We were asked to go around the room and put a label to our spirituality. While I felt the request was really a bad idea to begin with, the results staggered me a bit.
In a secular setting, everyone claimed Christianity of one sort or another (Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc…) and everyone described Christianity as all-accepting. At first, I was pretty angry. Then, as it’s bled into me a little bit more over the past few days, I started to feel really sad.
In my favorite sermon, Matt Chandler describes unregenerate faith (people who attend church every day, but don’t actually know God) as inoculation to the faith – getting just enough of it never to fully experience it.
That’s really sad.
It’s out of a brokenheartedness over misconceptions about Christ that I thought I’d write a series of posts on what Christians actually believe. I’m not going to go at this in a comprehensive way. That would be impossible. I’m only going to write what I believe it’s necessary to write to combat the god who doesn’t condemn anyone and the christianity in which everyone gets into Heaven.
- People are evil and deserve Hell.
- God is better…
- People cannot be good enough.
- Jesus died the death humans deserved.
- Some people will receive justice, while others receive unmerited grace.
I’m going to try not to go crazy citing all over the place here, but I’m also going to try to support each of these claims with three passages from the New Testament. Although I believe the Old Testament is equally valuable as a source of support for these claims, I don’t want to deal with the argument that God was different in the New Testament.
On the subject of evil, one of the more commonly cited passages is Romans 3:10-18 (although I’m going to stop at verse 13 for the sake of brevity):
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Although this is New Testament citing Old Testament, I think it’s fair to use just about anything Paul wrote, because he was most definitely after Jesus, and it’s impossible to say that he was writing about pre-Jesus God.
We could also go into John 2:24 & 25:
“But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”
Although it’s not explicitly stated here, there is an implication that man is evil.
Jesus does explicitly state that man is evil in Luke 11:13:
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children…”
I particularly like this one, because the verse isn’t even about man being evil. It’s a foregone conclusion that man is evil.
So… if I am a Christian, I either have to concede that Jesus said some things that aren’t true and man isn’t evil, or I have to figure that it must be true if God said it.
If I decide the former is true, I end up down the rabbit hole of why-the-hell-do-I-worship-a-god-who-lies? (or possibly doesn’t know the truth)… However, I, myself, get to feel a little bit better about my own heart. God shrinks, and I expand.
The result, however, of believing that man is inherently evil is really interesting, because the rabbit hole I jump down in leads to the realization that I, myself, am evil. There are both humility and excruciating vulnerability in me when I admit I’m evil. Admitting I’m evil leads to admitting that justice would be served if I burned.
I actually think it’s impossible to be one of those severe, Bible-thumping Christians when I spend time thinking on the implications of man’s evil nature. A Christian who believes she, herself, is evil, really can’t stand on a corner holding a sign saying that “God hates fags.” She can’t think she’s better than others are, because her own sin is ever before her. She knows the evil of her own heart.
So, while it’s a cleaner, seemingly gentler thing to say that people are imperfect, but not evil, it ultimately does the opposite of sanitizing the faith and making it accessible to non-believers; it causes Christians to believe their goodness can be measured by comparison to others. It causes me to think I’m better than you are because you use the F-bomb or you watched an R-rated movie last week or you drank three glasses of wine and I only drank one. It causes me to think I’m the best student in the class and God owes me a gold star for a job well-done. It causes me to believe that I don’t need rescue; I’m okay without God…
The more fully I believe I am evil, the more fully I believe I need God, and the more clearly I see His glory and goodness for saving a wretch like me.