Pure & Simple – Part II

Originally, I had written and posted an entry with this title very late Saturday night. In a way, this is going to be a rewrite of that post. But, I realized over the first few hours on Sunday that I had tried to address too many subjects in one post. There are a number of doctrinal errors which underpin the arguments in favour of punishment. I was trying to respond to the ones that I’m aware of. I realized on the drive over here on Sunday evening that doing that is not necessary.

One of the first major characters in the Bible is Abraham. And the New Testament says this of him:

And Abram (Abraham) believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.

And the question I asked myself, upon discovering this passage many years ago, could be synonomous with,

Is there anything in the Bible which indicates that the statement, ‘Ron believes God, and it is counted to him as righteousness.’ is not true?

There is in fact nothing anywhere in the Bible that says or even suggests that. Quite the contrary, the New Testament is littered with passages that say it is true. From my own reading of it, I believe that communicating that the above statement is true (in reference to any who chose to believe) is the primary reason the New Testament was written.

The question which arises is, ‘What is it that we ought to believe?’ I am going to excerpt a number of statements from Arlan’s original comment (found in this thread):

  1. the repentant child is welcomed with open arms
  2. Having done what was wrong, I was afraid
  3. we should be afraid of the chastisement God will bring if we sin

But, if I believe and it is counted to me as righteousness, none of these statements are of any direct concern to me. The second and third statements are representative of Job at the beginning of his story. Obviously, there is a doctrinal error which leads to the above statements (since they clearly conflict with belief being counted as righteousness). The error is perhaps more clearly shown in this portion of Carlotta’s comment:

Certainly the overall Christian message I took away from my youth entailed the perfecting of the act of looking for and understanding one’s mistakes or sins, seeking forgiveness for these and on the other side perfecting the art of forgiveness.

In fact, that is the overall message I took away from my youth. While both seeking and giving forgiveness play a role in the Christian life, the above statement is not the Christian message. I’ll frame the true Christian message in phraseology which will relate it to this post:

Because God is holy, just, perfect, etc., the sin of man (used in this paragraph in the human race sense) caused a separation between man and God. The separation leads to man’s eventual death. To correct that situation, God took the form of a man and accepted consequences (i.e. death) of man’s error in his place. For anyone who believes in that person and that act, it is counted to them as righteousness.

Now to correct Arlan’s statements:

  1. It is not that a repentant child is welcomed with open arms, but that a believing child is welcomed with open arms. A believing child may repent. Ergo, derivatively, Arlan’s statement is true. An unbelieving child cannot repent.
  2. I am not afraid of having done wrong. We have all done wrong. Living a blameless life is not what Christianity is about. Knowing that whatever you do, you are still going to do wrong things, is relevant to the Christian life. But, doctrinally, you are not a Christian if you are afraid of having done wrong. (i.e you have ceased to believe the central tenet of Christianity.)
  3. We should not be afraid of God’s chastisement. Arlan’s statement contradicts at least a dozen passages in the Bible.

Even though we say a religion is a set of beliefs. Really, it’s not. If we have a set of beliefs that we do nothing with, they’re fluff. Religion is about what you do and the underlying reason for why you do it. Now that I’ve explained the why of Christianity, I’d like to show you ‘what’:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

What this verse says is that the perfect religion consists of 2 things (i.e. The basic, central/critical tenets). The first is to have mercy. Christianity is a religion of mercy. The principle stems from us having received mercy from God and us, having received/accepted it, are under obligation to offer it to others. And that takes us back to the mercy triumphs over judgement.

Rather that try to elaborate on what the pollution of the world might entail, I’m going to close with the list of qualities which exclude the pollution of the world:

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I do not see punishment as being consistent with those.

About Ron

Homeschooling dad of 4 (ages 27 - 14), grampy to 3, WordPress core contributor, former farmboy & software developer by profession.

Comments

  1. Thank you. That is very clear and very interesting. I’m learning a lot.

    As I have been contemplating christianity over the past several years (having left the church over 20 years ago), it seems to me that it is this version of it that would most attract me back. It seems to me that christianity is basically about love and forgiveness. How do you act in the world if you go out every day knowing that you are loved absolutely unconditionally (which is what Jesus promises and why Arlans number 3 is wrong). And how do you act towards others if you love them as Jesus loves you?

    Still thinking. But have also found a parish in which I learn more in one sermon than I learned in 18 years of regular sunday attendance as a child.

