Category Archives: Sin

Shermer’s Summary of Christian Belief

I’m dumbstruck by the number of former believers, people who say that they were passionate Christians — read the Bible, prayed often, and even engaged in door-to-door evangelism — that can’t seem to articulate their former belief system correctly.

They are atheists because they believe that the God they once served never existed.  And that’s a real possibility.  Based on Michael Shermer’s summary of his former faith, I can confidently say that that god doesn’t exist.

This is Shermer’s summary from the forward to Peter Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists:

  1. Christians claim that God is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omnibenovolent — all knowing, all powerful, all present, and all good, creator of the universe and everything in it including us.

  2. Christians believe that we were originally created sinless, but because God gave us free will and Adam and Eve chose to eat the forbidden fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, we are all born with original sin as a part of our nature even though we did not commit the original sinful act ourselves.

  3. God could just forgive the sin we never committed, but instead he sacrificed his son Jesus, who is actually just himself in the flesh because Christians believe in only one god — that’s what monotheism means — of which Jesus and the Holy Spirit are just different manifestations.  Three in One and One in Three.

  4. The only way to avoid eternal punishment for sins we never committed from this all-loving God is to accept his son — who is actually himself — as our savior.  So …

God sacrificed himself to himself to save us from himself.  Barking mad! [p. 11-12; ellipses and emphasis in original]

Let’s take it one at a time.

There seems to be little to with which to take issue in (1).

(2) is basically right; however, original sin represents the propensity to sin rather than an actual sin itself.  Sin taints the whole earth and everything in it, including mankind.

So we are born with a sinful nature, and that is abhorrent to God.  If we remain on that course, we will sin and we will move further and further away from God.  The solution can’t, therefore, come from ourselves and must come from God.

(3) has two problems with it.  First, I hesitate to say that God can’t simply forgive sin.  What God cannot do is behave inconsistently with his own nature, because God is perfect.  So I’d prefer to think of it as God won’t simply forgive sin; but a price or a penalty must be exacted first.  In the Old Testament, we see a sacrificial system in place to make propitiation for our sins.

Why?  Because there can be no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood.  God killed a bear to cover Adam and Eve’s shame — the example we draw from!  The High Priest would make propitiation once per year by making an offering and entering the Holy of Holies by the blood of it.

Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

The second problem is the description of Jesus and the Holy Spirit as “manifestations” of God.  There is only one essence of divinity in Christianity, and this essence is simultaneously shared by God the Father (the Creator, described in the OT), God the Son (the Savior), and God the Spirit (the Helper).

Characterizing these Persons as “different manifestations” of God is heresy.  The Athanasian Creed, one of the three foundational creeds of Christendom, defines what the Trinity is and is not, and it doesn’t leave room for modalism:

That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.

Each Person of the Trinity shares the power, glory, majesty, and titles with all other members.  However, each has different roles not shared with the others:

So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

As for (4), it suffers from the fundamental error identified in (2): sin is both action and nature, and the fact that we have a sin nature is itself abhorrent to God.  But, left on that path with no aid, we will sin.  So we’re born sinful, we follow that nature — no surprise there — and God punishes us.  Not for sins we didn’t commit, but for ones we absolutely did.

The way out is to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  This recreates our flesh anew and removes the sin nature; it removes the heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh.  We are regenerated.  We are no longer enslaved to sin, and so we are able to choose life instead of inevitably following the path that leads to death.

The conclusion suffers from all of the problems I identified — misunderstanding of the Trinity, misunderstanding of sin, misunderstanding of what the Savior does for us when we accept him as such.

So good for Shermer in not believing in this god.  He clearly doesn’t exist.  The God described by the Bible, however, does exist!  Let’s hope there’s an argument against him somewhere in the rest of the book.

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Dr. Moreau & Why Christianity is Different

I’ve been asked, “What makes Christianity different than any other religion?”

Answer: it addresses a fundamental problem of human nature in a way superior to all other religions.

