How does sin matter?

I cannot retrace the path by which I came upon Greg Boyd’s “sermonette” on Christians voting on secular political ballot measures regarding gay marriage, but I was watching it this morning. (See bottom of this post for video.)

Boyd’s “open theism” is controversial in evangelical Christianity, but Arminian thinkers such as Roger Olson argue it should be included within the larger family of theology that includes Wesleyan theology.

Boyd’s primary argument comes down to “leave the judging to God,” “we all sin,” and “our only job is to love.” He also hits hard on the notion the biggest sins in the church are the ones we talk least about.

Late in the talk he does compare other Christians to the Taliban, which strikes me as a violation of his own principles. He also makes an argument that does not seem terribly in keeping with biblical practice. He says no one should ever point out a sin to another unless they are in a small group covenant to do that. Both Jesus and the epistles, though, speak of how we should approach and speak to those who sin. The Old Testament, of course, has very strong examples of ways of speaking about sin and to sinners.

Near the end of the video, Boyd almost seems to enter a contract with the congregation. He points out that nearly all of them are sinning by the way they hoard up their wealth instead of distributing it to the poor. But instead of pressing that point on them, he — to my ears — offers a deal. He won’t make a big deal about that if they don’t make a big deal about other sins.

I think the video captures perfectly the arguments and accommodations that many of us make with sins of all sorts. What I struggle with — in the end — is whether that is loving, as Boyd argues it is. He begins the video by stating that lots of ways Americans have sex are sin, but, in the end, he does not appear to believe that much is at stake in that. He appears to think most or all of his congregation are sinning by the way they use money, but he does not seem to think they are put at risk by that, at least not grave risk.

I presume Boyd would not take such a laid back attitude if he knew someone were drinking arsenic. I presume he would permit us to stop someone if we saw them stumbling into traffic. Maybe I am wrong about that.

As the focus of this blog is Wesleyan theology, I will note here that John Wesley would argue that it is loving to call people to attention to their sin, for if people die in their sin they die eternally. He wrote often, in fact, that to remain silent in the face of sin was the opposite of love.

If I understand Boyd, he would see Wesley’s approach as judgmental.

How does one adopt a radical attitude toward judgment (never tell someone they are doing something wrong) and still treat sin as if it were a grave and dangerous thing?

If you have some ideas about what I am misunderstanding or mishearing in Boyd, I’d appreciate knowing what you hear.