The Bible says all people sin.  It says one reason God is so stern against sin is that sin is so rife.

Official Catholic doctrine teaches, “It is not a question of the man doing Penance being one who says ,’Well, Lord, I think I’ve lived today pretty perfectly. I prayed generously and faithfully. I’ve loved my neighbour more than adequately – no failure there. I honestly don’t think I’ve failed you at all. So really, for a man who loves you as well as I do, there’s nothing more except some work of supererogation: so I’ll do this bit of Penance’. No, the man who does Penance is one who says, ‘Lord, the end of another messed-up day. I let you down at every turn. I’ve lived for myself all through. You’re not giving the basic graces I need. Lord, please…I’m serious: so I’ll do this” (page 4, Friday Penance, John C Edwards SJ).

The First Epistle of John claims that anybody who says he has no sin is a liar and the truth of God is not in him at all. It does not say it just means people who think they have never sinned or people who think they do not sin any more but used to. So clearly it means both. This tells us that nobody alive is completely free from sin. They always have some sin in them. If all sin will be punished with eternal damnation then there is no hope except by somebody like Jesus keeping the law of God for us in our place.

Romans 3 teaches that all are sinful and nobody is an exception. It speaks in the present tense. It says that the reason nobody could be saved by obeying the Law of Moses was because nobody can keep it right despite it making provisions for forgiveness from God. That means we are all sinners and never have a clean moment.

In Isaiah 64:6, the prophet says that we and all our right ways are filthy rags before God. He says we so he included himself too. And he would have lived like a holy man and he claimed to be totally evil.

Jeremiah 13:23 says that a leopard cannot change its spots or an Ethiopian his skin just like the evil cannot do good. Isn’t that a nice piece of cynicism from the God of the Jews and the Christians? Jeremiah is saying they would pretend to be good but are not.

As St Augustine observed in Book 21, Chapter 27, of his City of God, Jesus in Matthew 6 gave out the Lord’s Prayer and immediately after stressed that you cannot be forgiven your sins unless you forgive first and indicated that it should be said as much as possible for it was the best prayer that he was hinting that all of us are continually in sin.

The doctrine that we are never completely pure is a logical consequence of the doctrine of Moses and Jesus that we must love God totally and with all our hearts meaning we serve ourselves and others the way God commands so that it is really God who is being served. We could never manage that in all things.

The black and white attitude which lies behind the Bible’s attempt to convict everybody of sin is dangerous. Many of the supposedly good and evil things we do are really neutral – as bad as they are good or neither if you like. If consequences have any bearing on morality or right and wrong at all then you have to believe that there are actions which are neutral.

Christianity teaches that temptation is not a sin but giving into it is a sin. But temptation will be a sin if you don't do everything possible to silence it. For example, if you feel sexual desire and just make a cup of tea you are not silencing the temptation. You need to do something you don't like and that you don't enjoy to quench the desire and silence it. A cold shower perhaps? You could be a dentist and extract a tooth from a person and feel vindictive pleasure in doing so though it is helping her. Doing good works does not prove you are a genuinely good person. It is so easy to convince yourself that there is no spite in your motive in removing the tooth especially when it helps her. The Bible warns about the self-deceiving powers of the human heart and in the gospels, Jesus couldn't break through the wall of self-righteousness the Pharisees had. They believed they were good though they were not.

Jesus said that nobody was good only God and that the generation he was in was evil and yet it knew how to give a child bread not a stone.

Cynicism is one thing but religious cynicism is another.  As it depends on the alleged witness of God himself it is impossible to bury.


FRIDAY PENANCE, John C Edwards SJ, Catholic Truth Society, London, 1985

CITY OF GOD, St Augustine, Penguin Books, Middlesex, 1986

EVERYMAN’S ROAD TO HEAVEN, Leo J Trese, Geoffrey Chapman, London, 1961

APOLOGETICS AND CATHOLIC DOCTRINE, Most Rev M Sheehan DD, M H Gill & Son, Dublin, 1954

RADIO REPLIES, VOL 1, Frs Rumble and Carty, Radio Replies Press, St Paul, Minnesota, 1938

THE SINNER’S GUIDE, Ven Louis of Granada, TAN, Illinois, 1983

CHRISTIANITY, David Albert Jones OP, Family Publications, Oxford, 1999

THE INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, John Calvin, Hodder and Stoughton, London 1986

The Amplified Bible



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