The Anatomy of Original Sin

James Tissot (1902)

In the readings at Mass this week we are pondering the account of original sin. Let’s explore the stages of sin that are manifested in Adam’s and Eve’s struggle.

Many tend to describe original sin merely as the eating of a forbidden fruit. While this accurate, it is incomplete and leads many to wonder why all this trouble came just from eating a piece of fruit. I believe it is helpful to consider the sin of Adam and Eve more richly. While the eating of the fruit is an external act, like any human act it proceeds from the heart and admits of some complexity.

I will use the following passage from the Book of James to help frame our reflections:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:13-15).

From this, we can distinguish the following stages of sin:

  1. The lure of temptation
  2. The engagement of desire
  3. The conception of sin
  4. The birth of sin
  5. Spiritual death

When we examine the sin of Adam and Eve we can see these stages at work.

Preamble – God put Adam in the garden even before Eve was created:

The LORD God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden in order to have him work it and guard it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Gen 2:15-17).

Adam’s task was to work the garden as well as to guard (keep watch over) it. There was also a boundary that God told Adam not to cross. He did not explain why but simply noted the danger and asked Adam to trust Him.

Adam was to tend, till, and trust. Adam will fall short in two of these, and they are aspects of what we have come to call original sin.

1. The Lure of Temptation – The story opens with the description of the serpent, the most cunning of all the wild creatures God made (Genesis 3:1). While most of us imagine a snake of some sort, that description is given only after God curses Satan, whom the creature allegorically represents. Exactly what it looked like before the fall is not stated, and hence we need not imagine a talking snake. Whatever the creature, it is representative of the way in which Satan interacts with Eve.

Cunning and subtle, Satan uses intellectual arguments to appeal to aspects of what would later come to be called pride and sensuality. He also seeks to undermine her trust in God’s goodness.

Satan begins by attempting to make God seem unreasonable, suggesting that He forbade them from eating from any of the trees in the Garden. Eve easily deals with this temptation and dismisses it, correctly stating that it is only one tree that has been proscribed. This is a common tactic of Satan’s even today: presenting God as unreasonable, demanding too many things, and forbidding too much. This accusation wholly ignores the fact that God has given incredible liberty to human persons: unlike any other creatures except angels, human beings are permitted to say no to God.

Satan’s second attack is more successful. He declares that God is not telling them the truth. In effect, he says that God (who has given them everything) is holding something very important back from them. Satan argues that God is restraining them from being the gods they deserve to be. In effect, he says, “Why do you allow anyone to have power over you? Why do you let anyone tell you what to do? Why do you not instead say, ‘I will do what I want to do and I will decide whether it is right or wrong’?” Satan appeals to their incredible pride by saying, “You will be gods!”

Thus, Eve is in the first stage of sin, the lure of temptation. One may well wonder where Adam is. Satan has been talking to Eve, but where is Adam? The text says that he is right there with her! (Gen 3:6)

This is a problem integral to Adam’s sin. He was told, among other things, to guard the garden, to keep watch over it. It is arguable whether he could have prevented Satan from being there at all (he probably could not), but surely he could have tried to protect his wife! Satan is there and Adam says and does nothing. He does not try to ward off the evil one nor does he assist his wife in resisting the tempting thoughts. No, he stands there quietly, a passive husband.

As the head of his family, Adam was obligated to come to his wife’s aid, to protect her, to assist her in this grave temptation and threat, but the text reports that he does nothing. Indeed, Adam is so unobtrusive that when I point out the sixth verse, which says that he was with Eve, people are surprised. Even many a passive husband would intervene if he were to see some strange individual speaking to his wife.

“But Father, but Father! Are you saying that Adam already sinned even before original sin was committed?” No, not necessarily. The point is that original sin is more complicated than merely biting into a piece of fruit. Like many sins, it has layers. Adam may not yet have sinned, but his silence is surely puzzling; indeed, it is troubling. It is not a sin to be tempted (even Jesus was tempted), but to do nothing in the face of temptation is to at least open the door to the next stage of sin.

2. The Engagement of Desire The text says, the woman saw the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise (Genesis 3:6).

Temptation is a thought that either occurs to us or is presented to us by another. If I were to say to you, “Why don’t we go down to the corner store and rob it?” I have simply presented you with an idea or proposed course of action, which may or may not appeal to you. Temptation of itself is merely a thought.

In the second stage of sin, the tempting thoughts of Satan stir up Eve’s desires. The fruit engages her sensual desires; it looks tasty and delights the eyes. It also engages her intellectual desires, for it has been described to her as a source of empowering wisdom.

Thus, temptation moves from being a mere thought to becoming a kind of force or power. Eve’s desires are engaged and ignited, making things more difficult. A purely intellectual response will not be enough; her will must be engaged so that her desires can be curbed and subject to truth and right reason. Either she will obey God (who has given her everything), and thus decide reasonably, or she will yield to temptation and desire by deciding to accept the proposal of Satan, who has given her nothing but an appeal to her sensuality and pride.

Again, note the silence of Adam. How tragic this is! Eve seems quite alone and without support. One would hope that in any marriage in which one spouse is struggling, the other would be strong. Adam remains silent; he is no leader. He seems to wait to see what his wife will do. Adam is a passive husband.

3. The Conception of Sin The text simply says, she took of its fruit (Genesis 3:6). In reaching out to take hold of and possess this fruit, Eve conceives sin in her heart. Her husband will do the same thing, taking hold of it before he eats it.

What are they taking hold of? Several things.

First, there is a colossal pride. Satan said, “You will be gods.” Now, Adam and Eve are laying hold of and thinking about this idea. They are laying hold of the prideful and rebellious notion that “I will do what I want to do and I will decide whether it is right or wrong. I will be under no one’s authority. I will do as I please. I answer to no one. I am god.”

They also sin against gratitude. God has given them everything, but even paradise is not enough; they want more. Ungratefully, they reject God. They turn to Satan, who promises more, but has delivered nothing.

Finally, and most problematically, they sin against trust. Note that the tree is called “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” In the Bible, “knowing” refers to more than simple intellectual knowing; it means knowing something by experience. Thus, in naming this tree “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” and commanding them to stay away from it, God is saying, in effect,

“I am asking you to trust me to tell you what is good and what is evil and not to demand to know this personally for yourselves. I want you to trust me and to trust that I tell you this for your own good. If you take from that tree, you are insisting on knowing for yourself what is good and what is evil, and more importantly, you are insisting on knowing and experiencing evil.”

