The Seven Deadly Sins, Part 2 (of 4)

In part 1 of this series, I began a discussion with RTB editor Sandra Dimas about the seven deadly sins. This week we delve deeper into the topic by looking at two more sins and their virtuous counterparts.


GGLast week we talked about the deadly sin, or vice, sloth and the virtue of zeal. Let’s now move to the sin of gluttony.

Gluttony by definition is an unreasonable preoccupation with food, that is, having no limits. But it could refer to more than just food. It could include drinking or any number of things.

I’ve heard gluttony described as “the only sin you can see,” which could be true if you think of it on a basic level as just an excess of food or alcohol. I had a conversation with someone who challenged me to guess what his deadly sin was. It turned out to be gluttony because of his excess of books.

Hey. You’re getting personal here!

Well, you might have way too many books, but I’m probably the same but with music. Gluttony can be viewed as an overindulgence or overconsumption of anything to the point of waste. That part about waste seems vital.

Exactly. One thing of note about the seven deadly sins is that it’s often about taking things that are good and misusing them. So, for instance, food is a good thing. We can’t live without food. But you can take eating food and abuse it or exceed its purpose.

What would you say to those who are hurt when they’re told that obesity is a sin?

Again, this is a good thing gone bad. That’s the sinful condition. We have kind of twisted the good things of life. Food is absolutely necessary, but if there are no limits to it, it becomes a very serious problem. I’ll put it in a biblical context: instead of eating to live, you live to eat. So the orientation is switched. Instead of us being in control of it, it controls us.

How else might the sin of gluttony show up in one’s life?

Gluttony as a state of having no limits could apply to any number of things and could spill into other areas of our life.

What would the virtue be in contrast to the vice of gluttony?

The virtue in contrast to gluttony would be temperance, an older word meaning moderation, be it of food or drinks or books or music. Temperance or moderation is a very important virtue in any number of the areas of our life, not just food and drink.

Greed can be similar to gluttony in that it’s a sin of excess.

Yes, that’s interesting. The Bible doesn’t say that money is the root of all evil. It says that the love of money is the root of all evil. Again, it’s a perversion. Money could provide for a person’s education. Money could provide for healthcare for somebody. Money is a powerful resource. Greed emerges when we have an obsession with money. It’s not that I want just enough money to provide for my family, I want more money than you! As with food, money is a good thing but it could be exalted and misused.

What would be the contrasting virtue to greed?

In contrast to greed or obsession is generosity. Instead of hording things or wanting to control things, a generous person is giving. They would also credit other people for the good things that they do.

In what ways do you see generosity in your life?

I think about my role as a father. My kids are no longer children, so my fatherly role has changed. I want my kids to say, long after I’m gone, “My dad was so generous with what he did.” It’s difficult to have that generosity if you’re holding on to every little thing. Greed often manifests itself as an attempt to control all of the resources in your life rather than putting them out there to help others. But, in fact, I think the more you give the more you may receive, from a theological point of view.

How does our view of generosity impact our Christian walk and how we relate to God?

One thing that I love about God the Father is that He’s so generous. He’s so giving. His love spills over. So I think, how can that be reflected in my life? Can I have a generous spirit? Can I be generous with my time? Not just generous with my pocketbook, but is there a spirit of generosity where I’m always looking to give? That’s part of my own spiritual approach. I want to see the characteristics of the triune God evident in my own life.


Next week this series will continue with two more deadly sins and cardinal virtues.

For more on the seven deadly sins, see Reordered Love, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness by David K. Naugle.

The Seven Deadly Sins, Part 1 (of 4)

Fall is upon us, and with that brings pumpkin spice lattes, the turning of leaves, and the ever-tricky topic of Halloween. RTB editor Sandra Dimas joins me to discuss something far scarier than haunted houses and bubbling cauldrons. Join us for this month-long series on the seven deadly sins.


Ken, can you name the seven deadly sins off the top of your head?

sI can. In fact, I’ve memorized them alphabetically. They are anger, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, and sloth. Sometimes old English words are used. For example, I would say greed but some would say avarice.

Where did this grouping of sins originate?

