Is Sin Rooted more in a Defect of the Intellect or the Will?

We all sin, but why? Is it because we are weak willed? Is it because we are stupid? (Maybe some combination?) I look in detail at this question in an article I wrote, examining Plato and Thomas Aquinas’ answers to this question (if interested you can read the whole thing HERE), but I was wondering what you think? Have you found that sin is more the result of a weakness in the will or in the intellect?

I really enjoy your posts.

As a person of faith, I would say it is the soul not listening to its conscience…that has the 10 commandments engrained on its heart. So it is a willful turning away from our inner conscience to do something that is really against us. Of course that us, goes back to the point that we are children of God.

I am reflecting alot on the concept that the 10 commandments are indebted on our soul that comes to us, however subtle, through our conscience. There is so much talk on gay marriage vs the right of religious expression and our duty to share our faith and the fruits of our conscience on society.

Pax Christi!

The most learned moral theologians also sin. So, it’s not a case of the stupids.

It’s our will. And often, very hard-to-break habits. But we acquired these habits through our lack of strong wills.

God bless.

Good point. Even the greatest minds in history sin, sometimes much worse than the lesser educated folks they look down on.

Thanks! :slight_smile:

Good point with the 10 commandments. As part of the natural law no one is really ignorant of them - CCC 1860 “no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man.”

I believe our weakness comes from being away from God. On the same way being away from God comes from lazyness. My grandmother used to say “lazyness is the mother of every sin” and I think is a big truth. Look at all the Saints, the common factor you will find between them, the virgin Mary, st Joseph and the apostoles is constant prayer, fasting and sacrificing themselves and they were all quite successful at resisting temptation. In contrast now look at most of us…do we pray a meditated rosary daily, are we doing the magnificat daile, are we fatsting at least once a week, do we wake up at 5 am to pray for at least one hour, do we practice daily mortifications, do we do the via crucis, are we going daily to mass, etc. I bet the answer for most of us is no and is no because sometimes we are too lazy to have a strong praying/ spiritual schedule and we indulge too much in ourselves. We feel like watching TV, reading the newspaper, etc is more interesting so instead of working hard on our spirit we just sit watch TV and be a couch potato. Then you become weak and fall into sin. If more people instead of indulging themselves and do what I want would take the difficult road of praying and straightening their spiritual life there would be so much less sin in the world. But doing that is hard, takes a lot of work, takes sacrifice and doing things we don’t like and we usually like to take the easy way. Hence I do think is weakness in the will or more not having proper control over your own will.

Your grandma was a wise lady, what she was describing is what the theologians call Sloth - lacking a desire for spiritual things.

Neither. It’s the result of a fallen NATURE. Original sin profoundly broke something inside of us such that our appetites don’t completely correspond with what is good. Generally yes, but the calibration is off. Only Grace is sufficient to correct the problem. Grace plus time! (Lord grant me plenty of both!).

I will go with stupid, but let me clarify, to me calling someone stupid is an insult so let’s change that stupid to ignorance which you do in your article. So far I am with you.

First, let’s eliminate addictions because they weaken the body that in turn weakens the will.

I love the sacrament of confession, but I also have concerns about it. Most priests give a mild penance, tell you to go and sin more, but within a short time period, if you are human, you are back, likely, to repeat the same sin, over and over and over. I am lucky that my confessor is more concerned with my growth and often will suggest that I think on or meditate on a particular gospel or an exercise in trying to imagine God in a different way. Although he hasn’t said anything about sinning due to ignorance I personally think it is a better way of looking at sin because that along with prayer there are tangible things one can do to overcome their ignorance.

Those learned moral theologians may be ignorant because they only know God in their brains and not in their hearts. Perhaps they never stop to consider what effect their sin has on themselves and others. It is likely that our pedophile clergy never stopped to think what lifetime effect it would have on their victims. If they did maybe, just maybe they would have sought help.

Bold above reminds me of something Scott Hahn once said a priest told him in confession, “what do you want to confess other sins?”

I know what you mean though.

Don’t you think we can work to overcome our weakness as well as our ignorance?

Yes, I believe there are many ways to overcome weakness, it’s a matter of intentions, if something doesn’t work after several attempts try something else. Many of the church fathers meant their writings to be a guide. If someone truly believes that sin is a matter of will then he/she should study and take actions to strenghten the will. If something doesn’t work try something else but don’t do the same thing over and over expecting a different result. “I sin because I am weak” doesn’t cut it. Ask “why am I weak?” and keep asking till you get an answer, one will come, most likely when you least expect it and will not be what you expect. I am not negating prayer which always helps but sometimes I think that God wants me to do something besides pray.

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