Archive for the ‘Supererogation’ Category

You Cannot Balance Out Sins with Virtues

February 2, 2010

I recently came across an article from “CathNews” that “Australia is the ‘most sinful’ nation on earth.” (link to article) There are some obvious problems with a methodology that uses plastic surgery as the measure of pride, but I’d like to talk about the reaction provided the article.

A Melbourne priest named Bob Maguire responded:

I think the people who did this survey are just jealous of we Aussies, and rightly so … Australians like to indulge and enjoy the good things in life – we are open about that. But people forget that the mirror image of the sins are the seven virtues and Australians also have a lot of virtues on balance. We’re just too laconic to talk about the things we do right.

I certainly don’t think that Australians are the most sinful people in the world any more than I think that Hatians are the most sinful people in the world (see hereand more importantly here). The priest’s claim, though, reflects a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of morality. We’re not able to balance out vices with virtues.

Luke 17:7-10
But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

Some might still argue that the standard of required righteousness is low enough that one might do some works of supererogation, thereby balancing out one’s vices with superfluous virtue. Scripture stops such an idea in its tracks. Scripture indicates that the standard is:

Deuteronomy 18:13 Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God.

Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

And lest someone say that “perfect” should be understood in some lesser sense:

Deuteronomy 6:5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Deuteronomy 10:12-13
And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?

Mark 12:29-31
And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

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