Do good and evil consist of thoughts, deeds or both?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by John of Japan, Feb 6, 2006.

  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Craigbythesea and I had a fascinating discussion in the "Meaning of Idolatry" thread about the nature of sin. I took the position that though the intention or motive alone can be sin (as Christ taught in the Sermon on the Mount and Craig ably pointed out), when an act is involved it is part and parcel of the sin and can of itself be called sin.

    Craig believed I did not understand his position. I felt I did but didn't agree, but to be fair Craig made some good points which I may have not competently answered, so I am not convinced of my own position! [​IMG] I still have some unanswered questions about the whole thing.

    In particular, if only the intention is sin and the act is not sin, would not the same hold true of good deeds? If I intend to serve God but I don't for some reason, is my intention rewarded by the Lord just like the act is?

    So for example, if Joe and Jane Christian, who love Jesus, pray a lot (actually an act in itself) for souls to be saved but never witness, do they get credit for being witnesses? This is actually somewhat the premise of a controversial book by Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, entitled, True Evangelism (1919). (This book was written in opposition to the office of "evangelist" as commonly understood in the evangelicalism of the day.)

    I would like to see you heavyweight theologians of the Baptist Board (okay, you lightweights too :D ) discuss this.

    God bless.

    John of Japan
    Asahikawa, Hokkaido, Japan
     
  2. James_Newman

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    James 1:14-15
    14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
    15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

    Sin occurs after the man is drawn away of his own lust. A temptation is not sin, until a man gives in to it. We may say it is sin to dwell on things in our minds that we shouldn't dwell on, and it is, but in James' analogy, the sin that is concieved is the act that occurs after the seed of thought has been planted.

    Matthew 16:27
    27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

    Notice we will be judged according to our works, not just our intents. It is true that God is also a judge of the thoughts and intents of the heart, which should make us doubly cautious to guard our heart from wickedness.
     
  3. Craigbythesea

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    When it comes to theology, I am certainly not a heavy weight for theology is not my specialty. However, I have studied it some and I shall reply in this thread as a lightweight.

    I do not believe, from my study of the Scriptures, that physical actions, in and of themselves, entirely separated from the state and disposition of the mind, can be either sin or good deeds. They may, however, greatly injure or greatly help the recipient of the action.

    John of Japan, a very valuable member of this message board, has given to us in his opening post this example to consider:

    First of all, I believe that we need to distinguish and separate the two aspects of prayer:

    • The mental and spiritual aspect

    • The physical aspect

    By the mental and spiritual aspect I mean that which is in the mind and spirit of the one who is praying, including any involuntary chemical reactions and processes in the brain that take place as one prays.

    By the physical aspect I mean the getting down on ones knees or into another position, the closing of the eyes (if they are closed), and the voluntary movements of the organs of the mouth and throat, the voluntary movement of the hands, etc.

    Prayer itself is a mental and spiritual act, often accompanied by physical acts which are consequential and incidental.

    Secondly, I believe that we need to distinguish and separate the two aspects of active (as opposed to passive) witnessing:

    • The mental and spiritual aspect

    • The physical aspect

    By the mental and spiritual aspect I mean that which is in the mind and spirit of the one who is witnessing, including any involuntary chemical reactions and processes in the brain that take may take place as one witnesses.

    By the physical aspect I mean the act of actually speaking, using ones hands to gesture and to find passages in the Bible, etc.

    In John of Japan’s example, Joe and Jane Christian pray for souls to be saved but never witness. Their part in the reaping of souls for Christ is their praying which they did do; and not in their witnessing which they did not do. However, had either Joe or Jane Christian been so severely paralyzed that there could be no physical aspect to their prayer, as I defined the words above, but the mental and spiritual aspect was present, his or her part in the reaping of souls for Christ would be just the same as that of the spouse who was not physically impaired.

    And, of course, the physical aspect of prayer, without the mental and spiritual aspect, would avail nothing at all. Praying is a good deed, but the only aspect of prayer that has any moral value to it is the mental and spiritual aspect.

    [​IMG]
     
  4. Me4Him

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    My GMother always said:

    The road to hell is paved with "good intentions".
     
  5. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Thank you for the nice compliment, Craig. I simply hope to be a blessing in the Lord. Maybe in light of that goal it helps that I'm a missionary to Asia--sometimes being on our own in a foreign land takes the mind in strange, strange paths, where people in the homeland fear to tread! :D

    Your are consistent in your theology. Question: in the light of what you've said, please explain terms in the Bible such as "good work" (appears in 13 verses), wicked work or works (appears twice), etc.
     
  6. Craigbythesea

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    The words “good” and “evil,” when applied to deeds or works, are adjectives used to describe the morality of the deeds or works. And since all deeds and works are, in and of themselves, amoral (not immoral, but being neither moral nor immoral; specifically : lying outside the sphere to which moral judgments apply—Merriam-Webster), the words “good” and “evil” necessarily describe the moral compass of the state or disposition of the mind responsible for the deeds or works.

