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Thread: The Worst of all Sins

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    Default The Worst of all Sins

    I paraphrased a few lines from this article in another thread. Here is the chapter in its entirety.

    C.S. Lewis on Pride


    According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride.
    Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.



    Does this seem exaggerated? If so, think it over. I pointed out a moment ago that the more pride one had, the more one disliked pride in others. In fact, if you want to find out how proud you are, the easiest way is to ask yourself, "How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronize me, or show off?" The point is that each person's pride is in competition with everyone else's pride. It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise. Two of a trade never agree. Now what you want to get clear is that Pride is essentially competitive - is competitive by its very nature - while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking, there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.

    Take it with money. Greed will certainly make a man want money, for the sake of a better house, better holidays, better things to eat and drink. But only up to a point. What is it that makes a man with $10,000 a year anxious to get $20,000 a year - It is not the greed for more pleasure. $10,000 will give all the luxuries that any man can really enjoy. It is Pride - the wish to be richer than some other rich man, and (still more) the wish for power. For, of course, power is what Pride really enjoys: there is nothing makes a man feel so superior to others as being able to move them about like toy soldiers. What makes a pretty girl spread misery wherever she goes by collecting admirers? Certainly not her sexual instinct: that kind of girl is quite often sexually frigid. It is Pride. What is it that makes a political leader or a whole nation go on and on, demanding more and more? Pride again. Pride is competitive by its very nature: that is why it goes on and on. If I am a proud man, then, as long as there is one man in the whole world more powerful, or richer, or cleverer than I, he is my rival and my enemy.

    The Christians are right: it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began. Other vices may sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people. But Pride always means enmity?it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man but enmity to God.

    In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that?and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison?you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud, you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.

    That raises a terrible question. How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I am afraid it means they are worshipping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people: that is, they pay a pennyworth of imaginary humility to Him and get out of it a pounds worth of Pride toward their fellow men. I suppose it was of those people Christ was thinking when He said that some would preach about Him and cast out devils in His name, only to be told at the end of the world that He had never known them. And any of us may at any moment be in this death-trap. Luckily, we have a test. Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good - above all, that we are better than someone else - I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.

    It is a terrible thing that the worst of all the vices can smuggle itself into the very center of our religious life. But you can see why. The other, and less bad, vices come from the devil working on us through our animal nature. But this does not come through our animal nature at all. It comes direct from Hell. It is purely spiritual: consequently it is far more subtle and deadly. For that is why I say that Pride is essentially competitive in a way the other vices are not. The sexual impulse may drive two men into competition if they both want the same girl. But that is only by accident; they might just as likely have wanted two different girls. But a proud man will take your girl from you, not because he wants her, but just to prove to himself that he is a better man than you. Greed may drive men into competition if there is not enough to go round; but the proud man, even when he has got more than he can possibly want, will try to get still more just to assert his power. Nearly all those evils in the world which people put down to greed or selfishness are really far more the result of Pride. For the same reason, Pride can often be used to beat down the simpler vices. Teachers, in fact, often appeal to a boy's Pride, or, as they call it, his self-respect, to make him behave decently: many a man has overcome cowardice, or lust, or ill temper by learning to think that they are beneath his dignity - that is, by Pride. The devil laughs. He is perfectly content to see you becoming chaste and brave and self-controlled provided, all the time, he is setting up in you the Dictatorship of Pride - just as he would be quite content to see your chilblains cured if he was allowed, in return, to give you cancer. For Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.
    Last edited by Bathsheba; June 27th, 2008 at 12:32 PM. Reason: punctuation and spelling

  2. #2

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    Interesting Article.

    When I think of Pride and how it is described here it correlates with arrogance to me.

    I have a particular pet hate of people who profess to be devout Catholics (I come from a Catholic background, though I don't affiliate with the church in adulthood) or Christians and yet judge others in a manner which they impose their superiority or Pride as described here.
    If that makes any sense to you at all.( I'm trying not to go on a rant about my family who are now a mix of Catholic and Christian )

    That raises a terrible question. How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I am afraid it means they are worshiping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people: that is, they pay a pennyworth of imaginary humility to Him and get out of it a pound's worth of Pride toward their fellowmen. I suppose it was of those people Christ was thinking when He said that some would preach about Him and cast out devils in His name, only to be told at the end of the world that He had never known them. And any of us may at any moment be in this deathtrap. Luckily, we have a test. Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good?above all, that we are better than someone else?I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.
    That passage really stood out to me and it's something I try to live by.

