It seems wiser and clearer to talk about influences rather than causes.  Sin is not reducible to mere genetics, but also includes environmental factors such as: family upbringing, childhood experiences, reactions and choices, and the cultural environment.  Biology can be shaped by psychology.  Our thoughts, choices, actions, and reactions—even if subconscious and early in life—can shape the neurological patterns within the brain so that they become deeply embedded.  These patterns help shape the direction of our lives, reinforcing thought patterns, habits, and desires.  Charles Swindoll has stated, “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.  We are in charge of our attitudes.”  Sin is a crime against God, and thus can be looked at as a crime in the real world.  There are many theories on why people commit crimes, and I truly believe in the Classical School perspective.  Most classical theories of crime causation make the following basic assumptions:

  • Human beings are fundamentally rational, and most human behavior is the result of free will coupled with rational choice.
  • Pain and pleasure are the two central determinants of human behavior.
  • Punishment, a necessary evil, is sometimes required to deter law violators and to serve as an example to others who would also violate the law.
  • Root principles of right and wrong are inherent in the nature of things and cannot be denied.
  • Society exists to provide benefits to individuals that they would not receive in isolation.
  • When men and women band together for the protection offered by society, they forfeit some of the benefits that accrue from living in isolation.
  • Certain key rights of individuals are inherent in the nature of things, and governments that contravene those rights should be disbanded.
  • Crime disparages the quality of the bond that exists between individuals and society and is therefore an immoral form of behavior.

All human societies, from the simplest to the most advanced, evidence their own widely held notions of right and wrong.  Sociologists call such fundamental concepts of morality and propriety “mores” and “folkways.”  Mores consist of proscriptions covering potentially serious violations of a group’s values.  Murder, rape, and robbery, for example, would probably be repugnant to the mores of any social group.  Folkways, on the other hand, are simply time-honored customs, and although they carry the force of tradition, their violation is less likely to threaten the survival of the social group. 

Criminologists divide crimes into two categories:  mala in se and mala prohibita.  Mala in se are acts that are thought to be wrong in and of themselves.  The Ten Commandments support this belief that some acts are inherently wrong.  Such a perspective assumes that uncompromisable standards for human behavior rest within the very fabric of lived experience.  Mala prohibita offenses are those acts that are said to be wrong for the simple reason that they are prohibited.  So-called victimless or social-order offenses like prostitution, gambling, drug use, and premarital sexual behavior proved examples of mala prohibita offenses.

There are two perspectives regarding the sources of crime and criminality, which are the social problems perspective and the social responsibility perspective.  The social problems perspective is the belief that crime is a manifestation of underlying social problems, such as poverty, discrimination, pervasive family violence, inadequate socialization practices, and the breakdown of traditional social institutions.  The social responsibility perspective is the belief that individuals are fundamentally responsible for their own behavior and that they choose crime over other, more law-abiding courses of action.  Both perspectives each play a part in a person’s thinking and action.

James Q. Wilson has stated:  “If you wish to make a big difference in crime, you must make fundamental changes in society.”  This is why it is important to establish Biblical principles in the American Law system.

It is important to consider barriers that might prevent crime, even in the face of strong criminal motivation and in situations where the causes of crime seem firmly rooted in social, economic, and other conditions.  Barriers to crime are those aspects of a setting that limit criminal opportunity and prevent offending.  Barriers cause would-be criminals to reconsider their intention to violate the law, or simply deny them the opportunity to follow their plans through to completion.  Some barriers can be found in the physical arrangements of the external environment, while others are more abstract and consist of the threat of severe punishment or the internal strictures by which people limit their own freedom of action, even in the face of strong temptation.

“Crime is committed by people who are tempted more and controlled less.”—Marcus Felson
Determinate sentencing is a strategy that mandates a specified and fixed amount of time to be served for every offense category.  Determinate sentencing schemes build upon the twin notions of classical thought that (1) the pleasure of a given crime can be somewhat accurately assessed and (2) a fixed amount of punishment necessary for deterrence can be calculated and specified.  The Bible is clear that the penalty for sin is death.  A goal of the Church is to remind people that God is in charge and everyone will one day take into account all that they have done in their lifetime.  That reminder alone should reduce temptation.  When a person is actively involved in a Church, such as being a part of a weekly Bible study, and volunteer service, it would be clear that God has control in one’s life and temptations will reduce significantly.  As long as we are still living on this earth, there will always be temptation.  Jesus Christ was tempted several times by Satan while He was living as a human on this earth.  Everyone has all fallen into temptation; we have all sinned against God.  Jesus, although tempted, never sinned, took the ultimate punishment for sin, and that makes Him our Savior, our only key to eternal life with God.

*Notes collected from Criminology Today Fifth Edition by Frank Schmalleger