Sin is wrong and dumb – a form of self-abuse

Here is a deeply insightful reflection from one of my favorite authors, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

It’s a bit long but well worth reading and discussing.  

“The shortest and clearest way to state the relation between sin and foolishness is to say that not all foolishness is sin, but all sin is foolishness. Sin is both wrong and dumb. Indeed, wherever foolishness is playing, sin is the main event. Sin is the world’s most impressive example of foolishness.”

“What is it about sin that makes it so foolish? Sin is the wrong recipe for good health; sin is the wrong gasoline to run human life on; sin is the wrong direction and the wrong road to get home. In other words, sin is finally futile.”

“Pride, for example, is futile because self-fascination is so often unrequited. Moreover, pride is subject to the tolerance effect, the law of diminishing returns: the more self-absorbed we are, the less there is to find absorbing.”

“Robert Roberts adds that the pride project in human life – the attempt to become our own first cause – is carried on by people who are riven with the knowledge that though they may be gods, transcendent above the rest of creation, they are also worms and food for worms. We live with the dreadful contradiction lying drugged and groggy in our bosoms: the need to be heroes and the fact of being worms.”

“Whats more, we try to resolve this contradiction by adopting another: we try to exalt ourselves by meeting other peoples standards of acceptability. What would be the point of doing thunderous slam dunks or of performing rock songs if everybody just yawned? Our goodness (being known, admired, envied) depends on the standards and opinions of people just as riven as we are. ‘Stars are really only moons,’ says Roberts, ‘drawing upon and reflecting the light of others.'”

“Pride is the first and most popular form of idolatry. But all forms of idolatry involve us deeply in folly. All idolatry is not only treacherous, but also futile. Human desire, deep and restless and seemingly unfulfillable, keeps stuffing itself with finite goods, but these cannot satisfy. If we try to fill our hearts with anything besides the God of the universe, we find that we are overfed but undernourished, and that day by day, week by week, year after year, we are thinning down to a mere outline of a human being.”

“Sad to say, this kind of thing happens all the time. People hungry for love, people who want to connect, open up a sequence of shallow, self-seeking relationships with other shallow, self-seeking persons, and find that at the end of the day they are emptier than when they began.”

“The whole project has been as idle and dehumanizing as the conversations on those dating-and-mating TV programs that explore the sump level of lubriciousness.”

“Beneath all their surface liveliness, the sadness of these programs is that they reduce their participants to mere leering silhouettes.

“Sin is futile and therefore foolish. Georges Bernanos country priest remarks that Satan has involved himself in a hopeless program of swimming against the stream of the universe, of wearing himself out in absurd, terrifying attempts to reconstruct in the opposite direction the whole work of the Creator.”

“Thus, while moral evil is destructive, and sometimes infuriating, it is also in some way ludicrous. ‘Mere Christianity,’ says C. S. Lewis, ‘commits us to believing that the Devil is (in the long run) an ass.

“Sin is folly. No matter what images they choose, the writers of the Bible say this again and again. Sin is missing the target; sin is choosing the wrong target. Sin is wandering from the path, or rebellion against someone too strong for us, or neglecting a good inheritance. Above all, at its core, sin is offense against God.


“Why is it not only wrong but also foolish to offend God? God is our final good, our maker and savior, the one in whom alone our restless hearts come to rest.”

“To rebel against God is to saw off the branch that supports us. As Richard Lovelace remarks, ‘to flee from God to some far country and to search for fulfillment there is to find only black-market substitutes: instead of joy, the buzz in your temples from four or five martinis; instead of self-giving love, sex with strangers; instead of a parents unconditional enthusiasm for you as a person, only the professional support of a fashionable therapist who will indeed pump up your ego whenever it loses pressure, but who also keeps his meter running.’”

“Rebellion against God and flight from God remove us from the sphere of blessing; these moves cut us off from our only invisible means of support.


“Thus sin dissipates us in futile projects, but also in self-destructive ones. Sin hurts other people and grieves God, but it also corrodes us. Sin is a form of self-abuse. Promiscuous persons, for example, coarsen themselves. They disqualify themselves for the deepest forms of intimacy, the ones bonded by trust, and condemn themselves to social superficiality, as one of my friends once put it.”

“Something similar is true of liars and cheats. As Christopher Lasch remarks, ‘Whoever cheats his neighbor forfeits his neighbors trust, imprisons himself behind a wall of enmity and suspicion, and thus cuts himself off from his fellows.’”

“Envy – the displeasure at another’s good and the urge to despoil him of it-traps and torments the envier, turning his life into a hell of resentment.”

“Proud persons isolate themselves. Pride aborts the very possibility of real friendship or communion, namely, benevolence toward being in general. More basically, pride amounts to a kind of phantom wisdom. Because of pride, fools are unteachable. They know it all. You can’t tell them anything. They are wise in their own eyes – a sure sign of folly.

“Badly educated ministers who are both vague and dogmatic, off-key singers who insist on contending for solo parts, children of Israel who wander forty years in the wilderness because (already then) the men were unwilling to ask for directions, pinball enthusiasts who devote ten years of their adult lives to becoming the best player in their neighborhood tavern, rejecting every inquiry about the worthwhileness of this project with the remark that the inquirer must be envious – these and other standouts from the ranks of the foolish display one of human life’s most wondrous combinations: the stubborn combination of ignorance and arrogance.”

“The foolish, as the saying goes, are often in error, but never in doubt. Moreover, when their dogmatism is challenged, they increase it. Some of them give you a piece of their mind they can hardly afford to lose. Willfulness of this kind causes the foolish a good deal of misery and also prevents their escape from it. For to escape from a foolish line of thought or a destructive course of action, a person has to stop, admit he is wrong, turn around, head back to safe ground, and then try a new route.”

“As C. S. Lewis once said, ‘When we have gotten a wrong sum at the beginning of a sequence of calculations, we cannot improve matters by simply going on.'” 

“A proud person tries to reinvent reality. He tries to redraw the borders of human behavior to suit himself, displacing God as the Lord and boundary-keeper of life.”

“At bottom, the proud fool is out of touch with reality. For, of course, our wills are not sovereign. We are not really our own centers, anchors, or lawgivers. We have not made ourselves, cannot keep ourselves, cannot ultimately oblige or forgive ourselves. The image of ourselves as center of the world is fantasy – perhaps, in its sheer detachment from reality, even a form of madness.” (adapted from, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, By Cornelius Plantinga).

About Wisdomforlife

Just another worker in God's field.
This entry was posted in Addiction, Alcohol addiction, Blessed by God, Deception, Devil, Drug addiction, Envy and Jealousy, Fools, Humanism, Lust, Origin of Sin, Pride, Problem of evil, Self esteem, Self love, Self-deception, Selfishness, Sin. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Sin is wrong and dumb – a form of self-abuse

  1. Thanks for expressing this so succinctly; the blessings of God through Jesus Christ are AMEN!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s