Cain killed Abel before the law was given, so was it a sin?

Monday Musings for November 16, 2020

Good morning, Musers,

How do you know when you are doing something wrong? Well, there are many things at play, but I think most of us feel some kind of moral tension as the first indicator. What I find interesting here is that what is clearly existential angst, makes its way into our physical systems… and we do things like clench our teeth or get butterflies in our stomachs.

My question is, were these types of phenomena present before Moses received the law? That is, has this been the state of human beings since the beginning? I say yes — and I say that has a lot of implications for both physicalist atheists and Christians.

If you are reading this, you are in a privileged place in history. We have God’s written revelation in total — and this wasn’t always so. Before Moses, oral traditions prevailed. But I’d like to remind everyone that the revelation of God in creation and in the human conscience preceded the law and were God’s main revelatory output for millennia — and humankind was tuned in!

My question to the skeptic is, where did the receptors come from? How is it that we are sensitized to appreciate the creative grandeur of the universe and respond to the moral pressures that are unique to human beings? First, we were made in his image (Genesis 1:26). Second, that’s how he is. God is infinitely aesthetic and infinitely moral — and so aren’t we!

Well… we’re not infinitely anything... and although we are aesthetically and morally sensitive, it is to a much lesser degree than God. But those gifts have been part of our nature since he breathed the breath of life into us — and this is demonstrably true of human beings!

But note this well: we did not evolve into such beings... which is what reductionists like Richard Dawkins must affirm when they behold the human morality and aesthetic sensibility. They have some “solutions” … but they are ad hoc, and it must drive them nuts when they have to defend reductionism against things like altruism or morality because those characteristics fight against evolution’s core tenets.

Most people understand that Darwinian evolution is reported to be selfish, blind and lazy… and by “lazy” I mean that it doesn’t do “extra” things — like make the organism care for something other than itself. But God did a lot of “extra” things when he made us human beings — and we revel in his creative overflow! But he didn’t just create these as toys for us to play with. We are purpose-built entities… and so are our characteristics (Ephesians 2:10).

The fact that we were made to be moral and aesthetically sensible comes with responsibilities... and if you want to get a reductionist’s back up, tell them that there are certain things that humans “ought” not to do. When they protest saying that “oughtness” does not exist in a physicalist universe, tell them that people “ought not” torture babies… and see if they push back.

I’m not saying that the world is doing a good job being moral; I am saying that human beings have moral capacity. We “all” kind of agree that certain things are wrong and certain things are right. In this, human beings are demonstrably morally sensitive.

Today’s questioner asked, before the law, certain things were felt to be wrong, but were they actually wrong? Were they indeed sin? Join me as we explore this watershed question.

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