That’s a great question because that collection of sins doesn’t appear anywhere together in Scripture. Scripture addresses all of those sins in various places, but the list itself doesn’t have a direct biblical origin.

So if there is no biblical origin, then how was this list created and by whom?

The seven deadly sins were initially talked a lot about in medieval Catholic monasteries and nunneries. These were people in the religious orders who took holiness very seriously and they wanted to avoid those sins that would potentially damn them.

How did the medieval Catholic Church determine which sins were “deadly”?

Having a Catholic background, you’ll remember the distinction in the Catholic Church between venial sins and mortal sins. Venial sins are lesser, “forgivable” sins that do not destroy one’s state of grace.

A mortal or deadly sin—sometimes called a capital sin—is what medieval theologians believed to be those sins that were so serious, so injurious, if you will, that they would destroy the state of sanctifying grace within the soul. At that point if you were to die you would go to hell. So you would need to go to the sacrament of reconciliation or confession in order to get that state of sanctifying grace back.

Considering this list of seven deadly sins was intended to help guide those in monasteries and nunneries to lead holy lives, how did the list’s reach eventually extend beyond its point of origin?

Slowly and gradually, the awareness that these are sins that everybody struggles with grew. Protestants don’t differentiate sin the way Catholics do, but that doesn’t mean that Protestants don’t appreciate that some sins may be more serious or more consequential than others. We just don’t typically talk about them as “deadly sins.”

We might recognize that certain sins are foundational. That is, these sins lay the groundwork for other types of sin. For example, anger may be the very root of what could be murder. Or lust could be the root for adultery.

Let’s begin to dissect these various sins and how each might show up in everyday life. How about we start with sloth?

Have you ever seen an animal the sloth? They’re very slow moving. Based on this animal’s behavior, some would identify the sin of sloth as being lazy or slow moving. My dad would always joke that I had the sin of sloth. Though, theologically speaking, sloth is not so much about a general laziness, meaning you’re not hardworking or you don’t have a lot of energy and drive. It’s actually more of a spiritual sloth. That is, you stop taking your spiritual life seriously. Maybe you avoid reading Scripture or you find it hard to go to church or you don’t pray regularly. Sloth is seen as the sin of having lost your passion and your love for God. Your spirituality is no longer vibrant.

Interesting point. I had always understood sloth as physical laziness. This is the first time I’ve heard it explained as spiritual sloth.

Right. I had always thought sloth was about laziness, too. But the context seems to suggest sloth is more that “you have left your first love,” as it says in the Book of Revelation, and therefore your spiritual life is not vibrant. The idea is that if you’re not doing those things that energize your Christian experience—such as attending church regularly, hearing the Word of God preached, receiving the Lord’s Supper, or praying regularly—then that will impact the rest of your life. It could mean that other sins would be more likely to appear in your life because you’ve lost that spiritual vibrancy.

Most Christians are aware of the seven deadly sins. Yet not many would know the seven cardinal virtues that contrast these sins or vices. Can you name them?

Sure. Meekness is the contrasting virtue to anger. Charity contrasts envy. Temperance contrasts gluttony. Generosity contrasts greed. Purity contrasts lust. Humility contrasts pride. Zeal contrasts sloth.

How might Christians exhibit the virtue of zeal, particularly if they begin to recognize the sin of sloth in their lives?

Sloth or complacency—again with more emphasis in this context to the spiritual side of life—is contrasted with zeal. That is, I have a zeal for the Lord and I want to honor Him. Zeal even involves the idea of integrity, meaning that everything I’m committed to is for God. In pursuing the tough road of sanctification (inner godliness), Christians must always keep in mind that their relationship with God is accomplished and maintained by the Lord’s loving and forging grace and not in their specific growth rate in sanctification (Titus 3:4–7).


Come back next week as we look at two more deadly sins and their virtuous counterparts.

For more on the seven deadly sins, see Reordered Love, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness by David K. Naugle.


Quote of the Week: Kenneth Samples

Christian apologist Walter R. Martin used to say that some people will not look up until they are flat on their back.

— Kenneth Samples, Sunday morning church class lecture

How a Climatologist Integrates Science and Faith

This summer climatologist Kevin Birdwell returned to RTB headquarters for his third stint as a visiting scholar. RTB editor Maureen Moser sat down for a chat with Kevin about the role science plays in his faith and his experiences as a Christian apologist.


