Several months after moving to Kansas City my friend, Dick Harmon, gave me an autographed copy of Dr. Karl Menninger’s classic book, “Whatever Became of Sin?”
Dr. Menninger, a well-known and highly respected Psychiatrist, wrote that “The very word ’sin,’ which seems to have disappeared, was a proud word. It was once a strong word, an ominous and serious word. It described a central point in every civilized human being’s life plan and lifestyle. But the word went away. It has almost disappeared—the word, along with the notion.”
“Why?” asks Dr. Menninger. “Doesn’t anyone sin any more? Doesn’t anyone believe in sin?”
The thesis of his book documents the disappearance of sin from American society. He says that in the place of the historic definition of sin, we now speak of crime and symptoms. Here is his analysis:
Whenever you look at sin as either crime or symptoms, you are missing the essence of human right and wrong behavior. Whenever you take sin and turn it into crime, what you’ve done is taken God out of the picture because sin is committed between a person and God. Crime is malfeasance between two human beings. So if you call it crime, you’ve really defined it downward.
Or if you take sin and turn it into symptoms, you’ve gone even lower because there you’re talking about things like outward indications, you’re talking about heredity, you’re talking about environment, you’re talking about early life choices and factors that infringe upon the outside.
Dr. Menninger’s book was written in 1973. I wonder what he would think if he were alive today? Modern culture has gone a step further. What was once sin is now a disease. An alternative lifestyle. Or a woman’s right to choose.
What was once identified as sin is now watered down with benign euphemisms.
“I lied” is replaced with “I misspoke.”
Stealing has become “misappropriating funds.”
Adultery is devalued to a ‘fling” or “an affair.”
Homosexuality is now “gay.”
Immodesty is called “risqué.”
Coarse jesting is simply “off color.”
Cursing, of course, is just “colorful language.”
Drunkenness is described “as a little too much to drink.”
Fornication is reduced to “living together” or a more generic “in a relationship.”
Dr. Menninsger’s question is worth asking today, “Whatever became of sin?”
Here are five simple Bible facts about sin:
(1) All sin is an affront to a holy God ( Gen 39:9)
(2) Sin separates us from the fellowship of God (Isa 59:1-2)
(3) Committing one sin is regarded as being guilty of violating the law of God (Jas 2:8-13)
(4) The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).
(5) All of us are guilty of sin. (Rom 3:23)
God does not excuse sins. Overlook sin. Or minimize sin. As we wrote yesterday regarding homosexuality, God held both the Gentiles and Jews accountable for their sins. The first three chapters of Romans concludes “there is none righteous, no, not one…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:11, 23).
But there is GOOD NEWS! The Gospel is the power of God to salvation. For both Jews and Gentiles. Sin does not have to dominate our lives. Control our desires. Or condemn our conscience. There is help. Hope. And freedom. Tomorrow we explore that wonderful promise!
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman