now, never mind entrance to heaven at some future date.

I applaud the Vatican for taking a stand against these evils, which threaten the survival of all and which may be overlooked as “part of modern society.”

Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard said, “This is a dying society. Ethics have gone so far out and are so little understood that this culture is headed for succumb at a dangerous rate. It actually starts with individual ethics. Dishonest conduct is nonsurvival. Anything is unreasonable or evil which brings about the destruction of individuals, groups or inhibits the future of the race.”

Public condemnation of immoral acts or abuses against the natural order is meant to focus attention in order to get something done about it. It is a beginning step toward the resolution of problems, of which these sins are the symptoms.

It is time for faith communities to unite with a common mission to bring about a new age of better living and happiness based upon common-sense morality. Along with promises of salvation or damnation, the church must continue to set an example, guiding parishioners to carry on decent, honest lives filled with demonstrations of personal integrity.

Salvation is the reward for those with clean hearts, hands and minds.

CATHERINE EMRANI

Volunteer minister

Glendale Church of Scientology

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It's probably a good thing to update what constitutes a sin, so I have no problem with the Vatican's trying to become more relevant in the 21st century.

As far as whether we are losing our sense of sin, my personal opinion is that the world has always felt uncomfortable with the idea of sin, as well we should, because I believe sin can be defined as anything that comes between a person and God. But we sinful men and women try to hide from the fact that we're sinful, and we try to obfuscate the situation much as Adam and Eve did after they ate the forbidden fruit and tried to hide from God. So I don't think we're losing our sense of sin; rather, we're running from the idea of it.

We simply don't like to say, “my fault,” which is another way of saying that we don't want to take responsibility for our actions. We Protestants don't confess our shortcomings (note how I avoided using the “S” word) to another human being, so there is perhaps a built-in avoidance of responsibility in our tradition. Still, we don't escape; that's why every Sunday we say the Lord's Prayer, with the words .?.?. “and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us .?.?.?.”

THE REV. C. L. “SKIP” LINDEMAN

Congregational Church of the Lighted Window

United Church of Christ

La Cañada Flintridge ?

Several ministries ago, while dining with a search committee of a possible pastorate, the wife of one deacon asked about the seven deadly sins.

I hadn't memorized this arbitrary list of medieval sins that popes had earlier imagined, so I recalled only a few. It was strange being asked, because sin is sin, and no list makes one worse than another. Being Protestant, I don't abide this notion of mortal versus venial sin, because it's not biblical. The Italian Catholics have this tradition, but I don't accept it as authoritative, nor do Eastern Catholics. No, sin is sin, and while murder has greater ramifications than telling white lies about being at the mall rather than the gambling casino, the fact is that both are unholy. There's no such thing as kinda sinful, or really sinful; it's all divine violation and it's all forgiven, or not.

This is Eastertide. What's its significance? It's that Christ came to save sinners from all their various gradations of sin.

Now, I'm uncertain that any of these so-called “new” sins are officially Vatican-approved. If they are, it only makes Rome look like it's trying to be more politically correct than trying to abate real evil. Most of the list could be subsumed under the existing list, but one wonders what influenced it. Pollution is bad, and maybe caused by ignorance, but can you lose your eternal soul for making garbage?

I think there's sin in murdering the unborn, disregarding stewardship of God's earth, and genetically engineering crops with genetically modified organisms to corner the market, but is it sin to have surplus resources?

Are any of these out of the capacity of the Cross? Not according to Christ; “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already” (John 3:18, New International Version).

THE REV. BRYAN GRIEM

Senior Pastor

Montrose Community Church

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The idea of updating and reformulating the traditional seven deadly sins is commendable by the Catholic Church. If the notion of religion being relevant in our everyday lives is to be fostered, then keeping the definition of the gravest sins current is a must.

In Islam, the mechanism of applying God's teachings to our ever-changing world is called Ijtihad. It is defined as the process of making religious or legal decisions. It is achieved by independent analysis and interpretation of the authentic Islamic sources, the Koran and the historically verified traditions of the Prophet Mohammed.

When primary Islamic sources are not explicitly clear on a matter, the Islamic scholars adapt God's teachings to form a religious ruling or legal opinion to determine the permissibility of an action or what is considered a “sin.” Everyday Muslims also practice a form of ijtihad through applying Islamic concepts and values to their everyday lives. Islam requires Muslims to be critical thinkers and to use their practical human experience to live an authentic Islamic life. This forms a check and balance with Islamic scholars. The process employed by the Catholic Church of revising the seven deadly sins for today is similar to the Islamic concept of ijtihad. These adaptations are vital to keep religious teachings meaningful in our modern life.

LEVENT AKBARUT

Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge

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In creating this list, the Catholic Church has identified true ethical issues and dilemmas for our age, though I would call the list “new evils,” rather than new sins.

Sin is unavoidable in Armenian Orthodoxy. It merely validates the human experience. Sin means we are not perfect; we are human and not divine. The “new” sins identified by the Catholic Church are actually new conditions of the same old sins. The seven deadly sins are found in the hearts of humans and are the sparks that light up the fires of evil. For instance, pollution is kindled by gluttony and sloth. Excessive wealth begins with greed and covetousness.

Yes, we have lost that sense of sin because we've lost our connection to the mysterious. We have succumbed to the ultimate sin, which is to believe we're sinless and therefore gods. Hence, we rationalize the need to impose our will on others, whether individually or as a government. This is the basis of wars and mass violence.

It is because of our sinful nature that we needed a Redeemer and the reason why we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ this Sunday.

My Easter wish is that the Love of Christ gives us all new hope for a better tomorrow. A Happy Easter to all.

FATHER VAZKEN MOVSESIAN

Armenian Church Youth Ministries

In His Shoes Mission


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