Why Guilt is a Valuable Human Experience

  1. It is evidence that we respect the tension between what we are and what we strive to become.
  2. Without it, we tend towards apathy and indifference towards ethical ideals.
  3. It is an outgrowth of interpersonal relationships in which persons care for one another enough to offer approval or disapproval.
  4. To live without guilt is psychopathic.

-Paul Johnson, “Psychology of Religion Revised and Enlarged”

Guiltless Living and Psychopathy

“The person who feels no guilt is psychopathic. His character structure is so impaired that he does not respond to the interests and ideal goals of his human kind but deceives himself that they do not matter. Sinless re- ligion is also deceptive. It deceives all who think it makes no difference what one believes or does. It brings confusion of truth and error, good and evil, not recognizing the distinction between values and disvalues. If re- ligion is the search for divine good, it matters supremely whether one is achieving good or evil. With lack of concern about sin there is failure to define, to declare, and to realize values. A false complacency of careless neutrality is the nadir of religious deception.” -Paul Johnson, “Psychology of Religion Revised and Expanded”

Why We Need the Doctrine of Sin

  1. It reminds us that life is a moral affair- life is more than brain chemistry and upbringing, it involves moral responsibility and a series of choices.
  2. Sin is communal- it is a problem that all of humanity shares in together (this makes sympathy possible, and it makes the battle against sin a collective effort).
  3. It rings true- it’s how we take good ideas and push them too far into self-serving ideas.
  4. Without it character is impossible to develop- character is built through battling internal sins.

David Brooks, The Road to Character

The Progression of Sin

“The danger of sin, in other words, is that it feeds on itself. Small moral compromises on Monday make you more likely to commit other, bigger moral compromises on Tuesday. A person lies to himself and soon can no longer distinguish when he is lying to himself and when he isn’t. Another person is consumed by the sin of self-pity, a passion to be a righteous victim that devours everything around it as surely as anger or greed. People rarely commit the big sins out of the blue. They walk through a series of doors. They have an unchecked problem with anger. They have an unchecked problem with drinking or drugs. They have an unchecked problem of sympathy. Corruption breeds corruption. Sin is the punishment of sin.” -David Brooks, The Road to Character