To see the introduction and disclaimers for my 95 Theses, first go to: 95-Theses-Introduction
(Painting: "Allegory of Salvation and Sin," Hans Vredeman de Vries, 1596, oil on panel)
81.) Discerning the Boundaries of Sin - Sin, for a Christian, is “anything that is not done in faith,” that is, anything that says no to relationship with God and pursuing our transformation into his nature of love. It is anything, then, that tends to self-centered ends rather than God-centered ends. Happily, what constitutes a sin-act is usually easy to understand, since it often overlaps in significant measure with the cultural “Tao” of general morality (thus the vice-lists in the NT are, in large measure, identical to what most of the wider culture would have agreed with anyway). There is, however, a bit more freedom in the Christian conception, in that we are not bound by black-and-white lines of legalism. Therefore, some acts that would have been seen as questionable under Jewish morality (such as the eating of meat which might have been butchered in association with cultic rituals) are not necessarily sinful for Christians. Further, when we consider the self-centered vs. God-centered dichotomy as a descriptor of us, we must be careful not tie ourselves down to a sense of human pleasures as being necessarily “self-centered.” Because God is our creator, including the creator of our pleasures and appetites, and because love for ourselves is an integral part of our love of God, many of the pleasures and appetites of human life, so unfortunately scorned in certain traditions of the church, can actually be approached “in faith,” as part of our love of God and gratitude for the good things in his creation. If an act tends toward the worship of God and the honoring of one another and of all creation, it need not be feared that it is sin. Where such “pleasures” can cross the line into sin, however, is where they are done only for our own pleasure, disregarding the negative effects that such actions might have on other humans or on the created order. Even if such negative effects on others are not a danger of a particular act, the enjoyment of the pleasures can still tend towards sin when such impulses begin to rule us, rather than we ourselves being masters of our appetites. If the enjoyment of human pleasures dominates our lives in a way that leaves our volition weakened, then they fall under the dynamic of volition-weakening effects of sin rather than the volition-liberating effects of Christ’s redemption. Moderation, then, is the rule of thumb for all such things, to make sure that our enjoyment of human pleasures does not exceed its proper boundaries and thus diminish our intended role as fully volitional beings.
82.) The Consequences of Sin in the Christian Life - Despite what may sound to traditional ears like a downplaying of sin, we must, before we move on from this topic, admit that sin for the Christian remains a grievous problem. Christ has dealt with the ultimate consequences of that problem, but we are still left with the proximate consequences—the injury done to ourselves, in thwarting our upward progress toward God; the consequences of our bad choices, which often constitute God’s discipline toward us (in that he does not take us out of our self-made trials); possibly, the increased influence that we are giving to demonic agents toward further temptations; and, in many cases, the injury done to others because of our self-centered action. How do we deal with these proximate, this-world consequences of sin? We must first of all accept the consequences of our sins; we must confess them, both to God and to our fellow believers; we must repent, with the firm intent to resist future temptations of the same sort; and we must rejoice in the way that God uses even our sins to teach us, to train us, and to raise us ever higher, if we are willing.