To sin or not to sin: Is it even possible?

November 5, 2007 at 10:59 am 39 comments

Eve AppleI’ve been thinking a lot about sin lately. No, I don’t have a guilty conscience. Quite the opposite. My conscience has never been clearer, although I think my fundy friends would say that it’s been “seared with a hot iron.” I consider it liberated from guilt theology. The big question of the day: is it even possible to sin? My short answer: no.

At a recent Interfaith Dialogue I was struck by how Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are so dominated by sin consciousness. The primary thrust of each religion appeared to be an attempt to find atonement for sin and be reconciled to God. My favorite college professor delivered the guest sermon at church yesterday. His teaching, along with Brennan Manning’s books, helped me to overcome the narcissistic guilt I inherited in the church growing up. True to form he preached about God’s forgiveness and willful forgetfulness of our sins. That is a very necessary message to help people come out of the trap that is fundamentalism. It’s like opening the prison doors and setting people free. I don’t want to play off the Matrix too much, but at this stage of the journey I’ve come to realize that there is no prison to begin with. We are imprisoned only by the smallness of our minds.

To tell guilt-ridden believers that there is no sin would probably do more harm than good. If they didn’t write you off as blasphemous but actually considered the possibility, it might well throw them into a theological tailspin. I read yesterday in Deepak Chopra’s book Quantum Healing that researchers proved that if newborn kittens are blindfolded within the first few days before their eyes are opened that they will be blind for life. Although they have perfectly healthy eyes, something gets crosswired in their brains permanently blinding them. Conditioning, especially in our formative years, is so powerful that it can cripple a person for life.

One of the statements that resonated with me so strongly months ago regarding the reality of sinfulness was made by Micael Ledwith in What the Bleep Do We Know!?:

The single greatest obstacle to our evolution is the way our culture often views God – as a God sitting up somewhere “registering the scores on his laptop as to whether we perform according to his designs or whether we’re offending him, as it’s put, an absolutely outrageous idea. How could we offend God? How could it matter so much to him? How could it, above all, matter that he would find it so serious a situation that he could conform us to an eternity of suffering? These are bizarre ideas.And they are bizarre ideas: that in this vast universe, where there are more galaxies than grains of sand in all the oceans, that in that vastness, a group of people – well, men actually – on a small planet got the exclusive franchise for the pearly gate arches of heaven. And every other being in the universe will spend an eternity of suffering in hell. It’s hard to imagine a more bizarre idea. And if that’s the sort of God you believe in, you just have to wonder: How does that affect your view of the world?

The more you think about it sin appears to be nothing more than a means of control. We’ve seen repeatedly in history how the dangers of hellfire can be a useful tool for the church to keep even Kings in line. It was just such a mockery that prompted Martin Luther to nail the 95 Thesis to the Wittenburg door, “As the coin in the coffer rings, another soul from pergatory springs.”

Is sin real? Is it possible to sin? Does our sinfulness really offend God? You couldn’t tell by looking around. If God is offended by our sinfulness or brokenhearted over our suffering, He doesn’t seem to do a hell of a lot about it. Does He? You cannot convince me that God or the Supreme Being or the Unified Field or the Force is offended by you lusting after a girl, failing to pay your tithes, or skipping out on church. So what is sin?

I think the word “sin” is damaged goods and loaded with baggage. I don’t think you can sin against God, but you can “sin” against your neighbor. As humans we have enormous potential for cruelty, as well as for good. Our pain and anger over the imbalance of justice in the world feeds the need for religions of atonement and damnation. We have this innate need to have our consciences cleared and believe that those who do evil will be punished in the next life to make the scales balance out again. When injury is done to another, the real consequence is that the whole of life is somehow diminished and robbed of joy, not that someone will burn in hellfire for all time.

It is a cold hard fact to grasp that the rich and poor, the kind and the cruel alike, will all die and turn to dust. There is evil and suffering in the world, and much of it has never been made right. I’ve learned that it is a common misconception that many people believe that one of the basic tenets of Buddhism is that “life is suffering.” That is not true. Apparently the appropriate translation reads that “life contains suffering.” No amount of labeling and fear-mongering is going to change that. It’s been tried for the last few thousand years and look where it’s gotten us. Why not try a radically different approach? Instead of telling people how worthless, how no good, and how sinful they are, why don’t we try showing people the incredible potential they have as persons and as a collective whole? Now there’s a novel idea.

Maybe enlightenment is as elusive as chasing after the wind, but if we spent our energies pursuing nobler ideals, we would not waste so much time hurting each other and seeking to have control over anyone or anything else. Just my opinion.

– Lyndon (Words Less Spoken)

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Questioning the very notion of faith itself Reasons why I can no longer believe: 1 – God is “we know not what”

39 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Richard  |  November 5, 2007 at 11:33 am

    Nice post, Lyndon. I agree. “Sin” has no meaning but what we give it. In other words, if we give up on the idea that there is some other realm, “out there”, with some conscious being keeping track of whats going on in our own realm, then there simply is no fact of the matter as to what is sin, at least not in any larger sense. Sin has only the meaning we give it.

    I think that fundamentalism often succeeds precisely in manipulating these definitions. Fundamentalist theology defines sin as, basically, self-will. Any thought or interest you have for yourself, in anything you do or think, ever, is sin. For them there is no ego allowed in *anything*. CS Lewis said the ideal is that one could build a cathedral, the most beautiful catherdral ever made, and *know* its the most beautiful, and take no more or less pleasure in that fact than if someone else had done it. That is, of course, a very demanding standard!

    Moreover, emotions can be sin — “if you are angry at your brother…” Even the animal self is defined as sinful. SInce we cannot control our emotions, and since we cannot evacuate all self-interest from our lives, we cannot but help “sin”, by this definition.

    So if you are reading or hearing this stuff, and arent paying attention (as I wasnt, long ago), it becomes easy to be convinced you are veritably drowning in sin. And of course, since no one can control their emotions, and no one can be utterly and wholly selfless all the time in thought and deed, it necessarily follows that we cannot stop sinning on our own.

    It is then a short step to the conclusion that we need a Rescuer.

    But I think there are terrible consequences to this way of thinking. For the whole upshot of this definitonal tinkering is to induce a state of helplessness — we sin, and cant stop. This is antithetical to building self-esteem, mastery, competence in life, and a realistic self-appraisal. Its not really obvious *why* it matters just as much what you feel as what you do; this, in fact, seems rather counterintuitive.

    I think its no accident that many fundamentalists today have little interest in environmental issues, or long-term politcal stability, because, after all, Jesus is coming back within 50 years at the most and so it doesnt matter.

    Thats , in my view, the end result of inculcating helplessness. The irony is that sin is supposed to be about accountability, but in reality It amounts to an *evasion* of responsibility for ones own life.

    SIn is one of the most destructive ideas ever conceived, IMHO.
    Richard

  • 2. locomotivebreath1901  |  November 5, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    Wowser. Where to start? Deep pockets chopra? hahahahaha…but …I digress.

    I guess, first, you should define your term. What do you mean by sin? Much of your explanation of why you don’t believe borders on buddhism’s noble eight fold path. Yes, there is a right way and a wrong way to live in peace & harmony with all living things, but there is no definitive eternal, omnipotent, omniscient person defined as ‘GOD’ with his/her/its accompanying accouterments of righteousness & holiness to offend or disrespect. Instead, the immutable & impersonal cosmic force of ‘karma’ deals ‘justice’. Either way, a ‘decision’ is made. What do you mean by sin?

    You state if God doesn’t like our ‘sin’, He doesn’t do much about it as if there is a recognition of the possibility of a definitive eternal, omnipotent, omniscient person defined as ‘GOD’ with his/her/its accompanying accouterments of righteousness & holiness that should interfere or manipulate his little play toys into proper behavior, as a parents who would intrude into his/her/its adult children’s affairs. That sounds oh so wrong all on its own. Either way, a ‘decision’ is made. What do you mean by sin?

    Just curious.

  • 3. bigham  |  November 5, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” -James 4:17

  • 4. mjackson75  |  November 5, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    I think the concept of sin is absolutely vital, at least to Christianity, as that is the device used to convince humans that we are “fallen” and are in need of “redemption.” It seems that sin, and its impending judgment, is the primary means to convincing people to follow a religious path. Personally, I don’t hold to the belief in sin either. While I am not an atheist, I do not believe there is anyway a finite being could offend the sensibilities of some infinite being. It makes no sense. The idea that “sin” separates us from some god is, I believe, false. Instead, I like to think that what separates us from a creator (being, spirit…don’t know) is a natural separation of creator to created, infinite to finite.

    Interesting post.

  • 5. bigham  |  November 5, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    God created this universe.
    All sin is offensive to God because all sin is basically, at its root, saying to God, “this is better than you, God!”

    God is infinitely greater than each and every one of us, and He is infinitely greater than any and all sin.

    Whatever it is that you treasure in your life is never going to satisfy you, unless you treasure what is infinitely glorious and worthy of being your treasure.

    If you treasure money, you’ll never make enough money. If you treasure relationships, people will let you down and break your heart.

    Money, relationships, and all other things of any value in this world cannot satisfy the way that only God can. Only when you view those things as gifts from God, give thanks to the Giver for them, and use them in the ways that He intended for them to be used can you have satisfaction and contentment in this world.

    Many sins are deceptive distortions of good gifts from God. Sex, for example, is a gift from God. People often think that Christians are anti-sex or that you can’t enjoy sex if your a Christian, or things like that. Sex, in and of itself is not a sin. When it becomes a sin is when it is used apart from the way that God intended for it to be used, namely between one man and one woman within the covenant of marriage.

    Any sexual pleasure, whether in thought or in action, is a sin when used outside of God’s will, and outside of His will sexual pleasure will not satisfy.

  • 6. samanthamj  |  November 5, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    And, how does this explain all those unsatisfied Christians out there? Or are they not the “real” Christians??

    This is more of the same threat and scare tactics.

    It almost sounds like some old woman putting a curse on someone…

  • 7. samanthamj  |  November 5, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    PS –
    It also reminds me of my very religious, and screwed up mother, who when I was 17 read my diary… and told me that I was a “whore and would never be satisfied by the touch of a man unless I had God in my life”. Nice, huh? The really sad part was that I was a virgin… and, hadn’t even have a serious boyfriend yet at the time. Figure that one out.

    Now, I know my mom was messed up… I can understand that now… but, I can’t understand hearing the same basic scare tactics and arguments from “sane” people.

    ~smj
    (Oh – and for the record, she was wrong. Thankfully! = )

  • 8. Lyndon  |  November 5, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    Richard, I think your point that sinfulness is an evasion of responsibility is very wise. I’ve long believed that Christians embrace “escapism” from reality in many ways. A prime example is how the belief in the rapture has influenced their view of the environment and world affairs.

    Loco, I assume you mean that Chopra has ‘deep pockets,’ as in the size of the pockets of Joel Osteen, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Al Sharpton, or Rick Warren perhaps? I never thought that the word ‘sin’ would have to be defined or put into context for a working conversation in the 21st century, but I forget that I’m writing in the Bible belt. I speak of sin in the Christian context as taught and embraced by fundamentalist Christians to be exact.

    Bigham, I disagree completely that any sex outside of the will of God doesn’t satisfy. It all feels pretty damn good if you ask me.

    Samantha, thank you for sharing about a very painful part of your life. Many of us can relate to being brought up with a very distorted fundamentalist view of sexuality and still struggle with some of its implications. We can only be grateful that we were able to find our way through it and find freedom.

  • 9. burredbrain  |  November 5, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    I notice that Bigham was unable, or unwilling, to define sin. He/she simply asserted that god doesn’t like it. Related to the idea of sin is forgiveness. If we buy the idea that sin is knowing the right thing to do but failing to do it (acting responsibly a la Richard), then seeking forgiveness from the wronged individual can absolve one, at least partially, of the sin. But if the wronged party cannot be reached, then how is the sin resolved? Enter god, stage left, providing forgiveness, or so we are told.

    Nice post Lyndon

  • 10. HeIsSailing  |  November 5, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    From everything I have read, sin literally means ‘missing the mark’, as in missing God’s standard. There are a couple problems with that. The worst being who set that standard, God or some outside agent? But besides that conundrum, how do we exegetes of Scripture truly know what God’s mark is? It seems everyone has their own ideas how to read the mind of God. One of my biggest stuggles with my Christian brethren was the issue of homosexuality. Gays were so obviously sinful to my friends, while I could never understand what the big deal was.

    sin sin sin sin… sigh.

  • 11. Lyndon  |  November 5, 2007 at 10:28 pm

    HeIsSailing, you hit on something I was thinking about this afternoon. Not only is sin a means of control, but it is also a profit center. You wouldn’t think you could rake in the big bucks preaching on sin, but oh how you can if you preach about everyone else’s but your own.

    Sin consciousness helps to pervade the notion of “us” vs. “them.” As long as you are harping on the sins of “them,” i.e. the gays, the muslims, the mormons, the drug addicts, the politicians, etc., it’s great for fund-raising and passing the plate.

    Sin is a slippery snake indeed because every little group has their own translation or private interpretation of what is legally a sin. How something be universally damning for all time and yet be completely subjective to the whims of denominations and pulpit personalities? Just thinking…

  • 12. OneSmallStep  |  November 5, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    There are a couple problems with that. The worst being who set that standard, God or some outside agent?