Adam and Eve refuse to trust God by insisting on knowing (experiencing) for themselves the difference between good and evil. The Catechism describes original sin in this manner:

Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness (CCC # 397).

So, we see that at the heart of original sin (and all other sin) is a refusal to trust God and His infinite goodness and it is an abuse of our freedom. All of this has been conceived in the hearts of Adam and Eve as they lay hold of this fruit.

4. The Birth of Sin Little needs to be said of this stage: the sin is engaged. Note that Eve eats first and then entices her husband to do so as well. I will discuss this topic further in Monday’s post, in which I will reflect on St. Paul’s commentary on the “Sin of Adam.” For today, suffice it to say that the sins of Adam and Eve are described somewhat differently. Eve is described as being deceived while Adam is described as being, in effect, seduced. Neither of them is without blame, but the nature of their temptation and the way in which their desires are engaged is different.

5. Spiritual Death Adam and Eve do not immediately die a physical death; rather, they die spiritually. This is symbolized in many ways in the verses ahead.

As they become aware of their nakedness, they feel exposed, no longer innocent. They feel vulnerable and ashamed. Righteousness and integrity have died in their hearts. They are now “dis-integrated” and disoriented, turned away from God and turned in on themselves.

Most seriously, they are cut off from God, who is the source of life. When God walks through the garden at the usual time, they do not run to Him, but from Him; they are afraid. Having died spiritually and embraced the darkness, they now fear Him who is Life and Light. They cannot endure His presence.

Recriminations follow and then prophecy of suffering, strife, and ultimately death; the wages of sin is death. Had they been willing to trust Him, God would have spared them of this, but Adam and Eve wanted to know for themselves. Mysteriously, they sought a “better deal” than paradise, even knowing that its price would be death—so tragic, foolish, and horrifying!

Too often, original sin is reduced to the mere eating of a piece of fruit. In fact, far more was at stake and far more was going on beneath the surface in the subtleties of the story. There were many moving parts and numerous layers to the sad reality we call original sin.

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: The Anatomy of Original Sin

Does God Approve the Abuse of Women?

One of the darker passages in Scripture comes just after the fall of Adam and Eve. Announcing the consequences that they have ushered in, God says to Eve,

I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children; yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall be your master (Gen 3:16).

The Hebrew word מָשַׁל (mashal) means “to have dominion, reign, or ruling power over another.” The New Jerusalem Bible (the most widely used Catholic Bible outside the U.S.) translates this final phrase this way: and he will dominate you.

While the text is not absolutely clear, the mastery or dominance spoken of in Genesis does not seem to refer to benign headship by the husband, but rather a relationship marked by tension and easily open to abuse.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church contains the following commentary on this topic:

The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination (CCC # 400).

Every man experiences evil around him and within himself. This experience makes itself felt in the relationships between man and woman. Their union has always been threatened by discord, a spirit of domination, infidelity, jealousy, and conflicts that can escalate into hatred and separation. This disorder can manifest itself more or less acutely, and can be more or less overcome according to the circumstances of cultures, eras, and individuals, but it does seem to have a universal character (CCC # 1606).

According to faith the disorder we notice so painfully does not stem from the nature of man and woman, nor from the nature of their relations, but from sin. As a break with God, the first sin had for its first consequence the rupture of the original communion between man and woman. Their relations were distorted by mutual recriminations; their mutual attraction, the Creator’s own gift, changed into a relationship of domination and lust … Nevertheless, the order of creation persists, though seriously disturbed. To heal the wounds of sin, man and woman need the help of the grace that God in his infinite mercy never refuses them (CCC #1607-1608).

In calling Genesis 3:16 a dark passage I merely call to attention to the concern of some that God seems to approve of this domination, that abuse and exploitation by men is meant to be women’s lot, by God’s will.

I do not agree with this interpretation; not everything reported or described in the Bible is approved. Eve’s experience is the result of Original Sin and the poisonous climate it introduced. While God reports the effect and even connects himself to it by way of primary causality, He spends the rest of Scripture addressing and healing the sin and its effects.

Thus, the thought that this passage gives even tacit approval to the abuse of women cannot stand. Some in the past may have invoked it to excuse abusive behavior, and most of the criticism of the passage is based on the possibility of such a misinterpretation.

That said, I have seen the passage strangely and sadly fulfilled in a small number of women I have counseled who suffer from physical and/or emotional abuse by husbands or boyfriends yet remain with them or repeatedly return to them. In this, there is a kind of fulfillment of the text that a woman’s desire will be for her man, but he will (abusively) dominate her. (There are, of course, many other potential factors such as low self-esteem, poor family role models, and financial pressures.)

There is a fine line between passion and anger, between a man who is a virile go-getter and one who turns on a dime to rage and abuse. Powerful men are attractive to some women, but some powerful men are also overly aggressive and hot-tempered. Their strength and their struggle are closely related. Many women know this intuitively, even if they have not consciously worked it all out. What they like in their man is closely related to what they hate and/or suffer from.

So, I am not so sure that every woman who returns to an abuser is simply lacking in self- esteem or is trapped in some way. Some return knowing exactly what they are doing, despite counsel to the contrary; their reasons are caught up in the complicated intersections described above.

I am not reporting this behavior with approval. I am simply observing it and trying to understand it. Like most of you, I would counsel a woman who is being physically abused to stay away unless and until the man has received help to ensure an end to his sinful behavior. Some women in such situations do not, however, and I cannot merely write them off as foolish for it.

Let us be clear: whatever the choice of the woman, to remain or to leave, the one who abuses is guilty of a great sin that the Scriptures cannot interpreted as approving in any way whatsoever.

All of this reminds me of a popular but dark song from 1978, when I was in high school: Jackson Browne’s “You Love the Thunder.” My interpretation of the lyrics is that the man singing is telling the woman that she likes his anger (thunder) and abuse (rain) because they’re worth it given what else he brings.

I remember being quite alarmed by the words and troubled that no one else seemed bothered. (I was and still am very attuned to lyrics, but most of my high school peers never seemed to pay much attention to them; they just liked the melodies.) The lyrics seem at best arrogant and at worst a celebration of anger and abuse.

Consider the darkness of these lyrics:

You love the thunder and you love the rain
What you see revealed within the anger is worth the pain
And before the lightning fades and you surrender
You’ve got a second to look at the dark side of the man

You love the thunder, you love the rain
You know your hunger, like you know your name
I know you wonder how you ever came
To be a woman in love with a man in search of the flame

Draw the shades and light the fire
For the night, it holds you and it calls your name
And just like your lover knows your desire
And the crazy longing that time will never tame …

These lyrics point to those sad words of Genesis: “… your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall be your master,” but the song points to a Genesis 3:16 that is frozen in time, having made no progress out of the climate of sin. Jesus came to heal that and to restore God’s original plan for marriage in which a man clings to his wife in love and out of delight says, “She is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” Loving the “thunder” and “rain” is not the way forward but the way backward.

So, no, God does not approve or affirm the abuse of women—or of men, for that matter. God points to it and then sets about healing it.

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: Does God Approve the Abuse of Women?

Our Most Primal Fear and the Source of Our Bondage

At Mass for Wednesday of the first week of the year, we read a text from Hebrews that describes our most basic and primal fear. Our inordinate fear of what people think of us is rooted in an even deeper fear, one that is at the very core of our being. The Hebrews text both names it and describes it as being the source of our bondage. In order to unlock the secret of the text, I want to suggest to you an interpretation that will allow its powerful diagnosis to have a wider and deeper effect.

Consider, then, this text from Hebrews:

Since the children have flesh and blood, [Jesus] too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Heb 2:14-15).

This passage is clear in saying that the devil is the origin of our bondage to sin, but also that hold on us is through the fear of death. This is what he exploits in order to keep us in bondage.

When I have explored this teaching with people, I have found that many have difficulty understanding it at first. Especially for the young, death is almost a theoretical concept; it is not something they consciously fear. This is particularly true in the modern age, when medical advances have so successfully pushed back the boundary between life and death. Every now and then something may shake us out of our complacency (perhaps a brush with death), but in general death does not dominate our thoughts. So, then, what is meant by the fear of death and how does it hold us in bondage?

Well, what if we were to replace the word “death” with “diminishment”? To be sure, this is an adaption of the text (the Greek text (φόβῳ θανάτου – phobo thanatou) is accurately translated as “fear of death”), but doing so can help us to see what the text is getting at in a wider sense. It doesn’t take long to realize that each diminishment we experience is a kind of “little death.” Diminishments make us feel smaller, less powerful, less glorious.

What are some examples of diminishments we might experience? On one level, a diminishment is anything that makes us feel less adequate than others. Maybe we think others are smarter or more popular. Perhaps we do not feel attractive enough; we’re too tall, too short, too fat, or too thin. Maybe we resent the fact that others are richer or more powerful. Perhaps we wish we were younger, stronger, and more energetic. Maybe we wish we were older, wiser, and more settled. Perhaps we feel diminished because we think others have a better marriage, a nicer home, or more accomplished children. Maybe we compare ourselves unfavorably to a sibling who has done better financially or socially than we have.

Can you see how this fear of diminishment sets up many sins? It plugs right into envy and jealousy. Pride comes along for the ride, too, because we try to compensate for our fear of inadequacy by finding people to whom we feel superior. We thus indulge our pride or seek to build up our ego in unhealthy ways. Perhaps we run to the cosmetic surgeon or torture ourselves with unhealthy diets. Maybe we ignore our own gifts and try to be someone we really aren’t. Perhaps we spend money we don’t have trying to impress others so that we feel less inadequate.

Think of the countless sins we commit trying to be popular and to fit in. We give in to peer pressure and sometimes do terrible things. Young people will join gangs, use drugs, skip school, have sex before marriage, pierce and tattoo their bodies, use foul language, etc. Adults also have many of these things on their list. All of these things are done in a quest to be popular and to fit in. This desire to fit in is all about not wanting to feel diminished, and diminishment is about the fear of death, because every experience of diminishment is like a small death.

Advertisers know how to exploit the fear of diminishment in marketing their products. I remember studying this topic in business school at George Mason University. The logic goes something like this: You’re not pretty enough, happy enough, adequate enough, or comfortable enough; you don’t look young enough; you have some chronic illness (e.g., depression, asthma, diabetes)—but just buy our product and you will be “enough”; you won’t be so pathetic, incomplete, and, basically, diminished. If you drink this beer, you’ll be happy, have good times, and be surrounded by friends. If you use this toothpaste, soap, or cosmetic product, you’ll be surrounded by beautiful people and sex will be more available to you. If you drive this car, people will turn their heads and be impressed with you. The message is that you don’t measure up now (you’re diminished) but our product will get you there. Just buy it and you’ll be happier, healthier, and more alive!

Perhaps you can see how such advertising appeals to greed, pride, materialism, and worldliness; it puts forth the lie that these material things will solve our problems. In fact, appeals like this actually increase our fear of diminishment (and death) because they feed the notion that we have to measure up to these false and/or unrealistic standards.

It is my hope that you can see how very deep this drive is and how it enslaves us in countless ways.

This demon (fear of death, of diminishment) must be named. Once named and brought to light, we must learn its moves and begin to rebuke it in the name of Jesus. As we start to recognize the thought patterns emerging from this most primal of fears, we can gradually, by God’s grace, replace this distorted thinking with proper, sober, and humble thinking—thinking rooted in God’s love for us and the availability of His grace and mercy.

The text from Hebrews above is clear in saying that this deep and highly negative drive is an essential way in which Satan keeps us in bondage. It also says that Jesus Christ died to save us and free us from this bondage. Allow the Lord to give you a penetrating and sober vision of this deep drive, this deep fear of diminishment and death. Allow the light of God’s grace and His Word to both expose and heal this deepest of wounds.

This song pokes fun at our fad-centered culture, which is always trying to make us feel inadequate.

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: Our Most Primal Fear and the Source of Our Bondage

A Reminder that Fornication is a Serious Sin that Can Exclude Us From Heaven

The epistle from Monday’s daily Mass (30th Week of the Year) contains an admonition against unchastity. This grave warning is essential in times like these, when many call good or “no big deal” what God calls sinful. This is especially true in the realm of sexuality; entire sectors of society not only tolerate but even celebrate sexual practices that Scripture calls gravely sinful and that will lead to Hell if not repented of. Homosexual acts, fornication, and adultery cannot be considered allowable by any Catholic or any person who sincerely accepts Scripture as the Word of God. Even those who do not share our faith should be able to observe the damage these acts cause: they spread disease, harm marriages and families, subject children to less-than-ideal households (e.g., single mother/absent father), and lead to abortion.

