Dennis Prager: which sin is the worst sin?

Let's take a look at what the Bible says
Let’s take a look at what the Bible says

In this post, Dennis Prager argues that the worst sin is when people who claim to have allegiance for God perform evil acts, thus bringing God’s reputation into disrepute.

I found a Prager University video on the same topic:

Excerpt:

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.

Sean McDowell has a post about Dennis Prager’s view, and he says:

Given this context, an obvious example is Muslim radicals killing innocent people in the name of God. But the most recent example, which is rightly a prominent story in the news, is the rampant sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests. The story runs deeper than most people could have ever imagined, involving the systematic cover-up of over 1,000 cases against children by 300 priests in Pennsylvania alone over the past seventy years. The individual stories are harrowing, heart-breaking and infuriating.

Sadly, these horrific actions don’t merely reflect on the individual priests, but on the Catholic Church, the entire Christian faith, and religion in general. And rightly so. Can we really blame people who abandon God when his “representatives” commit such abominable crimes?

As Prager has sadly, but correctly, observed: “No atheist activist is nearly as effective in alienating people from God and religion as are evil ‘religious’ people.”

Now, I don’t agree with Dennis on his ranking this sin as the worst. I would put carrying the Lord’s name in vain 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 gay activists go after Christian business owners for trying to take the Bible seriously about marriage, for example. Just don’t get in the way of a Christian and their relationship with God, you atheists. You’re doing something absolutely horrible when you make it harder for a Christian to follow Jesus. You might disagree with Christianity, but it would be wise not to persecute Christians, just in case we’re right about what is true.

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.

8 thoughts on “Dennis Prager: which sin is the worst sin?”

  1. I would say I agree with your u more than Dennis. As Christians we also have the new testament
    Matt 18.7
    Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!

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  2. I would have to say murder is the worst sin based on what God told Noah after the exited the ark.

    Gen 9:6 (KJV) Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. 

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  3. Claiming to be a “Christian” while ripping the arms, legs, and heads off of innocent defenseless babies in the womb is surely going to earn a person one of the deepest pits in Hell.

    It is one thing for an atheist to murder babies, quite another for someone to drag the Body of Christ through the bloodied bodies of butchered babies and wounded women!

    Certainly what the Catholic “priests and superiors” have done will get them to a bottom level also.

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  4. I understand the desire to rank sin, but there is no ranking. God cannot countenance sin in any form. There are merely two category of sin, forgivable and unforgivable. Of these only one is unforgivable and Dennis is correct. Even Jesus confirmed the third commandment and put it in context of His purpose on Earth.

    Mark 3:28-30 — “Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

    Here Jesus reaffirms the third commandment in it’s whole. Even Jesus’ sin offering will not cover blaspheming, or bringing disrepute to, the Spirit who is God.

    Matthew 12:30-32 — “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

    Here Matthew hears more of what Jesus says. Notice He says that even if you speak a word against Him you can be forgiven but not if you speak against (or slander) the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we understand that it is not enough to acknowledge Jesus is who He says He is, but we must also accept the Holy Spirit. To deny the Spirit is to deny God’s forgiveness won for us on the cross.

    Matthew 7:21-23 — “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

    And here is the warning to the Church. If I were one of these priests, this passage would make me despair. There are many who will claim Jesus but did evil in God’s name and he will deny them.

    Therefore the bible is clear: only one sin is set aside from the others, blaspheming God. All others are equal in that they separate us from God but can be washed clean by the blood of Christ. We can argue which is worse or more painful or more evil, but only God can judge us and our rewards (or lack thereof) in heaven will be at His discretion and I dare not judge my fellow man’s sin as either worse or better than my own.

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  5. There is one sin that is unforgivable (blasphemy of the Holy Spirit=God, which we equate to rejection God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit).

    However, maybe a more interesting question is, “What does it mean to carry or to take God’s name in vain?”

    Does it mean non-Christians cannot talk about Jesus?
    Does it mean we should correct non-Christians from using profanity or saying “Jesus Christ” as an expletive?
    etc.

    My old Hebrew instructor (Gary Pratico, who is an interesting story) suggested in Hebrew class that we read J. A. Motyer’s “The Revelation of the Divine Name” ( free version that is found here): https://theologicalstudies.org.uk/article_revelation_motyer.html

    One’s name and character and actions were intrinsically linked.

    There are several implications:
    We should be careful to ascribe certain actions to God. E.g., God would never lead us into sin.

    To become Christian, one chooses to associate oneself with a new name, thus a new identity — one of Jesus Christ’s lordship. We seek *his* glory, not our own.

    Those who are Christians i.e., those who bear the name of Christ — should be more careful of how their actions and behaviors glorify or detract from God’s name.

    Of course, Christian leaders (whether given a proper title or those who function as ‘teachers’):
    If they do not present the counsel of God properly,
    If they mis-teach or mis-lead,

    (Yes, pedophile priests and certain Christian bloggers who mistake grace for license to sin:)

    Jesus tells such people that tying millstones around their necks and tossed into a deep sea would be preferable.

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  6. Much conviction here for me, as I know I could “carry His Name” much better than I do (especially when I’m in traffic). God bless you all. Pray for me.

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