Mortal Sin does not exist

Ok help, I’m arguing with a Protestant, that there are differing levels of sin (mortal and venial) while he is arguing that sin is sin with no difference even between Hitler and a drunkard. I’ve exhausted everything I can think of and I can’t blow the guy off, it happens to be my father! Lol, help!!!

What says sins are in differing degrees?

I’ve found it helpful to discuss it in terms Protestants already use. For example, mortal sin is like backsliding. Venial sin is like stumbling.

There is also 1 John 5:16-17:

He that knoweth his brother to sin a sin which is not to death, let him ask, and life shall be given to him, who sinneth not to death. There is a sin unto death: for that I say not that any man ask. All iniquity is sin. And there is a sin unto death.

Well the distinction is really just a recognition that some sins are more serious than others. Its no different to how there are different crimes of varying severity: clearly murder is more serious than shoplifting. One might be labelled as “felony” and the other a “misdemeanor”. This categorisation effects the consequences attached to the crime.

What is the reasoning he uses for his argument?

My cousin died and we got onto the subject of if he could be saved because he was not active or very Christian (from what we know). So that lead for one thing to another to this…

You might consider dropping the discussion until it can be picked up again without the “personal stuff.” Just a thought.

Another passage to consider is Jesus’ words to Pilate about the Jews having “the greater sin.”

There is also the whole Old Testament, showing various punishments for various crimes against God and His people Israel.

So that’s how you got into the discussion, but is he using any scripture or other reasoning to back up his point of view?

Yeah I tried the Old Testament but he says that was the old covenant, with Jesus came the new, so everything is same same…

The basis for mortal/venial sin is literally straight from the New Testament. 1 John 5:16-17

If you’re dealing with a man who cannot see the difference in sin between Hitler and a drunkard, you may not be able to reason with him. Sin is sin the same way crime is crime, but there are varying levels of offense. Reasonable justice strives for this. Perfect justice demands it. If fallible and imperfect human beings recognize the difference in the severity of sins or crimes, how much more so a perfectly just God?

My guess is your dad is a “once saved, always saved” variety of protestant. Using that belief system, they don’t believe that a person can lose their salvation, and so there would be no such thing as “mortal” sin.

I believe I’ve seen articles here on Catholic Answers regarding how to have that discussion.

But another person had it right that it might be best to save this discussion when it’s not personal. If you’re trying to prove that your cousin may have gone to hell, that could be a roadblock to this discussion.

Edit to add: Before I was Catholic, on one occasion I wrote into the Billy Graham ministries to ask about sin. They came back and said that all sin could keep us from God and they compared it to a bucket of pure, fresh water. They said if you added one drop of sewage to that water- just one drop- would you drink it? And that was what they compared even a small sin to. So that is kind of an answer as to why they might say it’s the same whether it’s Hitler or a lie.

Sin that is Mortal Proved from Scripture

1 John 5:16-17
16If 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. 17All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

Common sense tells us that there is a big difference between stealing a paperclip from a colleague’s desk and committing genocide. Yet the Protestant pretends that they are equally heinous and equally deserving of eternal damnation. This creates a false piety. Instead of making all sins more serious, it actually trivializes the most grievous sins. After all “In for a penny, in for a pound.” If I am damned anyway for trivia, I might as well be damned for something really juicy. That’s human nature!

Protestants also do not realize how unbiblical their idea that all sin is equally heinous is. We have the quotation from St. John given above which should have been proof enough, but there is more. If all sins are equally bad then in the OT the penalty for every sin would have been the same: DEATH. Instead, the Old Testament describes several ways of atoning for sins and making things right that demonstrate there are different degrees of sin. Only the most heinous sins such as murder or apostasy require the death penalty.

So once again, by using purely man-made standards, the Protestant makes void the word of God.

John 19:11
11 Jesus answered, “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.”

If there is a “greater” sin, then there must be a “lesser” sin, also.

I can understand that point of view. Unfortunately I think the analogy they use is painting with a very broad brush and utterly ignores the nuances involved. A human soul isn’t a bucket of water, nor is sin a drop of raw sewage. There is far far more involved than a simplistic analogy accounts for. Just my opinion.

I’m not defending their viewpoint, although in some ways it’s not that different from ours. In our beliefs, you can’t approach God with sin in your soul either. The difference is that we go through Purgatory to be purified of our venial sins and to pay the price for our forgiven mortal sins (assuming we didn’t reach sainthood while alive). In their belief system, by the act of being “saved” they are forgiven automatically. It’s not Biblical (odd, considering the protestant emphasis on sola scriptura) but there you go.

Actually it’s the opposite, I’m trying to prove that through Divine Mercy he has a chance at being saved. Lol, it’s my father that is saying he does not think there’s much of a chance.

I tried that one, he thinks it’s talking about an unforgivable sin of rejecting the Holy Spirit.

I would ask your Protestant father, why do all these verifiable miracles only seem to happen in these 2 churches, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church? Is someone just trying to tell me something?

Of course he or any Protestant can’t answer that question, but the question remains? When we defined and identified mortal and venial sins by the authorities in the Church(s), how were they off base when I see events in Fatima, Guadalupe, Lanciano, all the incorrupt saints? What am I missing?


I had a similar conversation with my paternal grandmother after my dad committed suicide. I wasn’t Catholic yet, still just an Evangelical Christian. I kept telling her that we don’t know where he is, so we should not worry or fret. But she wouldn’t be consoled.

Here’s a thought: sometimes a good angle is the practical angle. After my dad died, I discovered that I wanted to pray for him. So even though it went against my training (“Don’t need to pray for the dead, since if they are in heaven they don’t need it, and if they are in hell it won’t do any good”), I did it anyway for the practical reason that it gave me some solace. I reasoned that God would not be upset with me for wanting to still love and honor my father.

Little did I know how right I was.

I stumbled upon a very Catholic idea, through the very practical door of wanting some solace for myself. There was no theological reasoning behind it whatsoever since as a Protestant I had none.

When I decided to become Catholic, it was evidence of God’s grace working in my life.

Perhaps you can plant a small seed like that.

God bless you as you help your family through this difficult time.

There is a sense in which your dad is correct. Every sin, even the most “trivial” (in our eyes) is a grave offense against Love. As CS Lewis said in The Great Divorce, we will not be able to take the smallest of our sinful habits into Paradise (hence the need for some sort of purgation after death, for most of us). And St. Paul did say whoever was guilty of breaking one precept of the Law was guilty of breaking all of them. (Scary stuff).

But in another sense some sins carry us farther from God and salvation than others. Some sins are indicative of a greater state of wickedness than others. “But you know that no murderer has life within them”.

Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

As a former evangelical protestant, I was taught the same. In my understanding, the doctrine revolves around 2 verses in the New Testament: James 2:10 which says “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”

And Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death…”

So therefore, if you break even one of God’s laws, the consequences are the same, no mater which law you break–a serious one or a trivial one. You will receive everlasting condemnation unless you repent and receive God’s grace.

I think this is where your friend is coming from. IMHO

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit