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if you're afraid of calling sin deadly, the thought of reading a book on the seven capital vices might sound terrifying. But acknowledging the deadliness of sin only increases our knowledge of grace, says the author of Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies (Brazos Press). Christianity Today intern Alicia Cohn spoke with Calvin College philosophy professor and Thomas Aquinas scholar Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung about the multiple dimensions of the human struggle with sin.

Why did you write about the vices instead of the virtues?

The short and honest answer is that vices are more interesting. Also, you have to start with the things that are holding you back. You can't move forward unless you have a good handle on what needs to be overcome, what needs to be left behind.

I do teach the seven virtues first in my course on Thomas Aquinas. You can't really understand what's gone wrong unless you have a picture of what the right way looks like.

Once we identify the influence of sin in our lives, how do we root it out?

The point of self-examination isn't, thankfully, just to beat yourself up and feel guilty. Confession is a way of naming the problem, admitting the problem, and saying, "Look, there's this mess here, Lord, and I'm not going to be cleaning it up on my own. I'm not able, nor am I entirely willing, to let go of these things without some serious divine assistance." The tradition is confession, absolution, and penance. The spiritual disciplines are one way of counter-forming the self, of rightly forming the self.

Is there a danger of becoming obsessed with our sin?

I certainly don't want to encourage people to go back to a works-righteousness approach. But the opposite danger is to neglect sanctification ...

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Grace Amid the Vices
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September 2009

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