A senseless act?

What are we saying when we call an act senseless or inappropriate or a lapse in judgment? And how does this relate to teaching about sin?

“When we read of a murder in the newspapers or hear of one on television, we often read or hear that it was senseless.”

Observers offer this characterization not only of drive-by homicides or the methodical shooting of strangers by a crazed killer…, but also of the first-degree murder of a businessman by his greedy partner, or the enraged slaying of a wife by her jealous husband-even of murders committed in the course of robberies and rapes. Indeed, we hear of almost any murder that it was a senseless slaying, a senseless act, an example of the senseless violence that keeps threatening society.


“But why senseless? After all, unless the killer was grossly impaired, the killing probably made sense to him. He was trying to silence a witness, or gain revenge, or express his power, or act out his racist hatred, or stimulate and satisfy his lust.”

“In a culture whose up-to-date intellectuals often drift toward moral subjectivism, how can an act that makes perfectly good sense to its perpetrator be judged senseless by outsiders? The outsiders cannot mean that the act was motiveless. Do they mean, then, that the act was unintelligent? That it lacked alertness, say, or foresight? Do they think that the killer stupidly miscalculated the odds of getting away with murder? Not likely.” 

”The truth is that, when pressed, even the most avant-garde observer drops his moral subjectivism, forgets all Nietzschean attempts to get beyond good and evil, and joins the rest of us in expressing shock, indignation, and the metaphysical judgment that a murder does not belong in the world, no matter what its author thinks of it. The murder of a human being is not the way its supposed to be. This act is out of order. It is senseless because it saws against the grain of the universe, because, as Christian believers would say, it doesnt fit the divine plan for peace and comity.


“Senseless is only one word people use to express this conviction. People who prefer not to judge or confess sin will nonetheless concede that some objectionable act was stupid, tragic, shortsighted, mistaken, unfortunate, miscalculated, erring, regrettable, or out of line. Suppose a white-collar criminal, for example, confesses to a judgmental lapse or to inappropriate behavior after cheating thousands of retirees out of their life savings.”

“Despite the ludicrous and cowardly nature of his euphemism, the criminal has nonetheless admitted that he was wrong in an important way. He has admitted that he was out of order, out of line-that he was, in a word, foolish. He will not concede that he has been a knave, but he feels obliged to concede, in effect, that he has been a fool.


“By so doing, ironically enough, he enters a mainstream of biblical thought, and a route to the biblical concept of sin. For biblical writers think of sin as the main species of folly. Indeed, if a person confesses folly, and then admits that he is to blame for his folly, he has as good as confessed his sin.?

“A person who calls his theft of two packages of AA batteries from a supermarket checkout display inappropriate or a lapse in judgment thus puts us in position to reflect not only on folly, but also on the nature of sin, and then to deepen our understanding of both by exploring the relation between them” (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be).

Deeper thoughts about sin

“Sin interferes with the way God wants things to be. That is why God has laws against it. God is for shalom and therefore against sin”

“Because sin spoils the way things are supposed to be, biblical images for sin suggest that it is deviant behavior. In the Bible, to sin is to miss the target, to wander from the path, to stray from the fold.  A sinner has a deaf ear or a stiff neck.”

“To sin is to overstep a line or else to fail to reach it; that is, sin is either transgression or shortcoming.  These and other images tell us that, in a biblical view of the world, sin is a familiar, even predictable, part of life, but it is not normal. And the fact that ‘everybody does it’ doesn’t make it normal.” (Cornelius Plantinga Jr.).


About Wisdomforlife

Just another worker in God's field.
This entry was posted in Accountability, Ethics, Morality, Relativism, Sin and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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