    ..Laura

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    An afterthought: I also think that this describes why I hold the belief that when it comes to being invited into Heaven I think a completely repentant murderer who thinks that he is total scum for what he has done is closer to Heaven's door than a dear little old lady who has fronted up to church all her life yet has secretly harboured and excused an array of prejudices such as racism. It is what is in your heart when you die that counts. I don't write anyone off and I don't think God does either. If I am going to be a little old lady on her death bed who in conversation with God says "Oh I know that I turned my nose up at the black family who lived next door but I DID go to church every Sunday and everyone knows my flower arrangements for the alter were better than Maude's... oh and i know you'll forgive me my angry words at the teenagers who walked past with their bad language... we ALL know they ought to have been more respectful of their elders!" I'd fully expect to be turned away!

    Don't underestimate your petty prides. They, I think, could be just a big a barrier to the silver gates of Heaven than any obvious crime.

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    Hmmm. There's pride and there's Pride. I am proud of the way my DS is being raised, but I know that's because I pray so much about how to do it, so it's from God, but it's also me too, IYSWIM. I'm quite proud that DH and I have managed to do so much on our own, especially with DS around and no help from our parents (quite the opposite in my case).

    However, I know that we're able to do that because of God's help - without his help we would have lost everything and be destitute. It's not something I will boast about because when I even come close to feeling superior I just remember "there but for the grace of God go I" and that brings me back down.

    There are some fantastic hymns on this - one which states "I will not boast in anything... but I will boast in Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection." I think that is a great thing to be proud of - that God loves ME so much he sent his son to die for ME. I am nothing, worse than that, yet God still loves me. That's something you can be proud of and boast of. But it does not make you better than another, as God loves us all equally, without favourites. From Be thou my vision, this line always convicts me: "Riches I need not, nor man's empty praise/Be thou mine inheritance now and always." Because it is Pride in a very bad sense that makes you listen to man's empty praise and I am guilty of wanting that. I try to make sure I return to that hymn often to remind myself of my folly and sin... but it is hard, I'll confess freely that this is my biggest stumbling block atm.

    I don't think that appealing to self-respect is always a bad thing: I'm not saying that we shouldn't do XYZ to be better than some other person, but to be better than ourselves. We should be aiming to be like Christ (something we will always fall short of) rather than better than Man. But there is no harm in a small measure of pride when you can overcome your baser urges - but that should be tempered with the knowledge that you have much farther to go. Just as when you see you have climberd half a hill you are proud - then you see the mountain ahead of you.

  5. #5
    paradise lost Guest

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    Teachers, in fact, often appeal to a boy's Pride, or, as they call it, his self-respect, to make him behave decently: many a man has overcome cowardice, or lust, or ill temper by learning to think that they are beneath his dignity - that is, by Pride.
    Ummm...the entire premise of any teaching position (including all the major religions) appeals to the better nature of a person in this way. If it is wrong to think being a good person who is kind to others is a worthwhile pursuit then it logically follows that bettering one's self in ANY WAY is a sin. Thus the murderer should stay a murderer rather than commit the sin of pride in thinking he can be or trying to be any different?

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    I absolutely agree with your afterthought Bath. Brilliant!

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    Hoobley - you are mistaken about Christianity there - Christianity does not appeal to a person's "better nature". It teaches that we are sinful from conception and birth - corrupted by Adam's sin, and prone to hate God and our neighbours. That is our natural first response. The reason many people do not behave this way (overtly anyways) is because God has permitted a conscience to remain, keeping their natural instincts in check. (Think about it - if there is pie being handed out, what is every child's first response - I want the biggest piece! By nature, that's where we are. Manners are taught, and adults - usually! - learn to control that urge. But it's still there.)
    Pride will keep you from seeing that in yourself. Pride will always say "I'm not that bad. Really." And the extreme danger then is that you say "I don't need a Saviour. God will accept me as I am because I am a good person." There is no greater danger than that, according to the Bible. That, I believe, is what Lewis is referring to.
    So, then, what does the murderer of your example do? He asks God for forgiveness, and prays that God will create a new heart, a new nature, in him. He knows what he is capable of (in the worst sense) and that he can NOT rely on himself alone to be "good". It requires humility to say that. A great deal of humility. But a Christian knows that the God calls us to live a life of love for him and each other, and that God has promised to make new, to create new life in, to restore the ability to love in those who turn to Him in repentance, with faith that He can and will do it. God promises that the murderer is washed clean, and that the righteousness of Jesus Christ himself is given to him, as if he had never sinned. And, out of thankfulness for this incredible gift, with the renewed ability given by God, the murderer will try to live a life that is pleasing to God - a life of love.

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    Good ol' C.S.Lewis. Thanks for sharing that Bath.