    Along with this, I would wonder why the standard would be perfection, when it’s being applied to imperfect beings. When we set standards for others, we set ones that they can actually reach, or can reach when they are mature enough. But the entire concept of Christianity seems to be that one can’t meet those standards, and so there must be punishment for that. How does that match any definition of justice? The answer I tend to get is that we don’t have to worry about that, Jesus did it all for us. But I don’t get how that compensates for the fact that we are still in the position of required perfection.

    In some ways, Christianity doesn’t seem to give lots of room to simply be human.

    From everything I have read, sin literally means ‘missing the mark’, as in missing God’s standard.

    I think it was originally an archery term. I did a blog post on that a while back, in reconciling the idea of missing the mark with the idea that man, in his natural state, does not seek out good. My question was that if man does not seek out good without divine intervention, then can man actually miss the mark in the first place, since man wasn’t aiming for that mark?

  • 13. Sara  |  November 6, 2007 at 6:52 am

    Hi Lyndon!
    Fascinating post. I can’t help thinking, however, that you’ve grossly misunderstood Brennan Manning’s books. Brennan doesn’t say that sin doesn’t exist, but that with God’s grace through Jesus Christ, those who trust in Jesus are no longer held captive as slaves to sin. Instead, they are redeemed from the bonds of their chains (of sin) and are free to pursue the abundant life God has for us.

    We most certainly can sin against God. We do this whenever we choose evil, and evil can be defined as the opposite of love. As “God is love”, when we do not act out of love (merely omission of action can be sinful , “sins of omission”) we are sinning against God. Love is not merely an attribute of God, God IS the definition and summation of love.

    Why does evil exist? To presume that justice must be brought in the time we have on earth or otherwise sin goes unpunished is not biblcial. Some justice is brought on earth, but the remainder of justice (setting wrongs right) will happen for many after death.

    It could seem that God is not “loving” in “sending people to hell”, as commonly understood, but in reality, it is a choice of people to desire to not be with God. Would you marry someone who didn’t love you and didn’t care for your company? Would you spend the rest of your life with them? Likewise, those who do not choose to follow God choose to not spend life after death with him.

    Since God is love, being separated from God means being in the presence of everything opposite of the love that God is. I’m not sure exactly how it can be turned against God, in this understanding, and making God take responsibility for people’s free will?

    If people choose to not follow God, they are in essence choosing not to love… to serve the self (and their selfish desires) over serving God (who is love)…

    When we make Christianity a “religion” instead of relationship with God, that is when all the ugly stuff starts to rear its head. Looking at and criticizing other Christians yields little because they are not God and it is realistic that they are fallbible.

    People can not earn their own salvation. Brennan Manning in the “Ragamuffin Gospel” talks about the futility of trying to please God by our own “righteousness”. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care to do right, but that salvation comes in who you know (Jesus Christ) and not what you do. Spending time in anyone’s company changes you, and it is more so with Jesus.

    Being a Christian is not summed up in just believing a body of doctrine. Anyone can say they believe. True Christianity is developing a relationship with Christ, coming to know him more and more, following him and being discipled by him. True Christianity is about walking in obedience. To the young man that ask Jesus mulitple times how to get into heaven, Jesus responded, “Keep my commandments”. Jesus wasn’t being legalistic here, but was saying that “when you are obedient to me, then you will be transformed, as you come to know me more and more”. Salvation is about relationship with God.

    Richard also brings up some valid points that I’d like to address. He says that addressing that we are “drowning in sin” is antithetical to building self esteem, etc. That is a fantastic point, and incredibly insightful. In fact, we don’t (in the Chrisitan faith) build ourselves up at all. God builds us up. It is not by our power that we are made righteous. So we stand in the work of redemption that Jesus did for us, and it is in that work that we are made new and can hold our head up high, but not in self-pride, but reliance on God. The New Testament talks about this at length, that “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ” and we are saved by Jesus redemption of us, “so that no man should boast” of our own work/accomplishments.

    Relationship with God is fundamentally one of reliance, and the Bible makes it clear that anything else is dysfunctional…aka “sinful”. Sinful because we are taking the role of God, making ourselves God, when we do not rely and depend on him. That was the sin of Adam and Eve. They wanted to become God. (It wasn’t just eating some fruit!)

    I also disagree with Richard regarding his analysis of what Christians care about. True, some Christians are bad stewards of the earth, of pursing social justice for those exploited internationally, etc, but I myself am a strong advocate for environmental stewardship, and my church likewise is very concerned and involved in fighting social injustice and exploitation and in stewardship for the environment.

    Lyndon, you wrote:

    “Instead of telling people how worthless, how no good, and how sinful they are, why don’t we try showing people the incredible potential they have as persons and as a collective whole? Now there’s a novel idea.”

    I have no idea where that came from. That certainly is not the Bible or Gospel message, (that people are worthless), after all Jesus didn’t come die and give his life to redeem people worth nothing. In fact, we are worth so much to God, and that is why he sent Jesus. The latter half of your statement, about showing people the incredible potential and value they have, is exactly what Jesus did, and the heart of the Gospel message.

    I encourage you that while there may be some churches that teach “religion” and how pitiful man is (unhealthy theological doctrine not in line with the Bible message) that there exist healthy, strong, God-loving and people-loving churches that do preach the gospel message and share God’s message of hope and love and new life. Rejecting falsehoods in religion does not mean Jesus and the gospel are false. I encourage you to reject falsehoods. But we should be wary of throwing out the baby with the bathwater!

    Sara

  • 14. Samanthamj  |  November 6, 2007 at 9:40 am

    wow. I see so much I’d like to comment on in Sara’s post above… but, my time is limited and I doubt it will do any good…

    still… a couple of quick immediate thoughts…

    =====Sara wrote:
    “Would you marry someone who didn’t love you and didn’t care for your company? Would you spend the rest of your life with them? Likewise, those who do not choose to follow God choose to not spend life after death with him.”
    ========

    Chosing not to marry, or live happily ever after with someone who doesn’t love you makes sense. Sending that person to hell because they don’t chose you, *eternal* torture and anguish, does NOT make sense. Sheesh. I’m sure many divorced people might temporarily entertain the idea of how nice it would be to send their ex to hell… but, in the long run… I don’t think too many people would be so cruel to wish such a thing. But, it’s ok for God, right?

    =====Sara wrote:
    “If people choose to not follow God, they are in essence choosing not to love… to serve the self (and their selfish desires) over serving God (who is love)…”
    ========

    Huh? How judgemental, rude and false. I completely disagree AND resent that remark. #1, it’s not like we BELEIEVE in God, and CHOOSE to not follow him. We don’t believe in him. You can’t be expected to follow something you don’t believe in.