  2. I agree with you totally.

    On Sunday I heard an excellent and, for me, brand new presentation of this. The reading was from Genesis where God tells Abram to be blameless and that he will confirm the covenant, to give Abram a child, between the two of them. (Gen. 17:2)

    But the interesting part was the backstory and historical explanation. The backstory is in Genesis 15, where God tells Abram he is going to give him a child. Then he calls for five animals to be brought. Abram cuts them open and lays the pieces next to each other.

    This is a covenant making ceremony. The animals are laid out, their blood pools in the middle, and the partners in the covenant walk through the blood. It is a visual representation of the covenant, saying that “May this be done to me if I do not fulfill the covenant.”

    But the greater partner in the covenant must walk through first. Notice that God doesn’t right away. Abram falls asleep.

    And then a smoking firepot passed through the pieces. And so did a flaming torch.

    In this covenant with Abram, God took both his part (to give the land to Abram’s descendants) and Abram’s part (to be blameless).

    And Abram believed (among other things that God would keep both sides of the covenant) and it was counted to him as righteousness.

    I found that very confirming of my understanding of God’s grace and God’s mercy. And it also, though I didn’t know it for years, was, for Abram, a clear message that God would take care of the “being blameless,” which he did in Jesus.

    The speaker has a doctorate in Old Testament. That doesn’t mean that he is right, but it does make it more likely.

  3. “Is there anything in the Bible which indicates that the statement, ‘Ron believes God, and it is counted to him as righteousness.’ is not true?

    There is in fact nothing anywhere in the Bible that says or even suggests that. Quite the contrary, the New Testament is littered with passages that say it is true. From my own reading of it, I believe that communicating that the above statement is true (in reference to any who chose to believe) is the primary reason the New Testament was written.”

    I’ve seen this so many times – people who are Christians and yet afraid to make God angry with them. What about Romans 8:1 – “There is therefore NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I take this to mean no condemnation for anything I have done or anything I will do. I don’t know where you stand on the eternal salvation issue, but I believe this is wrapped up in that issue. People are afraid that they can sin so badly that they will no longer be saved. I don’t believe that. In my opinion, that belief credits us and our sin with more power than the power in Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

  4. JoVE – In regard to the questions. Yes, that’s it exactly. I hadn’t given the answer to those much thought even for myself. If I were to chose a word it would be ‘liberating’. Knowing that it makes no difference (not in the do whatever you want sense) serves to enable stepping forward and taking the blame and apologizing to the offended party.

    Suzi – Thank you for that. It fits perfectly. In a way, it seems such a small/insignificant thing. But, I’ll not likely forget it.

    Carrie – Thank you. That verse is one of the ones that very much confirms what I’ve described. ‘will do’ – exactly. Where I stand? ‘I must needs go to Samaria.’, ‘I must be about my Father’s business.’, ‘Occupy til I come.’

  5. I am glad I took the time to read these two excellent posts, which touch the heart of both Christian faith and parenting. You and Andrea seem like wise parents.

  6. It’s amazing what God does! I’ve been reading, thinking, praying, trying to change a lot of how I interact with the kids. I’ve also been praying for a change in my husband. He’s a WONDERFUL father, very determined not to be the father his father was. But in our quest to define how we did want to parent instead of how we didn’t, we found the Ezzos. He was really impressed — you could have a plan! Parenting isn’t just winging it. Ideas that helped him control his own anger issues before dealing with the kids. So many good things he took away from those classes, that I have been unable to budge him that GKGW is the best way to parent. BUT . . . a few days ago our 7yo daughter went to a friend’s house on the other side of the block across the street from us. We sent her sister over to tell her it was dinner time. T came home and reported that M said “No, I’m coloring”. We waited 15 minutes, no M. 20 minutes, no M. Hubby called over there and told the dad she needed to come home. 10 more minutes, no M. He said in his I’ve-been-pushed-beyond-the-line voice “I’ll take care of this.” Hubby walked over to get her, she was just starting home. I was ready to send her to her bed for the night, no dinner, no nothin’! I was sure he was going to spank her, then no dinner, no nothin’. But I kept my mouth shut, and my very punitive parenting (but not abusive) husband did an amazing thing. He let her sit and have dinner. He sat in her room with her for around 20 minutes and talked calmly and quietly with her. She cried. He cried. And it was over. We talked a little about it — now we’re both trying a more grace-based type of parenting.

  7. Steph – Thanks 🙂

    Gem – I haven’t commented sooner (I think) because I don’t know if there are any words which would capture how the first read of your comment felt. From my own experience, it’s been a challenge to beat the conditioning of my own upbringing and anytime I succeed at that, it is a substantial milestone.

Trackbacks