What piece of evidence do you view as the most powerful in support of Christianity’s truth?

I’ve never tried to narrow it down to just one—it’s a compiled case of many evidences. One of the reasons I got into Christian apologetics is because I wanted to find out how all the evidence fit together.

However, I believe there’s always a measure of faith involved. It is informed faith, not blind, but it’s also not just a bunch of facts.

Sun-cloudsNow, you study meteorology, climatology, and earth science. Where do you see evidence for design in those fields?

I certainly see it in the earth itself. Our planet possesses so many unique and fine-tuned features. We hear a lot about discoveries of “Earth-like” planets. These exoplanets might have one or two characteristics similar to Earth’s, but many others must be considered—from plate tectonics to the Moon impact to the nature of the atmosphere.

Obviously, the Moon impact had an influence on Earth’s atmosphere, so that affects meteorology. Without this event happening just the way it did, we would have a planet like Venus. It really is miraculous. I’ve seen it described as a 1 in the 1022 chance.

How does your research impact your faith?

Very positively! In my early college days, I was threatened by my science studies—mainly because I didn’t understand the difference between science and the philosophy of science. People will often impose the philosophy of naturalism onto science, but naturalism is not the same thing as science. As I started developing a better understanding of science and science philosophy I found, in conversations with nonbelievers, that I could discuss my view from a position of strength, rather than weakness.

What I’ve also found is that there are a lot of things that point back to design. The atmosphere, for example, is on a knife’s edge in terms of its design and its ability to support us. If Earth’s gravity were just a little bit stronger, then it would likely hang on to too many substances like ammonia; but if gravity were just a little bit weaker, it wouldn’t hang on to enough water.

Who were the critical mentors in the development of your faith?

Certainly my parents were a big factor. No family is perfect, but they had a genuine Christian faith—it wasn’t just something they did on Sunday. That made a huge difference.

I would also have to include people like Dr. Ross, C. S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, and Michael Brown on the list.

What has been the greatest challenge to your faith?

I think we sometimes get the wrong idea that we can answer every question that ever pops into our heads. Sometimes we might read something in the Bible or something happens in life that makes us think, “This doesn’t make sense, God.” He will give us some answers right away, but others we have to wait for.

There were times, particularly in college, where I felt I had wasted my time on this or that, but later on (even as much as a decade) I’d look back and realize why God had me go through something. Again, Christianity is not a blind faith, but it is still a walk by faith. God gives us enough; He gives what we need to know.

Let’s talk about creation views. What convinced you that old-earth creationism (OEC) is the best explanation for the relationship between nature and Scripture?

There’s no question that the scientific evidence was a strong factor. In college, when I was searching these things out, I joined a YEC society and tried to be open to the ideas presented there. But when someone explained “flood geology” to me I gave up because I knew enough about geology already to make me doubt YEC’s validity. (Even in my home state of Tennessee we have thousands of feet of limestone that can’t be explained by flood geology.)

As the years have passed, I’ve seen a lot of evidence from the Bible itself that supports an OEC reading of Scripture. All the creation passages are consistent with each other when viewed in an OEC context, but this becomes questionable when viewed in a YEC context. I understand that people are trying to interpret the Bible in a way that they believe is consistent. But when you look at something like flood geology, you don’t find a lot of support from Scripture. It seems to be more of a speculation that’s imposed onto the text.

You’ve been telling me about a conference series that you’ve been involved with. How did that get started?

In the Knoxville area where I live we’ve been doing these God’s Not Dead conferences. It started in July. We’ve done two events already and we’ve been invited to do a third.

Now are these events associated with the recent film God’s Not Dead or just named in honor of it?

More the latter. Our local Ratio Christi chapter organized the events and our RTB chapter and the local Reasonable Faith chapter participated. Basically, we expand on topics that were presented in the movie and invite students to come listen to our talks. For example, I’ve been doing a talk on cosmology. One of our other speakers did a talk on the evidence for the Resurrection. Another did an introduction to apologetics.

How have audiences responded?

