A friend asked me how I'd define sin. This question is SO huge for modern man. In our culture's Postmodern trend, there is no truth, no right and wrong, no morality. The artistic vehicles of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror allow for the most creative settings and characters, and thusly are the strongest fiction sub-genres for dissecting morality.
Here's the key. When believers speak in our Christianese vocabulary, truths aren't understood by the lost.
My friend explained what his question was about: "I ask because Joss Whedon says he doesn't believe in sin, and yet clearly believes that betrayal of a personal trust is bad." There's a terrible dichotomy ripping-up the minds of real people. People we know. Here's their thinking: if one judges, one imposes a personally-chosen value system on others, yet when one's treated unjustly, a tension between hypocrisy and justice haunts their conscience.
There are two kinds of people. Some see morality etched-in-stone from the Lawgiver, as real as the laws of physics. Others see morality as personal decisions, like grocery shopping, personal preferences and choices. When these two debate, tar comes off the roof and neither understands why.
The following is the response I sent to my friend:
"Francis Schaeffer tells the story of a casual group discussion about morality. An East-Indian student insisted there was no right and wrong, only action. Schaeffer fetched a boiling teapot from the kitchen and held it over the young man's head. The poor lad collected his things and walked out the door.
I used this technique in an online debate once. One defender of postmodernism simply refused to acknowledge truth, and resisted the axiological argument for the existence of God. Finally in a reply to him, I pretended to lose-it and treated him rudely. When he was offended, I apologized for baiting him, but demonstrated that nobody can live as though right and wrong doesn't exist.
Those who deny sin (violating those laws written upon our hearts), cannot explain why nearly every culture that's ever existed has seen things like murder, rape, and theft as wrong. Compassion, forgiveness and selflessness are uniformly seen as noble. If there's no such thing as sin, or a Lawgiver, this coincidence is a real problem for guys like Joss."
Moral of the story? Don't say sin, say failing or personal weakness. Speaking King James to 21st century man? You're not communicating. Christian fiction authors must always keep their peanut-gallery audience in the frontal-lobe.
The Christian Writer's Notebook