In today’s post I will focus on the sin of fornication and present the clear biblical teaching against it. Sadly, many Catholics report that little to nothing is heard from the pulpit or in the classroom about this issue. The hope in this post today is to present a resounding, biblical trumpet call to purity that leaves no doubt as to the sinfulness of sex before marriage. Scripture is clear: fornicators will not inherit the Kingdom of God. That is to say, fornication is a mortal sin and those who do not repent of it will go to Hell.

The usual conditions for mortal sin apply (grave matter, sufficient reflection, and full consent of the will). In most situations, these conditions are met. Over the years I have met with many sexually active couples preparing for marriage and have never found them to be surprised that I rebuke them for this. They know it is wrong; the voice of God echoes in their consciences. As for consent of the will, although some fall occasionally in a weak moment, consistent fornicating with no measures taken to prevent it (e.g., not cohabitating) is not weakness; it is sinful neglect of prudence and common sense.

We are in a sinfully confused cultural setting in which many either celebrate or make little effort to avoid what God calls serious sin. The Church must not lack clarity, yet pulpits and classrooms have often been silent. This has led to parents themselves to be silent—and silence is often taken as tacit approval.

Fornication cannot be approved of. It is sinful and excludes unrepentant sinners from Heaven. Our charity for souls compels our clarity about the grave sinfulness of premarital sex.

The following passages from the New Testament clearly condemn fornication and other unclean or impure acts. The gravity and clarity of such condemnations are helpful in the sense that they help us to take such matters seriously and steer clear of them. However, the condemnations should not be seen in isolation from God’s mercy, as He never fails to forgive those who come to Him with a humble and contrite heart. God hates sin, but He loves sinners and is full of mercy and compassion for them. This mercy must be accessed through repentance, however.

There is a general requirement for sexual purity.

Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or crude joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No fornicator, no impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with worthless arguments. These are sins that bring God’s wrath down upon the disobedient; therefore, have nothing to do with them (Ephesians 5:3-7).

Unrepentant fornicators are excluded from the kingdom.

The one who sat on the throne said to me, “See I make all things new!” Then he said, “Write these matters down for the words are trustworthy and true!” He went on to say: “These words are already fulfilled! I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. To anyone who thirsts I will give to drink without cost from the spring of life-giving water. He who wins the victory shall inherit these gifts and he shall be my son. As for the cowards and traitors to the faith, the depraved and murderers, the fornicators and sorcerers, the idol-worshipers and deceivers of every sort—their lot is the fiery pool of burning sulphur, the second death!” (Revelation 21:5-8)

Happy are they who wash their robes so as to have free access to the tree of life and enter the city through its gates! Outside are the dogs and sorcerers, the fornicators and murderers, the idol-worshipers and all who love falsehood. It is I Jesus who have sent my angel to give you this testimony about the Churches (Rev. 22:14-16).

No fornicator, no impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God (Eph 5:5).

I warn you, as I have warned you before: those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God! (Gal 5:21)

Sins of the flesh crush the spirit within us.

My point is that you should live in accord with the Spirit and you will not yield to the cravings of the flesh. The Flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; the two are directly opposed. This is why you do not do what your will intends. If you are guided by the spirit you are not under the law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, bickering jealousy, outbursts of rage, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you, as I have warned you before: those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God! (Galatians 5:16-21)

Even our thought life is summoned to purity.

You have heard the commandment “You shall not commit adultery.” What I say you to is, Anyone who looks lustfully at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his thoughts. If your right eye is your trouble, gouge it out and throw it away! Better to lose part of your body than to have it all cast into Gehenna. Again, if your right hand is your trouble, cut it off and throw it away! Better to lose part of your body than to have it all cast into Gehenna (Matthew 5:27-30).

From the mind stem evil designs—murder, adulterous conduct, fornication, stealing, false witness, blasphemy. These are the things that make a man impure (Matt. 15:19-20).

Wicked designs come from the deep recesses of the heart: acts of fornication, theft, murder, adulterous conduct, greed, maliciousness, deceit, sensuality, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, an obtuse spirit. All these evils come from within and render a man impure (Mark 7:21).

Sexual impurity is a form of worldliness and idolatry.

Put to death whatever in your nature is rooted in earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desires and that lust which is idolatry. These are sins which provoke God’s wrath (Colossians 3:5-6).

My body is not my own to do with merely as I please.

Can you not realize that the unholy will not fall heir to the Kingdom of God? Do not deceive yourselves: no fornicators, idolaters, or adulterers, no sodomites, thieves, misers, or drunkards, no slanderers or robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you have been washed, consecrated, justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. Do you not see that your bodies are members of Christ? Would you have me take Christ’s members and make them members of a prostitute? God forbid! Can you not see that the man who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? Scripture says, “The two shall become one flesh.” But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun lewd conduct. Every other sin a man commits is outside of his body, but the fornicator sins against his own body. You must know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is within – the Spirit you have received from God. You are not your own. You have been purchased at a price. So, glorify God in your body (I Cor. 6:9-11, 15-20).

The call to Christian purity is not merely a human opinion; it is God’s declared truth. Further, sexual sin is a form of injustice.

Now my brothers, we beg and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, even as you learned from us how to conduct yourselves in a way pleasing to God—which you are indeed doing—so you must learn to make still greater progress. You know the instructions we gave you in the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you grow in holiness: that you abstain from sexual immorality, each of you guarding his member in sanctity and honor, not in passionate desire as do the Gentiles who know not God; and that each must refrain from overreaching or cheating his brother in the matter at hand; for the Lord is the avenger of all such things, as we once indicated to you by our testimony. God has not called us to sexual immorality but to holiness; hence whoever rejects these instructions rejects, not man, but God who sends the Holy Spirit upon you (I Thess. 4:1-8).

Fornication and other sexual sins are numbered among the more serious sins.

We know that the Law is good, provided one uses it in the way law is supposed to be used—that is, with the understanding that it is aimed, not at good men but at the lawless and unruly, the irreligious and the sinful, the wicked and the godless, men who kill their fathers or mothers, murderers, fornicators, sexual perverts, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and those who in other ways flout the sound teaching that pertains to the glorious gospel of God—blessed be he—with which I have been entrusted (1 Timothy 1:8-11).

