If we begin a discussion about sin, you are likely to associate it with some preacher or Sunday School experience. This is because the Christian religion has built an empire which leverages a poorly understood anthropology to grow and sustain itself. But it’s not just Christianity talking about sin. Islam has it’s own religious police, Judaism has its pharisees, Buddhism has it’s fundamentalists and every other world religion measures moral performance. Atheists thought they could escape sin by leaving religion, only to discover that “injustice” lives as close as ever.
I shouldn’t need to build a case for the existence of sin. However, we do need to widen our definition beyond the “bad thing we do.“ Before we do, it’s vital to realize that every person on earth can perceive the “injustice” of those who do wrong, or break laws, or view themselves pridefully. The universality of or ability to recognize sin and evil, pride and injustice, means that sin is a universal problem. The question then for all humanity, is:
What do we do about sin?
If sin is merely “wrongdoing” then we need only employ a penal system to measure and punish external behavior. Wrongdoing implies a Law which is beyond all of us. This works as far as it goes. It clearly aims to provide justice to those who are victims of the “bad deeds” of others. But a penal system of justice is based entirely on retribution, or “Eye for an Eye.” Not only is some version of retribution used in all governments in the world, but it is used within all religions. For example:
A sinful deed agains our fellow man such as stealing, is not only a violation of civic law, but within all systems of faith, it is also a violation of religious law and as such, stealing is a sin against God. The State has its own penal satisfaction requirement, but each religion has it’s own in regard God, some systems employ both together. Religions have tried very hard to help us deal with our sin problem. In fact, sin is by far the most dominant theme in every religion. This is why every religion teaches that God will forgive the person who is truly sorry for their sin.
(Judaism) “He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” Psalm 103:9-10
(Islam) “Allah the Almighty has said: ‘O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me, and hope in Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind.” Hadith 42
(Christianity) “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
In the Eastern traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism sins also are forgiven (often because they are not seen as sins against God) however, the consequences of our behaviors must be accepted and lived out (Karma). People can mitigate the consequences by making moral changes and living in a more sincere way so as to bring into their lives the consequences of good behavior.
Back to sin, priests and preachers.
What I’m about to say would get me fired from most Christian churches; in fact it has. What I’m going to teach is NOT un-biblical, in fact, it was my fidelity to scripture that brought me to this place of understanding. I intuited this, just like many of you, a long time ago, but it took decades to peel away the layers of what Rushdoony calls “Pious Gush” before I could assemble all the pieces into what I believe was the Christ’s original purpose and message.
Today’s pastors teach what they were taught in seminary. Seminaries teach what they were taught by their institutional power and so on. Thus pastors do not question what they have taught if it resembles what they have learned. This is regressive thinking, and it values the ideas of man more than the revelation of God in sacred text. The state of the Church is all the evidence we need to conclude that it has lost it’s influence (salt & light) on the culture because like Sampson, “he did not know the Lord had left him.” Today’s Sunday church bears almost no resemblance to the disciple’s or early church’s experience, practice or ethos.
Ready? Put on your floaties, we’re going to the deep end of the pool.
Cultural Christianity has become all about substitutionary atonement. This means that for most believers, the sin problem is a legal one. Clearly within the Hebrew scripture and the New Testament, this is a clear teaching. .
“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3)
I do believe that Jesus life, suffering and death was the sacrificial atonement for the sins of humanity. Since mankind sinned, a man needed to pay for that sin. Since our sin was against God, it was eternal sin, so only God could pay it. Thus Jesus died the death we each deserved and substituted his life for ours and gave us the life we didn’t deserve according to the law and penal code. I share all of this in common with orthodox belief, but we most look closer.
“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)
If Jesus died as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, then why doesn’t the Christian religion teach it that way? Instead, it teaches one of two systems:
- Jesus sacrificial death is potential. This means that his suffering and work on the cross didn’t actually accomplish anything, until a recipient receives it as personally applicable to themselves. In this scenario, Jesus death makes humanity “savable” but it is up to each person to be “saved” by their choice. In this sense, Christianity is no different than any world religion. Our atonement is in our hands.
- Jesus sacrificial death is effectual for some. This means that his suffering and work on the cross did save ONLY those people whom he wants to save. The rest will die in unbelief. Here, Jesus is perfectly saving only the elect of God. Our atonement is not in our hands, nor is anyone else’s. God has no design of saving all people.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
There is a third option but it isn’t taught. This is where I believe the scripture has been pointing us all along but we were too tribal, too stuck in our old wineskins to drink the new wine.
3. Jesus sacrificial death is effectual for All. This means that Jesus suffering and work on the cross perfectly accomplished the work of justifying all humanity back to God without exception. This means Jesus saves every soul that has ever been created, not a single self is lost.
And that is where I’ve been given the left foot of fellowship. When the religious mind refuses to see God in a new way, they picked up stones to throw at Jesus (John 8:59, 10:31). That is where I and others who have come to this conclusion have been called heretics. Jesus himself was called a blasphemer. If you categorize me as a Universalist, then you are mistaken because I’m not, I’m a Biblical Christ follower.
“Keven, what about Heaven and Hell? Are you saying that Hitler gets the same heaven that Mother Theresa does? What about the Justice of God? Keven, I can think of ten scriptures that prove you are wrong… “
Trust me I’ve heard these questions and I have reviewed all those scriptures with great detail, skill and hermeneutical precision. I’ve left nothing out. I ignored no part of the scripture. I will explain how it all works in the next post. But for now, let me leave you with this.
The sin of the world is indeed a real problem, but it is a problem that has already been solved from the legal standpoint. Absolutely nothing, no sin whatsoever, stands between God and humanity.
If Christ has found a way to allow every soul that has ever lived to be united to God and to one another, would you see that as a good thing or a bad thing? Your answer reflects you understanding of Justice. Your answer reveals the wider “sin problem” which is not legal, but ontological (BEING). The sin problem is now two-fold.
- We believe we ARE what is wrong with us.
- We believe others ARE what is wrong with them.
You see, I believe in the retribution of God, but only unto Christ. Jesus life mission and message was to usher in a new Kingdom not based on retribution, merit, stack rank, or perfect obedience, but a Kingdom based on restoration, love, service, and self-emptying. I believe the reasons that people rejected Jesus in the first century are the exact same reasons religious people reject option three today. Just as the Jews could not see their messiah because they were certain he would be a political and military leader, so modern Christianity has missed Christ and his Gospel because they insist on retribution and not restoration. The sin of the world is a case of mistaken identity-that given by our preferred institution instead of that given by God.
If all of life and the cosmos were to be perfectly restored and not lost, destroyed, or forgotten, if every tear is wiped from every eye and every sad thing suddenly becomes untrue, I have to imagine that the universe would proclaim such a thing as Good News. If all humanity saw who they truly were in God (their Maker) that would be Good News. In fact, that is the message of Christ, and that was the assignment of the Church, but instead, now we marginalize and deride those who would dare to point us back to it.
It seems news THAT good, is too good to be true. If you think life is unfair, if you think that makes God unjust, if you just can’t get your head around it, then please tune in next week. I’ll show you one of the clearest messages which prove God is no longer in the Retribution business, and trust me, the implications of this can change the world.
It may just be the first time you’ve actually heard the Gospel.