Friday, September 30, 2005

Making God Look Stupid

My vote for one of the all-time abused scriptures:
First Corinthians 1:20b - Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

Too many of us Christians use this verse as an excuse for making God look stupid in the eyes of the world.

How do we do this?
Bunches of ways, but I want to focus on one tonight.

Question: Which is worse - taking a paper clip from work, or murdering your boss?
Secular answer: Murdering your boss.
Christian answer: No difference. They're both sin. God sees all sin the same. "All have fallen short..." and all that.

In the eyes of the world, this makes us, at the very least, look stupid, and at worst, makes God look stupid.
If a four-year-old can tell the difference, why can't God?

This is a gross misunderstanding of the concept of sin in the Bible that is parroted by way too many unthinking Christians. It also happens to be the issue I was arguing in the Bible study I mentioned in my last post. 10 guys sitting in a room, and I was the only one questioning the standard Christian line on this.

Now, lest you think this isn't Standard Christian all too often, I have heard pastors on the radio and TV making the same statement about God seeing all sin the same.

In reality, they are right, but only halfway, and by not thinking through the other half, they make God look stupid in the eyes of the world. In my view, this is serious stuff. I am an ambassador for Christ, I should represent Him as Lord of lords, the Alpha and the Omega, not Knucklehead Smiff.

What is the whole answer? God views sin (and so should we) in two different ways: as an issue of salvation, and an issue of sanctification. As an issue of salvation, all sin is indeed the same. All have sinned, no matter how small or inconsequential the sin, and therefore fall short of the glory of God, or fall short of the standard of perfection/purity that God demands. This sin separates us from fellowship with God, and is, in fact enough to condem us as sinners and disqualify us from salvation.

However, as an issue of sanctification, sin has degrees, or gradations. What do I mean by sanctification? Basically, holy living. Our thoughts and behaviors becoming more and more like Christ. Within this aspect, sin can vary widely from taking the paperclip (stealing, technically, but nobody cares, including your boss) to murdering your boss (everybody cares, especially your boss!). Over time, we are to become (think, behave) more and more like Jesus, and our sins will become less and less serious, and less and less frequent. We will become more sanctified, but no more or less saved.

Does that make sense, or sound stupid?


Anonymous 5:31 PM, October 02, 2005  

Dear Steve,

me thinks you have kind of set up brethren for the pillory. i like where you ended up but i think we have to recognize that the same impulse that leads to the theft of a paper clip or to murder stems from the conviction that "i" am the ultimate arbiter of righteousness and justice rather than God. So the knee jerk answer is accurate . . . if that were the question.
That said, you are right that they are not morally equivalent acts, in fact, Scripture teaches that sins have different magnitudes of impact on a society. Indeed, one could argue tht the theft of a paperclip under Old Testament law would not even be theft. the law allowed a sojourner walking by an orchard or a field to eat their fill. Certainly, then, a person in need of a paperclip could take one in good conscience :)
So not all violations of God's law carried the same consequences on earth; the punishment was intended to fit the crime. Jesus also said that the consequences of sinful actions on earth would be judged differently depending on the degree of knowledge, hence it will be better for Sodom on the day of judgment than for Capernaum.
What you did not address with the group that probably should be addressed by us in the church is: what do we do about a legal system that has strayed so far from any sense of logic--a system in which non-violent crimes land people in prison with monsters, in which victims are not compensated, perpetrators do nothing to restore and the community suffers later as families of the criminal are frequently destroyed in the whole process. Now THAT is a subject worthy of a blog . . . or two or three!!! aa (hey i am staying anonymous for now in order to protect you)

Professor Steve 10:11 PM, October 02, 2005  

Anonymous Alan,

Excellent points! Where were you when I needed you in that Bible study! =]

I will defend myself this much:
I sat in that study and raised the issue: isn't it worse to murder someone than to take a paper clip? And everyone else just sat and nodded as 2 or 3 kept on saying that was looking at things from man's perspective, and not God's. In God's eyes, all sin is the same.

They had the chance to make a distinction, and didn't.

My point is not that all Christians but me and you are boneheads, but that we all need to keep our heads as we surrender our hearts to Jesus. If something sounds fishy, examine it, study it, get to the bottom of it, don't just uncritically accept it because Brother Bob said it. Our faith will stand up to scrutiny.

worshipnaked 12:43 PM, October 03, 2005  

Steve -- It's a good thing I wasn't at that Bible study group!


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