Fornication and adultery dishonor marriage.

Let marriage be honored in every way and the marriage bed be kept undefiled, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers (Heb 13:4).

Therefore, do not be deceived. Fornication is a serious sin, a mortal sin. It is a sin that excludes one who does not repent of it from Heaven. It offends God, harms marriage and the family, spreads disease, encourages abortion, is an injustice to children and society, and dishonors marriage. It merits strong punishment, as God’s Word declares.

Do not despair of God’s mercy but do repent. Mercy is accessed only through repentance. It is wrong—seriously wrong—to fornicate. Repent without delay.

Five Biblical Lists of Mortal Sins

The first reading for Wednesday of the 27th Week of the Year, from Galatians, spoke to sins that exclude one from the Kingdom of Heaven. If one dies unrepentant from committing any of these sins, one cannot go to Heaven but rather must be excluded in Hell. It is an important reminder to pay heed to the toll that sin takes on our heart, our character, and ultimately our destiny.

One of the great deceptions of our time is that serious sin is only a remote possibility for most people and that such sins are only committed by truly wicked people. Too many people assess their moral standing with unhelpful platitudes such as these: “I’m basically a good person,” or “Well, I haven’t murdered anybody.”

We must be more serious and mature in our discernment. Of course, God does not leave us in such a fog of uncertainty. His Word is quite clear in specifying some of the more serious sins so that we can humbly recognize our tendency to do these very things. Note that stating that a particular sin excludes one from the Kingdom of Heaven is the biblical way of saying that it is a mortal sin.

Simply listing mortal sins is not sufficient because there are important factors affecting culpability. For example, some of the sins listed below (e.g., lying) can admit of lighter matter (one might tell a lie to avoid hurting someone’s feeling). Lies can also be devastating, robbing people of their good name or depriving people of necessary information. Some of the sins listed can result from a compulsions or addictions that erode the freedom necessary to be guilty of mortal sin. Hence, a sin that is of itself serious in nature might be venial if the person were acting under some compulsion. This does not mean that it is not a sin at all, just that it may not be fully mortal in its effects.

Nevertheless, the Lord, in love, wants to warn us urgently of the sins that exclude us from Heaven. In reading from the lists that follow, avoid adopting a legalistic mentality. Take them to heart and allow them to become part of your daily moral reflection. The Lord warns us in love that sin is a serious matter. Even smaller sins, unattended to, begin to grow like a cancer and can ultimately kill us spiritually.

Rather than continue with a lot of commentary, I’d like to post five biblical lists of the more serious sins that exclude one from the Kingdom of God.

Be serious about them. Do not buy into the deception that sin is a trivial matter. God loves us, and because He loves us He warns us that unrepentant sin is serious and can rob our hearts of the desire for Him, for Heaven, and for the good things awaiting us there.

Here, then, are five lists. They are not exhaustive and there are other passages in the Bible that include sins not mentioned below (e.g., refusal to forgive, cf Matt 6:15).

  • Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were (1 Cor 6:9-10).
  • The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19-21).
  • But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No sexually immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore, do not be partners with them (Eph 5:3-6).
  • “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star” (Rev. 22:12-16).
  • Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life (Matt 25:41-46).

Finally, here is a general warning from the Lord:

Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me (John 5:28-29).

Here is a performance of Gregorio Allegri’s “Miserere Mei” (Psalm 51). “Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great kindness.”

False Teachers – What is a Catholic to Do?

In the first reading at daily Mass for Monday of the 27th Week, St. Paul warns of perhaps the most damaging evil facing the Church: dissension from within.

I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you by the grace of Christ for a different gospel (not that there is another). But there are some who are disturbing you and wish to pervert the Gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed! (Galatians 1:6-8)

St. Paul says that such false teachers pervert the Gospel. They once received it but now distort it. Sadly, there are many today, clerics among them, who mislead people into thinking that what God calls sin is no big deal or is something to celebrate. They are false teachers, false prophets. Let’s ponder this troubling truth in three ways:

There are false prophets.

Here are some of the many passages in which Scripture warns that deceivers, scoffers, and false prophets would inevitably arise:

  • Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. … Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire (Mat 7:15, 19-20).
  • I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them (Acts 20:30-31).
  • And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray …. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand (Mat 24:11, 24-25).
  • But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed, they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell … (2 Peter 2:1-4).
  • There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability (2 Peter 3:16-17).
  • But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit (Jude 1:17-23).
  • Children, it is the last hour; and just as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But their departure made it clear that none of them belonged to us (1 John 2:18-19).

Of particular concern are false prophets who come from within.

There is a special subtlety in this kind of deceiver, especially if he wears a collar or priestly robes; even more if he is of the rank of bishop. Great harm has been inflicted by wayward clergy over the centuries. The grief is especially deep because the faithful have rightly been encouraged to love and listen to the clergy.

Both Jesus and St. Paul call them wolves because they devour and scatter the flock. St. Paul’s language also indicates an especially sharp pain caused by this sort of betrayal. Other scriptures affirm this deep pain:

  • For it is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng. Let death steal over them; let them go down to Sheol alive; for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart (Psalm 55:12-15).
  • Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me (Psalm 41:9).
  • Even my trusted friends, watching for my fall, say, “Perhaps he will be deceived, so that we may prevail against him and take our revenge on him” (Jer 20:21).
  • The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with Me will betray Me (Mat 26:23).
  • Look! The hand of My betrayer is with Me, even at the table (Luke 22:21).
  • Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss? (Luke 22:48)

Yes, there is a special grief when error and sin come from within the Church. That the world hates and derides us is difficult enough, but internal wounds are the most painful of all.

Our Lady spoke to St. Agnes Sasagawa in Akita, Japan (an approved apparition) and said with sadness,

The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres … churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord. The demon will be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God (Message of Oct 13, 1973).

What are the faithful to do?

First, from the Scriptures above, we must understand the warning that such things would happen. Indeed, they have happened throughout history. False prophets arise, even from within. The Lord says through His apostles, Remember that I have told these things would inevitably occur. Therefore, we ought not to be dismayed, but rather sober.

