The Depravity of Sin
Edward Grant | The Daily Knight
As we are taught through scripture, the closer we are to God the more alive we are. The more holy we are, the more of Christ we have living in us, and so there is a scale of God’s creation of who is more and less alive. What do we mean by this? Surely someone who is dead cannot be more alive than one who walks among us still, and an old man cannot be more alive than a young man? Au Contraire.
Though we tend to associate life with vigor and robustness on this earth, that is not the true life for which God created for us and still intends for us to join Him in. As all Christians know we live in a fallen world filled with ever more harrowing depravity and hatred of Logos. The visceral hatred of reason has gotten so bad in some places that in effort to defy God we use surgeries and chemicals to transform men into men resembling some sort of women, and women into women resembling some sort of men. Theologically there is little my imagination can come up with that would be more of an affront to God.
Saint Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans chapter seven verse five that “For the wages of sin is death” and Saint James writes in his epistle chapter one verse 15 “Then when concupiscence hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin. But sin, when it is completed, begetteth death”. What are these great apostles of our Lord talking about here? Surely we have all committed sins and did not get struck dead by lightning afterwards, so they could not have meant it in that sense.
The sense in which Saint James and Saint Paul meant death was a spiritual death. Terrible as it may be, the reality is that sin by its nature is an affront to God, and grave sins such as usury, sodomy, and murder cry out to heaven for vengeance. Each time we sin we invite, no we beg God in our own way to give up on us, to leave us to the hellfire which we are all due. By His mercy and grace we are given every opportunity necessary to repent and turn away, and it is only after we have reached a point from which we cannot return in our depravity that we through our own volition have chosen hell and will never be capable of turning back. This is what the apostles meant when they were talking about spiritual death, the ultimate fruit of sin, which is the complete rejection and hatred of Logos.
C.S. Lewis has an excellent novel which details this very subject called The Great Divorce. In it, Lewis descends into Purgatory and comes face to face with damned souls who are confronted by angels seeking to save them, and a few saved who are going through purification. Throughout these interactions one theme becomes very clear: those who end up in hell do so by their own choice and could not be saved if they had our Lord standing right before their very eyes. They choose death, they choose the world over true life, they choose their pet pleasures over true joy in their earthly lives and for eternity, and live with the consequences having no conception of ultimate reality for which they were originally made. In refusing to let their lives in the world die, the damned cause their souls shrink ever more into nothing.
When reading The Great Divorce one is profoundly struck by the metaphor Lewis used of damned souls shrinking evermore into these barely visible cracks, and that hell was inaccessible to angels because it was too small and so the angels would not fit. Whenever we sin, varying in degree depending on the depravity of sin, our soul shrinks and withers a bit. Conversely whenever we receive grace through the sacraments, prayer, or works, God expands our soul accordingly. Saint Therese of Lisieux wrote in her autobiographical work “The Story of a Soul” that her elder sister once explained to her why some were greater than others in heaven. Her elder sister brought a thimble and a vase, and filled them both to the brim with water. Her sister said “both are full and can hold no more, but one is capable of holding much more than the other” the implication being that this is how souls are. The great saints are like vases which can hold a great deal of water (grace) and so are greater in heaven, whereas the lesser of us who turn to Christ meekly and at the end or out of mere fear of hell are like thimbles who God still fills with grace, but our soul is not large and developed spiritually enough to hold more.
Knowing all this will I still continue to sin and deprive myself of a fuller relationship with God that I might have had otherwise? Probably knowing how weak I am and how prone I am to stumble. It is however our own voluntary decisions that cause the state of our souls, not that we are saved by works, but that through cooperating with the Lord’s grand plans for us we might allow Christ to grow in us and make His home in our bodies, clearing away and killing off the viruses which we have permitted to fester. Unless we allow our tendencies of worldliness to die, there is a much more real and much worse death than mortality itself in store for us.