Ethics

Big Questions

Q Does God hold psychopaths responsible for their actions, since they don’t have a conscience? If yes, isn’t that unfair? Should we hold psychopaths responsible?

A Your question suggests that we are sinful only because we disobey God’s moral laws. And since psychopaths lack empathy and conscience, they cannot help but disobey moral laws. If God still holds them responsible for their sins, even though they cannot stop themselves, this seems unfair to you.

Let me first suggest that from a Reformed perspective, sin is not simply reduced to disobedient actions. Rather, the whole human race is under a condition or state of sin. It is “a corruption of all [human] nature” (Belgic Confession, Article 15), and every human is “corrupt from conception on” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 7). Our disobedient acts are the symptoms, the manifest expressions of this disease of sin that has infected us all, psychopaths included.

This sinful nature, not simply our sinful acts, is what alienates us from God, and, hence, puts us under spiritual death. Only Christ can reconcile us to God and give us life. This holds true equally for psychopaths and for the rest of humanity, regardless of the nature of our sinful acts.

As to whether we should hold them responsible, we need to first realize that not all psychopaths commit evil. Studies show that many psychopaths function well in society, having various employments, including CEO, lawyer, police, and even clergy! (From “The Top 10 Jobs That Attract Psychopaths” at www.forbes.com). Being psychopathic does not mean you cannot obey laws. Therefore, psychopaths who do commit crimes and violence should be held responsible.

About the Author

Shiao Chong is editor-in-chief of The Banner. He attends Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Toronto, Ont.

Shiao Chong es el redactor jefe de The Banner. El asiste a Iglesia Comunidad Cristiana Reformada en Toronto, Ont. 

시아오 총은 더 배너 (The Banner)의 편집장이다. 온타리오 주 토론토의 펠로우쉽 CRC에 출석한다.

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Comments

This inquirer asks if God is fair or unfair in regard to psychopaths.  Christianity is not a religion of fairness, nor does it see its God as being fair.  God judges all of humanity as failed sinners, deserving of eternal damnation.  The only ones to make it beyond such judgement are those chosen by God for salvation, the elect.  And such election is unconditional, in other words, not based upon any merit within the chosen individual.  So what would make the psychopath any more deserving of salvation than anyone else?

As to the corruption infecting all of creation and especially all of humanity, remember, God is the one who credits Adam’s sin and fallen nature to all of humanity.  No one comes into the world asking for a fallen human inclination by which he/she cannot help but to sin.  Again, we might ask if that is fair, but it doesn’t seem as though God is held to a standard of fairness.  So fair or not, psychopaths are declared failures like everyone else.

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