    How does this mean I am chosing to be selfish or loveless?? and I am not rejecting the power of love. I love loving and being loved. As far as selfish? I know plenty of non-christians who do plenty for their family, friends, the environment, etc. We want the same things all you “good Christians” do.. except we want it more… because we believe THIS is it.. no 2nd chances.

    I also am not “choosing” to go to hell just because I don’t/CAN’T believe in God. Why the hell would anyone CHOOSE that?? That’s like saying that you, because you don’t believein Santa Clause, are CHOOSING to be banished forever to the Isle of the Misfits….

    =====Sara wrote:
    “I have no idea where that came from. That certainly is not the Bible or Gospel message, (that people are worthless), after all Jesus didn’t come die and give his life to redeem people worth nothing.”

    ==In the same post she also wrote:
    “God builds us up. It is not by our power that we are made righteous. So we stand in the work of redemption that Jesus did for us, and it is in that work that we are made new and can hold our head up high, but not in self-pride, but reliance on God. ”
    and
    “those who trust in Jesus are no longer held captive as slaves to sin. Instead, they are redeemed from the bonds of their chains (of sin) ”
    ====
    ??
    Isn’t that saying that we are basically worthless and sinful.. UNLESS we are redeemed by God?

    ~smj

  • 15. Lyndon  |  November 6, 2007 at 9:55 am

    Sara, thanks for your comment. Due to editorial brevity I probably did not explain the transition from Brenan Manning to ‘there is no prison to being with.’ Brenan Manning and my college professor were among the first steps that lead me out of fundamentalism. I include them to describe what led me out of sin consciousness. Without a doubt I am far removed and beyond that point now. I came realize that guilt and sin were unnecessary mental prisons that we could walk out of any time we chose to do so.

    You are right that we are not ‘worthless’ in respect to the idea of John 3:16. However, there are ample scriptures that speak of the utter depravity (i.e. worthlessness) of man. ‘In me dwells no good thing.. the heart is desperately wicked.. all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God… there is none righteous.. etc, etc.’ It would appear from a psychological viewpoint that before one must be saved they must actualize how utterly depraved and damned they are already, i.e. have conviction of sin and fear of hell.

    I understand and am sympathetic to the language you speak. It is my native tongue. I just see life very differently now. I can only speak for myself and from the vantage point from which I view the world around me.

  • 16. bigham  |  November 6, 2007 at 11:21 am

    First of all…. Sara, wow! great comment- that was super long and yet I was disappointed that it ended when I finished reading it.
    …do you have a blog? I would love to check it out!

    Several comments that I’d like to address- if I miss some, I apologize.

    samanthamj- you use two different terms there, and I think we need to address them seperately before squishing them together as you did. You said something about “unsatisfied Christians” and “real Christians.”
    First, I would say that no human being is going to be 100% satisfied 100% of the time. If it was humanly possible to fully know God’s law and meditate on His law 100% of the time, I believe that would bring 100% satisfaction 100% of the time.
    Therefore we cannot identify “real Christians” by whether or not they are satisfied.
    I would define “real Christian” as a person who has “real faith” in Jesus Christ. The Greek word that is translated to “faith” in the New Testament does not connote only faith. It is a more active verb than our word “faith.”
    The Greek word is closest to either “faith+faithfulness” or a faith that is living and active. This is why you have the seeming contradiction between Paul’s message that salvation is through faith alone, whereas James the Just wrote that “faith without works is dead.”
    We are saved through faith alone, as Paul taught, but the faith that he had in mind was a true, living, active faith, which would naturally produce the works that James mentions.
    We do not believe in salvation through works, as most if not all other religions do, salvation is through faith alone. But true saving faith will produce works- i.e. if you truly believe that your faith in Jesus Christ results in your forgiveness of all of your sins against God, you will naturally be forgiving towards others, inasmuch as our human selfishness allows. Jesus talks about forgiveness in Matthew 18:21-35.
    So it is very possible to be a “real Christian” and still be an unsatisfied Christian. But I believe that the unsatisfaction in the Christian shares a starting point with the unsatisfaction in the non-Christian. That is, in not acknowledging God as the Creator of this universe and the Giver of “every good thing given and every perfect gift” (James 1:17), and being satisfied in Him.

    Lyndon- you are right in some sense. Sexual pleasures outside of the will of God satisfy some needs- i.e. it feels good, it “satisfies” bodily cravings, etc.- but it will not be ultimately satisfying outside of God’s will. Research backs me up on this. The Kinsey Institute, which specializes in the field of human sexuality and has no religious or moral ties that I know of, found that the people who are the most satisfied with their sex lives are couples that consist of one man and one woman in a faithful marriage. Thats not the message that you get anywhere in our culture today- all you see wherever you look (tv, movies, celebrities, etc) is that sex is fun for single people who aren’t “tied down” and dull and boring for married people.
    Sexual pleasures can be satisfying on some levels. But as great as sexual pleasures can be, God is infinitely greater, and He wants us to use sex as He meant for it to be used. Not out of some kind of punishment or control issue, but because that is the way that it will be most satisfying for us!

    burredbrain- I gave the verse from James above: “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James 4:17
    That is the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. The Bible says a lot about sin, and I think that is where we Christians get our concept of sin, or at least thats where we should get our concept from sin.
    That verse from James is important, because you first have to know the right thing to do. Just as ignorance of the law is no excuse in our judicial system, I don’t think ignorance of the law is going to get you anywhere with God. God revealed His law to us in His Word, and we are responsible for learning as much as we can.
    We start with the ten commandments. Then Jesus took it a step further. He taught that just because you don’t commit sinful actions does not mean that you are free from sin. He took it to another level, and taught that sins of the heart are just as bad as sinful actions, i.e.- looking on a woman with lust, means you have committed adultery in your heart and you are guilty; being angry toward your brother is just as bad as murder, so forth. And James says that breaking one law makes you just as guilty of all laws.
    I believe that all of that speaks toward “justification”, which is simply whether you will be consider “justified” before God on the day of judgement. I don’t think thats meant to set up this impossible perfection to beat people up and always make them feel guilty. I think that is to say that we need a way to be reconciled with God, who is perfect.
    Our sins must be punished in order to satisfy the just and holy wrath of God. Under the Mosaic law (Moses, Ten Commandments) there had to be sacrifices to reconcile the Israelites with God. This goes along with the rest of the Old Testament in pointing forward to Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe. The Israelites under the Mosaic law, when they were guilty of sins, sacrificed a spotless lamb and the blood of the lamb reconciled them to God.
    Our spotless Lamb, whose blood reconciles us with God is Jesus Christ.

