Screwing for Virginity

Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Rex Rogers on Crime and Sin

This is a post I made on the CU Discussion Board which produced almost no response. I thought I'd adjust it a bit and put it on the blog to get some discussion going. There are a host of sticky issues under the surface here (i.e., natural law theories and the debates that surround them), but I'll just post my initial thoughts and see where things go.

At a chapel earlier this semester, Rex Rogers addressed two tensions which, in his view, characterize Christian life in modern America. I'm interested to hear what people think about his ideas. I'll briefly summarize his main points for those who weren't able to make it.

The first tension he addressed, drawing from John 17, is found in the Christian's call to be "in" but not "of" the world. This is well-trodded ground, so I'm grateful he spent more time on the second, more interesting tension. The substance of his second tension can be captured in a question: what does it mean to be a Christian in a pluralistic society? In other words, how are we to be Christians in a society which is not (and, by the way, never was) Christian? In light of this, what does a faithful engagement with the political sphere look like? Toward the end of chapel, he suggested it might be fruitful to begin by distinguishing between sin and crime. He spent a regrettably short amount of time fleshing out this distinction, but I'll try to explain what he meant. Sins include those things expressly forbidden in Scripture. His examples were adultery and obscene language. Crimes, I believe, include those things which, regardless of their status as sins, are outlawed by the government. Examples include anything that is illegal from murder to public nudity. He said we must recognize that not all sinful things are (or should be) crimes and vice versa. So simply because the Bible says something is wrong does not necessarily mean it should therefore be legislated against. He used adultery as an example.

So I'd like to know what people think of this. Here are a few questions to initiate discussion. Feel free to address these or add any other thoughts you might have.

1) Is it useful, as he suggests, to distinguish between crime and sin? If not all crimes are sinful (i.e., wrong according to the Bible), by what standard are they judged wrong?
2) How does the Crime/Sin paradigm help us address especially thorny issues like homosexuality? If homosexuality is a sin, should it also be a crime? What about adultery (which he said should not be outlawed)?

3) If you disagree with the Crime/Sin paradigm, what framework have you found helpful for thinking about the legislation of morality?

Though Rex recently fired our beloved Mike Rohwer, this should not affect your evaluation of his ideas...just his character. Oops...where'd that come from?


  • At 3:45 PM, June 08, 2006, Blogger Buddy said…

    This interpretation of John 17:16 irks me. It is not a “call” for Christians to be in but not of the world, as many chapel speakers and youth leaders interpret it. It is, rather, Christ’s description of his disciples, whom Christ had commissioned to carry out his kingdom into a world ruled by the corrupt temple cult and the Roman emperor cult. With the destruction of the temple and the fall of the Roman Empire, that description no longer applied (at any rate, Christ doesn’t use that language to describe future believers). As I understand the Gospel, we should strive to be of the world, not by conforming to it, but by transforming it by the power Christ imparted to his followers.

    My optimistic eschatology aside, I like the crime sin distinction for a number of reasons. For one, crime and sin often oppose each other. Obeying a law may at times be sinful, and faithfulness to God may be a crime. The most important reason for the distinction, however, is that laws cannot account for grace. If a crime is committed, the perpetrator must be punished (unless he’s rich and white). God shows mercy to those who violate his laws; governments, meanwhile, mete out their biased sense of justice under the law.

    In one of my favorite books, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, a character makes an interesting observation about laws. Lawmakers tend to legislate against things that other people do that they don’t like. Rarely (if ever) is a law implemented to keep the lawmaker from doing something he knows is wrong. Thus Christian fundamentalists rail against homosexuality, which they think is yucky (at least when men engage in it), but are largely silent about the greed and gluttony that keep the offering plates and their bellies full.

    And for all of Dr. Rogers’s shortcomings, the man smells amazing.

  • At 11:13 PM, July 11, 2006, Blogger Ryan said…

    I see the crime/sin distinction as a good thing as well. Trying to transform the world doesn't mean that you try to make them live by the commandments of a God whom they don't believe in, does it? If not, then what good does it do to make a sin become a crime? Just so there will be less sin for the sake of less sin? Sinful hearts will not be changed by legislation.

    As for the question on what standard are they using to judge... I believe that Buddy's point from Harsh Mistress holds water, and also I would add that they mainly judge by the victim/majority scale, which is arbitrary. If enough people think that abusing children is fine, there is no law against it. If it becomes a problem for enough people, a law will be passed. That's why hearts need to be changed, that will in turn change the laws naturally rather than forcefully.

  • At 11:33 AM, July 14, 2006, Blogger Evan said…

    well said both of you. :)

  • At 11:30 PM, August 07, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    A few things come to mind as I was reading this post. As one who doesn't attend Cornerstone any longer (graduated) I am not privy to Rex's wonderful speeches in front of his "adoring" students.

    Anyways, here is how I see it. God set a law before the Israelites. That law applied to his chosen people only. If they disobeyed they were subject to the wrath of God. Often crime and sin were the same thing in the days of the old law.

    Then Jesus came and fulfilled the law. In doing so he freed those who believe in Him from that law and placed them under the law of the Spirit. The Spirit renews and regenerates our broken and sinful bodies so that we are no longer slaves to sin.

    With that said, passages from the writings of Paul come to mind. Mainly where Paul states that God placed those who are in power into those positions for His own will and design (Who are you oh man to question God?). Paul also states that men and women who live under God are to judge nobody outside of the church for their judgement is the Lord's and the Lord's alone.

    So, we respect the laws of the land as best we can but we keep to the laws of the Spirit. The "prophets" of this day and age are meant to go out and preach the laws of the Spirit to those who don't understand and righteously judge those who are not following so that healing and renewal can begin.

    My 2 cents.

    -Matt Marchese


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