Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Dennis Prager: which sin is the worst sin?

My friend Drew suggested this post to me to blog about, and I was able to find the Prager University video that goes with it. Drew really liked the video, as well.


The worst sin is committing evil in God’s name.

How do we know?

From the third of the Ten Commandments. This is the only one of the ten that states that God will not forgive a person who violates the commandment.

What does this commandment say?

It is most commonly translated as, “Do not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. For the Lord will not hold guiltless” — meaning “will not forgive” — whoever takes His name in vain.”

Because of this translation, most people understandably think that the commandment forbids saying God’s name for no good reason. So, something like, “God, did I have a rough day at work today!” violates the third commandment.

But that interpretation presents a real problem. It would mean that whereas God could forgive the violation of any of the other commandments — dishonoring one’s parents, stealing, adultery or even committing murder — He would never forgive someone who said, “God, did I have a rough day at work today!”

Let’s be honest: That would render God and the Ten Commandments morally incomprehensible.

As it happens, however, the commandment is not the problem. The problem is the translation. The Hebrew original doesn’t say “Do not take;” it says “Do not carry.” The Hebrew literally reads, “Do not carry the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”

This is reflected in one of the most widely used new translations of the Bible, the New International Version, or NIV, which uses the word “misuse” rather than the word “take:”

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.”

This is much closer to the original’s intent.

What does it mean to “carry” or to “misuse” God’s name? It means committing evil in God’s name.

And that God will not forgive.

Why not?

When an irreligious person commits evil, it doesn’t bring God and religion into disrepute. But when a religious person commits evil in God’s name he destroys the greatest hope for goodness on earth — belief in a God who demands goodness, and who morally judges people.

The Nazis and Communists were horrifically cruel mass murderers. But their evils only sullied their own names, not the name of God. But when religious people commit evil, especially in God’s name, they are not only committing evil, they are doing terrible damage to the name of God.

Now, I don’t agree with Dennis on his ranking this sin as the worst. I would put this one lower, and say that rebellion against God is the worst sin. That’s what I would say intellectually speaking. Emotionally speaking, I think that attacking people for their allegiance to God is the worst sin, like when people go after Christians for trying to take the Bible seriously in sexual matters, for example.

Dennis is Jewish, so he believes that religions should be judged based on whether they produce good or not, rather than whether they are true or not. I try to listen to Dennis’ radio show as often as I can, and although he does like to discuss what we can know about God from science and history, he doesn’t think that getting the right answers to theological questions is as important as doing the right actions. I think that might be why he chose this one as the worst, because actions are more important to him. I agree with him that it is certainly very bad to invoke God in a way that makes God look bad.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , ,

Dennis Prager: does the Bible say do not kill or do not murder?

I am hoping that a lady I am friends with who really likes the King James Bible will not read this post… but, here goes.

Dennis Prager’s column on the sixth commandment.


Here is the text of commandment six — explaining why the King James translation is wrong:

You would think that of all the Ten Commandments the one that needs the least explaining is the sixth, because it seems so clear. It is the one that the King James Bible, the most widely used English translation of the Bible, translates as, “Thou shall not kill.”

Yet, the truth is the quite the opposite. This is probably the least well understood of the Ten Commandments. The reason is that the Hebrew original does not say, “Do not kill.” It says, “Do not murder.” Both Hebrew and English have two words for taking a life — one is “kill” (harag, in Hebrew) and the other is “murder” (ratzach in Hebrew).

The difference between the two is enormous. Kill means:

  1. Taking any life — whether of a human being or an animal.
  2. Taking a human life deliberately or by accident.
  3. Taking a human life legally or illegally, morally or immorally.

On the other hand, murder can only mean one thing: The illegal or immoral taking of a human life. That’s why we say, “I killed a mosquito,” not, “I murdered a mosquito.” And that’s why we would say that “the worker was accidentally killed,” not that “the worker was accidentally murdered.”

So why did the King James translation of the Bible use the word “kill” rather than “murder”? Because 400 years ago, when the translation was made, “kill” was synonymous with “murder.” As a result, some people don’t realize that English has changed since 1610 and therefore think that the Ten Commandments prohibits all killing.

But, of course, it doesn’t. If the Ten Commandments forbade killing, we would all have to be vegetarians, as killing animals would be prohibited. And we would all have to be pacifists — since we could not kill even in self-defense.

However, you don’t have to know how the English language has evolved to understand that the Ten Commandments could not have prohibited all killing.

A correct understanding of the commandment against murder is crucial because, while virtually every modern translation correctly translates the commandment as “Do not murder,” many people cite the King James translation to justify two positions that have no biblical basis: opposition to capital punishment and pacifism.The very same part of the Bible that contains the Ten Commandments — the Five Books of Moses, the Torah as it is known by Jews — commands the death penalty for murder, allows killing in war, prescribes animal sacrifice and allows eating meat.

Regarding capital punishment and the Bible, as I note in my Prager University course on capital punishment, the only law that appears in each one of the Five Books of Moses is that murderers be put to death. Opponents of the death penalty are free to hold the view that all murderers should be allowed to live. But they are not free to cite the Bible to support their view.

