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):
- the repentant child is welcomed with open arms
- Having done what was wrong, I was afraid
- 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 oneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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:
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.