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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Autonomous vs. Ethical Behavior

When I was a youth, a preacher at a revival in Bowling Green said that it’s not a sin to be tempted, but to give in to temptation is sin.  How awesomely important and profound are these words!  We have been recently made aware of a coach at Penn State accused of sexual child abuse.  Would he be disgraced today if he had the words of that visiting preacher to guide him?  The functioning of one’s autonomic nervous system should not be mistaken as a guide to ethical behavior.  The sources of autonomic reactions are in sexual matters deep seated and somewhat mysterious.  We don’t know the full panoply of causes why certain reactions are elicited.  What we do know is that it cannot be God’s will—who guides us to consider the best interest of others—to abuse children.  This distinction between temptation and sin applies equally to a broad swath of life.  The opportunity and possibility of action for short-sighted personal advantage (the temptation) is simply not a reliable guide to ethical behavior.  There must be an explicit disconnect between temptation and behavior.  To not have this insight dooms one to profoundly unethical, antisocial behavior.  It’s worth reiterating the words of the preacher “It’s not a sin to be tempted, but to give in to temptation is sin.”

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