In 1973, the world-renowned psychiatrist Karl Menninger wrote a book entitled: Whatever Became of Sin? In his book the doctor projected the day would come when sin would no longer be an element of the human vernacular. He speculated that the explanation of sin and wrongdoing would be replaced by rationalizations excusing individual accountability.
Menninger predicted the term sin would be replaced with words like illness, disorder, dysfunction, syndrome, etc. The human condition would be excused as a product of biochemistry, environment, experience, and trauma. He projected that even crime would go unpunished as criminal activity would be justified and minimized as the result of some medical abnormality for which one could not be held responsible.
According to Menninger’s prognostication, the day was approaching when practically everyone would be considered sick and their conduct pardonable. No longer would there be any liability for human error, choice, and willful conduct. Everyone would be innocent, vindicated through biology, psychiatry, and humanistic reasoning.
Aren’t we just about there? The good doctor was a pretty good prophet!
Humanism has become the dominant theology of our day, embraced increasingly throughout society and regrettably, in the Church. Humanism teaches that everything is relative and there are no absolutes. As a result there can be no sin because there are no fixed guidelines of morality. Under this doctrine, man is considered good and deserving of everything it he wants.
Furthermore, humanism assumes there is no God. Man is his own sovereign ruler; wise, competent, and capable of making decisions that are best for him. Salvation then is the pleasure and gratification of the human experience. Humanism is individually focused without regard to others and it seeks immediate gain without consideration of its long-term or eternal impact.
Since man is good, wise, competent, and deserving he literally can do no wrong. Therefore, if wrong is committed, it could not be man’s fault. In order for man to act badly, there must be a reason. And more than ever before we hear the Church employ the reasoning of the world and abandoning the language and clarity of Scripture:
She isn’t a drunkard (1 Cor 6:9-10)…she has the disease of Alcoholism.
He isn’t sexually immoral (1 Thess 4:3)…he is a Sexual Addict.
The child is not disobedient to parents (Rom 1:28-32)…she has Oppositional, Defiant Disorder with ADHD.
He isn’t an angry man (Prov 29:22)…he is reliving the patterns of his childhood abuse.
She isn’t bitter and unforgiving (Eph 4:31-32)…she has Dysthymia (depression).
He isn’t a murderer (Ex 20:13)…he has Bi-polar Disorder and was incompetent at the time of the crime.
In our efforts to explain human behavior in ways we consider relevant and applicable, we have become vulnerable to the leaven (Matt. 16:6) of humanistic psychology that speaks in terms of circumstance, experience, genetics, and biochemistry. These and other explanations have become the “reasons” individuals and families act as they do.
Since the language and definitions have changed, so have the accepted remedies. Once we moved away from a biblical definition of the problem, we began to see the answer as being beyond the scope of Scripture. As we defined the problems of man in physical and relational terms, we fell under the notion that psychotherapy, medication, and similar approaches were the solutions needed.
Within this process has been the slow erosion of the Christian worldview. The Bible is not longer considered the template for life and the Body has been led astray by the humanistic reasoning, which is overwhelming the Church. Jesus warned of the deceptive influence of false teaching:
And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matt 16:6).
Paul used leaven as a metaphor also to illustrate how insidious a false idea can be, noting how quickly incorrect teaching can spread and influence the believer and the Church. Paul wrote:
You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view… (Gal 5:7-10a).
Paul is asking the Church at Galatia where their false ideas were coming from. Why were they returning to a “yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1) when they had been set free? He indicates the church was “running well” until they were “hindered” (distracted) from “obeying the truth.” And Paul notes that this influence did not come from “Him who calls you.”
This was Paul’s challenge to the Galatians to look around and reorient themselves. They had released their gaze from the truth and had attached themselves to a lie. The apostle reminds them that this leaven will spread rapidly and infect the “whole lump;” the whole man, the whole marriage, the whole family, and the whole church. Finally Paul encourages them to “adopt no other view” than the full and compelling truth of the Gospel.
This letter could well be written to the current Church in America. Our race toward the prize (1 Cor 9:24) has been undermined with a little leaven…a smidgen of a lie. Humanism is the leaven that has “persuaded” the Church away from the truth, even though its ideals and objectives are antithetical to Scripture.
So great is the humanistic influence that today, Scripture is regarded as insufficient and inferior to the theories and methods of the world. Listen to the language within the Church and one will hear that there has been a change in culture. Christians are ceasing to measure and monitor their lives by the truth of God’s Word and instead are relying upon the world’s wisdom (1 Cor 3:19).
By changing our language, focus, definitions, and solutions, the Church is quickly returning to bondage. Slavery is advanced by the avoidance of the truth that makes one free. Jesus said:
If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free (Jn 8:31-32).
To continue in God’s Word refers to an uninterrupted progression. We are not to be influenced, distracted, or inhibited from “obeying the truth” (Gal 5:7). In this progression we will be made free. To continue within a humanistic worldview is to be tied to the remedies of earth…for the rest of one’s life!
Alcoholics Anonymous teaches that people who abuse alcohol are “alcoholics” forever. They can only control their “disease.” There is no cure. Psychiatrists suggest that individuals with depression, severe anxiety, social fear, instability, etc. are permanently, “biochemically impaired.” Most will require management of their “illness” for the rest of their lives.
Psychotherapists often teach that abuse survivors are “victims” with permanent injuries. As with an amputated limb, the injury cannot be repaired. The best one can do is to learn methods for coping with the understandable “dysfunction” in behavior, mood, and relationships. Family therapists often recommend divorce because of the “pathological” communication and conduct within marriages and the “fixed” personality traits of individuals.
When did the Church decide it was better to be sick than sinful? Illness often has no cure and requires the constant application of relief. But sin has a solution that heals and restores, even as our bodies are failing. Paul wrote:
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Cor 4:16-18).
As Biblicists, we must minister to the pain and suffering that comes through the physicality of life, but we must never forget about the “inner man.” Our response to fellow believers must go beyond the temporal, always seeking the “things which are not seen.” Our activities always bear eternal consequences. Consequently we must not become entangled in the superficiality of humanism but rather advance the totality of Scripture, including the doctrine of sin and its remedy, the Lord Jesus Christ.
She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matt 1:21).