1 Corinthians 6:12,10:23 DBHNT:
All things are lawful to me – but not all are beneficial. All things are lawful to me – but I will not be overpowered by any of them.
All things are lawful – but not all are expedient; all things are lawful – but not all edify.
According to these quotes from St Paul, no action is inherently evil and nothing is to be considered a sin in and of itself. “Where there is no law, there is no sin”. And yet the Christian traditions are insistent on the reality of objectively sinful actions that are never permissible. How do we reconcile this?
Answer: Whether or not an action is evil is determined by the context surrounding the action. So for example, Sex, Killing, Theft, Lying, Self-Pleasure, Abstinence, and using contraceptive products are not inherently evil actions. The context surrounding the action determines whether or not these things are grave. When does killing become murder? When does sex become rape? Killing and murder are the same action, but with different contexts. Sex and rape are the same action, but with different contexts. Sex and killing are always lawful, but murder and rape are always unlawful. But the unlawfulness of murder and rape does not flow from the actions involved, it flows from the context surrounding those actions
Sex is not Inherently Sinful
Definition: Intercourse between two or more people
Rape is sinful = Sex + anyone involved does not consent
Adultery is sinful = Sex + everyone involved is consenting to the act + three conditions must hold:
- It’s with someone you’re not married to
- There is the possibility of pregnancy
- You don’t intend to marry them in the event of pregnancy.
If any of those three conditions aren’t met, the sex is lawful.
- Having sex with someone you are not married to, whilst still being married to someone else, is not a sin under this schema, SO LONG AS there is no possibility of pregnancy.
- However, having sex with someone you are not married to, whilst still being married to someone else, might lead to tensions and issues in the marriage such as jealousy and spurned emotions and it would therefore be unwise to engage in such behaviour if you are aiming to minimise pain for both yourself and your partner.
- Homosexual sex comes up as lawful, because there is no possibility of pregnancy
Killing is not Inherently Sinful
Definition: To end a life
Manslaughter is not sinful = killing + it’s unintentional.
Execution/self-defence is not sinful = killing + it’s intentional + three conditions must hold:
- The victim himself is guilty of murder
- The victim must pose an ongoing, immanent mortal threat to someone
- All other possible options have been exhausted
If those conditions aren’t met, then the action of killing becomes the sin of murder
- This is why in modern, stable societies, which have the luxury of prison systems, the death penalty is never appropriate. It is always possible to lock the prisoner away and attempt to reform them.
- Whereas in a post-apocalyptic/anarchic society which doesn’t have the resources to hold the guilty indefinitely, execution may be necessary to prevent further harm to the weak and innocent.
- Abortion remains a form of murder under this scheme, because even though the foetus may pose a threat to the mental or physical health of the mother, the foetus has not commit any actual crime deserving of death and there are always other possible options.
- Killing of animals is always murder (unless there is some sense in which an animal can be “guilty”. An area for further enquiry)
Theft is not Inherently Sinful
Definition: Taking something that doesn’t belong to you
Stealing is sinful = theft + you don’t intend to compensate
Borrowing is not sinful = theft + you intend to compensate
Lying is not Inherently Sinful
Definition: Speaking a statement that is factually false, or withholding a relevant truth.
Deception is sinful = Lying + the intent is personal gain at the expense of others
Protection is not sinful = Lying + the intent is to shield the weak and vulnerable from harm
Self-Pleasure is not Inherently Sinful
Definition: Wanking or schlicking. Sexual self-stimulation
Masturbation is sinful: Self-Pleasure + the arousal is connected to any other actually sinful act.
If that condition does not hold, self-pleasure is not sinful.
- Any mental sexual fantasy is permissible.
- Pornography is permissible, so long as the acts depicted are not sinful. (For example, rape fantasies are permissible, but no ACTUAL rape or adultery should be involved. Everyone should be enthusiastically consenting and there should be no danger of pregnancy)
Condoms, the pill and abstinence are not Inherently Sinful
Definition: Self explanatory
Contraception is sinful: Using these things for selfish reasons such as “I don’t want to have kids”
Birth control is not sinful: Using these things for practical reasons and in a temporary capacity. Such as avoiding pregnancy with someone you’re not married to, or avoiding pregnancy at a certain period of time where it would be in-optimal.
Worship is not Inherently Sinful
Definition: Giving awe, respect, reverence (technically latria) to something
Idolatry is sinful: Worship + the object of worship is something other than God.
If what you worship is not other than God, the worship is lawful.