    As for your afterthought, well, I think the murderer or lady getting into heaven is only reliant on their relationship with God ('If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord", and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved' Romans 10:9).
    But I do agree, and Jesus taught similarly, that it would be easier for the murderer to repent, because it's obvious that he needs to - there is not much argument for pride there, he knows he needs forgiveness from the God whose law he's broken. But a little old lady, who might not be studying her bible and checking out God's word for herself much, just rocking up to church and assuming she's good because she's doing what's seen to be right...she's a bit like what Jesus called the Pharisees (religious teachers of his day) - 'whitewashed tombs' :P Look good on the outside, but inside...

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    paradise lost Guest

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    Thanks for explaining that Cricket. All of my knowledge of Christianity is intellectual, rather than from a position of faith, so i didn't grasp that a repentant murderer would be more likely to get into Heaven than someone who didn't kill anyone but thought they were good enough for heaven because of that. Food for thought.

    I found this thread on the New Posts function without realising it was in Christianity - i'll butt out now Thanks for clarifying.

    Bx

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    I can't speak for everyone in the forum Hoobs, but I would MUCH rather you stay and ask questions and discuss with us. It's much more interesting that way. I find that if we all sit around and say "I agree with you, oh, you are SOOOO right...." it gets very boring, and no one learns anything. We need someone to come in and say "Why do you think that? How does that work? etc, etc." So, come on in! Challenge us!

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    Cricket i'm afraid challenging faith is against the R&S guidelines. There have been several threads in the past which led to people being hurt/offended, so i'd probably better not. In addition (and more importantly for me) i come at this as the idle observer - i'm not Christian, i neither believe in or object to Christianity. Without strong feelings, with so little invested in the debate, when others have it at the very centre of themselves, i know it would be very wrong of me to risk hurting anyone. You're more than welcome to PM me for debates on this or anything else though.

    Bx

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    Cricket: yep, Hoobley is right about it being against Guidelines to question faiths. I found out the hard way. Because my spirituality doesn't fit into a neat pigeon-hole I often wander into the forums of other faiths, even the Agnostic one (Agnostics believe that there is a higher power but it is unknowable, correct me if I'm wrong). Somedays I feel like an Agnostic, I honestly do! I certainly believe that there are more paths into Heaven than just via one living (human) Messiah or Leader. So I took myself into the Agnostic thread and made the mistake of saying that it challenges me... I didn't even question another person's faith... more like my own... but that's a no-no in another thread belonging to other faiths or non-faiths as the case may be. There are inconsistencies though. I personally enjoy tactful and polite debate but I can see how it would be hard to moderate that kind of posting. I guess another option is to "think aloud" in a blog... or some other more private area like the private discussion threads Just for the record: I don't mind if anyone questions whether Pride is actually the worst sin in the framework of Christianity in this thread.
    Last edited by Bathsheba; June 28th, 2008 at 08:03 PM. Reason: grammar

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    Ok Bath, since this was your thread you've tempted me back. I will post my query, BUT, if anyone is at all offended, please let me know immediately and i will back off and i'll edit if requested too.

    My question is not truthfully about Christianity so much as Lewis' interpretation of Pride.

    When i read it i was thinking that the themes of honour and integrity in Lewis' books, particularly the Narnia series, but also the space trilogy series to some extent, and he himself appealed to exactly the same things within the young minds at which is book is aimed - self respect, inner worth. It says to those who sin "you could be better, you could be Christian". As such, i don't disagree with that sentiment since those with piety are often those who think more deeply about how their actions affect others, but isn't it a contradiction to say Pride is a sin when one is supposed to be proud of being Christian?

    Wasn't there a place, in the bible (which believe it or not, i have read, but not in it's entirety for a long time) where someone says "if you convert i'll release you from slavery" and the people say "we cannot deny God to be free" and all end up slaughtered or enslaved (can't recall - brilliant discursive partner i make!). Doesn't the bible say not to deny Christianity?

    So i suppose my question is, how can one belong to the only true faith (assuming it is since most faiths do) and reject other faiths/temptations/whatever you want to call them, without feeling Pride in that faith? Many forms of Christianity recruit in a way Islam or Judaism don't (i.e. Christianity will seek you (people calling at the house, leaflets in the street etc. etc., whereas the others YOU have to seek yourself) - how can you tell someone you have the answers to eternal life given to you by Jesus Christ and NOT feel Pride. Isn't the belief that Christianity is the right path a prideful one?

    Bx

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    Quote Originally Posted by hoobley View Post
    Wasn't there a place, in the bible (which believe it or not, i have read, but not in it's entirety for a long time) where someone says "if you convert i'll release you from slavery" and the people say "we cannot deny God to be free" and all end up slaughtered or enslaved (can't recall - brilliant discursive partner i make!). Doesn't the bible say not to deny Christianity?

    Isn't the belief that Christianity is the right path a prideful one?