I think the response has been very positive. A lot of feedback has expressed appreciation for the information we presented and told us that people are looking for this type of information.

What advice would you offer to someone wanting to engage a scientist in a discussion about faith?

This would be true for most situations, but it would help tremendously if people took the time to understand the culture of science and where the scientist is coming from. This includes actually learning some science. You don’t need a PhD to evangelize to scientists, but you do need to know some of the basics.


You can also listen to my interview with Kevin on Straight Thinking.


Quote of the Week: Deuteronomy 6:4


Hear, O Israel: The LORD [YHWH] our God [Elohim], the LORD [YHWH] is one [ehadh].

– Deuteronomy 6:4

Reading As a Stress Reliever

126486493For the last 35 years of my life I have made it my goal to try to read at least three hours a day. It’s an ambitious objective, and there have certainly been many days that I haven’t achieved it. But overall I’ve been successful in pursuing this intellectual discipline. I even got in trouble with my wife for bringing books on our honeymoon.

Malcolm Gladwell’s provocative book Outliers: The Story of Success makes the claim that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master any skill. So, because I desire to be a skilled Christian thinker, most of my reading has focused on theology, philosophy, and history. For me, reading fuels the life of the mind like nothing else.

Reading, of course, provides many benefits; I’ve documented some of them on Reflections (see here and here). But one interesting thing I’ve noticed about reading is that it relaxes me. When I’m nervous or stressed, reading tends to calm me down. I feel at home in the world of books; and as I focus my mind on the book’s content, the stress melts away.

So, I was quite intrigued when I discovered that science backs up my personal observation. A new study from the University of Sussex revealed that reading does in fact reduce stress. A post on Lumosity’s Google+ page summed up the findings:

…Reading reduced stress better and more quickly than other methods like listening to music, drinking tea, or going for a walk. Researchers believe that the concentration you give a good book helps distract you, reducing heart rate and muscle tension caused by stress.1

An article in The Telegraph reported that reading even for just a few minutes reduces stress at a better rate than other well-known stress relievers:

Reading worked best, reducing stress levels by 68 per cent, said cognitive neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis. Subjects only needed to read, silently, for six minutes to slow down the heart rate and ease tension in the muscles, he found. In fact it got subjects to stress levels lower than before they started. Listening to music reduced the levels by 61 per cent, having a cup of tea or coffee lowered them by 54 per cent and taking a walk by 42 per cent.2

As bearers of the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27), only human beings read; animals do not enjoy this privilege. As “People of the Book,” Christians recognize that reading the greatest of the great books—the Bible—provides benefits to the whole person, body and soul. In fact, Christians throughout the centuries have derived countless benefits from reading Scripture. Now science informs us that reading in general simultaneously informs and calms the mind.

May I extend a challenge to you? In light of its benefits, it would seem wise to make reading a daily priority. Would you consider committing even one hour a day to reading? It will change your life for the better.


  1. Lumosity’s Google+ page, shared July 30, 2014,
  2. “Reading ‘Can Help Reduce Stress,’” Telegraph, posted March 30, 2009,

Quote of the Week: Michael Reeves

When you proclaim Jesus, the Spirit-anointed Son of the Father, you proclaim the triune God.

— Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012), 37-38.


Catching the Spirit of Philosophy

Philosophy is unlike any discipline I ever studied in school. The word philosophy (from Greek: phileo, meaning “love,” and sophia, meaning “wisdom”) means the love of wisdom. My first philosophy teachers in college introduced me to the ancient Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. From these three great founders of Western intellectual thought I caught what I call the spirit of philosophy.

137420111While philosophy has gone in many diverse and even contradictory directions over the last 2,500 years, the spirit of ancient Greek philosophy endures. It has remained with me as a fresh resource in living out my life. I concur with Socrates’ famous injunction: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Philosophy at its best demands a critical spirit of inquiry from its adherents.

Allow me to sketch out the three features of the philosophical enterprise that I find deeply challenging and yet also greatly beneficial.

Three Features of Philosophy

First, when people pursue a philosophical approach to living their life becomes an exciting journey in constant pursuit of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Life is then about asking and seeking answers to the big and challenging questions of human existence. This intellectual expedition can be very difficult at times, but it also can provide meaning, purpose, and direction.

