Defend distinction between venial & mortal sins, esp biblical, please


#1

A Protestant acquaintance / friend of mine was asking me for evidence for there being different types of sins (ie, venial and mortal - some which cause you to lose a state of grace and some which don’t). Especially, where it would talk about this in the NT - but any other theological sort of proof or evidence would also be good. Can’t appeal to this guy with common sense and even if I did then he would ask where do we draw the line and why. So also would be good to have why we blieve that mortal sins have those 3 conditions, where that rule comes from. Thanks in advance for any help.

(By the way, I did my research on CA but all I could really find was this catholic.com/thisrock/1995/9505fea4.asp which was okay but not all that clear).


#2

I think I have an answer that will be very successful, it will take time to type and I will post it shortly.


#3

Ask him why, then, Jesus told us that all sins can be forgiven except one. If all sin is the same, there would be no unforgivable sin.

Also, Paul talks about the “sin unto death” that strips one of sanctifying grace. If all sin is the same, no such cases could exist.

Cf. CCC: IV. THE GRAVITY OF SIN: MORTAL AND VENIAL SIN.


#4

The truth is that the Bible very explicitly speaks of this distinction, and that many protestants do believe in it even if they do not call it “mortal” and “venial” sin. To begin with, we must clear up one extremely common misunderstanding. Many people, both Catholic and protestant, think that a mortal sin is something that is a “really bad” wrongdoing whereas a venial sin is something that is a minor wrongdoing. For instance, a common minunderstanding would be that murder is a mortal sin because it is a really bad thing, whereas telling someone to go to hell would be a venial sin because it is a more minor act. This is not true at all. What then is true?

The essence of what mortal sin is is summed up by Hebrews

10:26-27 - "For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. This is what mortal sin is - the deliberate act of sinning when one knows that it is wrong.

The general protestant view is Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient for our forgiveness, and that through our faith Christ forgives us all our sins whatever they may be. This is in fact also the Catholic view. We are all going to sin, but when we do, we have an advocate in Christ who is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:1-2). The distinction is that Catholics realize that one can sin deliberately, as Hebrews points out. Christ always said that we must repent. He expects this of us. One who sins deliberately is not repentant, but defiant. Even in Old Testament times, there was a distinction between a sin commited out of weakness and one commited defiantly:

“If one person sins unintentionally, he shall offer a female goat a year old for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement before the LORD for the person who makes a mistake, when he sins unintentionally, to make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven. You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the people of Israel and for the stranger who sojourns among them. But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him.” - Numbers 15:27-31

Hebrews tells us that if a person, who knows something is wrong, does it deliberatley instead of out of weakness, then there is no sacrifice remaining for that persons sin, and he can expect judgement and fire. This is mortal sin; it is a sin done defiantly, a sin in which a person says, “I know this is wrong, and I am strong enough to avoid this, but I don’t care that it is wrong, and I don’t care that it offends God, and I am going to do it anyways.” In this case, the person is not repentant, and the person is in defiance of God, and Christ’s sacrifice will not atone for the sin because the person is essentially rejecting that forgiveness.

This is why John writes, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life–to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.” (1 John 5:16-17). He is explaining that we can pray to Christ and He will forgive us and our brothers our sins, but that our prayers cannot help one who has sinned “unto death,” and has rejected Christ’s salvation and is in defiance of God. Mortal sins are called “mortal sins” because they are, as John writes, “unto death,” they cause spiritual death. The term venial sins does not so much refer to a different class of sins as it refers to any and all sins which are not done defiantly. The word venial means “easily excused or pardonable,” which is why is it the word used to desribe these sins.

