Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Rum Thing

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., the significant American jurist, did not understand sin from God's perspective. Hence, Augustine's depiction of sin in his Confessions struck him as odd.

In a letter to his friend Harold Laski on January 5, 1921, Holmes commented that he had received two books as Christmas gifts, one by Marcel Proust and one by Augustine. "Of the two," he said, "I would rather read St. Augustine." Apparently he admired the intellectual virtuosity and devotion of the author. "It is like a painting by Morland set over an altar," he observed.

But that did not mean he agreed with Augustine. His next comment, although brief, is telling. "Rum thing to see a man making a mountain out of robbing a pear tree in his teens."

Such is the view of many who wish to define sin in some way other than the Bible defines sin. "Sin is lawlessness," the apostle John says (1 John 3:4). Augustine got it. To him, his gratuitous and twisted delight in sinning just for the pleasure of sinning exposed how lawless he was.

Anyone whom the Spirit of God has opened his eyes to see himself rightly before God gets it, too. This is why Paul could call himself the chief of sinners even though before his conversion he was "blameless" under the law (1 Tim 1:15; Phil 3:6). Sin goes deep, way deeper than our actions. It goes down to our affections and our wills. It goes the heart. Once you realize that, the good news of Christ is not odd. It is amazing.

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