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We have had a couple of questions along the lines of "is X a sin?".

Should these questions be on topic or should we disallow them?

marked as duplicate by Flimzy, wax eagle Mar 3 '14 at 17:24

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    +1 we're gonna have a lot of these, I reckon, so better decide sooner than later. – dancek Aug 29 '11 at 15:18
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I think that these are valid questions. Such as What is the biblical basis to claim that masturbation is a sin?

As Christians we're not only looking for the truth about scripture, but also how to live our lives. This site will be a great resource for me in that area of learning.

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    I agree, provided the question is seeking a biblical basis for this. Otherwise, it comes down to opinion. – Richard Aug 31 '11 at 17:11
  • +1 for saying christianity is also deals with 'how to live our lives'. Well said, Jonathan. – Jamess Sep 8 '11 at 17:43
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I think we should disallow them. The simple fact is that these questions only lead to debate and argument, and have little real value. Really, it's just simply the wrong question to ask. In order to define whether X is a sin or not, one must determine WHAT sin is, and then the question of whether X is sin or not answers itself. Typically if a person is asking this question it's because:

A. Someone told them that it's a sin to do X.

or

B. They feel guilty about doing X but like to do it.

Are there passages in the Bible which can shed light on these things and give us an idea of whether it's good to do or not do certain things, I feel certain that there is in every case. However, most of these types of questions are either a matter of personal conviction or a matter of legalism, and any answers will be swayed severely one way or the other by these viewpoints. Sin is far more about the "Why" than the "What". Adam and Eve ate the fruit in the Garden of Eden. The fruit wasn't the sin, their act of rebellion against God's command was.

I grew up in a church that said that for women to wear pants was a sin. So, using that as an example, I know women who are personally convicted about wearing pants, and those women wear skirts all the time. However, they do not condemn any women for wearing pants, and will never say that for a woman to wear pants is a sin. There's a possibility that they shouldn't wear pants because they would want to wear them too tight because they're proud of their physique and God knows that and is teaching them about pride. Maybe He has a completely different reason for it.

On the other side of that coin are the women who refuse to wear pants because "it's a sin". Their viewpoint is that new Christian women who wear pants simply "haven't seen the light" or "haven't matured spiritually to that point yet", and they make it their mission to "help that person out of their sinful state". So, not wearing pants becomes a point of condemnation for these women to feel more spiritually "adept". This causes them to base a portion of their salvation on works, and on things they are doing, rather than on the single redemptive act that Christ did for them.

There is only one answer ever to "Is X sin?" and that is: "Are you convicted by it?" If you are convicted by it, then you shouldn't do it, but you shouldn't condemn others if they don't feel about it the same way you do.

Now, there are guidelines in the Bible about every aspect of life, and if someone wanted to ask "What does the Bible say about X?" I would be far, far more accepting of that question. As was exampled by Jonathon Byrd's answer, some topics have merit. Whether or not such topics are sin or not is a matter of debate, and personal conviction. I'm sure the Bible has some things to say about it though.

