The Crucial Distinction between Ordinary Sin and Evil

In his book, “What We Can’t Not Know,” J. Budziszewski pointedly observes that a depraved conscience is the most destructive force in any society. It is only within this context that we can understand why our once Christian-grounded culture of life is today a post-Christian culture of death marked by an unseen wave of evil manifest in a spreading stain of idolatry (self-worship), secularism (practical atheism), occult spirituality, sexual anarchy, sodomy, false teachings that inculcate error, apostasy, “new” revelations from “new” super-apostles, growing legions of personalized deities, moral imbecility, scape-goating, and so much spiritual and theological confusion, contention, and finger-pointing that the true God of the Bible has largely disappeared. The depraved conscience is an unexamined conscience. In his Commentary on Psalm 33/2, 8, St. Augustine notes that a dirty house (depraved conscience) is the miserable condition of all whose pride makes them refuse to face their own conscience lest they be overwhelmed by the wickedness they find there. (Day by Day with Saint Augustine, Donal X. Burt, p. 107)

Refusing to tolerate the knowledge of its own weaknesses, failings, and sinfulness, the depraved conscience is continually engaged in sweeping the evidence of its' own remarkably consistent sins under the rug of its' own consciousness in order to preserve its carefully constructed self-image.

Self-worshippers constantly fret about preservation of self-image thus are hyper-sensitive to what others might think. For this reason they unceasingly engage in the effort to maintain an outward appearance of moral purity and superiority. Because of this they hate the light--the light of truth and goodness that not only exposes them but penetrates their deceptions.

Since the depraved conscience refuses to acknowledge its' own wickedness, self-worshippers are known for hurling punishing, flaming darts at others and for transferring their personal wickedness onto scapegoats who are made to carry an unbearably heavy cross of false guilt. Scapegoats are thus sacrificed on the altar of "preservation of self-image" by idolatrous self-worshippers.

Ultimately, a depraved conscience is the result of a strong will determined to have its' own way, thus St. Augustine points to a wicked will as the cause of all evil and suffering. This is because the unholy companions of the wicked will are covetousness, envy and lust for power. Hence the wicked will seeks to impose itself upon others by overt or covert coercion in order to destroy the genuine spiritual growth of others. This evil is the result of envy.

Because the willfulness of the wicked will is so extraordinary and always accompanied by a lust for power idolatrous self-worshippers are more likely than most to gravitate to positions of power and influence.

When self-worship is so total that the capacity for empathy is lost, the idolator has descended into malignancy and/or diabolicism. Because diabolicism deprives self-worshippers of the restraint that results from empathy it motivates them to not just scapegoat others but to spiritually and physically crucify murder them.

By transferring their own wickedness onto others through projection and scapegoating, self-worshippers and malignant self-worshippers cause evil and suffering in our world. For example, when they acquire dominion over their own families they create miniature totalitarian societies characterized by confusion, deception, craziness, isolation, manipulation, suspicion, distrust, pathological lying, rage, paranoia, psychological bullying and physical abuse.

The more humble in spirit, though sinners, do not commit evil because they are people who feel uncertain about their righteousness, who question their own motives and who search their own conscience. Unpleasant and even painful though it may be, their sense of personal sin is precisely that which keeps their sin from getting out of hand. Hence it is a great blessing because it is a safeguard against our own proclivity for evil.

The crucial distinction between evil and ordinary sin is the refusal to acknowledge it. Thus the evil in this world is committed by the unsubmitted will of the self-righteous idolator whose depraved conscience and disordered reasoning persuades him (or her) to believe he is without sin.

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@Linda Kimball