Friday, October 29, 2010

FacePalm of the Day #24 - What Christians don’t believe about sin and why it matters : The Uncredible Hallq

Once in a while, atheists make good cogent arguments....misguided...yet logical if you accept the premises. This is the problem. Without God its not possible start with correct premises. I found three passages in the article by Chris Hallquist that deserve FacePalms because they show what I mean about how hopeless it is to understand sin without God.

First FacePalm

If you read atheist polemics against Christianity, Christian ideas about sin come up relatively infrequently. I know I’ve been tempted to dismiss what Christians say about sin as a superficial rationalization for the one really vile doctrine of Christianity, the doctrine that God damns people for unbelief. Recently, though, I’ve realized just how wrong this approach is.
People are not damned to hell because they fail to believe the Gospel. People go to hell because that is our default destination without Jesus. You don't go hell because of what Adam failed to do (obey God). You go to hell because you have failed to obey God. From jump no one is righteous enough to stand in God's presence. This is the testimony of both the Old and New Testaments.
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. - Isaiah 64:6
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.- Romans 6:23
Based on the things we say, do, and think that we should not do and the things we fail to say, do, and think that we should are the things that earn us death - eternal separation from God. It's not unbelief that damns are damned already. It's belief in Jesus that saves you. Chris Hallquist misunderstands what the Bible teaches about sin and salvation.

Second FacePalm

In other words, think bad thoughts and your as bad as a murder and an adulterer. This suggests that, in general, all sins are created equal. This is what I think no Christian really believes.
This is exactly what I meant. Hallquist does get this part right. The Bible indeed does not put one sin as worse or not as bad as another. I think he is right that by-and-large many people don't believe this. However, we should.
I have no doubt that countless Christians have read that passage and told themselves they believed it. Liberals like it because it helps back up the “judge lest ye be judged” idea. Conservatives like it because it supports the belief that we are all miserable sinners. Indeed, it’s a staple of many Evangelists’ sales pitches: “Have you ever thought a bad thought? OK then, you deserve Hell as much as Hitler and need Jesus(tm) to save you from it.”
In spite of the number of Christians who claim to love this idea, it’s not hard to find signs they don’t really believe it. A pastor who admits to having an affair risks his job, but who would want to fire a pastor for pulling a Jimmy Carter and admitting to having lust in his heart? Similarly, while the Bible tells Christians to repent and sin no more, they quickly learn that they’re never going to stop doing everything the Bible calls “sin,” which can be real theological headache. A common solution seems to be to sort sins into big ones and small ones, and mainly worry about not doing the big ones: “yeah I’m a sinner whatever at least I’m not having sex like those damn liberals.”
I find it interesting how Hallquist admits that sin (as the Bible defines it) is ubiquitous. Here is the part he's missing: as your relationship with Christ grows, you grow. You stop practicing sin. It no longer controls you fully, although you will fall sometimes, you get to get up and keep moving. In addition, as a believer you are under constant attack - at war with your own sinful desires. Without Christ you are enslaved to those desires and have no hope of being free. Your only options are what sins you will do but never free not to sin. Therefore Jesus was not saying that you sin with a stray thought. The problem comes if you "ride" that thought - start planning how to fulfill that desire. I have an example. In scripture when homosexuality is prohibited or discussed it is never mentioned by itself. It is wrong for us to single out homosexuals as being any worse than any other sins that homosexuals practice. Fornication is wrong whether it is with someone of the opposite sex or same sex. Lying is wrong. Stealing is wrong. Telling God "at least I wasn't a homosexual" while habitually and purposely cheating on your taxes isn't going to get you to heaven. You'll be in hell with the homosexual. Here is an example:
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. - Galatians 5:19-21
Paul literally means that these behaviors (not a complete list) are sinful but we can be delivered from them. He isn't saying you have no chance as salvation because you once did these things. No. You miss out if you continue to live like this. Here is the rub. People are so caught up. Bound. Trapped. Some people want to get out of those lifestyles Paul described and can't. This is the real perniciousness of sin. We all know that such a lifestyle will destroy you - end your life. The reason why it took such a huge sacrifice to free us is because sin really is that bad. Not everyone is trapped in the same sins, but you are trapped in something. I can honestly tell you that in my life and as well as others that I know that Jesus is able to free you from any sin and its a continued process of sanctification as we grow and God removes those things from us that is not like him, until either we go to Him or Jesus returns.

