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

You do have a valid point in Romans 12:3, Paul writes, “do not think more highly if yourself than you ought”. Self awareness is good, that includes enough pride to be presentable, healthy, and keep a good work ethic, as well as strong morals. Let it get too strong be and you are headed for trouble. (I use the word you generically, of course).

Tony, when Satan rebelled, and a third of the angels followed him, do you not think they knew God face to face? Indeed, Isaiah said “You walked to and fro in the fiery stones before God’s throne.”

If they, with full knowledge of God could rebel, how easy do you think it would be for Satan to tempt Eve, even with full knowledge?

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Well, the text certainly suggests that Satan and his angels knew God to a greater degree, although even there it is hard to say. Did they know more about God than we do, or did they just know God in a different way than we do (say, experientially, but not cognitively)?

What I think the text does not imply, even if it does suggest greater knowledge, is full knowledge. I do not think we should read into this passage from Isaiah that Satan or any of the angels had exhaustive knowledge of God, even if they seemed to be closer to Him in proximity than man after the Fall. I’m pretty certain, in fact I would say I know, that they did not have full knowledge of God.

Alternatively, it seems that the only Being that does have exhaustive knowledge of the Divine Nature, is God Himself. This “insider knowledge” has been pointed to by various theologians throughout the church’s history, but it is a knowledge that is shared only among the members of the Trinity, and that due to the perichoretic nature of their relationships (i.e. their “indwellingness”). It seems certain then that the Son knows the Father exhaustively, and the Spirit the Father and the Son, and so on; but Satan, the angels, and Adam and Eve clearly did not have knowledge of God in this way.

Thus, I think my point still stands that not having some knowledge of God, and that likely because of creaturehood, i.e. of being a creature, may be the condition that leads to rebellion. However, it may also be a necessary condition for creatures to have free will, which, if God’s ultimate plan for creation is for beings with true freedom of the will to come to know Him and freely love Him, then some degree of divine hiddenness may be necessary for God’s plan to be realized.

in Christ,
Tony

Tony Costello, 1st Corinthians 13:12 “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; the I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
Anyone in the heavenly realms, knows God as fully as God knows them. To be in the presence of God and rebel is the worst betrayal imaginable.

Satan and the angels who followed him knew exactly what they were doing. That’s why there is no possible salvation for them.

Eve was deceived, Adam chose his love for his wife over his love for God.

Adam walked face to face with God in the garden until the fall.

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David,

Well, without getting into the Greek of 1 Cor 13:12, I would at first glance mention two problems with thinking that we can know God “fully” if by “fully” you mean exhaustively.

First, is the problem of infinite knowledge. To know God fully would seem to entail that creatures like us would have infinite knowledge, since God Himself is infinite. But that is clearly false, for only God is omniscient, not any of His creatures. So again, I would caution against thinking we can know God “fully” in this sense. Alternatively it is obvious that God can know us fully, and in the sense of exhaustively.

Second, I think you make a leap when you say that “Anyone in the heavenly realms” knows God as fully as God knows them. Paul does not say that here, nor does he apply the knowledge we will have of God in the eschaton to that of Satan, or of Adam and Eve, in the past. You would have to show me where you see Paul making the connection between our future knowledge of God and the knowledge that Adam and Eve or Satan had of God. I also don’t see anywhere where Adam is said to have walked “face to face with God” in the garden. Jesus Himself makes a clear statement in John 6:46 that “no man” has seen the Father, so even Adam and Moses must have seen something of God that was still, in part, hidden or obscured.

That said, however, my only point is to say that we cannot have full knowledge of an infinite God. On all the other points you make I absolutely agree, namely, that Adam and Eve had greater knowledge of God, and so did Satan, and that they rebelled in spite of that greater degree of knowledge is definitely relevant to the subsequent condemnations they received. Perhaps Satan didn’t have full knowledge of God, but he had the kind of knowledge of God that would make rebellion against God irredeemable.

Good discussion, thank you.

in Christ,
Tony