DEADLY SINS and ETHICS
(Investigator 143, 2012
SEVEN, TWO and MORE
Seven Deadly Sins
laid down by Pope Gregory the Great (540-604) and popularized by Dante
in The Inferno are Anger (or Wrath), Avarice (or Greed), Envy,
Gluttony, Lust, Pride, and Sloth.
Seven have been proposed, and recently the Vatican increased its list
of Seven to Fourteen.
is basically any
failure to conform to God's standards. If humans were perfect and free
of self-deception then two commands would suffice — "Love God with all
your heart" and "Love your neighbour". (Matthew 22:37-49) Due to human
ignorance and inadequacy the Bible expands these two into many specific
do's and don'ts.
to the Seven
Deadly Sins is another list the persistent flouting of which, according
to the Bible, condemns perpetrators to the "lake of fire" at their
ORIGINAL SEVEN DEFINED
Seven are all mentioned in the Bible:
(Ephesians 4:31; Proverbs 22:24; 14:29; I Timothy 2:8)
Avarice (Luke12:15; Ephesians 5:5; Titus 1:7; I Timothy 6:9)
(Galatians 5:26, 20; Proverbs 27:4)
Gluttony (Proverbs 23:21)
(II Peter 1:4; Matthew 15:19; I John 2:16-17)
(Proverbs 8:13; 16:18; I Timothy 3:6)
(Proverbs 19:15; 6:6-9; Titus 3:1; II Thessalonians 3:10).
"Anger" condemned in
the Bible is not appropriate anger in response to injustice or bad
conduct but "blowing one's top" as a habit or when one's incompetence
is similar to
greed. Funk & Wagnalls Dictionary defines avarice: "Passion
for acquiring and hoarding riches; greed."
"1. A feeling of
resentment…over another's superior attainments, endowments or
possessions. 2. A desire to possess the goods of another." Envy
overlaps with jealousy.
eating excessively. A glutton is "One who eats to excess."
refers to sexual
appetite for another when morally or socially inappropriate.
refers not to
satisfaction in work well done but to "vanity" i.e. excessive belief in
one's abilities that ignores the "grace of God" and others' input.
refers not to
recuperation from work but to doing so little work that one's
responsibilities remain unfulfilled.
MODERN RELEVANCE and
Seven Deadly Sins'
modern relevance is seen in that Oxford University Press commissioned a
series of volumes about them. Philosopher Simon Blackburn, for example,
wrote Lust: The Seven Deadly Sins (2006).
examines the Seven from a modern psychological perspective. A Book
Description on the Amazon books website says:
sins…are alive and well, deadlier than ever, spawning violence and
suffering, illness and anxiety, loss of meaning and depression. An
arrogant yuppie considers suicide after losing his job on Wall Street,
which had been the fragile basis of his false pride. A distinguished
senator and a prominent judge destroy their careers and wound their
female victims with their lust. Millions of men and women, distraught
about their body image, subject themselves to liposuction, breast and
hair implants because of their gluttony or vanity.
seven "Deadlies" have
become areas of investigation by neuroscientists using magnetic
resonance imaging. McGowan (2009) writes:
enjoyable sins engage the brain's reward circuitry…such fundamental
feelings as pain, pleasure, reward, and punishment. More disagreeable
forms of sin such as wrath and envy enlist the dorsal anterior
cingulate cortex… The more social sins (pride, envy, lust, wrath)
recruit the medial prefrontal cortex.
(2010) write: "We now have the technology to reveal the root of our
darkest impulses, deep within our brains. And the evidence is clear:
nature wants us to be bad."
control networks involving the front of the brain activate to squelch
the impulse by tempering its appeal… The two sides battle it out, the
devilish reward system versus the angelic brain regions that hold us in
Bible does not allow
the innateness or genetics of sin as an excuse. It states that sin
resides in "the flesh" and humans are "slaves of sin" but also teaches
self control achievable with God's help:
of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce
impiety, and worldly passions, and…live lives that are self-controlled,
upright, and godly… (Titus 2:11-12)
about sin is
considered out-of-date. Psychologists prefer to consider people as
victims of society, or as under-privileged, immature, or reacting to
recognizing one's faults and accepting responsibility there won't be
any decision to change. Proverbs 19:3 says: "One's own folly leads to
ruin, yet the heart rages against the LORD." In other words don't blame
others — especially not God.