    So yes we are infinitely guilty before a just, perfect, and holy God. But God, who is the “one Lawgiver and Judge,” provided a way to be reconciled with Him so that His justice would be satisfied and we can still attain the necessary perfection and righteousness to enter His presence and His kingdom.

    Every ounce of God’s justice and His wrath were completely satisfied and poured out on Jesus Christ when He was crucified for you and for me. And Jesus Christ “for the joy set before Him endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2)
    Jesus was with God before all Creation. He is and was God. He knew how terribly brutal the cross was going to be. That explains why he literally sweat blood in the garden before He was taken, and why He asked His Father if there was any other way.
    But, since there was no other way for God’s wrath to be satisfied, He joyfully endured the cross! He allowed Himself to be taken and refused to save Himself because that was the only way. He received the 39 lashes, which were magnified in pain because His skin was sensitive from sweating blood. He carried His cross through the streets and was mocked and despised. He was nailed to the cross, through His wrists and ankles. His shoulders would have been dislocated by His stretched arms and His body weight.
    And all of that, He endured for joy!
    Because He knew that by His obedience and His suffering, all who are willing can be reconciled with God.
    That is how great the love of Jesus Christ is. He endured that with joy, so that your sins can be wiped away and you can be reconciled with God.
    Jesus is the only way that God’s wrath against you for your sins can be justified.

    And He says to you, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

    All you have to do is this:
    “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (We are sinners and we are double-minded; we try to serve ourselves and the world rather than the Creator of the universe!)
    Be miserable and mourn and weep (View yourselves in God’s eyes and see how guilty we truly are and how badly we need Jesus Christ); let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom (all those times that you sought your own pleasures and turned your back on God and laughed about it; see those times from God’s perspective). Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
    Acknowledge Jesus Christ as the King of this universe. He paid our debt and became sin, although He knew no sin. And He offers His perfection and His righteousness. The only acceptable pardon to reconcile us to God, and all you have to do is take hold of it, and all your sins, and all your guilt will be washed away!
    We all stand guilty before a holy and just Judge. But He is offering a pardon, and all you have to do is take it!
    And if you humbly submit to Jesus and acknowledge His authority, and see yourself as the sinner that you truly are, He will exalt you. He will give you peace that surpasses all understanding.

    This really did happen in my life. I grew up in a Christian home, but did not have true, living, saving faith in Jesus Christ. I believed what I was told by family members and people at church, but I didn’t have that relationship with God. I went through about five years of unbelief- through college and almost a year after college. I was a popular guy in college. I threw all the best parties, and I was voted homecoming king.
    I believed there was no God and that Christians were misled. I even jokingly mocked some of my Christian friends.

    So when I became convinced in March of this year that Jesus Christ really did conquer death and really was and is God’s annointed Messiah, I saw my unbelieving years in a different light. All of my laughter and joy in partying and turning my back on God I saw for what it really was. I was miserable. I mourned. I wept. I didn’t know what I could do. I felt like I needed to do a lot of things to make up for all of my wrong, and I was in despair.

    That next Sunday at church, this passage was in the bulletin:
    “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
    I realized that I was that sheep. I had gone astray, and my Shepherd, Jesus Christ had sought me and found me. And I realized both that God was not worried about all of the wrong I had done. He was rejoicing that He had brought me back to the flock!

    And He will bring you back in the same way. You have ultimate forgiveness from the wrath you deserve, ultimate liberty from past and future sins, and the ultimate joy and satisfaction that can only come from knowing God and enjoying Him forever. All you have to do is take it.
    Jesus offers all of those things to you, and all He gets in return is your sins! All you have to do is humble yourself before God, put your faith in Jesus Christ and submit to His authority as King of the universe, and ask God to forgive all of your sins.

    Draw near to God. Cleanse your hands. Purify your hearts. Be miserable, mourn, and weep. Humble yourself before God, and He will exalt you!

  • 17. Anonymous  |  November 6, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Sara said:

    “Why does evil exist? To presume that justice must be brought in the time we have on earth or otherwise sin goes unpunished is not biblcial. Some justice is brought on earth, but the remainder of justice (setting wrongs right) will happen for many after death.”

    What a load! Justice delayed is justice denied. The promise of future happiness does not invalidate the reality of present suffering; moral goodness demands an immediate, not an eventual, response to evil.

    Sara said:

    “Love is not merely an attribute of God, God IS the definition and summation of love” and “Since God is love, being separated from God means being in the presence of everything opposite of the love that God is.”

    What the hell are you talking about? Your vague and baseless assertions of “God” are absolutely incoherent. Please explain HOW God is love.

  • 18. bigham  |  November 6, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    I wrote the longest blog comment in history, and it disappeared when I hit “Submit”.
    I am slightly disheartened, but “our God is in the heavens, He does all that He pleases.”

  • 19. bigham  |  November 6, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” -1 Corinthians 15:3-4

    Sara,
    I greatly appreciate your comments! I hope and pray that you won’t lose heart. 2 Corinthians 4:3 and Romans 9:15-18 hold true.

    Look at Jesus. There were plenty of people who saw Him perform miracles, and heard that He was raised from the dead. Seeing and hearing those things they still said, “I’m not convinced.”
    And worse yet, there must have been many who saw Him perform those miracles and heard His teaching in the crowd that tragic/glorious day yelling, “Crucify Him!”

    Keep sharing the Gospel in love, as you have done here, and hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will quicken hearts and the Gospel will no longer be veiled to them. That He will open eyes, ears, and hearts, and they will return to Him and be healed. That He will have mercy and compassion on them, and they will see, hear, taste, smell, know, and feel that the greatest and truest pleasures can only be found by knowing God and enjoying Him forever!

    -David
    “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” -Hebrews 10:23

  • 20. Paul S.  |  November 6, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    bigham said:

    Keep sharing the Gospel in love, as you have done here, and hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will quicken hearts and the Gospel will no longer be veiled to them. That He will open eyes, ears, and hearts, and they will return to Him and be healed. That He will have mercy and compassion on them, and they will see, hear, taste, smell, know, and feel that the greatest and truest pleasures can only be found by knowing God and enjoying Him forever!

    I think I’m going to be sick. Poor, pitiful atheists. Give me a friggin’ break.

  • 21. Lyndon  |  November 6, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Bigham, if this blog distresses you so much why don’t you visit TBN.com or the 700 Club’s site? Is your interest here in looking for a place by which to be offended? Are you here to gather talking points for your Sunday School class? Or are you here to convert us wayward backslidders? Ah, maybe that’s it. Online missionary to the heretics? I’m de-converting, in case you haven’t noticed. So unless you plan on lauching another crusade to convert by the sword, you’re really wasting your time. However, if you really want talk about something substantive, by all means stick around and put your two cents in. Just realize that I don’t have an agenda to convert you or anyone else to my way of thinking, no matter how misguided and delusional I now consider your worldview to be.

