What’s presumptive sin?


Do you mean presumptuous sin?   I assume that you are using the term presumptive and presumptuous interchangeably, but let me know if I am not correct.    I had heard of this term, but had never given much time to considering the definition or implications.  So….  I did some research and found that different people have defined the term in different ways.  The Catholic Church uses a definition that does not seem to relate to anything biblical, so I will not be using their definition.

Broadly, the word presumption means to assume before hearing the evidence.   However, from what I have seen, the most common use of the term presumption as it relates to sin is to define presumptuous sin as willful sin.  It is sin that we engage in knowingly and in full understanding at the time that it is sinful.  It is premeditated sin.

To illustrate the distinction between presumptive versus accidental sin, consider the following.  Let us say that one is on the internet and, for some unknown reason a pornographic image were to appear on the screen.  If a person were to have lustful temptations based on that picture, we could think of that as unintentional sin.  On the other hand, let us imagine a person sitting down at their computer, searching for a website which will obviously have pornography on it, clicking on that site in order to view such material.  That would be willful or presumptive sin.

The idea of willful or premeditated versus accidental sin is well established in the Old Testament.   The sacrifices found in Exodus and Leviticus are only for accidental sin.  There was no forgiveness for willful/presumptive sin in the Old Covenant.  This is seen Numbers 15:30-31 which describes “defiant” sin. Such defiant sins are not atoned for.  They result in being exiled from God’s people.  Another relevant passage is Leviticus 4:2.  In the Leviticus passage we see described the sacrifices required to atone for “unintentional” sins.  The implication is that for intentional sin there is no effective sacrifice.

The idea of presumptive/premeditated/willful sin is also found in the New Testament.  The best passage for this that I know of is Hebrews 10:26-31.  Here we see that if we continually and willfully continue in sin, then eventually “no sacrifice for sins is left.”  When we do so we “insult the Spirit” and we “trample on the blood” of Jesus.

If I understand it correctly, under Judaism, there was no atonement for presumptive sin.  However, having talked to a very famous Rabbi, Shmuley Boteach, he told me that the Jewish understanding of this is that such sins are atoned for by repentance.  I will take his word for it.  In Christianity, the blood of Jesus even cleanses us of presumptive sins.  However, we can push God and dishonor the Holy Spirit that lives in us only so much.  After continual willful sin over a sufficient length of time, we have committed the unforgivable sin and we can lose our salvation.

John Oakes

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