The problem in question is ontological — can we overcome our natural inclinations through sheer willpower alone?  Can we train away our very selves?  Or, put another way, can nurture overcome our nature? Read the rest of this entry

Rachel Held Evans vs. John Piper: Both Miss the Point

As a liberal, it isn’t too surprising that Rachel Held Evans repudiates the Reformed understanding of tragedies like the Moore tornadoes.  Essentially, we join Augustine in proclaiming that God feels it better to bring good from evil, than to eliminate all evil.

What started this is a tweet by John Piper (now removed) that quotes Job 1:19.  Here, a great wind topples Job’s house and kills his children.  Piper is, quite obviously, applying it to the recent tornado that ripped apart Moore, Oklahoma.

Is that insensitive, as Evans says? Read the rest of this entry

An Exercise in Picking & Choosing What to Read AND Believe

This post and this post have engendered some spirited discussion between a poster named Clare Flourish, a Christian who defends the homosexual lifestyle as a God-given gift, and me, who follows what the Bible says on the matter.

Clare’s follow up post is a veritable case study on how to read into things what you want to be there, instead of what is actually there.  She does that to both my words and the words of the Bible.  I suppose if she’s lax with Scripture reading, I should expect no better given that Scripture contains the words of God himself while I am just a man with no special revelation.

[Cory] wants to save me from that Hell to which all unrepentant gay people will inevitably go after death. I want to save him from hell now, from the idea that humanity is naturally wicked. [1]

Really?  That’s interesting.  If you read my comment, I said this:

Finally, gay people are no more damned than any of us, for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But we are also urged to live in a manner worthy of the calling to which we are called, which gay people who are living in homosexual relationships are NOT.

Does that mean you’re going to hell? Well, I wouldn’t say that. Probably not. It means that you have a sin in your life and that must be dealt with. It doesn’t mean God loves you less; he did, after all, call you to be a Christian.

You will have to deal with this in your own time and in your own way. I see you’ve given this issue a lot of thought, and I applaud that. However, I think you’ve come to the wrong conclusions and I’m not afraid to say that you have. Just as you are not afraid to say that I’ve come to the wrong conclusions. (emphasis added) [2]

So I’m not trying to save Clare from any hell, future or otherwise.  What I’m trying to do is be her Christian brother and point her away from sin that is impeding her relationship with the Lord.  I don’t think she’s going to hell and I can’t save her from a place she’s not going.  I think she has a sin that needs to be eliminated.

As to the idea that humanity is naturally wicked, well that’s pretty much the unanimous teaching of Scripture and of history.  I’ve already covered that elsewhere, so I’m not going to dive into it now. Read the rest of this entry

Must Catholics/Christians Hate Gay People?

I put a link to this article on my Facebook page.  I wondered why people who hold beliefs antithetical to Christian doctrine would want to be Christians.  One of my friends responded:

so you have to hate gays to be catholic or christian? if you in don’t agree with everything the church tells you then you can’t be christian or catholic? not trying to debate the issue just making sure I’m clear that’s what you mean by NOT for you a little intrigued by your post for some clarification of your point of view that you mean if you think like this you can’t involved in church? courious

I hear this again and again: Christians hate gay people, and we’re not allowed to disagree within ourselves because if we disagree then what we have isn’t from God.

No and no.  Let’s lay this out:

  1. Homosexuality is a sin.
  2. Marriage is between a man and a woman.

These are both eternal truths defined by God clearly in Scripture. These truths are to be upheld by the Church, and therefore the membership of the Church.

To be Catholic, you cannot be in favor of same-sex marriage. That is not the institution of marriage that is spelled out in Scripture by the Lord himself. The long and the short of it is that we humans don’t get to define marriage or church sacraments — God, who is eternally and perfectly good, is the one who defines those things.