  • 22. Richard  |  November 6, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    Sara – Thanks for your thoughts. Two points I’d like to address:

    First, I have to take sharp issue with that old rationalization of hell in which we “choose” hell over God. In medicine, we would say this arrangement lacks informed consent. How can people who are not persuaded God exists in the first place reasonably be said to “choose” not to be with him? And for those who do believe, who in the world would “choose” an eternity of screaming mindless agony over being with God? Do you really think anyone loves their sin *that* much? How can God be said to expect us to come to him out of love when the alternative is infinite torture? If you wish to believe in hell, fine, that’s your call, but please don’t tell me anyone “chooses” it; that’s just silly. It is imposed.

    Secondly, I’d like to echo what Lyndon says about your comments on sin, when you wrote: “In fact, we don’t (in the Chrisitan faith) build ourselves up at all. God builds us up. It is not by our power that we are made righteous. So we stand in the work of redemption that Jesus did for us, and it is in that work that we are made new and can hold our head up high, but not in self-pride, but reliance on God.”

    What you say is true, as far as it goes — you correctly quote the Christian party line — but is a bit disingenuous. You can only “hold your head up high” *after* you have been accepted that you are a worm, that your “righteousness is as filthy rags.” Christianity must first tear down any residual self-esteem you might have had remaining when you came to it, before it can “cure” you.

    And therein lies the difference between your view and mine. What you call “pride” I call “healthy, realistic self-esteem.” You say have it is a bad thing, the very essence of sin. I say is a good thing, the very essence of emotional health.

    It’s not ones and zeros. We’re neither perfectly faultless nor demons from hell, and we needn’t be either, in my view. We live in that all-too-human middle ground where we’re pretty good, sometimes, hopefully, fingers crossed, and try to do better. We struggle, we do our best, grieve our failings, and try not to kick ourselves too hard. And life goes on.

    It’s wonderful.

  • 23. OneSmallStep  |  November 6, 2007 at 7:06 pm

    That certainly is not the Bible or Gospel message, (that people are worthless), after all Jesus didn’t come die and give his life to redeem people worth nothing.”

    I would echo what people have already said — that if people do not “belong” to Christ, they are enemies of God and utterly depraved in God’s sight. I’ve heard over and over again how the holy spirit must first convict people of sin, and show how unrighteous they are, and how they don’t deserve/are unworthy of the mercy they receive, in order to be saved. THe whole point is that one only has potential for good *after* one receives salvation. In which case, the potential is due to Jesus/God, not the person. Such as you saying that people are not made righteous through themselves, but through Jesus.

    If people choose to not follow God, they are in essence choosing not to love… to serve the self (and their selfish desires) over serving God (who is love)…

    But this is setting up a comparison that *only* those who willfully follow God can love. Atheists and agnostics choose to love every day, and not just with people who are nice/kind to them. How does this work out that the atheist is then choosing hell? The atheist has, after all, chosen love.

  • 24. bigham  |  November 7, 2007 at 1:28 am

    my 2 cents, free of charge- and without the usual Bible verses that you folks so enjoy:

    came across a couple of books and ordered them on amazon.com today, just wondering if any of you have read either of them and/or have any thoughts on them…

    “The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom” by Gerald Schroeder (which supposedly gives scientific support for the Genesis account of creation)

    and

    “There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind” by Anthony Flew

  • 25. Sara  |  November 7, 2007 at 4:12 am

    Wow, lots of good thoughts in here. Thanks for your responses.

    Samanthamj, people may not “consciously” choose hell, but they choose to make themselves God when they don’t serve God. Since we weren’t created for ourselves but for God, and since evil (sin) in the world results from people choosing their own way and not God’s, people who do not choose God won’t be with him in eternity. Evil will not be with God in eternity.

    Is that unloving? I believe that love and justice are flip sides of the same coin. Love requires justice, and justice requires for evil to be punished. Which means that evildoers, even occasional evildoers, don’t make the cut. When someone turns to proactively follow Christ, they are in essence renouncing evil, and begin a journey of relationship with Christ, which involves sanctification and purging of sin from that person’s life. Please note, not everyone who goes to “church” is Christian, and not everyone who thinks they’re Christian because they hold to a certain doctrine is Christian. Wasn’t it Paul in the New Testament who said that true religion is feeding the poor and caring for the widows and orphans? What was he saying? Not that the true Christian is a person who just does a bunch of good things, but that the true Christian is one who is transformed from inside out and that is manifested in their love and care for others… I am addressing an inward-to-out Christ-led transformation, not an outside-in externally regimizied program to appear “Christianly”. So I want to weed out cases that could be used for examples to “disprove” Christianity’s life changing power, by making sure that we refer to true Christianity and not just religion, which is very very different.

    A few people touched on the idea that how is it that non-Christians do good as well. This is absolutely true, all people know what goodness is, and because people were made in God’s image, we naturally want to do good. The difference between a person submitted to God’s will and serving God, and a person going their own way is that for the non-God-follower, when push comes to shove and they are “pressed”, they will sin when it costs them to not do so. So in essence, they are putting themselves above God, and above the good. Their ultimate master is their own end goals… and so the non-God-follower will do good as long as the cost doesn’t interfere with their goals. (The “Christian” will do this sometimes too, but when it comes down to it, the person who willingly chooses evil after a while hardens their heart to God, and they are not a “Christian” after all, in that light. The true God follower will eventually with time be very different in action than the non-God-follower, as they are sanctified and they seek after God’s heart.)

    Yes, it is “exclusivist” so to speak, to say that God only wants people in heaven who want to follow his way. His way is one of goodness. So if God chooses to not have self-serving and “number one matters most” people in heaven, that seems fair enough.

    I’ve been misunderstood on the topic of worth. Depravity does not equate with lack of worth. Worth does not come from people’s actions, worth is intrinsic. Everyone has worth whether or not they choose to follow God. Everyone has worth no matter what their sins. No one is better than anyone else, but some people are saved (in redemptive relationship with Christ).

    When I said that “God builds people up” I was saying that healthy self esteem should be based on the identity that Christ gives us, not what we accomplsih by human hands. Whatever we accomplish by human hands if we use to establish our own worth leads to false pride, and we basically position ourselves as masters of our own universe instead of living in healthy relationship to God as the master. IF God created us and the universe, there’s nothing wrong with God asking to play God (master) in our lives, and not just be cast to the side.

