Last night we had some good discussion at Bible study. We talked about changes that seem to be entering the Christian church in viewpoints and teaching about "sin". Then I read a posting written by a fellow blogger (http://cdntheologianscholar.wordpress.com) and it too addressed the changes in Christian teaching in our churches. I am realizing how widespread these changes are becoming and it makes me wonder how so many gnostic and Hindu based teachings have begun to creep into our own theology. Well, I can guess.......but more on that some other time.
One of the big bugaboos it seems now is any sort of discussion about the concept of sin. Sin: a simple word to express our belief that we are not as perfect as God is. He is the holy and righteous creator and we are the creation who are not as holy and righteous as we exercise our free will. To be a sinner simply means to not be God. It doesn't mean that we are the essence of pure evil in everything we do, it simply means that in our exercise of free will we sometimes choose the wrong things, the least loving things, the least God honouring things. God knows this is going to happen because he created us with the ability to make free choices.
And so he sent a part of himself in the form of Jesus to be that bridge between our less than perfectly loving selves and our perfect and loving creator. He exchanges his perfect life for our less than perfect life so that we can approach our perfect God in full confidence of his love and acceptance, and participate in his ability to transform us into more loving and righteous beings. We less than perfect humans can approach a perfect God through Jesus, knowing we are accepted, and also knowing that as we accept his transformation of our lives we will become less selfish and less self-absorbed, more helpful to others and to our world.
Several years ago I was teaching a Sunday School class and one of the topics that was included in the curriculum was sin. Oh my.......there were several moms in the room that day and when the class was over they absolutely freaked out that the words "sin" and "sinner" had been mentioned in the class. Apparently I was not to call myself or any of their children sinners because it might harm the childrens' self-esteem. SELF-esteem?? Jesus came so that we can die to ourselves and be empowered to lay our imperfections and sin aside, to become more godly in our actions and words and thoughts, to make the more godly choices in life. For a Christian, life isn't about ourselves, it is about Jesus and how he changes us and lets us participate with him in restoring the world to harmony with God. It is about becoming empowered to help others.
If we are not sinners, imperfect, capable of making choices that harm instead of heal, what would we need Jesus for? If we are simply sparks of the Divine in the process of returning to our place in the godhead as we perfect ourselves during our earthly lives, what is the point of Christianity? If the Trinity is not a separate entity from humanity what did Jesus' death and resurrection accomplish? Why do people who believe those things bother to call themselves Christians?
It isn't unusual in my own denomination to meet those faithful adherents to the church that do not believe in the virgin birth, the authority of Scripture, the divinity of Jesus, or the concept of sin....even some of our clergy do not believe in these things. It has always confused me as to why some of these clergy bother to call themselves Christians. I sincerely don't get it. They would face less opposition and stress in life if they were not in a position of facing the differences between their own beliefs and traditional Christian theology every day.
Why label yourself a Christian if you believe that Jesus is not necessary for life and godliness, that there is no sin to be saved from, and do not accept traditional Christian beliefs about the differences between God and humankind?
The whole thing leaves me baffled....I admit it....