Our nature is fallen from grace, and therefore we don’t really understand what “good” is or what it looks like. God is who we need to look to for that, not ourselves. If we look at homosexuality as something innate to us and think that is somehow “good,” then we are missing the mark by a lot. Remember — we are not good by nature; we are sinners by nature. What we do or what we are cannot be the standard for “right.”

When we use ourselves as the standard for “right” or “good” or “fair,” we will never get to the essence of those terms because no one consistently treats others “right” or “fair.” No one is consistently “good.” Better to ask instead, “What standard are we using for good?”

Every time we judge something moral or immoral, right or wrong, good or bad, we use some kind of standard. The standard cannot be society, for society changes far too often. Opinions and social mores are up for grabs, and differ every generation. Worse, this prevents us from judging any society as “wrong” or “immoral.” Implications?  The Nazis were on solid ground when they did the Holocaust!

For reasons I’ve already discussed (fallen nature), the standard can’t be what is in our own nature.

Therefore, the standard is God.  God is outside of ourselves, and therefore not subject to a fallen nature.  God also is not a part of society, and therefore not caught in the sweeping changes of morality we see as a society.

Read God’s Word — homosexuality is condemned throughout. Read Catholic doctrine — again, homosexuality is condemned throughout. Early Church Fathers were divided on many, many issues — but this was not one of them.  (See some selected writings here.)

Homosexuality is a sin, but not everyone in our pluralistic society shares the view that sin is a problem.  Does that mean we seek to deny them equal marriage rights using our religion?  We deny them nothing.  They have the right to marry a member of the opposite sex, just as I do. Men can only marry women; men joining to men or women joining to women is not marriage. Homosexual “marriage,” therefore, is the homosexual community asking to change the entire sacrament of marriage, thereby perverting its original intent.

Fine, homosexuality is a sin.  Homosexual marriage isn’t marriage, so it’s not a denial of a right.  Does that mean I hate gay people?  On the contrary, I have gay friends (one of whom owns a lesbian bar and is the founding member of Toledo Pride), I’m a huge Elton John fan, and I’ve been to a lesbian wedding (such as it is; gay marriage is still illegal in Ohio).  Where’s the disconnect?  Well, most people are tired of this expression, but I’ll say it anyway: Love the sinner, hate the sin.

“But I was born gay! If homosexuality is a sin, and if you hate the sin, then you hate me!” Absolutely right! I’m not even going to deny that.  But I’ve already covered this: Sin is innate to all of us, and we’re all sinners.  However, each of us are susceptible to different sins. The challenge as a Christian is to learn to hate that part of ourselves, to crucify it with Christ, and live in a manner worthy of our calling. Is it hard? Yes! I’ve heard it said that Christianity isn’t tried and found wanting; rather, found difficult and left untried.

Could someone in favor of homosexual marriage become involved in church? Could gay people become involved in church? Absolutely to both!! Hopefully through church they will learn that homosexuality is a sin and that it is something that they need to put to bed (no pun intended), not a part of themselves they should explore. No different from any other sin. We wouldn’t exclude adulterers or murderers from our congregations, but Catholic priests would certainly deny sacraments to ones that remained unrepentant.

Christ came to heal the sick, which is why he is sometimes called the Great Physician. The unrepentant sinners among us are the ones who need Christ’s love the most, and therefore they need church involvement that much more.  We should never deny church attendance or involvement to a sinner, because then no one would qualify for membership.

I’m not saying I’m perfect. There’s a lot for me to work on. A lot. I don’t practice what I preach here, so trust me this applies equally to me as it does to any gay person.

The point is that we all have our challenges with living as Christ did, and this life is about that journey to becoming more Christ-like. God promises to get us there, and he works differently on each of us. Homosexuals have their challenges, as I have mine. Church is about giving each other that accountability. It’s about helping each of us on the journey. That’s the point of fellowship.

But, before we can offer the needed accountability, we have to be clear on what constitutes a sin, which is (in my view) the real reason the young man in the article was denied confirmation. If you give approval to those who practice a sin, then you aren’t modeling Christ for unbelievers. Worse, you’re inviting the same judgment on yourself.