    For example, giving Mr. Smith a ride to the bank is, in and of itself neither good nor bad, but intentionally giving him that ride so that he can be there to commit a crime would not be an amoral deed or work, but an evil deed or work; intentionally giving him that ride so that he can be there to cash his pay check and provide for his family would not be an amoral deed or work, but a good deed or work.

    The acts are identical—the only difference is the moral compass of the state or disposition of the mind responsible for the deed or work.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. NaasPreacher (C4K)

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    I don't think I even qualify as a theological lightweight and therefore may have missed the point of this discussion. But I have made a fool of myself before so am not too afraid to do it again.

    How does this come into play, if at all?

    "To him that knoweth to do good [thoughts], and doeth it not [deeds], to him it is sin"

    Surely there is a connection of some sort between thoughts and actions.

    If I have missed the boat completely here, just ignore it and you theologians go on you way ;) .
     
  8. John of Japan

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    Good point, James.
     
  9. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Hop on the boat, C4K. This is a good point.

    You're a fellow Temple grad and BWM missionary--you HAVE to be at least a lightweight! ;)
     
  10. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Now we are getting close--are we pursuing some form of dialectial materialism, thesis + antithesis = synthesis!? :D

    Seriously, I can agree with this. I have long thought, for example, that nudity per se was not sinful (actually portrayed as shameful in Scripture), since an outside force can shame you in this way. Likewise, of course, rape does not constitute adultery.

    Question: in your view then, is it proper to call the amoral act "sin" once it is produced by the immoral thought/intention? Or is the act itself ever and always amoral?
     
  11. El_Guero

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    WOW! John,

    This is a good topic.

    I have absolutely no idea of 'where' to think about your statement. But your proposition is (a) a real world happening and (b) logically proper. It reminds me of ethics class - they told me i was toooo black and white. But, they never proposed anything that was truly capable of being amoral without an intent. The examples were murder to prevent a possible crime or theft to feed oneself (at least feeding one's family would have a good moral consequent).

    Very well thought out; thought provoking; and I am just not sure how to reply to it.
     
  12. Mexdeaf

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    John,

    I think the answer may be found if we study what the Bible says about how sin came into the world in the first place. At least that's my first thought. I am still thinking.
     
  13. Craigbythesea

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    No, of course not. Nothing that is amoral can possibly be sin. Therefore, to call an amoral act, under any circumstance, “sin” would be to mischaracterize it. Nudity, in and of itself, is an amoral act and is not, therefore, a sin; but the very moment that it becomes an outward expression of a sinful state or disposition of the mind it becomes an outward expression of sin. Likewise, bowing down before a statue is not, in and of itself, a moral act and therefore it can not be a sin. However, the very moment that it becomes an outward expression of a sinful state or disposition of the mind it becomes an outward expression of sin.

    Theses outward expressions of sin, however, are the outward expressions of sin in the state or disposition of the mind, and not outward expressions of sin in the act itself which remains amoral when considered entirely severed from the state or disposition of the mind.

    [​IMG]
     
  14. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Keep thinking, Mexdeaf, methinks you may have something.
     
  15. James_Newman

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    I think that the idea of an independent action distinct from any moral aspect is probably a dangerous concept. I don't believe that any of us could do anything without having some motive behind our action. I think this type of reasoning would eventually lead to gnosticism.
     
  16. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Hang in there, El_Guero, we're all still working on this one!
     
  17. John of Japan

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    Sorry, Craigbythesea, but this sounds like circular reasoning to me. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is what I get from you: an act is amoral, thus when it is called good or evil in the Bible it is not the act that is good or evil but the intent behind it.

    It seems to me that our thinking in this conundrum is based on our respective presuppositions (or as the theologians like to call it nowadays, preunderstandings). Please give some Scriptural data for your presupposition that an act is always amoral. I'm willing to change my presupposition that an act becomes evil or good according to the intent or motive behind it, but I have to have data.
     
  18. John of Japan

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    I think you have a good point here, James, that no act is ever without motive.

    I don't follow you on the gnosticism thing, though. Please enlighten. :confused:
     
  19. James_Newman

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    I may be way off base, but I believe a common idea in gnosticism is that the spirit is trapped in the flesh, so to speak. This body is flesh, and the spirit is spirit, and whatever we do in the body is only done by the body. The body may be wickedly sinful but the spirit is not affected, it will be set free from the flesh upon death and there will be no consequence for those things done by the body. Come to think of it, this sounds pretty much like modern Christianity.
     
  20. Craigbythesea

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    Physical acts, in and of themselves, severed from the state and disposition of the mind, are amoral. They are amoral because nothing that is purely physical can have any moral qualities. Only behavior has moral qualities, and by definition, physical acts, in and of themselves, severed from the state and disposition of the mind, do not constitute human behavior.

    The Bible does not say that physical acts, in and of themselves, severed from the state and disposition of the mind, are amoral, but neither does it ever attribute moral qualities to any physical acts of men unless they are behavioral, and therefore, by definition, a function of the state and disposition of the mind.

    Posted by CBTS from Saint Mary’s of Bethlehem in the year of our Lord, 1761. [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     

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