The Fundamental Sin

I’ve heard all my life that pride – particularly Lucifer’s – was the first sin, but I’m not sure that it was. While I agree that pride is how that sin actually manifested, I think there’s a sin upon which even pride is built – idolatry. More to the point, self-idolatry, or having greater reverence for (i.e. placing ultimate priority upon) yourself than you do for God.

It’s commonly accepted that Mosaic Law – all 600+ of them – are actually variants of the Ten Commandments, but I submit that even the Nine subsequent Commandments are themselves riffs off the First Commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me”. And more to my point, “no other gods” necessarily includes one’s self.

Thoughts?

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I would love to hear other’s thoughts on this as well. I could certainly see you having a point, given the idea that pride is a result of self-idolatry. Just thinking through this, I wonder if Lucifer’s self-idolatry preceded or succeeded his rejection of God. I wonder if he placed himself in the power vacuum that occurred from rejecting God, or if he knocked God off the pedestal of his life as he placed himself on it. This might have some consequences on the topic. Idolatry is obviously a HUGE topic in the Old Testament and you could see God’s concern if all forms of sin are a variant on idolatry. I could also see your point about the Nine Commandments being specific applications and manifestations of the First Commandment. Interesting topic for discussion. Thank you.

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Great thought. Just to add a little…
Pride and idolatry, although different, are virtually one in the same sin. Pride says, “I don’t need God, I got myself to depend on”. In that process, one just elevated self above God which is idolatry because idolatry is anything that replaces God in His rightful place, which should be first place.
On another note, for years I was thrown off when Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matt 5:8. I always thought that was a downer because I interpreted that as the sinless heart and who ever has that? Not one. What it really means is this: the pure in heart are those that have no other loves that compete with Him, and they shall see God. Anything that competes for our affection is idolatry because it replaces Him with whatever has taken our attention. When that happens, we cannot see Him as clear as we should. My goodness, thank the Lord for His grace or we’d all be gonners with pride and idolatry. Blessings
Jason

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The definition of ‘pride’ is ’ love of self’, or self-worship. ‘Idolatry’ is the worship if anything other than God. In your passage you specified the sin of ‘self-idolatry’. Aren’t ‘self-idolatry’ and ‘pride’ synonymous? In other words saying self-idolatry came before pride is like saying A came before Alpha.

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Just wanted to share a few more thoughts. I tend to be a bit semantical when it comes to these things, but as we are dealing with words I think this can be appropriate.

If we look at pride denotatively, in its definitional meaning, it is not a negative thing. It means to have a sense of satisfaction with oneself and one’s accomplishments. It also means to have a sense of dignity and self respect. This can be taken to an extreme and this is where pride takes on its negative connotation. It means to be non-compliant, a failure to admit mistakes, an over-estimation of self, to put oneself above one’s peers, to have the belief one’s status and accomplishments makes one better than others. (I apologize for my overuse of the word “one,” I only use it in an attempt at clarity.)

I think self-idolatry goes even further. To worship oneself, to place oneself at the center of the universe, to hold oneself up as a God to whom others ought also to bow down.

I think one is a matter of attributes and another is more ontological. Pride says, you are a human and I am a human but I am a better human than you. Self-idolatry says you are a human and I am a god, bow down and worship me. My being differs from your being. What I am differs from what you are.

In this sense, perhaps pride is a component of self-idolatry but self-idolatry is not a component of pride?

These are just a few thoughts, I would love to hear what others think.

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Great question. This is a very interesting, and very old debate. I believe it was Augustine who solidified the now long-standing theological position that pride was the fundamental sin. However, I think there are a few other possible ways of looking at what the root cause of sin is. Pride is certainly one option, and I think Tolkien did a great job of allegorizing pride as fundamental in the opening chapter of the Silmarillion, for example, when Melkor, who apart from Eru has the greatest power and knowledge, breaks away from the song of the Ainur bringing discord into the world. That story just seems to illustrate pride as the fundamental sin in a very powerful way.

Still I think one could say that doubt is the fundamental sin, or, lack of faith. For example, if it was the case that God, being Who He is, had to some degree hide Himself from Adam and Eve so that they would even have the capacity to exercise their free will (for to see God directly would be equivalent to being overpowered by His glory, and not having real freedom of the will), then at the moment when Adam and Eve’s knowledge of God was limited (which perhaps is from the very start of their existence), there was fundamental lack of something right from the beginning in Adam and Eve’s experience, i.e. a full knowledge of God (and here I mean both cognitively and relationally).

That space of not knowing God fully, that space that God Himself allowed Adam and Eve, creates a doubt, a doubt that subsequently the serpent cleverly identifies and plays of off. Thus, in order to satisfy or relieve that doubt, Eve reaches for the fruit. As such, the first movement in Eve’s soul is not one of pride in the sense of wanting to be as great as God, but one of doubt and wanting to satisfy that doubt. Now, I think once the fruit is eaten and her, and then Adam’s, eyes are opened to the moral law of God, i.e. to the knowledge of good and evil, then the fullness of original sin develops, that being the desire to be good without relationship to God, and here we now have the coming into existence of pride, which then leads to self-exaltation or self-idolatry. So, while I think self-idolatry is connected deeply to the original sin, I think doubt is actually the first movement in the soul away from God.

in Christ,
Tony