Yet, many do. And they always cite the Commandment, “Do not kill.” But that, as should now be abundantly clear, is not what the commandment says, and it is therefore an invalid argument.

Read the rest (it’s the same as the video).

This is related to his new video series for Prager University on the Ten Commandments. You can watch them all here. There’s one for each commandment, and an introduction. Prager University always does a nice job on these videos, and they are a nice, quick way to find out exactly what traditionally-minded people really believe, and why. Most kids in college will never even hear the other side to what their liberal professors say.

Filed under: Commentary, , ,

UK judge rules that Christians can be forced to work on Sundays

Dina sent me this article by Christina Odone from the UK Telegraph.


I’m scared that was the last Christmas we celebrated with a church service. The High Court ruled last week that Sunday is not a core part of a Christian’s belief; next, they’ll decide that Christmas is not, either. Mr Justice Langstaff has decided that a Baptist who works in a care home can be forced by her employers to work through Sunday too. This, even though her colleagues were happy to take Celestina Mba’s Sunday shift so she could do what all devout Christians do on a Sunday – go to church.

It didn’t matter that no one was complaining about Celestina Mba’s Sunday observance; her employers, Labour-led Merton Council, wanted her to drop her religious obligations. They’d decide what she was to do on the Sabbath day – not some dusty Bible. God? Who’s He? The Fourth Commandment? What’s that?

Christians like Celestina Mba had better take note: they live in an environment so hostile to Christians that any show of allegiance to this religion will get them into trouble. Don’t wear crucifixes, don’t pray for a patient, don’t try to foster a child: practising Christians are now barred from any of these activities. This, even though the majority of Britons still count themselves as Christians.

The clash of Christians and a newly strident secular establishment has become an everyday story: a cultural civil war that constantly claims Christian victims. Lawyers, and judges like Mr Justice Langstaff, have shown themselves, again and again, to stand on the side of the secularists. I still smart at the memory of the Law Society refusing to host a conference on the virtues of heterosexual marriage. Incredibly, this kind of censorship is allowed to go on under a Tory PM who himself claims allegiance to the majority Church.

In the UK, it seems like a common practice to use “lawfare” in order to coerce behavior. They use the nuclear option against individual Christians and conservatives in order to send a message to all. The message is that the government has a right to silence anyone who makes the secular left feel “offended”. The state is telling Christians and conservatives that it’s easier to go along with secularism and socialism just to get by. Even if you win your case, you will have to pay and pay legal costs to win it. Don’t try to be a hero, because if you do, we will get you.

You can even see this being done when law-abiding citizens defend themselves and get prosecuted for it. The message then is similar – don’t scare or offend criminals by deterring them with weapons.

Who would live in such a society?

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , ,

How should Christians understand the Old Testament laws?

I found this post by Aaron Brake at Apologetics Junkie.


Perhaps no area of the Old Testament is more foreign and confusing to modern-day Christians than the Mosaic Law. When reading through the Pentateuch, many believers breeze through the narrative of Genesis only to hit a roadblock when confronted with the overwhelming number of commandments, statutes, and ordinances in the last half of Exodus (not to mention the books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).

Yes, this is why you have to be careful when telling people to read the Bible, because not all parts of the Bible are good for new Christians! Not only are some parts pretty difficult to read, but the new reader has no framework to interpret what they are reading! I had a non-Christian guy in my office who was starting to read the Bible and he got bogged down in the Old Testament and had no idea whether these laws applied today. It’s a major problem, which is why I recommend everybody start with John instead, then maybe Luke and Acts.

There are two ways of solving this problem that are pretty popular. One way is the covenant model and the other is the dispensation model. I think that Aaron is presenting the covenant model. In the covenant model, the Old Testament laws were part of a covenant made between God and the people of Israel.

Aaron writes:

The Law in ancient Israel served three distinct purposes: relational, instructional, and structural. The Law was given to Israel in order to form a covenant or relational agreement between Yahweh and His people… the Law functioned as a constitution which provided internal structure for the nation as a whole. It provided objective standards by which the Israelites could maintain appropriate boundaries with one another as well as neighboring nations.

Jesus formed a new covenant with a new group of people who believed in his identity as the Messiah and that his death was an atonement for sin. So only the parts of the old covenant that are explicitly carried over to the new covenant still apply to our conduct as Christians.

Aaron writes:

Therefore, the primary interpretive question readers should approach the text with is this: “What does this passage tell us about God and His holiness, about Israel and her sin, and about how Israel needed to obey in order to maintain her covenant relationship with God?” Also ask, “What specific areas of life does God expect holiness and transformation within His people?”

I recommend reading the whole post. I think this is something that should be communicated to people who are coming at the Bible from a non-Christian perspective. Maybe we should have some scholars created an optimal ordering of the books of the Bible so as not to scare people away?

Note: I haven’t really looked into this problem in detail, but the covenant model makes more sense to me.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , ,

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