So it is easy to see where the two requirements of full knowledge and full will are found in Scripture: they are very explicit in Hebrews 10:26. Grave matter is also visible rather readily in Scripture. In John 19:11I, Jesus indicates that some sins are worse than others. In Galatians, 1 Corinthians, and Ephesians, Paul provides lists of sins which will bar persons from heaven. He lists various acts which are of grave matter. When Christ is asked what commandments must be followed to make it to heaven, he responds by citing those commandments which point to grave matter (Matthew 19:16-19). Earlier in Matthew, Jesus gives an example of one sin (a minor insult) that might get a minor punishment, and of another more grave sin (a hateful curse) which might send a person to hell. (Matthew 5:21-22)


#5

Lazer, your post #4 is really good, even the way you sequenced your responses. I hope to “use” it from time to time, in parish classes…

All I could add, for a person looking for some more “simple” scriptural proof of classifying sins, would be Gospel of John, Jesus before Pilate: Pilate says “Do you not know that I have the power to release you or the power…” Jesus responds “You would have no power at all unless it be granted by my Father in heaven. That is why he who handed me over to you is guilty of the greater sin…”

Usually in the past, when someone came at us with “sin is sin is sin is sin… there’s no classification”, I had pointed them to John. But your answer is getting pretty complete, so I’ll change.

God Bless Us All!


#6

[quote=Lazerlike42]The term venial sins does not so much refer to a different class of sins as it refers to any and all sins which are not done defiantly. The word venial means “easily excused or pardonable,” which is why is it the word used to desribe these sins.
[/quote]

You might be overlooking that there are *deliberate venial *sins which, though done with **full knowledge **and **full consent **(basically, defiantly), they are *not *mortal because they are not a grave violation of God’s Law. A mild example would be if you stole something trivial, like $5 from someone, fully knowing it was wrong and offensive to God. It would still not be mortal sin.
If you stole $5 from a homeless beggar who had received it from a generous donator, and thus stole his meal for the day, fully aware of this–that would be grounds for mortal sin.


#7

The Catechism of the Catholic Church answers your questions and gives the NT scriptural references that speak about the difference between sin that is mortal (deadly) and sin that is not mortal (not deadly - venial).THE GRAVITY OF SIN: MORTAL AND VENIAL SIN (1854 – 1864)


#8

That is not a misunderstanding. For a sin to be mortal, it must involve grave matter.


#9

I am aware of all of the effects that the gravity of a sin can have upon the nature of the sin. However, there is a major misunderstanding that the gravity is what makes a sin mortal or venial, and that is what I was clearing up. Protestants usually attack the idea of mortal/venial sin by saying a sin is a sin, and citing James’ statement that he who breaks one letter of the law is guilty of the whole thing. I was clearing up the misunderstanding that a sin is mortal or venial in its nature (which is untrue) as opposed to the correct understanding that a sin is mortal or venial not because of itself but because of the state of the person’s heart whom commits it (i.e., their turning of their back upon God deliberately with knowledge etc.)


#10

The gravity of sin is an objective matter, not a subjective matter. The Catholic Church teaches that some sins are by their nature more grave than others.

God determines the degree of culpability that one has when one commits a sin involving grave matter. Ignorance of Church teaching may lessen or even eliminate the imputability of a grave offence against God. **Catechism of the Catholic Church

1792** Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

1793 If - on the contrary - the ignorance is invincible, or the moral subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment, the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.

1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

1860 *Unintentional ignorance * can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.

I was clearing up the misunderstanding that a sin is mortal or venial in its nature (which is untrue) as opposed to the correct understanding that a sin is mortal or venial not because of itself but because of the state of the person’s heart whom commits it (i.e., their turning of their back upon God deliberately with knowledge etc.)

A child that has reached the age of reason that deliberately sasses his mom is breaking the Fourth Commandment. Does God see this deliberate act of disobedience against one of theTen Commandments as a mortal sin that would condemn the child to eternal damnation?

There are sins that do not involve grave matter, and committing these sins with deliberate intention does not destroy the abiding of God within the soul - these deliberate venial sins do, however, spiritually wound us, but they are wounds that are not mortal wounds.