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    "Are you convicted by it?" is the wrong question... because we can be convinced of all kinds of stupid things. Like, that wearing pants as a woman is a sin. ;-) – Jürgen A. Erhard Aug 29 '11 at 16:54
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    No, if you feel like it's wrong, and yet you do it anyway, you are guilty of rebellion. Personal conviction is not the same as being convinced of something by another person. I was taught that as a man I couldn't wear shorts. Did I personally feel it was wrong? No. Did I understand why others said it was wrong? No. It wasn't personal conviction. I didn't feel guilty when I wore shorts, I only worried that someone in the church might catch me. That's far different. – Nathan Wheeler Aug 29 '11 at 17:14
  • I actually wore shorts to church the other day and really did feel guilty. At least they weren't jorts! – DTest Aug 29 '11 at 18:57
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    Christianity has a bad (a very bad) history of guilt-tripping, that's what I want to express, I think (thanks, @DTest, for triggering this connection). Lots of people feel lots of guilt (even today) about absolute sinless stuff is what I mean. – Jürgen A. Erhard Aug 29 '11 at 19:21
  • I do want to clarify. I didn't feel guilty because of looks I received or that I was offending anyone. Can't really explain the guilt, but it was as if I were dishonoring God. – DTest Aug 29 '11 at 20:01
  • @DTest - I think you're making a perfect example of my point. Would you tell someone "Wearing shorts to church is sin."? Or would you simply not do it yourself any more? – Nathan Wheeler Aug 29 '11 at 21:40
  • @Nathan Wheeler I have no business telling anyone how to dress. My wife is lucky if I don't show up with one white sock and one grey sock on....but I won't do it myself. – DTest Aug 29 '11 at 21:42
  • I think the fact that they WILL lead to discussion pretty much makes them off-topic. – DForck42 Aug 30 '11 at 15:51
  • +1 because I agree. But I also think that we should allow these questions and answers, provided they are coming from a biblical perspective. Since the goal would be to find an "absolute truth", the closest we can get is our (sometimes poor) interpretation of the Bible. – Richard Aug 31 '11 at 17:13
  • Basing whether something is a sin based on a personal conviction is a dangerous concept. Was Ted Bundy personally convicted about killing those women? Was killing those women a sin( Absolutely ). There are no such things as relative answers in this space. To allow a sin be relative to the person implies that there is no absolute truth. Jesus said… "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” (John 14:6) He said THE truth, not one of many truths. – Darthg8r Sep 2 '11 at 3:05
  • This is basically an argument that says "since we won't ever have consensus on basic terms, like 'sin', we can never talk about advanced topics that depend on them." Which makes this SE worthless. – mxyzplk Sep 2 '11 at 11:54
  • I can't think of any behavior that one person would argue (from the Bible) that it is sinful, and another would argue (from the Bible) that it is not. This simply does not lend itself well to the SE format. – Ray Sep 6 '11 at 10:05
  • -1 since the view is that we should disallow them. There may be different views, but I feel they need to be allowed and users to decide. – Jamess Sep 8 '11 at 17:42
  • -1 I think we need to share and exchange knowledge, not only from the point of Bible, but also from other official works of Church. We need discussions - even if something is easy to understand, it may be hard to understand for others (due to cultural differences) without discussions. – Maksym Gontar Sep 20 '11 at 8:58
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This is going to be a tough one. My first idea (feel free to rag on me if you disagree) is this:

  1. Ask a series of broader question like What is the essence of sin?, How should a Christian evaluate whether a particular action a sin or not?, etc
  2. Close any "is x a sin" questions that come along with insufficient unique issues as duplicates of the general question.

Already in writing that I can think of a bevy of exceptions, but it might be a pattern at least worth having around for any really context-less "is x sin" questions that come along.

  • I agree with this conclusion. "Is wearing clothes of two fabrics a sin?" is a good example. "What is the essence of sin?" gets to the heart of the matter. – Richard Sep 13 '11 at 14:16
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I think they ought to be in there, you might as well ask "Where is Contracption in the bible", where is "Masturbation in the bible".

I'd rather the question be framed "Is X a sin?" or better "Is X grave matter?" because if the answers aren't covering all the bases, I can add a Catechism reference (with appropriate personal comments).

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    +1 a good point: only some of us (me included, you probably not) are sola scriptura aficionados. – dancek Aug 29 '11 at 17:49
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    I think "Is X in the Bible?" is different than "Is X a sin?" The Bible may provide guiding principles that address an area, even if it isn't directly mentioned in scripture, and these are valid answers, too. Also "Is X in the Bible?" is a valid question, IMO, even though it's quite separate from "Is X a sin?" – Flimzy Aug 29 '11 at 19:41
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It depends. Some of them may be asking if a specific action is a sin, and those could be answered with bible references pretty well. Others could be under a broader scope and not be answerable as easily.

  • It's not about is it easy to answer such questions... It's about should they be allowed. I hope this site is not only for easy questions? – Maksym Gontar Sep 7 '11 at 11:40

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