Archive for category Sin
Posted by O C Boyet in Bible, biblical literalism, Calvinism, Catholicism, Christianity, Church, Crime and Punishment, Culture, Current Events, damnation, Emerging Church, Ethics, Evil, Faith, Fundamentalism, God, Gospel, grace, Heaven and Hell, Hell, Heresy, Heterodoxy, Jesus, Justice, Morality, Orthodoxy, Protestantism, reformed church, Religion, Religious Right, Religious Tolerance, sacrifice, salvation, Sin, Spirituality, Substitutionary Atonement, Theology, Universalism on March 10, 2011
As long as I can remember my mother has said, “As a Christian you have to believe in Hell but you don’t have to believe anyone is there.” This is her gracious understanding of an essential Christian doctrine. Though she didn’t know it, this understanding is a Christian “heresy” called Universalism, a heresy that says all of us, even non-Christians, will go to Heaven. And it was expressly against Catholic, and most Christian doctrine. But wasn’t she right about one thing: Don’t you have to believe in Hell to be a Christian? This must be the case, if Universalism is a heresy.
Not long ago Rob Bell was in the hot seat with many Evangelicals (and some Catholics) because his recent book, “Love Wins”, suggested that no one goes to Hell. He set the conservative Christian bogs on fire and most of them essentially condemned Bell to hell for not believing in Hell.
The ensuing progressive Christian defense of Bell was great. Many Emerging Church and progressive Christian bloggers busted the chops of people like the Three Johns ( Piper, MacArthur and Hagee) for accusing Bell of Universalism . They rightly criticized the conservative Christian tendency to make Hell such a big part of their theology, to the point where this doctrine obscures a lot of the Gospel message. But, unfortunately, few of them go far enough.
Because in their defense of Bell they made it quite clear that they also believed in the doctrine of Hell, they just adapted it to make it more palatable. Most seemed to accept the conventional orthodoxy of a Final Judgment and the potential prospect of Hell (even with little or no scriptural support for it) coupled with the salvic solution of Jesus dying for our sins on the cross, as God’s blood sacrifice, to free us from eternal damnation. Which, to me, flies in the face of what Jesus spends a lot of time telling us about God. As I heard a pastor once say, God is either merciful or God is just, but God cannot be both.
I think one reason why so many Christians are unyielding about Hell, and why the progressives still can’t shake the doctrine off, is that, in reality, Hell is the cornerstone of the Church, not Jesus. Because without Hell, what is there for Jesus to do? What does he save us from?
No Hell = no Jesus. Or at least the Jesus that many Christians claim to believe in, have faith in. Without Hell he loses his job description. He loses his purpose along with the primary meaning he may have for millions of Christians. So the idea that there is no Hell is just too damn frightening to consider.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18
Most teachers and parents have long understood that the positive reinforcement of desired behavior is a much more powerful learning tool than any punishment for undesired behavior ;
Behavior modification assumes that observable and measurable behaviors are good targets for change. All behavior follows a set of consistent rules. Methods can be developed for defining, observing, and measuring behaviors, as well as designing effective interventions. Behavior modification techniques never fail. Rather, they are either applied inefficiently or inconsistently, which leads to less than desired change. All behavior is maintained, changed, or shaped by the consequences of that behavior. Although there are certain limits, such as temperamental or emotional influences related to ADHD or depression, all children function more effectively under the right set of consequences. Reinforcers are consequences that strengthen behavior. Punishments are consequences that weaken behavior.
(from “Behavior Modification in the Classroom” by: N. Mather and Sam Goldstein (2001) LD Online )
My pastor, Heather, worked this concept into a sermon last Sunday. She questioned the old school practice of frequently suspending offending students, essentially telling the student that because they don’t conform they aren’t wanted. Eventually this point sinks in and guess what? The student soon no longer wants to be in a place where they aren’t wanted. Suspension is no longer a punishment but a welcome reward. She used this analogy to point out that this is often how Christians approach the faith, they may feel unworthy of God’s love or may even make others feel this way. It wasn’t long before her sermon began to impact the way in which I look at things.
Case in point; on John Shore’s blog there has been a lively conversation going on about (surprise!) homosexuality and the Church. Predictably, the discussion tended to center on whether or not homosexuality was a sin or if it was a sin could it in some way be excused or was it even a sin deserving of any more mention than the sins that afflict all Christians.
Inevitably someone will say that it is our Christian duty to call out sin wherever and whenever we see it. But what is our ultimate goal here? For instance, in the classroom we do not use behavior intervention techniques to make individual students look and act more like ourselves. We are not interested in a change in their behavior just because we disapprove of them. The ultimate goal is for students to learn, as well as to have them help maintain an environment where other students can also learn .