I hoped that would clear things up for my friend.  She’s a dear friend and I’d hate to lose her over what I would actually consider a non-issue.  Fortunately, she enjoyed that treatment and said she learned some things.  So kudos for remaining open-minded to other perspectives!

Beatitudes, part 3: Blessed are the Meek

The Beatitudes celebrate as virtues that which we would not necessarily consider virtues.  The poor in spirit inherit heaven.  The mourning will be comforted.

The meek shall inherit the earth (Mt 5:5).

What is “meek?”  It is the Greek word πραυσ, which gives us a sense of humility, teachability, and gentleness.  According to the NET Bible:

Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting. In the OT, the meek are those wholly relying on God rather than their own strength to defend them against injustice. Thus, meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict, that He is using them to purify His elect, and that He will deliver His elect in His time. (Isa 41:17, Lu 18:1-8)

The NET Bible tells us what πραυσ is not:

Gentleness or meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest. It stems from trust in God’s goodness and control over the situation. The gentle person is not occupied with self at all. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will. (Ga 5:23)

Some may consider this uncritical obedience to a tyrant, but that isn’t it at all.  It’s better to think of this as surrender to a perfectly good higher power — and the one who so surrenders already accepts that God is perfectly good.

The existence of God is self-evident from nature (see Rom 1), but the goodness of God is not.  God’s eternal power and divine nature are clearly perceived in that which is made; however, it takes a special revelation (the Bible) to reveal the perfect goodness of God.  This means that the meek person that has surrendered his will to God’s own has already done the investigation necessary to conclude that God is worth surrendering to.

This Beatitude also calls to mind many verses of inheritance (Ps 37:9, 11, 22, 29, 34; Is 60:21), but none are as obviously tied to this verse as Psalm 25.  Let’s take a snip:

Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.  He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.  All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.  Who is the man who fears the Lord?  Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.  His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. (Ps 25:8-13)

Notice the theme of surrendering, in humility, to one who is perfectly good and will unerringly guide the sinner on the correct path.  This is the sort of person who will inherit the earth, the one who recognizes his separation from God and then depends on God for his righteousness rather than his own empty works.

Scripture Saturday: Importance of Bible Study (Prv 28:9)

I’ve heard that some folks benefit from a regimented blogging schedule, so I thought I’d give it a shot to see if it helps me.  And that means I will now introduce two new features.  If I blog nothing else in the course of a week, I will blog the two features.

The first is Contradiction Tuesday, where I will detail a perceived contradiction in the Bible.  I’ll take requests for this series from skeptics and believers alike — e-mail me.  It will begin next Tuesday; I didn’t have time to do one this week.

On a side note, I’m thinking of adding Anti-Testimony Wednesday sometime in the future.  I would critique the latest “Why I’m not a Christian” bit from ex-Christian.net, with a private offer to the poster to defend him or herself here.  Since they don’t like their unbelief challenged on the site, this would be playing by their rules.  After all, the anti-testimony is posted publicly so it’s unrealistic to think that someone won’t pick it up and challenge it somewhere.

The series beginning today is Scripture Saturday.  What better way to kick off Scripture Saturday than with a verse on the importance of studying Scripture?

If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.  (Prv 28:9)

Strongly worded.  If a person stops studying God’s Law, then that person’s prayer is an abomination.  An abomination!  That’s the strongest way God can revile something.  And here, God is saying that he will revile a person’s prayers if that person refuses to hear God! Read the rest of this entry

God Commanded Terrible Stuff!

In regard to God defining morality (part of a reply to this post), Alex wrote:

Right, so I guess then that slavery is fine, that homosexuals should be killed, that it’s ok to kill people who pick up sticks on a Saturday or Sunday, that child sacrificing is perfectly fine, that a tooth for a tooth is perfectly fine and on and on?

