In the Theist/Atheist Facebook group I’ve mentioned from time to time, a question came up about faith (is it a virtue). One thing led to another and one person involved in the discussion said he had four problems with faith in the “christian god.” The first area he mentioned was sin. He said, in essence, that he rejects the idea of sin.
I was shocked at first. This discussion took place just a week after the Florida shooting that killed 49 people at the Pulse, a gay bar in Orlando. I think, how can anyone watch the news and then turn around and say he doesn’t believe in sin?
My only answer is that Satan, who Jesus described as the father of lies, has blinded the eyes of unbelieving people. The problem is so obviously sin.
Society talks about love and tolerance, to the point that those topics have become almost trite. And yet, as if bringing an answer to the problem of violence or hatred or prejudice or terrorism—whatever was behind the actions of the Orland killer—several Broadway stars resurrected an old folk song from 1965 by Burt Bacharach: “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.”
Before this cry for love, God gave us the Law that serves as our tutor—showing us how impossible it is for us to act in a morally upright way day in and day out, every hour of every day.
Jesus explained that God’s standard goes beyond the Law to include our attitudes as well as our actions. So lust makes us equivalent to adulterers, hate makes us as guilty as murderers. And yes, Jesus said, the law requiring an eye for an eye needs to be replace with love for our enemies.
So when the world tells us we need love, they’re right.
The problem is, they think love we somehow generate from within or already have but need to tap into, will be victorious over sin. If we love, we won’t be selfish any more. Or prideful. Or angry. Or greedy. Or lustful. Or power-hungry. Or jealous. Or vengeful.
If we had this love or could learn to love other people, if that was all we needed, then why do bad things still happen? Even if we just figured out the benefit of love fifty years ago when the song first came out, shouldn’t we see some progress, if that’s all we need?
In truth, the fact that we are still dealing with prejudice and hatred and corruption and all the other problems in our culture—abuse, pedophilia, sex trafficking, rape, identity theft, and more—is proof that sin is real. We should see some movement toward a better society, but what evidence is there for a positive change? We haven’t curbed alcoholism or drug addiction. We haven’t stemmed the growth and power of gangs. We haven’t replaced love for violence at any level. Kids still bully kids. Men still abuse women. Women still cheat on husbands. Takers continue to take.
Why is that, if not sin? There is no explanation.
Atheists have no explanation. I’ve asked before. Those who believe in evolution have no theory how society, which developed, they say, from the animal world, has taken on these evil tendencies.
Because that’s the prevailing view: humankind is good but society corrupts. The question remains: when there were just a handful of evolved humans, were did their evil tendencies come from? The atheist formula—good people create a bad society—simply does not compute.
The sad thing is, Christians have backed off from declaring the problem of sin. At some point the narrative accepted on most fronts was that “fire and brimstone” preaching was bad, that people shouldn’t be scared out of hell, that what would “win people to Christ” was to hear about His love and forgiveness.
There’s a lot of truth it that approach. Paul wrote to Titus, explaining the saving work of God:
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)
So, yes, the catalyst for change is God’s kindness and love.
But the atheist I mentioned from the Facebook group went on to say that the third thing he had against faith in God was salvation. He apparently doesn’t want it because he believes he doesn’t need it.
That’s the place people end up if they believe they are good and don’t have a sin problem. Maybe we shouldn’t bring back fire and brimstone preachers, but we certainly should tell the truth about human nature.
It’s hard for me to believe that anyone in the world would ever stand up and say, I’ve never had a wrong thought or done a wrong deed in my entire life. I’ve loved others as much as I love myself. Any such person would most likely be guilty of lying and of pride, so there goes the idea of good. Because in God’s way of accounting, “good” means “without any bad.”
In our society we put good on a sliding scale. If we can say something is “mostly good,” then it’s good. Five stars. But even the best five-star people we know, still fall short of perfect. They know it. We know it.
So why aren’t we coming to the obvious conclusion: the problem our world has is sin.
Until we get a proper diagnosis, we’ll slap band-aids over incurable wounds.
One more thing. Telling someone he is a sinner is not hateful. That’s like saying a doctor is hateful for telling someone he has cancer. Uh, no. Not. Hateful. Try, honest.
We have spent too long in the faery land of Good Humanity, so we no longer recognize what stares us in the face every night on the local and national news: humans sin. We all sin. Everyone of us.
It’s not hateful to admit that sinners sin. It’s not hateful to tell people there’s a Savior—One declaring Himself to be Love—who wants to rescue us from the mess of our own making.