Sin is disappearing from public use. The reason is easy to discern. Sin conjures up the thought of God, which a secular society abominates. Like Sabbath, God’s weekly holiday, it reminds people of God.
Q. 14. What is sin?
A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Much as people may abominate the word ‘sin’, yet the concept of the transgression of the law is alive and well. It is simply a question of ‘whose law?’
There are many legitimate laws in force, policed by different groups of people. Beginning with the rules in a family, one moves into society with its copious regulations in public life. There are the standards enforced in one’s workplace and there are laws made in Parliament.
Parliamentary law is backed up by the police and the legal system to enforce its laws.
Christians refer to sins of omission and commission, in thought, word and deed.
In the absence of the law of God and the absence of the concept of sin in public life, we now have political correctness as the secular standard, and thoughtcrime to replace sins of thought. The difference is that thoughtcrime is punishable by the state, whereas Christians do not expect sin to be punished by the state.
Political correctness is secularism’s new morality, and thoughtcrime is gradually overwhelming the nation. At first political correctness was greeted as a joke, but when the force of law, peer group pressure and public disapproval began to impact, those in public life began to U-turn with secular repentance.
It began with words. Not swear words – these continue apace, such as God, Christ, Jesus, heavens above, hell and damn. These swear words are all religious words, used with the aim of demeaning these words and of emptying them of all content. Rather, the new swear words are demeaning words and language about race, sexuality and gender. The new blasphemy is not about God but about man. Even ‘man’ is no longer politically correct.
Thoughtcrime is the next stage in the secular campaign to preach and impose secular repentance upon society.
It is good to be careful about words and the use of language. I do not subscribe to the abuse too common in our society, but secular morality pretends that it promotes inclusiveness and equality, and it begs the question why it does not include Christian sensibility about blasphemy against God and equality for Christian expression of ideas in public life.
Secularists want to close down public debate about religion. It is part of the New Atheism and antitheist agenda. Some humanists are so close-minded and forceful that the Vice-President and former President of Humanists UK wants to close down public debate in some self-selected areas in the scientific realm. Secularists have a different view of toleration from Christianity; secularism is oppressive and not tolerant.
Most religions have the concept of sin and they debate between themselves how to deal with it. Often religious rivalry has spilled over into violence. There is a long history of aggressive religionists resorting to violence, such as islamic conquests and muslim terrorists, the pope of Rome’s crusades and the auto-da-fé of the Spanish Inquisition, and the Jews crucified Jesus Christ. These are easily matched by secular conflicts, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Chairman Mao, Pol Pot and in recent times the Rwandan genocide.
Few religionists would argue that these are true representatives of their religion, just as the Scottish National Party and the Brexiteers argued that their nasty and extreme supporters did not represent their political opinions.
However, there are other tools for oppression and control, such as money. Occasionally religionists have resorted to taxes or fines: islam levied a tax on Christians and other non-muslims living in their territories, and the pope of Rome sold indulgences to finance the building of St Peter’s in Rome. This is matched by secular morality fining Christian bakers who will not bake cakes displaying unchristian propaganda, or fining Christian guest-house owners who will not permit unchristian sexual activity on their premises.
In the 21st century, religions tend to debate. Not so the secularist. They are still in the 16th-century mode of thought and they want to impose their will by fines and state power. Thoughtcrime is one tool in its armoury.
There is a price to be paid for this. It will be not only financial, but it also risks civil unrest.
It is time for our schools to teach the history of the national struggles for freedom of thought, speech and behaviour in Scotland and England during the English Civil War, followed by the Covenanting struggle in Scotland, each of them motivated by the power and teaching of Christian freedom, if we are to avoid the repetition of these abuses of civil power.
The difference between sin and crime discussed by Melanie Philips.