Pilgrim’s Keyboard

April 8, 2009

The Changing View of Sin in America

Filed under: Some Famous | Some Not So Famous — pilgrimskeyboard @ 6:30 pm

Allen Raynor Weblog: arynorweblog@comcast.net

The Changing View of Sin in America

(April 8, 2009)


An article in the March 2009 issue of Pulpit Helps Magazine reveals the results of a survey conducted by The Ellison Research Group in Phoenix which finds 87 percent of U.S. adults believe in the existence of sin which is defined as “something that is almost always considered wrong, particularly from a religious or moral perspective.” The survey revealed what most of us probably already knew, that is that Americans tend toward defining sin as what they personally view it to be no matter whether or not their view is consistent with any standard such as scripture, moral codes, etc. David Kinnerman of the Barna Research Group draws the conclusion that “People are quick to toe the line on traditional thinking, that there is sin, but interpret that reality in a very personal and self-congratulatory manner. Their thinking is, ‘I have to do what is right for me.’” Further, the prevailing attitude is that “I am not as bad as most.”

According to the research, 65% of U.S. adults think they will go to heaven, but only .05 percent believe they will go to hell. The article draws attention to the fact that the most popular preachers of our day, such as Joel Osteen, Pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, TX, never mention hell. It is as though it does not exist. Osteen is not alone. Preaching on hell is virtually absent in the modern day. The title of Osteen’s blockbuster best-seller Your Best Life Now, states the spirit of the age pretty well; it is all about today – right now! To a generation of Americans, in essence there is no heaven, no hell, no death, no nothing except today! To this generation the concepts of heaven and hell are no less vague and distant than are space travel to Mars, being a guest on Oprah, or finding a suitcase full of hundred dollar bills. It is not out of the question in their thinking, but it is so improbable that it seems but a pipe dream. There is no longing for heaven or fear of hell. People just are not that interested in what takes place beyond this life, except for those who perhaps are faced with the immediate reality of death.

American pulpits have drifted, over time, into what Michael Horton, professor of theology at Westminster Seminary in Escondido, CA, calls “moral therapy.” He goes on to say, “people still know what sin is, they just don’t believe in it anymore. We mix up happiness and holiness, and God is no longer the reference point.” “If you can solve your problems or sins yourself, what difference does it make that Christ was crucified?”

Topping the list of what Americans considered to be sinful in this survey were adultery (81%), racism (74%), using hard drugs (65%), having an abortion (56%), and homosexuality (52%). What may be most surprising of all is that less than half of the Americans in the survey considered gossip (47%), pre-marital sex (45%), smoking marijuana (41%), getting drunk (41%), gambling (30%), and not attending church regularly (18%) to be sins! Can you imagine, only 18% of respondents thought it to be a sin not to attend church regularly! Could it be, at least in part, that when they get to church the message is on topics such as “how to be happy,” “how to love more,” and how to be a better friend?” There is obvious exaggeration here, but the point is that much preaching is not Biblical, therefore it is not transformational; it is instead behavior-control oriented.

Oswald Chambers explained, “Sin is not weakness, it is not a disease; it is red-handed rebellion against God and the magnitude of that rebellion is expressed at Calvary.” John Bunyan declared, “Sin is the dare of God’s justice, the rape of His mercy, the jeer of His patience, the slight of His power, and the contempt of His love.” Multiple passages of scripture in both the Old and New Testaments pull no punches when it comes to painting the picture of sin. The Apostle Paul even cries out “O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?” We are a long way from even looking at the issue of sin honestly, even within the church. How can we then expect the world at large to grasp the concept. There has been a blurring of lines taking place between the church and the world for decades and now the statistics show any differences are almost imperceptible. In a very real way, we have made our own bed. The Bible is still God’s word however, and God is still on His throne. There is still a heaven and a hell, same as always. Furthermore, His scheduled return is still on His calendar and will not change one iota because of the conditions on the ground in this world. And yes, sin is still sin!

Pastor Allen Raynor    |    First Baptist Church, Broomfield, CO




  1. Excellent Article, going to many churches today is much like attending a self help seminar. It is man centered, as scripture points out, sound doctrine is a thing that has to be endured. Sound doctrine tends to reveal the wretched state of man and recognizing that state, tends to point out how uncomfortably closer to hell than heaven most people are. It is the failure of the modern church. How do you seek forgiveness and salvation if all you are looking for is your financial breakthrough from God, just hold on. Feel good theology is the order of the day in many churches, people are answering alter calls not to receive salvation and deliverance from hell, not to be transformed, but for the faith that God is going to pay their bills, and so they can do exploits. People forget that the original self centered, self help guru was satan, when he told Adam and Eve that they could become like gods themselves, he even convinced himself that he would place his throne above God’s.

    Comment by Digital Publius — April 9, 2009 @ 6:05 am | Reply

  2. This was quite a good post. Your friend Allen sure has it right. You know how to pick your friends. Also a good comment by Hassan.

    Comment by Cindy — April 9, 2009 @ 9:53 am | Reply

  3. Hi there,
    Thanks for article. Everytime like to read you.

    Comment by Charlie — April 23, 2009 @ 1:25 am | Reply

  4. Hi, cool post. I have been thinking about this issue,so thanks for sharing. I’ll definitely be subscribing to your posts. Keep up great writing

    Comment by How I Lost T h i r t y P o u n d s in Only a Month — May 6, 2009 @ 9:33 am | Reply

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