While among more traditional reformed communities this belief is less common, mega-churchers, evangelicals, and baptists (who are very common in my area) love to repeat the line, “The Bible says all sins are equal before God.” When I ask for a scriptural reference, they tend to be pretty vague. Does anyone here, reformed or not, know why they hold this belief and their justification for it? I’ve always taken it as self-evident that murder is more severe than lying, but I want to see the arguments against this so I don’t get out-argued in the future.
I think it’s a misinterpretation of what some Evangelical Churches are saying when they say “all sin is equal.” In some ways all sin is equal and in other ways it’s not. An example of how all sin is equal would be that if I killed someone and you lied we both could not enter Heaven with that sin in us. Even though my sin was worse than yours neither sin would be worthy of entering a Holy and perfect Tabernacle.
Does that make sense?
Well, before entering Heaven we must be completely pure and spotless, per Revelations, but what I am referring to is the Evangelical idea that there are no mortal/venial sins. How do they justify that belief?
One thing I know is this is straight from the devil I almost wanted to vomit when my evangelical pastor told me this. Many and I mean many Christians are using this as a way to justify murder, abortion, robbery and so on.
Well, venial and mortal sins are just terms that the CC use that Evangelicals do not use. There is the sin of rejecting God (blaspheming the Holy Spirit) which upon death we are not forgiven. The belief is that any other sin can be forgiven. We don’t have a rating scale and to be honest Catholics don’t have one either.
It’s the Revelation (singular!) of St. John, not “Revelations.” :mad: Sorry, pet peeve.
I think dronald explained it rather clearly; it’s more of a misrepresentation of their beliefs. I’ve never heard an Evangelical use “all sins are equal” as license to literally commit murder (and I mean “never” honestly, not in hyperbole).
This is typically drawn from Romans, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Sin is sin, and sin separates us from God.
Wait a minute, mortal and venial (non-mortal) sin is not just a magisterial teaching or tradition (which are rejected by protestants), it’s Biblical:
1 John 5
16 If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray.
17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.
John is clearly pointing out that there are differences in sins, types of sins, those that are deadly (what we call ‘mortal’) and those that are not deadly (what Catholics call ‘venial’) and they are **not **equal.
It is justified by believing that once you accept Jesus into your heart and do the sinner’s prayer all sins - past, present and future - are forgiven. And no matter what you do, you are already saved. The logic being that since you didn’t do anything to your salvation, you can’t do anything to lose it either.
Exactly, there is no denying what is written in John. We just don’t use the terms mortal or venial.
Are they referring to Christ’s statement that if we boreal one commandment we have broken them all?
I’m sorry for the vagueness of the topic, but it is hard for me to provide any specifics because the people that talk about the belief themselves aren’t very specific. Typically it arises when discussing Catholic beliefs about sin. For example, we were reading Madame Bovary in a class and we were discussing the Catholic Church as background to that and someone mentioned confession, to which several Baptists made remarks along the line of, “The sin doesn’t make a difference, a sin is a sin,” etc. This always sounds well and good and the class seemed to nod its head in agreement, because such a simple belief seems preferable to the awful, convoluted, scary confession that those Catholics do, but it is such a vague idea it is hard to oppose in a concrete way.
To me, it just seems self-evident that the sin does make a difference. I know we cannot be certain of the nature of God, but if two people died and neither one had been to confession, one who had murdered maliciously and who had stolen a pencil, an all-loving God would certainly judge the two differently…
Fair enough, but I have had evangelicals tell me very specifically that there was no distinction, not just that they don’t use those words.
The people who do so have either been once saved always saved people, or have broken down when I asked about a white lie vs mass murder.
It sounds like those protestants here do think there probably is a distinction, but just don’t care to make it precise.
Your best bet is to search the Web for a Church with an official teaching that all sin is the same. If I ask Catholics about it some may say that God sees sin the same just because they’re not that deep in Theology. I know many times I’ve had discussions with Catholics who are unsure of many of their beliefs.
If you can link me to a site maybe I can help you from there, but it’s hard because John is clear that some sins are worse. Also in the OT different sins had different punishments.
I’ll reiterate though; when we say all sins are the same we mean that before God no sin will enter Heaven. If I have sin from mass murder or sin from a white lie, I cannot enter Heaven with either sin in me.
Actually, neither would enter Heaven without a savior. Now, whether it’s purgatory for “x” amount of time or Jesus died for all sin, past, present, future if we place our Faith in Him is a different discussion.
But as we know from James 2, our works will prove our Faith and mass murder would prove that such a person didn’t have Faith. (one might conclude) Although only God can judge… even that.
Okay, I think I understand what you mean. What I have been hearing is most likely the parroting of people who don’t actually understand the theology of their church, not an actually held belief in the doctrines of any real churches. I can definitely connect with how annoying that must be…like the Catholics who get questions about the Eucharist and reply, “Well I don’t really believe in all that, it’s just a symbol.” Why even represent yourself to other people as Catholic if you are on that level of heterodoxy? It is the same with reformed churches as well I suppose.
So in the end it all comes back to the differences on salvation and justification. We both believe only pure souls can enter the Kingdom of God, but while many reformed Christians think they are saved once and for all so they are clear for entry into Heaven no matter what (and some don’t believe this), Catholics think that these sins are cleansed by confession (for eternal punishment) and purgatory and penance (for temporal punishment), with some more mainline reformed Christians holding a middle ground belief.
Yeah, I suspect this is what is going on most of the time. There is a little added difficulty though since among some protestants it is their own views that they prioritize over that of any church that they may attend - so it is sometime hard to distinguish between a Christian who is just not very knowledgeable about the intricacies of their faith and a Christian whose beliefs are currently self contradictory because they fail to handle the intricacies that arise.
Sometimes there is confusion though. This site (though I do not know how many people it represents) seems to suggest that any sin at all will send you to Hell (in contradiction to John), while at the same time saying that all sins can be forgiven (without referencing how this forgiveness is applied). That site seems to be of the once saved always saved variety though (in contradiction of a whole lot of stuff), which is almost necessary to make the above make sense while denying something like confession.
But it is certainly true that no sin will enter Heaven. The cleansing process is just a little bit different.
Actually, you’ve read it wrong; that site is saying much of what I have been saying.
All sin does send you to Hell and the forgiveness is from us placing our sin in Jesus Christ who nailed it to the cross and took it to the grave, resurrecting, leaving it there for eternity.
Jesus died to pay the penalty for sin (1 John 2:2). Jesus died for all of our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21). Are all sins equal to God? Yes and no. In severity? No. In penalty? Yes. In forgivability? Yes.
Back in the day when I was an evangelical I would have quoted James 2:10: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”
The underlying principle being that our sinful actions are just a symptom of a deeper problem–the sin nature. And the sin nature is the same in every person. Murder, lying, stealing, whatever–it all reveals the same basic heart problem–rebellion against God.
Or something like that. (It’s been a while since I’ve thought in these terms!)
No all sins are not equal…
Another fun one is Jesus’s famous, “cut it off” sermon.
Cut off a hand, and you still lust, cut off your eyes and you still lust, cut off any part of the body and you still sin, eventually you need to change your heart.
Also, how often Jesus calls for perfection; a perfection we obviously cannot attain.