If our goal, as Christians, is to spread the Good News (which hopefully will result in people coming closer to God) how is this accomplished by ‘confronting’ individual sin? Shouldn’t we be interested in lifting up those positive “Christian” characteristics that a person possesses, no matter how few they might be? Telling people that because of their ‘sins’ (especially if those ‘sins’ are not anti-social in nature) they are ineligible for membership in our community is selfishly aimed at satisfying the ‘supposed needs’ of the community and not the spiritual needs of others. ‘Supposed needs’, because no community ultimately benefits from a lack of diversity.
So, rather than focusing on what we see as the negative (yet non-threatening) behavior of those who might be seeking a closer relationship with God, let’s try and focus instead on their other, positive, qualities. What is more important to us as Christians; our behavior or our relationships? Not that behavior is unimportant, but at what expense comes our attempts to change certain behaviors in others?
Who knows? Perhaps the ‘righteous’ may learn a thing or two from communing with these ‘sinners’. Besides, if we all had to clean up our acts first then not one church pew would be occupied.
I WAS ONCE TOLD THAT;
REALLY? DOES HE NEED GLASSES? MEANWHILE;
FOR SURE. SOME PEOPLE ARE BADDER THAN OTHERS. BUT IN REALITY;
PRIDE = LUST, GLUTTONY, GREED, SLOTH, WRATH, ENVY. THE EGO.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Genesis One: God makes the universe and everything in it. He creates life. He creates humans and he makes them in his own ‘image’, both man and woman. He gives humankind all of nature for their enjoyment and their sustenance. Although the chronology may be a bit confusing, the basics of this account can be made to square with what we know of nature, as long as you don’t read it too literally.
Genesis Two (the rest of the story?) is a bit fuzzier on the universe-making details but it does gives us more info on the first humans. Here we have God creating just one human, a man named Adam and instead of placing all of nature at his disposal he sets him up as the caretaker for a garden called Eden. Genesis doesn’t give us any of God’s policies and guidelines except for one; Adam is to never eat the fruit from one particular plant – the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
God soon figures that Adam will become bored (especially if he is immortal, as some think) and that he needs a companion – or as the NIV say; a “helper”. So God runs all the animals by Adam (who names them all in the process) but none of them seem to fit the bill. So God tries something completely different. He knocks out Adam and removes one his ribs, which he then turns into the first woman. She’s also the world’s first Gal Friday, as it is her job to ‘help’ the world’s only man do whatever manly things he does. At this time, she doesn’t even have a name for herself.
But good help is hard to find and soon the woman is picking up bad ideas from the local crime boss, Satan. Using her beguiling feminine ways, she gets Adam to join her in a little snack, courtesy of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. So God’s original deal is now off and life for the two of them will suck forever. At this time Adam finally names the woman, just like he did with the other animals. He calls her Eve , which means something like “mother of all the living” ( perhaps implying that kids and paradise are incompatible concepts?).
Now, though Genesis never actually says this, many people believe that what Adam and Eve did in the Garden queered things not just for them but everyone else that came after, including all of nature and the entire universe. So even though it is NEVER stated explicitly, one could get out of this story that Eve (who owed her own existence not just to God but also to Adam) couldn’t stay focused on her job and so ended up being a huge hindrance to Adam. And everyone else, including you and me. Turns out she was not much of a helper at all.
No doubt the cultural views of the men who wrote the scriptures had some bearing on how they presented their stories of God. It is obvious that this particular telling of the Creation story, along with a very rigid reading of it, has adversely influenced the relationship between men and women over the centuries. Amazingly, it still does so today.
OK, I’ve got a question about babies. Are they innocent?
Let’s first take a look at a mini-‘Cliff Notes’ version of a popular interpretation of sin:
Adam disobeyed God, committing the first sin (Eve was there, too, but apparently the buck stopped with Adam). The result of his disobedience was that every generation to follow Adam, every person who will ever live, will be born with the blemish of original sin. This original sin amounts to a sentence of eternal damnation. Thankfully, there is a way to remove it.
Some traditions, particularly the Roman Catholic, say that the only way for original sin to be removed is through holy baptism, resulting in the baptizing of infants, to ensure they make it to heaven. Other traditions say that baptism is merely symbolic, and that the only way to salvation is through a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, as Lord and Savior.
The Roman Catholic church has dispensed with the doctrine of limbo, saying that all children are innocent before they reach the age of reason ( seven? eight? twenty eight? ). So the Catholic view here is that babies are not damned but go to heaven.
But what is the typical Evangelical Protestant diagnosis for the child who dies before reaching the age of commitment? Do these babies and young children go to heaven or hell? I discussed this with a fellow the other day and he said that his church’s position is that they are covered by God’s grace. But aren’t we all? Is it Biblical to think that we are all born ‘bad’? And if so, is it Biblical to think that God has special exemptions for children?
I don’t mean to sound silly or trite. I think this speaks to what we believe about sin, how much of our doctrine about sin is biblical and how much of that doctrine we truly accept.
What’s your take on this?