Posted by: John Vandivier | July 9, 2013

Ordinal Sin

The concept of Ordinal Sin is that not all sins are equal. Is that concept even compatible with Christianity? Contrary to the conception that all sin is equal, this article will argue that Ordinal Sin is both a biblical concept and consistent with observable reality.

First we will define sin. According to the fairly solid apologetics organization CARM sin is “breaking God’s law.” The Orthodox Church of America gives three definitions of sin. The Calvanist definition, they claim, is “a deviation from a standard of perfection.” The Wesleyan definition, which would prominently influence the Methodist school of thought, they claim is “willful transgression of the known will of God.” The Orthodox Church gives their own definition as something a person does or fails to do which causes failure of communion with God. Of course that begs the question, “What is communion?”

In Matthew 19:16-28 we find a man who has kept the commandments and yet is not perfect. The entire book of Job reflects the same theme: It is possible to simultaneously not have sinned and yet not be perfect. Job 1:22 says, “In all this, Job did not sin…” Yet he was certainly not out helping the poor or any number of things we might consider more perfect than whining about why he doesn’t understand God. Matthew 5:48 is one of many scriptures which establishes that God is perfect. Then there is the preponderance of evidence that God hates sin. This implies an ordinal morality, but not an ordinal sin.

We can also establish that goodness is ordinal. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that the spirit yields fruit. One example would be peace. If peace means an absence of crime, for example, then there are certainly actions which would yield a greater and lesser amount of peace. If goodness is ordinal then it makes sense that sin might be ordinal as well.

1 Timothy 5:8 tells us that one who does not provide for their relatives and household is worse than an unbeliever and has denied the faith. One could be put in a situation of needing to kill a burglar or steal to provide for his or her family. [to be continued]


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