Posts tagged ‘sin’
There are those who leave Christianity, or refuse to join it, yet still have nothing bad to say about Jesus. Christianity, yes, but not Jesus. For me, though, once I stopped believing that Jesus was fully God and fully human, I had a hard time seeing anything good in his teachings.
The Old Testament is filled with contradictory laws and arbitrarily delivered punishments, but there was reason for hope. Some Judaic sects, like the first century Pharisees, used oral traditions to interpret, supplement and reconcile the written scripture so that it was possible to follow “God’s will”. Also, while the “punishments” were arbitrary to the point of sheer randomness, there was no reason to believe they continued after death.
Then Jesus came along, and made everything worse.
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell…. You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell…. Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King…. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
– Mt. 5: 21-22, 27-29, 33-35, 37-39, 43-44, 48
No longer are we only responsible for what we can control- our actions. Suddenly, our very thoughts and feelings condemn us. And to what do they condemn us? The fire of hell, to which a life of self-mutilation is preferrable. Worse, Jesus teaches that our words can come from the evil one. “The devil made me do it” is given the legitimacy of Jesus’ support as a reasonable fear. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. No, making thoughts and feelings we can not control into crimes deserving eternal torment and then suggesting that the devil can control our thoughts and words is not nearly enough. It’s hardly worse than Yaweh hardening the Pharoah’s heart and then punishing him for his hard heart.
Jesus goes further to tell us not to resist evil people when they strike at us, but to love and pray for them. Don’t stand up and fight for justice. Don’t rebel against oppressive authority. Don’t resist your abusive spouse. Instead, lovingly go further than they would have otherwise forced you to, and speak on their behalf to the God who either can not or will not grant you justice. Don’t resist. Don’t get angry. Don’t even think angry thoughts. You don’t want to go to hell, do you? Maybe it will be better after you die.
But maybe not. The infamous Sermon on the Mount is barely one third over yet, and Jesus has a small command yet to slip in, barely worth mentioning. Simply, “Be perfect”. Not just perfect, but perfect as God is perfect.
“Act righteously” is difficult enough, what with the swarming mass of contradicting and unreasonable laws, our thoughts and feelings being given the same weight as our actions, and standing against evil suddenly becoming evil in itself. Now Jesus is telling us, off-handedly, that we are held not to a human standard, but a godly one. We are to know and follow God’s will as sure as God Himself, no matter how poor a job God does in communicating His thoughts and will. We are to think as God thinks, feel as God feels, and resist evil as little as a God to whom no evil can be done. The measure to which we fall short from this standard is the measure to which we deserve unending torment, and therefore force God’s hand in punishing Jesus for our sake.
That’s right, punish Jesus for our sake. By some coincidence, just as the standards for righteousness become impossibly high and the punishment for failing to meet these standards unimaginably dire, we’re made an offer by the one person who can make it all go away. Never mind that the offer is being made by the only one to insist there was a problem in the first place. We’re offered a free pass, with no way to know whether or not we really have it, leaving us open to manipulation from anyone who can promise us certainty of our salvation. And as we’ve proved time and time again, that’s something we’re willing to commit almost any atrocity for.
In this article I will continue our examination of Christian apologetics from a psychological perspective. Here, I wish to look at the concept of sin, so central to Christianity, and how the teachings about sin work to convert, and then retain, people into the fundamentalist faith-system.
I will take my lead from C. S. Lewis. Lewis teaches a lot about sin over the course of his Mere Christianity (MC), The Problem of Pain (PP), and The Great Divorce. Lewis tells us that a sinless creature, such as we humans were before the Fall, would be perfectly and utterly selfless. He would be perfectly in tune with God and the will of God, and his own will would be entirely subordinated to God’s. Lewis describes this memorably: “…each soul [in heaven] will be eternally engaged in giving away to all the rest that which it receives. And as to God, we must remember that the soul is but a hollow that God fills. Its union with God is, almost by definition, a continual self-abandonment– an opening, an unveiling, a surrender, of itself. ” (PP, p.151)
Thus, Lewis tells us that a state of harmony with God is a state of utter selflessness, of perfect and continual abdication of the will. Thus it follows rather directly that the nature of our corruption, of our sin, is will-full-ness. Self-will, according to Lewis, is the original original sin. It is what got Lucifer kicked out of heaven – when he said, I will become like the Most High…. rather than, as Jesus said, “Thy will be done.” Self-will means to make the self the center of the self-rather than God. It is a wish to disengage from this endless cycle of self-giving, and thereby keep for the self and thereby expand the self. All that is created is good, Lewis teaches, but Man has corrupted his self and the world by putting otherwise natural, good things to selfish ends. ..
On a previous post, Heard of God (Sam) made the following comment:
Roopster, I have read that you tried to be free from sin once and you said that is one of the one of the reasons that led you away. It took me two years to finally get rid of the last sin. I live to day free from sin because I believed in God and his promise. I couldn’t do it on my own; it was the grace of God that finally did it for me.
It is a typical Christian response to de-conversion to point to “sin” as a catalyst. They simply believe that we’re apostates because we need a license to “sin.” Huh?
First of all, what is sin? Sin, according to Christianity, is disobeying God’s Word (the Bible).
Well, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, there are numerous commands in the Bible that Christians do not follow. Women speak in church. A man can marry a divorced woman and not be in a perpetual state of adultery. Women can wear jewelry and costly clothing. I could go on for hours on commands from the Bible which are not followed by the majority of Christiandom. In other words, a Christian who subscribes to the above definition of sin is really nothing more than a perpetual sinner. Well, everyone by Sam. :) …
I’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…