Third FacePalm

Critics of Christianity should talk about this more often. I’ve seen non-Christians attack Christians for believing that Anne Frank is burning in hell for being Jewish. I’ve seen Christian apologists, say, roughly, “It’s a misrepresentation of Christianity to say Christians believe God damned Anne Frank for being Jewish. What we believe is that God damned her for failing Ray Comfort’s good person test.” (The Christian might add, by way of further explanation, that God forgives Christians and only Christians for failing the Comfort’s test.) I’ve never seen an atheist go after a Christian for saying that, even though those two claims are roughly equal in moral insanity.
I think that the problem truly is that most of us truly don't understand how evil we really are. We don't really see how ugly our sin is. We like to look at other people and think that we are better than them because we haven't been caught doing what they have been caught doing. That is a delusion. Are we really so bad that we deserve death and eternal punishment? Many of us don't think so. But we think pedophiles do. We think Hitler does. Stalin. The men who were behind the 9/11/2001 Terrorist attacks. The problem is that without Christ you will be in hell right next to them. Worse if they had repented (and I'm not saying they did) and trusted in Jesus they are going to heaven and you ain't. On our best day we are horrible. That's the bad news: We have been judged. Weighed. Counted. Measured. And we have found wanting. We owe God. God is so holy and perfect that our very existence is offensive. We have all transgressed God's standards. He would be within His rights to destroy all of us. The good news is that God loved us so much that Jesus died in our place - those who put their faith in Him. His is our propitiation. He is our perfect offering - completely satisfying the debt caused by our sin. Admitting that you have sin a problem is the first step to being free of it.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. 1 John 1: 9-10
I think the problem is that many of us have not truly experienced God's presence or power. So we don't understand how much we really fall short. By any stretch of imagination, Isaiah was good. According to our standards, he must have seemed very righteous. Yet, when he had a theophany in the temple and he finally understood where he was spiritually this was his response:
"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty." - Isaiah 6:5
I can relate. The more I learn about who God is the more I see just how far I fall short and how glad I am that God is not going to judge me by my righteousness but by Jesus'.
It is not that we avoid responsibility and consequences completely. We don't get delivered from everything at once. There is some suffering involved. You go through things and suffer in this life because of sin - saved or not. The difference is that with Christ you have help - and goodies.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. - Galatians 5:22-26
Plus you get to avoid going to hell.

What Christians don’t believe about sin and why it matters
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  1. Marcus said "Without God its not possible start with correct premises."

    Awwww, presuppositional apologetics, the lazy apologists apologetics.

  2. Without God, you can't see that you are a sinner. If you don't know you are sinner, then you don't see how warped and blinded your reality and understanding really is. You measure the world with a broken ruler. This is you.

  3. You've got to prove god first. And sin for that matter...

  4. All you have to do is look at your heart and life. Have you ever lied, lusted, or disrespected your parents? Have you done anything to hurt anyone - behaving selfishly. You have. You know you have. If you say you haven't you are lying. That's sin. What are you going to do about it?

  5. No, that's not sin, that's just bad behavior. The consequences of bad behavior are dealt with in the real world. Sin however implies a metaphysical component and supernatural consequences. That's what you have to prove, the supernatural/metaphysical part of it.

    Best stick with just trying to prove god. Don't just presuppose it... lazy...

  6. Um no. Who taught you "bad behavior"? How did you learn it? Can you stop and never do it again if you choose? Or are you trapped? Can you stop all bad behavior of your own? There are more than supernatural consequences. What about just the natural consequences? Everything horrible in society can be traced back to what you call "bad behavior". Here is what I want to know. Do you think people get away with such things?

  7. Should they get away with such things?

  8. Sometimes they do, some times they don't. "Should" is opinion.

  9. According to you so is "bad behavior". What standard are you using to determine what "bad behavior" is and is not? What is your authority? And no one gets away with evil. You will pay. Can you think of a single thing someone got away with that you think they shouldn't have?

  10. Can you think of a single thing someone got away with that you think they shouldn't have?

    So you are saying law enforcement and the criminal just system are 100% efficient all the time?

  11. No. I'm saying God is efficient 100% of the time.

  12. "No. I'm saying God is efficient 100% of the time."

    Please substantiate this assertion with empirical data, please.

  13. Hi Marcus,

    I think we basically agree on what Christianity teaches. I don't really have anything to add to this post, except that I want you to know I think what you believe is fucking evil.