This has all been answered before, so here’s the round-up of replies:

Amazingly, no mention of God commanding genocide.  That’s the only atheist talking point missing from Alex’s short list.

Hopefully, I won’t have to answer any of these charges again, but I kind of doubt it.  All of these are atheist favorites, despite repeated correction by many, many Christian apologists.  I’m sure we’ll keep seeing these brought up over and over again, until Christ’s triumphant return.

Clearest Example of the Unforgivable Sin

On this very blog, we have a clear example of the Unforgivable Sin.  In fact, the clearest ever offered here.  Alex said this:

It needs to be mentioned that the definition of nature is what science can measure and the reason we call your god’s being and doings supernatural is that when we measure, there is no god there, only natural explanations such as physics and chemistry. (source)

The Unforgivable Sin, from Mark 3:22-30 or Matthew 12:22-32, is the denial of the Spirit moving in our world.  It is through the movement of the Spirit that we can see evidence of God acting in our world.

So, a little context.  I deny the categories of natural and supernatural.  Alex is saying that when we measure the doings of God, we find no God, just natural movements.

The first problem is that our instruments aren’t going to measure or detect God, who exists outside of the time and space we know how to measure.  Instead, what we’re going to see are the effects that God creates, which are accomplished by the Holy Spirit.  This is the evidence of God.

Denying that what we have seen is the movement of the Spirit is the Unforgivable Sin.

For example, Alex looks at biochemistry.  The amazing complexity and well-oiled interactions of the various systems of our bodies, the ability of our bodies to obtain the raw ingredients our cells need to produce energy in the foods we eat and the drinks we consume all bear evident marks of design.  The well-defined stages of growth humans go through, the inherent curiosity to learn and flourish, shared ability to define morality, to know what is is not what ought to be; these are the hallmarks of a being who can impart these things to us.

Alex, however, looks a this design and says, “Nah, random mutation acted on by natural selection — not a personal, intelligent force — created this.”

And that, my friends, is the Unforgivable Sin in a nutshell.  The Pharisees saw the work of the Spirit in Christ as he drove out demons and cured disease, and they attributed it to Satan.  Alex sees the work of God in chemistry and biology and attributes it to chance and natural laws.  Both deny the Spirit’s efficacy, and both have severe eternal consequences.

Case Against the Case for Gay Marriage, part 4

David, an atheist who is dedicated to exposing Christianity for what it is, has begun a new blog that I discovered quite by accident.

Though he deleted the post that this series is replying to, I am still running my series.

David lays out the following argument in favor of gay marriage:

  1. Homosexuality is not unnatural. (answered)
  2. Neither homosexuality nor its acts have been proven inferior to heterosexuality or its acts. (answered)
  3. Marriage is a basic human right. (answered)
  4. Homosexual unions are unfairly not being given full and equal rights as heterosexual unions.
  5. Therefore, homosexual marriages with full and equal rights should be legalized and put into effect.

These get easier and easier to answer.

Premise (4) is a nominal attempt to say that homosexual unions aren’t given full rights through a fallacy of special pleading.

However, that’s not the case for three reasons.  First, we have shown that homosexuality isn’t the typical order of things.

Second, we have demonstrated that heterosexual unions are superior by simple utilitarianism — which is the typical philosophy of right and wrong espoused by supporters of gay marriage (see NotAScientist’s comment for a great example of utilitarianism in action).

Third, marriage rights are regulated for perfectly valid reasons.

Therefore, it is easy to conclude that there is no special pleading going on.  Recall for something to be special pleading, there can be no valid reason for differentiating it from other cases.  In the case of gay marriage, there are big differences between it and heterosexual marriage, which is exactly the reason its forbidden in the first place.

This means (4) is out of gas.  And, it means I’m done without having to address (5) as a conclusion.  David has uber-failed to establish any of his premises as true.  In fact, they are all false.  Therefore, the conclusion is faulty and I will let this series stand, unless David cares to defend himself.