Tuesday, July 22, 2008

God's Goodness vs. Man's Evil

In Romans, Paul says that "as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one many will be made righteous" (Rom. 5.19). Everyone seems to agree all people are sinners and that in the first part of the sentence, "many" means all people. Adam's disobedience caused all people to become sinners. However, the same word and the same construction is used in the second part of the sentence. Why do we say in this case that "many" is only some and not all people? Why was Adam's disobedience more powerful to make everyone a sinner than Jesus's obedience is to make everyone righteous?

In 1st Timothy, Paul said that God "will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2.4). Why do we not take this at face value? People say that just because God wills it, or prefers it, that doesn't mean it will happen. Why not? Why would God want something to happen but then not bring it about? Some will argue that some people won't be saved because they will not accept the salvation that God offers. If this is true, then those people's unholy and less than perfect will is going to overpower God's holy and perfect will. However, in Ephesians 1.11 Paul calls God "him who works all things according to the counsel of his own will." Apparently Paul believed that whatever God wills, God gets.

It seems that the predominant view in Christianity makes the goodness and perfectness of God and his son less powerful than the evil that lies in mankind.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Must Logic Be Opposed to Faith?

The common argument that Christians use to persuade others to accept Jesus and become Christians is that we are all sinners who are incapable of doing good and of being able to choose good. This argument uses Roman 3.9-18 to show how depraved humans are. We deserve to die as punishment for being so depraved. So God sent us his son Jesus to be a sacrifice to die in our place. All we have to do is have faith in Jesus and we will be saved from punishment.

Then the Christian argument (using John 6.44) goes on to say that no people come to faith in Jesus unless God draws them in Jesus’s direction. Furthermore, the argument uses Ephesians 2.8 to say that faith in Jesus is a gift that God gives to us—it is not something that we have in ourselves; we are incapable of producing that kind of faith in ourselves. But, because God loves us and wants to save us, he initiates our salvation by providing us with the faith that we need to be able to accept Jesus.

Two questions arise from this argument: First, if the gift of faith comes from God, then isn’t God being unfair to those who haven’t received the gift of faith? The Christian argument answers that question by saying that God offers the gift of faith to everyone—it is up to us to receive it. However, this brings us to the second question: If we are utterly depraved and incapable of doing good, then how are we able to choose the good gift that God offers? If we are completely unable to save ourselves, and if our minds are constantly bent toward evil, then it stands to reason that we are unable to choose to receive the gift of faith.

This Christian argument is flawed logically. Even if it is true that God offers the gift of faith to everyone, by the tenets of the argument, we don’t have the mental capacity to choose to receive that gift because of our depravity—we aren’t “spiritual” enough to see the goodness in the gift. If we are completely depraved, then when we do happen to choose to do something good, it is only because we think that doing so would somehow benefit ourselves. However, if humans are created in God’s image (Genesis 1.26-7), then it stands to reason that we do have some capacity to see the difference between good and evil, to choose good instead of evil. It could be argued that humans weren’t depraved until the time that Adam and Eve sinned. However, Adam and Eve felt shame and guilt after their sin. Complete depravity would seem to negate any sense of shame or guilt.

The common Christian argument for the reason to choose Jesus is a flawed argument. In order to accept this argument and feel good about it, we must abandon any logical reasoning. To reason through the argument would first bring us to the conclusion that some people receive the gift of faith that allows them to choose Jesus, and some people don’t. God apparently has some arbitrary method of choosing, and we aren’t privy to how he makes his selections. (Amazingly, some people actually believe this, and how they can love a God like that is beyond my comprehension.) If we don’t accept that argument, then we are left with an unsolvable dilemma concerning the nature of humans and the nature of God. If we are created in the image of God, and humans are completely depraved, then something is wrong with God as well.

Of course, nothing is wrong with God, but something is wrong with the way Christians present God to others. Certainly God, who created us with the capacity to think and to reason, doesn’t want us to stop using our brains. Faith, which the bible continually urges us to have, should not stand opposed to the logical reasoning capabilities that God gave us. Either something is missing in the logic, or something is missing in the common Christian presentation of God.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


The other day I was reading the autographs in my senior high school yearbook and came across a message from a former classmate that referenced a student teacher we had had in English class. The classmate had written that she felt no guilt for what we did to THAT WOMAN. I honestly don’t remember exactly what we did, and even though I don’t remember her name, I remember THAT WOMAN.

She was a young, blonde, final-semester college student working on her teaching practicum, nearly ready to graduate and become a high school English teacher. I remember one of her outfits vividly. Think back to fashion in the ‘80’s, how loud and colorful and ridiculous some people’s clothes were. This was the era of stretch pants and long tops, and she had this one matching set that consisted of a white background covered with a colorful array of dots and ovals. One of the guys in class remarked that she looked like she was covered in Jujubes, and so Jujube sort of stuck as a nickname for her.

We didn’t give her a nickname because we were fond of her. On the contrary, we hated her, and here’s why. On her first day of student teaching, she came in with an “I’m-the-teacher-you’ll-do-what-I-say” attitude. That’s the wrong thing for a student teacher to do, especially with a group of 17 and 18-year-olds in the spring semester of the school year who can practically taste their upcoming prom and graduation. We were a group experiencing a bad case of “senioritis” and we were not about to take any flack from an inexperienced 22-year-old who wasn’t even a real teacher. We’d show her.

As I said before, I don’t remember what we did to her; it must have been just the constant day to day harassment—the guys calling her Jujube, the girls ignoring her, the entire class disregarding everything she would say as if she weren’t even there. We were relentless, especially when our regular teacher was out of the classroom (ironically, we loved our regular teacher and jumped at her every request). When our regular teacher would leave the room, we would ramp up the torment. I’m not sure what our real teacher was thinking leaving her alone with us—perhaps she thought that our torment was just affectionate kidding, or maybe she thought Jujube needed to be initiated like a fraternity pledge who goes through a night of ritual hazing. Whatever the case, leaving that young woman alone with us was the wrong thing to do because the mild disrespect that we routinely showed suddenly became outright contempt. I’m ashamed to say now that we had no regard for her feelings, no empathy for the stress she was under while trying to perform and make the grade for her teaching supervisors.

Then one day, I guess Jujube had enough. I don’t know what triggered it, but suddenly she ran from the room sobbing, and we were extatic! We had broken her! She did not come back to class that day, and I think she actually left school early. The weird thing was that she came back a couple of days later. The day after the incident, I remember our regular teacher lecturing us for the entire class period, emphasizing her disappointment in us. The student teacher would be returning, we were informed, and we were to treat her with respect. We complied. As fun as it was to give that student teacher what we thought she had coming, that good feeling was overshadowed by the knowledge that we had sorely disappointed our regular teacher.

When the student teacher returned, we treated her with civility, allowing her to finish the few remaining days of her service without further incident. Her treatment of us was with mutual civility, and I’m sure that she was just as relieved as we were when her last day was over. As class returned to normal, our regular teacher never mentioned our bad behavior again, and she never held it against us.

I can’t help but wonder today if that student teacher ever actually became a high school English teacher. I wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t. I certainly wouldn’t want the job.