    Richard, I disagree with your analysis of Christianity as tearing down the person. It comes from a humanistic position that does not allow for knowing ourselves objectively and knowing God. If we have to deny the wrongs we do (which we often intrinsically know are wrong, from our deep moral centers and consciencses) in order to feel good about ourselves, that’s like our house burning down and us ignoring it in order to keep on napping. I don’t buy into the “constructionist” view that our idea of right and wrong and morality is a social construct (in this case, that it is a construct of religion). We would (likely, I imagine) all agree rape is wrong, we understand that in a way that doesn’t need discussion (a deep down “gut” way), so all we need is one starting point of consensus (such as agreeing rape is wrong) in order to combat the idea that morality and right and wrong is a social construct.

    The truth is, denying that we sin and denying the intrinsic wrong of certain things we do is the only way to disguard the weight of our human limitation and sin IF we keep trying to earn our own righteousness and salvation. The other option is to enter relationship with Christ. Relationship here isn’t head knowledge, or doctrinal consent. It is actually knowing a person, Jesus Christ the person. Talking to him, him talking to us through the Holy Spirit, being discipled by him in a personal one-on-one mentorship. Knowing him personally. This is what I mean when I say “relationship”. Thus, knowing Christ like this, as a friend and Lord of our lives, is not “religion” at all, in the boxed up, constructed view.

    Lyndon, I would be skeptical, frustrated, and eventually atheist too if I followed the “religion” of Christianity and tried to get right with God, but never encountered the real living powerful person of Christ. So if we’re battling religion, I’m all for it. There is no life or freedom in religion, and “religion” should not be used as an idol. Religion is not the same thing as Jesus Christ.

    IF God actually came down to earth so that we could know him, so that he could give us real and abundant life, there’s nothing unreasonable in what I’ve been saying. But if the presupposition is that such a thing could not have happened, or even greater, that their is no God, then I can see how it would seem foolish talking about Christianity at all, and how the only logical step would be to believe that it was a complete social construction.

  • 26. Sara  |  November 7, 2007 at 4:22 am

    Hi Bigham,
    I haven’t read those two books, but I have a whole slew of other books on my shelves… I’ll take a peek at them. =)

  • 27. HeIsSailing  |  November 7, 2007 at 6:43 am

    bigham suggests:

    “The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom” by Gerald Schroeder (which supposedly gives scientific support for the Genesis account of creation)

    I have already read this. As a scientist and a Christian, I was desperate to reconcile the Scriptural account of creation and Genesis 1 together. This book does it by re-interpreting familiar passages of Genesis 1 to fit modern discoveries in cosmology. He relies mainly on mystical, kabbalistic, Jewish philosophy that Christian would otherwise consider heretical. In other words, he really has to torture the text of Genesis 1 to make his case. He is also one of the large number of Christians who misapply multi-dimensional physics by applying it to the ‘spiritual realm’, which is one of my pet peeves. It is ultimately unconvincing – even to a Christian who understands what he is doing. Hugh Ross’ ‘The Fingerprint of God’ was probably my favorite book on this subject, although it to is flawed by the way it re-orders the evolution in order to fit Genesis 1. A better solution Bigham? Just pick up a layman’s book on cosmology at the library and come to your own conclusions. You will learn a heck of a lot more that way.

    and

    “There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind” by Anthony Flew

    I am actually thinking of getting this one.

  • 28. OneSmallStep  |  November 7, 2007 at 6:52 am

    Sara,

    Love requires justice, and justice requires for evil to be punished. Which means that evildoers, even occasional evildoers, don’t make the cut.

    Then what good is justice is evil still exists? Justice should should require the elimination of evil and restoration, in the end.

    So if God chooses to not have self-serving and “number one matters most” people in heaven, that seems fair enough.

    But isn’t this exactly what we would do? God, if possessing all those infinite abilities, should behave much better than we would.

    The difference between a person submitted to God’s will and serving God, and a person going their own way is that for the non-God-follower, when push comes to shove and they are “pressed”, they will sin when it costs them to not do so. So in essence, they are putting themselves above God, and above the good. Their ultimate master is their own end goals

    There is sitll a false comparison occuring here, and it’s a matter of will. Let us all an atheist a non-God follower. However, the atheist could have all the fruits of the spirit, and demonstrate the loving attitude. The atheist is still following God’s “way.” What you seem to be saying is only someone in the “right” relationship with God — i.e, the willful relationship with Jesus — can follow God’s way. And we see that it is simply not true, based on human actions. Muslims, atheists, Jews: all can demonstrate the fruit of the spirit, and many can choose to not take the easy way out.

    The truth is, denying that we sin and denying the intrinsic wrong of certain things we do is the only way to disguard the weight of our human limitation and sin IF we keep trying to earn our own righteousness and salvation.

    This might be part of the problem here — ask a conservative Christian if I am a Christian, and I wouldn’t qualify. But that doesn’t mean I’m trying to earn my own righteousness and salvation, or trying to “earn” heaven.

    Depravity does not equate with lack of worth. Worth does not come from people’s actions, worth is intrinsic.

    Except a huge part of Christianity also stresses how unworthy anyone is to receive God’s grace. How the person doesn’t deserve anything God does. To have a statement that someone is nothing without Jesus is not building healthy self-esteem. It’s saying that you have nothing without an outside factor, that you are worth nothing without that outside factor. Again, the only way one can be “built up” in the system described here is to first acknowledge how depraved one is, and then to allow God to see Jesus, an outside factor, in the person. If you had two children, would you tell the second that she is depraved in your sight unless you see her sister in her? How does that do anything but destroy the self-esteem of the second sister?

  • 29. HeIsSailing  |  November 7, 2007 at 6:55 am

    Sara says:

    people may not “consciously” choose hell, but they choose to make themselves God when they don’t serve God.

    Sara, this only works if we are convinced that the Christian God actually exists, and that we are consciously rejecting him and his Truth. This is not the case. We are not rejecting the reality of God, we simply don’t think he exists. I wrote an article on this very topic recently – why don’t you take a gander:
    http://de-conversion.com/2007/08/21/rejecting-the-obvious-truth-of-the-gospel/

    I would love to reply to the rest of your comment, but I have to get ready for work. But I have to point out another misconception that you have about us:

    denying that we sin and denying the intrinsic wrong of certain things we do is the only way to disguard the weight of our human limitation and sin IF we keep trying to earn our own righteousness and salvation.

    Here is your misconception – we are not trying to earn our salvation by our own merits. That is a lie fed to you by your pastor and your church. I heard it too. I used to believe that atheists were self-righteous enough to think they could win God’s favor by their own merit. NO!! The truth is, we are not trying to earn salvation – period. Because ‘salvation’ in the Christian sense, has no meaning. We do not believe in any afterlife, nor any God who will justly reward or punish us, and we are not trying to earn anything from any higher being. Please don’t assume that is what we are doing.