Second, seeking after wisdom involves the use of human reasoning. Thus, a philosophical life calls on people to think, reflect, and contemplate. Simply put, philosophy is about thinking carefully and critically about life’s most important issues. Developing the life of the mind is crucial. Understanding and utilizing the laws of logic and rational inference is a necessity.

Lastly, philosophy’s reward is rich and enduring both for individuals and society. The process of philosophy itself can produce a “good life” (a moral education) within a person. And, of course, diligent philosophical pursuers may encounter the great treasures of truth, goodness, and beauty, which they then may choose to share with others.

So while the philosophical task isn’t easy, it is noble. The financial rewards are few but who could put a price tag on a good life?

As a Christian philosopher I have come to view philosophy as the ancient and Medieval Christian thinkers did: as a handmaid to theology. And as a Christian apologist I’m thankful for the tools that philosophy provides to help demonstrate the reasonableness and truth of my faith.

For those who would like to consider taking the noble philosophical journey, here are three introductory resources:


Quote of the Week: Kenneth Samples

Christian apologist Walter R. Martin used to say that some people will not look up until they are flat on their back.

— Kenneth Samples, Sunday morning church class lecture

A Call to Parents, Teachers, and Pastors: Listen and Learn!

I interact frequently with parents who are looking for resources to help their teenagers transition childhood faith into adult conviction. RTB is glad to develop resources—such as the Through the Lens video series or the Impact Events study guides—that help support those efforts. However, the foundational step in a teen’s discipleship is for the adults in the teen’s life to be adequately equipped to engage in strategic conversations.

What are you (the parent) doing to prepare yourself to have strategic faith-related conversations about science? After all, you can’t pass along to the next generation what you haven’t yet sowed into your own soul.

I might address a similar question for science teachers. How can you help your students make deeper science-faith connections? While many Christian schools promote both faith and learning, the level of integration often lacks the sophistication to match the challenges students will face in college.

What about the role of pastors and youth pastors? Are you adequately prepared to incorporate the science apologetics issues of our day into your sermons? Science is a major force in our culture, but seminary seldom trains clergy with much more than a rudimentary framework to make sense of increasingly sophisticated scientific discoveries. (Listen to pastor Andrew Corbett’s call to fellow pastors to become apologetics savvy.)

462148441This need for better-prepared adults is why I’m so excited to introduce a brand new resource from RTB’s education branch: on-demand courses. This set of personal enrichment courses offer the same quality content as our traditional Reasons Institute classes without the intense time commitment. There’s no participation required and no homework assignments. Just download the lectures (MP3 files) and lecture notes (printable PDF files) and you’re ready to listen and learn.

Here are the courses that we’re currently offering as part of this new program.

General Survey of RTB’s Testable Creation Model

  • Exploring Science and Scripture, with Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana

Foundational Issues

  • Physics and the Christian Worldview, with Jeff Zweerink
  • Evolution and the Fossil Record, with the RTB scholar team
  • Examining Humans and Hominids, with the RTB scholar team

Advanced Seminars

  • Chemistry and Molecular Biology, with Fazale Rana
  • Physics and Astronomy, with Hugh Ross and Jeff Zweerink

These courses are perfect for busy people who want to avail themselves of RTB’s powerful tools in a more convenient format. (Learn more about the program through this short video introduction here.) Of course, we still offer our traditional Reasons Institute classes as well, in which you can earn a certificate in science apologetics or even college credit.

If you’d like to take one of our on-demand courses for a test drive, we now offer Exploring Science and Scripture for free. Just add it to your cart and enter the coupon code “FREECOURSE” at checkout. Once we’ve processed your order (usually within 1 working day), we’ll send you the link to download the audio lectures.

Remember, we are called to “tell the world how glorious he [God] is.” Our prayer is that these lectures and notes will enrich your faith and prepare you to fulfill this calling with not only the teens in your life but the skeptics as well.


By Krista Bontrager

Krista Bontrager is the dean of online learning at Reasons to Believe. She is a teacher at heart and enjoys teaching the Bible to all ages. She has an MA in theology and another in Bible exposition from Talbot School of Theology.