    Bx
    I'm not very well read when it comes to the Bible, I do read it often but I'm not very good at recalling which book things are to be found in etc. Hoobley: Do you know whether that came from the Old or New Testament? Generally speaking I don't take much of what is written in the Old Testament literally. For example in the Old Test. it suggests you take "an eye for an eye" and sell your daughter as a sex slave. My belief is that when Jesus was born and started teaching he helped us to download the updated version Not to say that the Old Testament is completely wrong... i just think that as society became more complex God realised that the Law needed fine tuning. The New testament often says the complete opposite to the Old: eg "turn the other cheek" (when a person attacks you).

    I don't think you have to deny one faith to be open-minded to others. I don't anyway. I guess i delve into the core values of different faiths and link those together that i see as consistent and for the greater good of humanity. It simply stands that Christianity seems to capture most of what I feel is important. It's pretty radical really... it is one of the only faiths that describes the concept of when an innocent person lays down their life for another then that constitutes VERY powerful magic. Now I know using the word "magic" may seem wrong in terms of Christianity but like how C.S Lewis writes in his Narnia series: when the lion gave up his life for the traitor child then some very old magic was enacted... THIS to me is fundamentally important. I have been meaning to ask a pagan if this act would seem powerful to them. To me this kind of sacrifice is a total slap on the face to the devil who encourages us all to look after Number One. it is also totally against our animal nature. Yes animals play decoy etc and will risk their lives for others of their kind. But the notion of an innocent individual putting forth their life for a not innocent individual is what makes Christianity radical. The very strong message that we shouldn't "write off anyone" is what draws me to Christianity. I believe that to the depths of my very heart.

    I am not prideful of believing Christian teachings. Maybe because I am open to the teachings of other faiths i can't call myself truly a Christian maybe this why I don't experience pride at being a Christian. Maybe if I was a pure Christian I would compare my sense of pride to my sense of pride that i am an Australian. This is a good comparison actually. I love Australia... but anyone who knows me well, even in BB, knows that I am a total Francophile LOL AND I also feel a sense of affinity to my Swedish and British heritage. I am proud of being an Australian but I see my country for what it is; we are by no means perfect. Our refugee detention laws are a disgrace, for example.

    I think the kind of pride C.S Lewis was referring to was the type of pride that won't tolerate being challenged. The type of pride that gets defensive and angry and tries to make excuses. I am proud of my children... but by no means to I claim them to be perfect. I think we all would be able to tell if a parent has a warped opinion of their children. It can be subtle... but I think most of us could tell when a parent crosses that line of simply being proud in a loving way to being so proud they wouldn't hear of anything against their child. There is a saying "love is not blind, it sees all faults and doesn't mind". that kinda sums it up for me. I can see the faults in the manner in which Christian people practise their faith... but that is often man's input. If you look at the Christian messages core statements i can really see that it is a very good and reliable path to follow to Heaven. Not the only path... but a good 'un
    Last edited by Bathsheba; June 29th, 2008 at 10:24 AM. Reason: typos

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    I have found this discussion really interesting as I have been thinking about the concept of sin since watching "The Kite Runner" on the plane home from Thailand a few weeks ago. In the movie/book there is a discussion between father and son on sin and the father says:

    ...There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft... When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife's right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.
    -- From The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

    Just wondering what everyone's thoughts are about this and how this would fit in with the sin of Pride?

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    I think the way theft fits in with the sin of pride is that theft is the result of a wrongful sense of entitlement (which is basically what pride is). You steal something because you believe that, for example, it is "rightly" yours. You are placing your need above others from whom you are stealing.

    I think it comes down to the sense of enmity pride creates. Pride divides. Theft can unite. There is the saying "as thick as thieves". This sense of comradery can exist with most of the other sins. Killing can unite, sloth can unite. Comradery is essentially a good thing though isn't it. You don't get any comradery with misplaced pride. It is essentially competitive. Therefore I think pride is kind of the trigger for most sins... it's where it all really goes bad. Pride is distorted ego. When Lucifer parted company with the angels of Heaven is was essentially due to his pride and ego. He declared himself equal to God and above God's law. Even to this day that is the basis of how evil works upon us; the argument that we are above God's law is compelling when our ego's are massaged by the devil. All of us like to have our ego's stroked... that is evil's key strategy... and he does this by inflating our sense of pride to unhealthy levels... and one outcome of this is a sense of entitlement that can lead us to steal.
    Last edited by Bathsheba; June 29th, 2008 at 01:27 PM.

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    But couldn't pride then be theft of comradery or theft of unity?

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    Pride has to come before theft. You can't steal something if you are humble... if you are telling yourself "that person deserves it at least as much as I do... if not more".
    What I'm suggesting is that without that initial sense pride you wouldn't have theft.

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