Distinguished Scholar Takes on Seven Deadly Sins During Talk

The 2015 President's Distinguished Scholar Lecturer, Dr. Eleonore Stump, speaks in the DeSantis Family Chapel at Palm Beach Atlantic University on Monday. PBA is a private, Christ-centered college in West Palm Beach, Florida, USA.

Philosopher and author Dr. Eleonore Stump added a word, PEWSAGL, to the lexicon of those who attended Palm Beach Atlantic University’s chapel service on Monday.

The acronym, she said, is meant to help people remember Christianity’s Seven Deadly Sins in order from worst to least, starting with pride and ending with lust. In between are envy, wrath, sloth, avarice and gluttony.

The sins have become known in the Christian intellectual heritage as deadly sins because they kill the soul, said Stump, the Robert J. Henle professor of philosophy at St. Louis University.

“The bad stuff is bad because it causes you to turn your back on God,” she said.

Stump is the 2015 President’s Distinguished Scholar lecturer. In addition to her chapel presentation, she will deliver a public talk at 7:30 p.m. today in the DeSantis Family Chapel. Her topic will be “The Story of Job: Suffering and Second-person Accounts.”

On Tuesday, she will again speak to the PBA community during the chapel hour, this time on “The Seven Cardinal Virtues and the Works of Mercy.” She also will speak to faculty and in classes during her time at PBA.

Stump’s discussion of the Seven Deadly Sins was based on the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas. Her presentation not only included an explanation of the nature of the sins, but also of their “daughters,” or the ways in which the sin works its way out of the heart and into one’s words and actions.

For instance, the sin of envy has four daughters, one of which is gossip, Stump said.

“Gossip is a deadly sin. It begins to kill your love of God in your heart. And why? Because when you gossip, you are taking pleasure in somebody else’s bad stuff,” she said.

The other three daughters of envy are detraction, joy at another’s misfortune and grief at another’s prosperity, she said.

Stump said people often consider lust to be the worst of the deadly sins, when in fact pride is the most damaging because it “turns its back completely on the good of other people,” she said.

Another misconception is that sloth is only about laziness, she said. In reality, sloth represents an opposition to the love of God’s goodness, she said.

“Soon and very soon there will be a new heaven and a new earth. You have won the lottery of life, and if that doesn’t give you joy, it’s because you’ve turned yourself into a rock,” she said.

“You live in a cloud of joy even in the midst of your afflictions, if you will only accept the good that you have been given, which is overwhelming.”

Stump has published extensively in philosophy of religion, contemporary metaphysics and medieval philosophy. Her books include her major study Aquinas (Routledge, 2003) and her extensive treatment of the problem of evil, Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering (Oxford, 2010).