  • Who is the liar, if it is not the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son can have the Father; whoever confesses the Son has the Father as well. As for you, let what you have heard from the beginning remain in you. If it does, you will also remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He Himself made to us: eternal life. I have written these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you…And now, little children, remain in Him, so that when He appears, we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming. (1 John 2:15ff).
  • But there are some who are disturbing you and wish to pervert the Gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you embraced from us, let him be under a divine curse! (Galatians 1:7-9)
  • But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh (Jude 1:20-23).

Catholics today must remember that the faith is not simply anything uttered by a clergyman of any rank. The magisterium is more than that! Everything we hear is to be squared with the consistent teaching of the Church, back through the centuries, as articulated in Scripture and in the doctrinal and dogmatic teachings of the Church. Stay close to the catechism, close to Scripture, close to the Fathers of the Church!

We began with St. Paul’s lament about savage wolves who seek to mislead and scatter the flock he labored so hard to build. Mysteriously, the Lord allows some degree of dissent, but He has left us with warnings. Our task is to heed these warnings and judge everything we hear by the deposit of the faith as articulated consistently in the Church down through the ages. Look to the most certain sources: Scripture, Catholic dogma, the Catechism, the Fathers of the Church, and St. Thomas Aquinas. These are bulwarks for us.

I look to the faithful in the land
that they may dwell with me.
He who walk in the way of perfection
shall be my friend
(Psalm 101:6).

Learning to Name Sins Is to Have More Power Over Them – Part Two

Recently I wrote about the need to recover a vocabulary of sin and posted an example related to lying. A good number of readers asked for the other lists I have been compiling. I include them here along with introductory material similar to that in the first post. These lists are always a work in progress, so please feel free to send me any additions you have.

Indeed, over the years we have steadily been losing the vocabulary of sin. Saying “I have sinned” is often replaced by “I made a mistake,” or “I made a poor decision,” or “I’m sorry if my behavior was hurtful in some way.”

Not only are we slow to say we have sinned, we are also ignorant of the subtleties of sin, in part because our vocabulary about sin is so limited. In this state we lose a certain advantage over sin because to name something is the beginning of isolating it and having increasing authority over it. When I can name something, I can focus on it and work on it. It moves from the realm of the abstract and theoretical to the real world.

Over the years I have been compiling lists of the names for various sins. I do this as an outgrowth of deliverance ministry, in which the importance of naming demons cannot be overestimated. Most demons resist disclosing their names mightily because once the exorcist knows the name of a demon, his authority over it is magnified in Jesus.

This is also true in the ordinary situations of life, where demons tempt us, and where the world and our own flesh compound the problem. The more we can name the subtleties of sin the less difficult it is to gain mastery over them.

There are not many people who will call themselves sinners easily. They have very little awareness of subtleties of sin. Most will say things like this: “I don’t tell lies—at least not big ones,” “I’m not really that prideful,” or “I’m not that narcissistic, at least not as much as so-and-so is.” In the case of fear or low self-esteem, many don’t see it as sinful at all. We consider ourselves victims of these drives and fail to recognize how many sinful actions proceed from them. It’s hard to get far into these lists without realizing that such drives are alarmingly common to us, even if by other means and words. Don’t be discouraged; pick a few and work on overcoming them. Naming them gives us focus and power; by God’s grace, progress can be made by naming the demons that serve these evils.

Pray this prayer: “All evil thoughts and demon-spirits, we name you and reject you in the name of Jesus. We ask every grace from God to be rooted in His truth about who we are and out of this proper vision to do and say what is right, not what is evil, self-serving, or harmful. Jesus, you said, ‘I am the Truth.’ Live in us and drive from us all that is not true.”

Many exorcists use lists like the ones below against demons that refuse to state their name. In effect, the exorcist says, “If you won’t tell me your name then I will name you.” This typically causes the demon great pain in addition to that caused by the reading of the Rite of Exorcism itself.

For all of us, naming the drives of sin has a similar effect. It brings them out of obscurity and into the light of reason where their darkness can be scattered. It takes time, but these drives will surely diminish if we name them and consistently rebuke them when they arise.

Here, then, are all the lists of words and phrases I am currently compiling:

Pride:

Boasting, Conceit, Bragging, Haughtiness, Arrogance, Detraction, Aggrandizement, Braggadocio, Puffery, Grandiosity, Self-importance, Imposing, Obdurate, Judgmental, Wrath at God, Pride of vocation, Pride of place, Nursing wounds, Insolence, Rudeness, Vanity, Vainglory, Superiority, Indignation, Self-righteousness, Resistance, Non-submissive, Repelling, Open ears to evil, Politicizing, Polarization, Supremacy, Preeminence, Defiance, Challenge, Opposition, Antagonism, Spoiled, Snooty, Incorrigible, Willfulness, Worldly success, Worldly achievement, Prowess, Fanaticism, Radicalism, Self-magnification, Self-satisfied, Overconfident, Opinionated, Machismo, Egotism, Unspiritual, Competitive, Bloated, Controlling, Manipulative, Dominating, Domineering, Raw power, Exalted feelings, Scheming, Plotting, Dishonoring, Disproving, Discrediting, Argumentative, Contrarian, Playing devil’s advocate, Cunning, Conniving, Condescending, Idolatry, Intellectualizing, Self-actualization, Self-elevation, Comparison, Envy, Party factions, Minimization of sin, Unruly, Wild, Shocking, Ostentatious, Portentous, Pretentious, Showy, Free-spirited, Indignation, Spiritual superiority, Supervisory, Regulatory, Grandiose, “It’s beneath my dignity,” Self-justification, Refusal to forgive, Indiscriminate sermonizing, Excessive correction of others, Touchy, Hypercritical, Sacrilegious, Blithe, Unconcerned, Dismissive, Disdainful, Disrespectful, Flippant, Trivializing, Exorbitant, Scornful, Poverty of Judas, Pharisaical, Sanctimonious, Contemptuous, Smug, Lawlessness, Supercilious, Grudging, Big-headed, Patronizing, Pompous, Stubborn, Immovable, Inflexible, Intransigent, Obstinate, Uncompromising, Unyielding, Controlling, “Only I can do it,” Workaholic, Arrogant expertise, Sinful curiosity, Demand to know, Insistent on rights, Bullying, Aggressive, Pig-headed, Impatient, Refusing to wait, “I am more important,” Bigotry, Racism, Chauvinism, Inconsiderate, Careless, Intolerant of others’ weaknesses and foibles, Noncompliant, Dissenting, Recalcitrant, Incorrigible, Unreasonable, Ungrateful, Arbitrary, Churlish, Coarse, Impolite, Truculent, Aggressively defiant, Self-Absorbed, Sociopathic, Know-it-all, Blustering, Vociferous, Loudmouth, Boor, Unrepentant, Shameless, Unremorseful, Unapologetic, Irresponsible, Unaware.

