What is a capital vice, and can I be saved if I've committed one?


Capital vice is a term that originated within the Roman Catholic Church. Evagrius Ponticus (345-399 A.D.) was a monk who drafted the first set of capital vices, which are also known as the deadly sins or cardinal sins. He listed eight of them: gluttony; fornication; greed; pride; sadness; wrath; boasting; and sloth. In 590 A.D., Pope Gregory reduced the list to seven: pride; greed; lust; envy; gluttony; anger; and sloth. Thomas Aquinas defended Pope Gregory's list in his Summa Theologica. Of note, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodist churches also retain this same list.

According to Mark 3:28-29, all sin except blasphemy of the Holy Spirit can be forgiven. (Please see "Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" below.) Yet, while blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not forgivable, it is not listed as a sin by the Roman Catholic Church among the capital vices.

More importantly, the Bible also says all sin is capital or deadly in nature, not just a mere list of seven or eight. Paul writes, "For the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23; cf. Prov. 11:19; Ezek. 18:4; Jas. 1:14-15). In the Old Testament we read, "God is of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong" (Hab. 1:13). This includes all sin, each and every one of them without exception. Though the Bible has a similar list of sins, it does not use the phraseology of "capital sins" (Prov. 6:16-19). Why? Because the list would be much, much longer if that phrase were included. "The heart is deceitful above all things" (Jer. 17:9), and it is a living factory that constantly manufactures all types of deadly sin. Jesus said, "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander" (Matt. 15:19). All of it is deadly, even the ones not listed — "Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin" (Jas. 4:17). So, sin is not only things we do, but also things we ought to do but don’t do.

Lastly, the punishment for all sin is an eternal hell. (See “An Eternal Hell is for Real” below.) But can you be saved if you’ve committed a capital sin? Yes! Because the gift of God is Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:26), and if you believe upon him you shall be saved (cf. Acts 2:31; Rom. 10:9-10; 1 Cor. 15:1-4). This faith in Christ has often been called “fire insurance.” However, a faithful relationship with him is more than that. It is better, and correctly so, referred to as “life assurance.” (Please see "A Gospel Summary" below.)

Related Topics

An Eternal Hell is for Real - The Heresy of Annihilationism?
A Gospel Summary
Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).