The acknowledgement that a conduct is
wrong or damaging precedes any decision to give it up.
survey of 1001
people's attitude to the Seven Deadly Sins found only greed was still
considered relevant. (Martin (2004)
survey produced a
revised list of Cruelty; Adultery; Bigotry (e.g. "racism, ageism and
homophobia"); Dishonesty (e.g. misrepresenting one's credentials);
Hypocrisy; Greed (acquiring excessive, unneeded stuff); and Selfishness
(satisfying one's wants to the detriment or loss by others).
deadly the following: Apathy (i.e. Indifference); Dogmatism;
Intolerance (Living by one-sided rules and forcing these on others);
Violence; Speed (i.e. being too busy); and Domination.
increased its original seven to 14. Paul Syvret in The Courier Mail
reported: "Not only do we have to be on the watch for Lust, Gluttony,
Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride…but we must now also be mindful of
seven new deadly sins…" (March 18, 2008)
seven additions are:
Genetic modification; Experiments on humans; Social injustice;
Environmental pollution; Causing poverty; Financial Gluttony; and Drug
notes that these
seven extras place: "most multinational corporations in the ‘burn in
Internet writer asks
"Why stop at 14?" and makes it 21." I here summarize his additions:
Guttony: Wearing offensive clothing such as low-rise jeans which
flaunt as much blubber as possible without going naked.
Caravanism: Gray nomads clogging the roads on long holidays and
whingeing all the way about facilities.
Phonepride: Banal mobile-phone conversations conducted at volume
on public transport and in libraries.
rolling: When evangelists harvest money from gullible followers and
live in multimillion-dollar luxury.
Wowserism: Criticism of drinking although Jesus reportedly turned
water into wine.
Nimbyism: Whining about building developments larger than a cubby
house near one's home.
Bigotry: New Australians may have suntanned skin, beards, and
clothing resembling bed-sheets — but that describes Jesus.
BASIS of ETHICS
ethics are not
intended to restrict our liberty but to increase it. (James 1:25) They
are objective, and their rightness potentially measurable, because the
intention behind them is to promote longer life, better health,
peaceful relations, prosperity, and positive emotions:
keep the commandments will live; those who are heedless of their ways
will die. (Proverbs 19:16)
consequences are often measurable this makes biblical ethics testable,
and provides added scientific validation of the Bible after biology,
history, geography, prophecy, archaeology, astronomy, etc.
wisdom] your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your
life. (Proverbs 9:11)
iniquities of the
wicked ensnare them… They die for lack of discipline, and because of
their great folly they are lost. (5:22-23)
drunkard and the
glutton will come to poverty… (23:21)
righteousness and kindness will find life and honor. (Proverbs 21:21;
Also 3:1-4; 12:28)
we can check
psychological or medical magazines such as Psychologies and Scientific
American Mind for comment and statistics (where surveys have been
done) about every principle, and disposition that the Bible trains
people to adopt or reject. Leaf through recent volumes and you'll see
articles about anxiety, humility, joy, empathy, betrayal, generosity,
guilt, racism, boasting, courage, shame, fear, kindness, rage, peace,
conflict, selfishness, addiction, pornography, honesty, forgiveness,
hope, gratitude, etc, and how these relate to health, relationships and
Bible for example
teaches "hope" and a psychologist writes: "We know that hope is good
for us. More hopeful people are more popular, healthier, live longer
and are more likely to succeed…" (Psychologies, January 2010)
And the Bible teaches "gratitude", and a psychologist writes: "Grateful
people report consistently higher levels of positive emotions, life
satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and
stress." (Psychologies, December 2009)
already, in Investigator,
discussed the Bible's opposition to drunkenness, stealing, lying,
immorality, homosexual sex, gambling and debt and found that these
behaviours come with substantial risk of suffering including pain,
poverty, sickness, depression, loss of sanity, and even death.
with suffering often depends on the extent to which "sins" are
committed. A little envy or gluttony, for example, might not hurt much,
but if envy or gluttony dominates one's life trouble will follow.
Bible has another
list of sins which it relates to the "wrath of God" and "the lake of
fire" and which we may consider another time:
the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the
fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place
will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the
second death. (Revelation 21:8)
Blackburn, S. 2004 Lust,
Oxford University Press
Martin, J. Sunday Mail
— Body & Soul, 2005, July 24, pp 2-3
McGowan, K. Seven Deadly
Sins, Discover, September 2009, pp 49-52
Ridgway, A. &
Parsons, P. The science of the seven deadly sins, Focus,
February 2010, pp 27-34
Schimmel, S. 1997 The
Seven Deadly Sins: Jewish, Christian and Classical Reflections on Human
Psychology, Oxford University Press
Syvret, P. The
Courier Mail, March 18, 2008
Williams, N. 2004 The
Advertiser, March 6, p. 36,
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