All pride and prideful spirits depart!

Narcissism:

Egotistical, Insistent, Picky, Fussy, Choosy, Particular, Demanding, Nitpicking, Hyper-independence, Hypersensitivity, Antipathy, Daintiness, Thin-skinned, Pettiness, Willfulness, Preconceived notions, Presumptions, “Because I say so,” “That’s not fair,” “Me first,” “Why are you taking so long?”, “Who do you think you are?”, “It’s not my fault,” “I can do it myself,” “Gimme,” “Mine,” Unreflective, Unapologetic, Unashamed, Unrepentant, Perfectionism, Rigidity, Paranoia, Suspicion, Irrationality, Instability, Fickle, Immovable, Moody, Unpredictable, Inconsistent, Careless, Complex, Unbalanced, Deaf, Distorted hearing, Perverted judgment, Perverted (selfish) thinking, Refusal to be taught, Ill-formed conscience, Spiritual blindness, Hardness of heart, Duality, Imprudence, Impulsiveness, Compulsiveness, Recklessness, Interruption, Cutting off, Dismissal, Entrenchment, Excessively self-aware, Excessive self-love, Self-seeking, Self-gratification, Self-glorification, Self-aggrandizement, Self-absorbency, Self-idolatry, Self-indulgence, Self-reliance, Self-sufficiency, Self-promotion, Self-importance.

All narcissistic demons, depart!

Lying:

Pretension, Affectation, Posing, Posturing, Finessing, Unreality, Denial, Disavowal, Delusion, Labyrinth, Convoluted thinking, Cheating, Deliberate omission, Duplicity, Deceit, Dishonesty, Neglect of duty, Irreverence, Circumvention, Folly, Concealment, Suppression, Rationalization, Covering up, Blindness of spirit, Evasiveness, Caginess, Equivocation, Untruthfulness, Avoidance, Masking, Game-playing, Deception, Trickery, Sham, Illusion, Wishful thinking, Diversion, Entertaining error, Drama, Falsifying, Farce, Hallucination and dreaminess, Smoke and mirrors, Imitation, Aping, Phoniness, Fakery, Fraud, Scamming, Swindling, Libel, Slander, Defamation, Coyness, Cunning, Wiliness, Pretense, Calculating, Crafty, Undermining, Setting up false dichotomy, Distraction, Diversion, Changing the subject, Euphemisms, Understating, Overstating, Embellishment, Taking out of context, Absolutizing, Falsifying, Manipulating, Preconception, Prejudice, Rash judgment, Flattery, Fawning, Ingratiating, Insincerity, Artificiality, Hypocrisy, Sycophancy, Hedging, Juggling, Altering, Misrepresenting , Disguising, Vincible ignorance, Façade, Boasting, Showmanship, Theatrics, Acting, Trickery, Mockery, Appearances, Fantasy, Heresy, Deviance, Dissent, sheep’s clothing, Subversive, Cunning, Secretive, Substituting, Enigmatic, Irony, Mimicry, Mendacity, Fabrication, False witness, Spreading rumors, Evasion, Side-stepping, Dodging, Unreliable, Undependable, Unpredictable, Untrustworthy, Skirting, Shirking, Fudging, Ducking, Partial truth, Inaccuracy, Careless with the facts, Prevaricating, Stonewalling, Obstructing, Complicating.

All lies and lying spirits, depart!

Fear:

Restless, Agitated, Edgy, Terror, Fright, Worry, Apprehension, Trepidation, Dismay, Shock, Anguish, Anxiety, Uneasiness, Darkness, Grief, Trauma, Troubled, Weeping, Oppression, Conflict, Morbidity, Fixation, Nervousness, Jumpiness, Mania, Hysteria, Obsession, Preoccupation, Helplessness, Vulnerability, Feeling naked and exposed, Defenseless, Hopeless, Insomnia, Nightmares, Commotion, Disturbances, Disorders, Troubles,  Shaky, Tense, Excitement, Turmoil, Confusion, Mayhem, Horror, Overcome, Over my head, Dread, Disgust, Gloom and doom, Desperation, Disappointment, Distraction, Negativity, Tremors, Tension, Headaches, Roaming around, Rumination, Nervous habits, Shackled, Bound, Pressured, Squeezed, Captive, Frozen, Isolated, Restricted, Paralyzed, Immobilized, Shut down, Walls, Coldness, Listlessness, Sluggishness, Sleepiness, Stress, Fatigue, Lethargy, Withdrawal from others and God, Discouragement, Loneliness, Foreboding, Ominous, Threatening, Ruining, Sadness, Despair, Despondency, Distressed, Disheartened, Powerless, Melancholy, Joyless, Crisis, Implosion, Recoiling, “I’m not able,” “I’m not worthy,” Self-condemnation, Perfectionism, Fear of pain, Fear of the cross, Fear of being hurt, Repression, Depression, Panic, Hurt, Rehearsing trouble, Paranoia, Suspicion, Fear of condemnation, Fear of judgment, Scrupulosity, Disordered fear of God, Excessive fear of Hell, Pessimism, Filtering out good news, Ingratitude, Discounting blessings and praise, Staying alone, Abandonment, Betrayal, Untrusting, Indifference, Blockages, Numbness, Closed up/in, Shut up/in, Locked up/in, Stupor, Separation anxiety, Strangulation, Suffocation, “Leave me alone,” Heaviness, Neglect, Loss, Defeat, Weakness of will, Excessive sentimentality, Drama, Blues, Bondage, Bound and gagged, Overly serious, Tied up in knots, Chained, Caught, Snared, Barbed wire, Imprisoned, Impossible, Nettling, Webbing, Avoidance, Humiliation, Inability to overcome, “All is lost.”

Phobias related to Heights, Crowds, Bridges, Planes, Water, Elevators, Hospitals, Close spaces, etc.

All demons and spirits of fear, depart!

