Monday, June 22, 2015

The Atonement: Sin, Transgression and Accountability

I tend to define sin as conscious choices that pull me away from God in some way and for which I am responsible - and I tend to categorize those things as acting against my own conscience. I tend to define transgression as unintentionally acting in a way that would pull me away from God in some way and for which I am not accountable - and I tend to categorize those things as the gap between my conscience and God's will.

I really love the distinction between sin and transgression in Mormon theology, and I tend to place more things in the realm of transgression and fewer things in the realm of sin than most members.

I believe there is absolute good and absolute bad - but I like James' definition of sin in his epistle: knowing to do good and not doing it.

The reason I distinguish so explicitly between sin and transgression is that I believe in the concept of "atonement" that doesn't punish people for transgressions - those things that are wrong in an objective sense but are not understood to be wrong by the people who do them. I link "sin" to "judgment" and "guilt" - so I define it as acting in opposition to one's understanding and conscience.

I also see a big difference between "wrong" and "sin" - and, like transgression, the central difference is intent and/or understanding.

I think the best example in our theology (and law) is the case of diminished capacity, especially with clear cases of mental disability. I think all of us are "disabled" in ways we don't understand fully, so I think "sin" occurs less often than we tend to believe.

Don't get me wrong: I support defining "sin" and "crime" communally and making general standards to ensure safety and stability. However, I believe in recognizing them as generalized communal standards and not eternal absolutes that apply equally to every person - and even the law recognizes that the same action isn't the same thing and shouldn't incur the same penalty when something about the circumstances surrounding the actions is different.


Glenn Thigpen said...

Sometimes I disagree with some things (not all or not even most) that you post on your blog, but I find no disagreement with you in my heart on this one. Thanks for that insight.


Papa D said...

Thanks, Glenn. I really appreciate you letting me know that.