Sin is Rooted in Intellectual Error

Our Zeitgeist tells us that sin is not rooted in error. More precisely, it tells us that if there is intellectual error there is no culpability. Now, in particular cases, it can be that intellectual error mitigates or erases culpability. But it is universally the case that sin is rooted in intellectual error.

That error can lead to sin is clear from Wisdom. Solomon declares: “Perverse thoughts separate men from God.” This claim alone chafes against our Zeitgeist. Solomon continues: “Ungodly men … reasoned unsoundly.” Their unsound reasoning in fact resembles the materialists of today. See chap. 2 of this lofty book. Their decision to do ungodly deeds is rooted in this error: “Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist, and make use of the creation to the full as in youth.”

We have here a materialist conception of man: You are but organized dust; though, obviously, you are conscious dust; hence, you can have pleasure, if limbs will allow it; drink, then, your fill of pleasure and count not the cost.

Sound philosophy, too, shows us that intellectual error can lead to moral wrong. Even more, it shows us that all moral wrong is rooted in such error.

But then the question is put to Socrates: So, if only we can educate people, they will see truth? Is this not obviously false?

Yes, the stereotyped Socrates got it wrong. Aristotle is more incisive. I might know the law in a universal way. I know that all thievery is wrong. I know it. Really know it. But on this occasion, I am staring at the gold in my neighbor’s house. I contemplate the lowliness of my physical estate. At the gold’s glittering, greed sends roots into my heart. I seize it and count not the cost.

What happens in sin is that I judge the evil to be good for me on this occasion. I know the law in the universal sense. But in the particular sense, I strike at its heal so as to ignore its wisdom. I plunge into my plan of order, which contradicts the universal and divine sense of order.

In short, I choose to see things in a distorted light. I choose the intellectual error by which I can rejoice in the sin I am about to commit.

Hence, I am culpable for this error: “The ungodly will be punished as their reasoning deserves.”

Hence, if we are to avoid sin, then, as the Greek Catholics preach: “Wisdom! Be attentive.”

Now, if the individual sinner who sins on an occasion must ignore the universal law for the moment, so that he may enjoy his pleasure that contradicts that law, then the committed or hardened sinner must strive to re-write that universal law itself. Though he knows it habitually, he chooses not to think on it. He chooses actually to displace it with another universal law. However, since his mind cannot undo the first principles of reason itself and their immediate implications, he exists in a state of internal self-contradiction.

He declares that fornication is OK. Free sex is OK. Or unnatural sex is OK. Or masturbation is OK. Or pornography is OK.

Yet, his inward mind cannot out the law inscribed within that condemns the damned spot. So, he is at war with himself.

And if your ways contradict his set ways, he no longer tries to evade your presence and sin in secret. Rather, he attempts to write your ways as evil and his ways as good. He re-legislates. He does not flee but rather declares war on God’s eternal law. And anyone who lives in that eternal law and serves as its Icon– such a one he murders: “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions…. The very sight of him is a burden to us.”

Finally, if in history there are examples here and examples there of the individual sinner who evades God’s law; if there are examples here and there of sinners making bold against the Law of God; if there are examples here and there of groups of sinners making bold collectively against the Rule of Law…, then let us know who read the signs of the times that an all-out war is upon us. That the Church of God herself is this righteous person. That the City of Man has had enough of all residue of the universal law within this Church of God. That the City of Man surely plots the death of the Church of God, the way the ungodly plotted the death of the righteous man in Wisdom.

Shall we fear? No. But a head in the sand is in fact fear itself. We must face our future with resolution. Not that of Heidegger but that of Christ. And he promises us: The jaws of death, summoned by its demonic worshippers, shall not prevail.