#11

Ask your Protestant friends to look at John’s Epistles. I John 5:16-17 says, "If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death" (my emphasis*).* St. John very clearly tells us that there are two kinds of sin - one leads to death and one doesn’t. Ask your friends if they know what the Old English term is for “leading to death” - it’s mortal - as in, the knight received a mortal wound in battle. So the concept ot two types of sin, and the term mortal sin all come from I John 5:16-17.


#12

[quote=Matt16_18]The gravity of sin is an objective matter, not a subjective matter. The Catholic Church teaches that some sins are by their nature more grave than others.

God determines the degree of culpability that one has when one commits a sin involving grave matter. Ignorance of Church teaching may lessen or even eliminate the imputability of a grave offence against God. **Catechism of the Catholic Church

1792** Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

1793 If - on the contrary - the ignorance is invincible, or the moral subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment, the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.

1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

1860 *Unintentional ignorance * can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest. A child that has reached the age of reason that deliberately sasses his mom is breaking the Fourth Commandment. Does God see this deliberate act of disobedience against one of theTen Commandments as a mortal sin that would condemn the child to eternal damnation?

There are sins that do not involve grave matter, and committing these sins with deliberate intention does not destroy the abiding of God within the soul - these deliberate venial sins do, however, spiritually wound us, but they are wounds that are not mortal wounds.
[/quote]

I do not see where the bone of contention lies here. My original post made very clear that grave matter is necessary for a sin to be mortal.


#13

Why did God let Noah and his family live and destroy the rest of the world if all sin is the same. Also let Lott live and destroy Sadom and Gamora if all sin is the same.


#14

Which are exactly the verses cited by the Catechism when speaking about the distinction between mortal sin and venial sin.**Catechism of the Catholic Church

1854** Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. The distinction between mortal and venial sin, already evident in Scripture,[129] became part of the tradition of the Church. It is corroborated by human experience.

129 Cf. 1 Jn 5:16-17.

Ask your Protestant friends to look at John’s Epistles. I John 5:16-17 says, "If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death.

Unless the Protestant is a “KJV onlyite”, the typical Protestant will not have a problem with the Revised Standard Version of the Bible which translates 1 John 5:16-17 as: If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.


#15

[Flopfoot]A Protestant acquaintance / friend of mine was asking me for evidence for there being different types of sins (ie, venial and mortal - some which cause you to lose a state of grace and some which don’t). Especially, where it would talk about this in the NT - but any other theological sort of proof or evidence would also be good. Can’t appeal to this guy with common sense and even if I did then he would ask where do we draw the line and why. So also would be good to have why we blieve that mortal sins have those 3 conditions, where that rule comes from. Thanks in advance for any help.

Many have written 1 John 5 which is the most explicit text that speaks of mortal and venial sin and the best. However, here is another angle with which you can perhaps show your Methodist friend.

Jesus answered (him), “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” John 18:11

John 18 is where Jesus is being interogated by Pontius Pilate after Jesus was sent to Herod. Notice Jesus’ reply on WHO has the greater sin. Jesus says Herod had the greater sin; obviously Jesus is teaching that there are differing degrees of sin since Herod had the greater sin, greater than Pontius Pilate. Also, practically speaking, it is obvious that murder is far a greater “sin” than saying a curse word and this verse affirms 1 John 5 that there are sins that lead to death (mortal sins) and there are sins that don’t lead to death (venial sins).


#16

[quote=x4us]Ask your Protestant friends to look at John’s Epistles. I John 5:16-17 says, "If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death" (my emphasis*).* St. John very clearly tells us that there are two kinds of sin - one leads to death and one doesn’t. Ask your friends if they know what the Old English term is for “leading to death” - it’s mortal - as in, the knight received a mortal wound in battle. So the concept ot two types of sin, and the term mortal sin all come from I John 5:16-17.
[/quote]

My RSV-CE Bible even uses the word “mortal” instead of the phrase “lead to death” in these verses.


closed #17

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