Low self-esteem:

Insecurity, Ineptness, Shy, Nervous, Wary, Inhibited, Lonely, Cowardly, Inability to accept or give love, Inability to accept praise, Shame, Embarrassment, Humiliation, Guilt, Feeling accused or blamed, Feeling ugly, Aversion, Avoidance, Feeling unloved, Feeling unwanted, Pessimism, Indifference, No pity, Lukewarmness, Defeat, Inadequacy, Labor, Toil, Drudgery, Self-rejection, Self-pity, Self-contempt, Self-destruction, Self-doubt, Self-abandonment, Lack of confidence, Poor self-image, Self-deprecation, Inferiority, Feeling useless, Disordered or excessive feelings of responsibility, Disordered or misplaced compassion, Introspection, Incredulity at Praise or accomplishment, Unforgiving of self and God, Indecisiveness, Scrupulosity, Sloth, Procrastination, Postponement, Anesthetized, Numbness, Building walls, Dazed, Forgetful, Indecision, Obstruction, Hyper-analytical, Distorted thinking, Wounded heart, Disconnectedness of thoughts and feelings, Disjointed spirit, Past wounds, Paralysis, Passivity, Forgetfulness, Attention deficit, Memory lapse, Memory loss, Obsessive-compulsive, Hesitancy, Compromise, Drama, Transferred feelings, Projection, Negativity, Noncreative, Dimorphic, Preoccupation with appearance, Overly focused on body, Controlling, Overly concerned with things out of one’s control, Passive-aggressive, Dead end, Holding in, Hiding, Avoiding, Dodging, Masks, Resentments, “I must be punished,” “I’m not allowed,” “This can’t happen for me,” “I’m not worthy,” “I can’t,” “I won’t,” “God can’t,” “God won’t,” “You can’t help me,” “I can’t be healed,” “They don’t like me,” “I’m not as able,” “I’m not as good”, “I’m not as attractive,” “They’re all laughing at me,” “I’m unwanted.”

Demons of low self-esteem, depart! I am a gifted child of God; even my weaknesses serve His purposes. I reject your defeatism!

Learning to Name Sins Is to Have More Power Over Them

Over the years we have steadily been losing the vocabulary of sin. Saying “I have sinned” is often replaced by “I made a mistake,” or “I made a poor decision,” or “I’m sorry if my behavior was hurtful in some way.”

Not only are we slow to say we have sinned, we are also ignorant of the subtleties of sin, in part because our vocabulary about sin is so limited. In this state we lose a certain advantage over sin because to name something is the beginning of isolating it and having increasing authority over it. When I can name something, I can focus on it and work on it. It moves from the realm of the abstract and theoretical to the real world.

Over the years I have been compiling lists of the names for various sins. I do this as an outgrowth of deliverance ministry, in which the importance of naming demons cannot be overestimated. Most demons resist disclosing their names mightily because once the exorcist knows the name of a demon, his authority over it is magnified in Jesus.

This is also true in the ordinary situations of life, where demons tempt us, and where the world and our own flesh compound the problem. The more we can name the subtleties of sin the less difficult it is to gain mastery over them.

A good place to begin is with lying. Satan is the consummate liar and seeks to draw us into is web in hundreds of ways. Jesus says this of Satan:

He was a murderer from the beginning, refusing to uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, because he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).

The list below on lying is a work in progress. I am working on similar ones related to pride, sensuality, and the like; perhaps I will post these in the future. However, consider this a starting point of moving from an abstract notion of sin to something more real, more concrete.

There are not many people who will call themselves liars. Most will say, “I don’t tell lies—at least not big ones.” Lying and deceit come in many subtle forms, so don’t be so certain that you are free of the tendency. It’s hard to get far into this list without realizing that lying is alarmingly common to us, even if by other means and words. Don’t be discouraged; pick a few and work on overcoming them. Naming them gives us focus and power; by God’s grace, progress can be made by naming the demons that serve these evils.

Here are some words and phrases associated with lying:

Pretension, Affectation, Posing, Posturing, Unreality, Denial, Disavowal, Delusion, Labyrinth, Convoluted thinking, Cheating, Deliberate omission, Duplicity, Deceit, Dishonesty, Neglect of duty, Irreverence, Circumvention, Folly, Concealment, Suppression, Rationalization, Covering up, Blindness of spirit, Evasiveness, Caginess, Equivocation, Untruthfulness, Avoidance, Masking, Game-playing, Deception, Trickery, Sham, Illusion, Wishful thinking, Diversion, Entertaining error, Drama, Falsifying, Farce, Hallucination and dreaminess, Smoke and mirrors, Imitation, Aping, Phoniness, Fakery, Fraud, Scamming, Swindling, Libel, Slander, Defamation, Coyness, Cunning, Wiliness, Pretense, Calculating, Crafty, Undermining, Setting up false dichotomy, Distraction, Diversion, Changing the subject, Euphemisms, Understating, Overstating, Embellishment, Taking out of context, Absolutizing, Falsifying, Manipulating, Preconception, Prejudice, Rash judgment, Flattery, Fawning, Ingratiating, Insincerity, Artificiality, Hypocrisy, Sycophancy, Hedging, Juggling, Altering, Misrepresenting , Disguising, Vincible ignorance , Façade, Boasting, Showmanship, Theatrics, Acting , Trickery , Mockery, Appearances, Fantasy, Heresy, Deviance, Dissent, sheep’s clothing, Subversive, Cunning, Secretive, Substituting, Enigmatic, Irony, Mimicry, Mendacity, Fabrication, False witness, Spreading rumors, Evasion, Side-stepping, Dodging, Unreliable, Undependable, Unpredictable, Untrustworthy, Skirting, Shirking, Fudging, Ducking, Partial truth, Inaccuracy, Careless with the facts, Prevaricating, Stonewalling, Obstructing, Complicating.

All lying spirits, we name you and reject you in the name of Jesus. We ask every grace from God to be more honest, truthful, upright, and trustworthy. Jesus, you said, “I am the Truth.” Live in us and drive from us all that is not true.

Many exorcists use such lists against demons that refuse to state their name. In effect, the exorcist says, “If you won’t tell me your name then I will name you.” This typically causes the demon great pain in addition to that caused by the reading of the Rite of Exorcism itself.

For all of us, naming the drives of sin has a similar effect. It brings them out of obscurity and into the light of reason where their darkness can be scattered. It takes time, but these drives will surely diminish if we name them and consistently rebuke them when they arise.