  • 30. Rebecca  |  November 7, 2007 at 8:37 am

    For some interested in reading “Flew’s” book, you might want to consider this article as part of your reading.

    http://richarddawkins.net/article,1831,n,n

    original article found here http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/magazine/04Flew-t.html

  • 31. bigham  |  November 7, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    I think I saw a video of Richard Dawkins refuting Flew’s conversion as having any validity.

    I watched a couple of videos on youtube and such of Flew, and he is really old and seems to lose his train of thought once or twice. However, he still came off as extremely inteligent, extremely skeptical, and extremely competent in his capacities to me.

    However, he does not ascribe to any “revelation” from God. He says that he believes that inteligent design is stronger than it has ever been, and be buys it. I don’t recall his reasons at the moment, but he basically eliminates Islam from consideration. He has a very high regard for the apostle Paul as a philosopher and thinker, and for the Bible as enjoyable literature.

    He is very skeptical of any “revelation theory”, i.e. God reveals himself as the Bible says or Allah revealed himself to Muhammed, etc. But, I think he said that Christianity is the most plausible of them in his opinion, mainly because of Paul.

    Paul is so Gospel-centered in all of his writing, that I am baffled (not sure right now if it is slightly baffled or very baffled or somewhere in between) that a person could praise him as a philosopher and disagree with something so central to everything we know about him.

    At the risk of coming off as a jerk myself, Dawkins came off as a jerk to me in the video that I watched. He bashed Flew because he says Flew’s conversion (from Atheism to Theism) was based largely on biology. And he bashed biology as a possible avenue of adding anything valuable to the atheism-theism landscape. And he bashed Flew because he said that Flew brought up the theory that Charles Darwin converted to Christianity very late in his life.
    All without giving reasons.

    So my take on the video was that Dawkins came out and said, Flew is incompetent, biology is stupid, and Flew is nuts because he was talking about the Darwin conversion theory- all without giving reasons for those things.

    The video that I watched could very well have been an excerpt- possibly the introduction or conclusion. And Dawkins could very well have given his reasons for his statements before or after what I saw.
    Regardless, he could have and should have shown a lot more respect. Anybody deserves more respect than he gave Flew, but a person whose inteligence is as highly regarded as Flew’s at least was at one time, if it is not still regarded certainly deserves more respect than that.

    And I watched a video by Mark Driscoll that seconds what Sara was saying about the differences between Jesus and religion, and wrote a blog about the video and my subsequent thoughts:

    Driscoll’s video:

    My blog:
    http://bigham.wordpress.com/2007/11/07/jesus-vs-religion/

  • 32. LeoPardus  |  November 7, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    bigham:

    Every movement has its famous jerks. Dawkins is one for atheism. Franky Schaeffer is one for Eastern Orthodoxy. Protestantism, Catholicism, Islam, etc. all have theirs.

  • 33. karen  |  November 7, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    If you read the NY Times article on the Flew book, which Rebecca linked to, the objection is that a group of highly ideological conservative Christians seem to have “hijacked” Flew in his old age and are using his confusion and very dubious “conversion” for their own purposes.

    The author of the article interviewed Flew at his home and he did seem very unsure of what he believes or does not believe at this point in his life. He also seemed unaware of the way his “conversion” is being championed by the religious right.

    It all came across as exploitive of an elderly gentleman, to me.

  • 34. karen  |  November 7, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    Here’s a blog post that explains the Flew situation:

    http://www.daylightatheism.org/2007/11/the-exploitation-of-antony-flew.html

  • 35. Rebecca  |  November 7, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    Exactly Karen.

  • 36. Richard  |  November 7, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    Sara-
    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. It always pleases me to be able to have civil discussions with others, even when we disagree. This is so lacking in much of what passes for conversation about religion.

    I think you are trying to soft-pedal your own doctrine when it comes to hell. Saying we wont “be with God” sounds a lot nicer than saying “you will be tortured in screaming agony forever and ever and ever.” But I want you to look at that, because that is what Christianity teaches. Its not really fair for you to sugar coat this, either for your sake or mine. This is what *your* religion teaches. And again, I would point out that if it were the case that God had made the rules clear, then you (and he) could reasonably expect people to have to play by them. But again I ask you — how can I fairly be held accountable to a system of rules I don’t believe exists?

    I don’t mean the moral rules, I mean the rule that says “accept Jesus or go to hell.” That’s the rule I don’t believe in – not, mind you, that I accept it as valid and simply don’t want to do it. I don’t believe it’s valid in the first place. I think it’s a human fiction.

    If I’m wrong, God can easily set me straight. That is not so hard. Every town in America can make clear to everyone what their speed limit is. But I believe, after due study, that the Bible that asserts this rule is a human creation. Of course, I may be mistaken – but the price for being so mistaken is torture, according to you. You say this is just?

    And none of this is at all the same as saying I don’t believe in ethics or morality, and nowhere have I asserted that I am a social constructivist. It is a fallacy common among conservative religionists that one must believe in absolute moral truth, based on what is called divine command theory, or else pure social constructivist relativism. There are many, many other ways to construe ethics (and there are many problems with divine command theory as well). The online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has some nice articles on this if you are interested.

    For me, I find all the justifications about hell just fall away if we apply what I call a “parental theology.” The idea is simple: we take the universal Christian metaphor of God the Father, seriously. What behavior would we call good and just in a father?

    Does a father demand perfect and complete moral perfection in his children or else cast them forever from his presence, claiming “you have chosen this?” Would he ever have any reason to hold such a standard? Is it reasonable for him to say “if you tell one lie, in your life, ever, you are rejecting me for all eternity”? Would it ever be reasonable to assume a child *knew* that’s what they were choosing? Or worse, would a good and just father actually torture his child (or allow his child to be tortured) for any single imperfection? Lets make this concrete: what would your child have to do before you felt justified in pouring a pot of boiling water on his/her head?

    No, Sara, I’m sorry — I understand the Christian rationalizations of hell, but they don’t hold water. This doctrine alone is, for me, enough to reject Christianity. It is inhuman.

    And that is what I mean by tearing people down. Drawing a distinction between an individuals worth and his just desserts based on his actions is academic when hell is introduced. If you have utter worth as a human, how bad must you have to act in order for that worth ti be “overcome” and therefore be sent to hell?

    Richard

  • 37. Rebecca  |  November 7, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    Richard Carrier, mentioned in the NYTimes.com article several times, has written about Flew on his blog.

    http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2007/11/antony-flew-bogus-book.html

  • 38. HeIsSailing  |  November 7, 2007 at 10:26 pm

    Rebecca, thanks for the link. Holy mackeral, what an article. Well, the book *did* look kind of interesting to me…!!

  • 39. Rebecca  |  November 8, 2007 at 9:19 am

    You’re welcome HeisSailing. Kind of changes things, doesn’t it. All sorts of people will read that book and never know the rest of the story.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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