Saturday, July 31, 2010

The upside and the downside of Christianity

Yes, I don't like the idea of hell one bit, and I hope universalism is true.

The doctrine that any aspect of my character which I have not submitted to Christ is sinful is no fun. The fact that God isn't going to listen to all my self-justifications is no fun. There are many other things I would prefer to do on Sunday morning than attend church. All that stuff about giving to the church, yeah, I'd wish that away, too. The idea that there is someone superior to me judging my actions and not grading on the curve is something I would wish away, even if forgiveness is available. I'd like to say that my good deeds are my achievement, but, no, can't say that either. I like thinking that having a higher level of education makes me somehow better than other people, but nope, can't say that, either.

The idea that pride is a sin, or as Lewis has it, The Great Sin, is pretty tough doctrine for me. If I were an atheist I could think that my freedom from the superstitions of most of my fellow Americans makes me better than them, but since I'm a Christian, I can't say that.

The hope of an everlasting life with God is, of course appealing to me. God's love for everyone (which some Calvinists deny) is appealing as well.

So, it's a mixed bag, which is all that I have been saying all along.


Walter said...

Yes, I don't like the idea of hell one bit, and I hope universalism is true.


John said...

I wish universalism were true but it's clearly not. I also wish Calvinism weren't true but it is. I just know that grace (being unmerrited favor) is never owed. Especially to sinners. If God saves some and not others then He does nothing wrong. It's a bit unsettling at first and even so now sometimes but it gets better. Truth is truth.

Unknown said...

I'd say that everything in your post is blindingly obvious, Dr. Reppert, except that apparently it isn't to some people. It's a strange world we live in.

Anonymous said...

I don't like hell, but Calvinism is worse than the concept of hell IMO. And I definitely don't see any good reasons why any Christian ought to be a Calvinist.

Edwardtbabinski said...

@ Vic

1) Only a few parts of your post relate to the upside and downside of "Christianity." Other parts are more universal than you seem to be willing to admit.

For instance, you mentioned pride, but the notion and dangers of excessive pride, hubris, self-hood, has been noted in other cultures and religions. Also, I hope you weren't implying that non-Christians lack all sense of humility?

2) I think you mastered the art of understatement when you wrote, "The hope of an everlasting life with God is, of course appealing to me." Appealing? Is that all?

And apart from minimizing the enormous size of the golden eternal carrot that Christianity promises, you also don't mention what role the fear of eternal damnation plays for you. You don't want anyone to be damned, but you sure aren't going to take that chance yourself, are you? You're going to continue "believing," "apologizing," "going to church."

3) You also didn't discuss the role that habit plays when you compared upsides and downsides. There are habitual roles we play around others and in the inner mirror of our mind's eye. If God knows what habitual creatures we are, is it really sensible for Him to go around damning people for not accepting the message of "missionaries," "apologists," etc.?

Edwardtbabinski said...
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Edwardtbabinski said...
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Edwardtbabinski said...

Lastly, a statistical study was made of converts to Evangelical Christianity by Edwin Starbuck. The study was mentioned in Christianity Today.

"In the late 1800s, Edwin Starbuck conducted ground-breaking studies on conversion to Christianity. Ever since then, scholars, attempting either to verify or disprove his findings, have repeatedly demonstrated them to be accurate. Most observers agree that what Starbuck observed is to a large extent still valid. From these studies we learn two significant things: the age at which conversion to Christianity most often occurs, and the motivational factors involved in conversion. Starbuck noted that the average age of a person experiencing a religious conversion was 15.6 years. Other
studies have produced similar results; as recently as 1979, Virgil Gillespie wrote that the average age of conversion in America is 16 years.


(1) fears,

(2) other self-regarding motives,

(3) altruistic motives,

(4) following out a moral ideal,

(5) remorse for and conviction of sin,

(6) response to teaching,

(7) example and imitation, and

(8) urging and social pressure.

"Recent studies reveal that people still become Christians mainly for these same reasons.

"What conclusions can be drawn from this information? First, the average age of conversion is quite young. Postadolescent persons do not seem to find Christianity as attractive as do persons in their teens. Indeed, for every year the non-Christian grows older than 25, the odds increase exponentially
against his or her ever becoming a Christian.

"Second, the reasons people become Christians appear to have at least as much to do with sociological factors as with purely 'religious' factors (for example, conviction of sin)."

[SOURCE: CT Classic: The Adult Gospel: The average convert to Islam is 31 years old. Why does Christianity attract mostly teens? By Larry Poston]

Gregory said...

Ed Babinski said:

If God knows what habitual creatures we are, is it really sensible for Him to go around damning people for not accepting the message of "missionaries," "apologists," etc.?

This is, indeed, problematic. And I think the problem lies with "Christians" who take Christianity as something that's merely a "message". And even worse, the translation of that "message" to everyone else has become the "salesmen-with-a-sales -pitch" routine. And, of course, atheists can be, and often are, the same way.

Christianity is troubling. It's supposed to be. And none are more troubled by it than Christians, themselves. But how is a man's courage ever to be tested and refined, if he were only given the "soft" paths and the "easy" roads in life? How could a man scale a mountain if his only preparations had been that of consuming hamburgers and watching ESPN?

Hardships don't necessarily "make", or "break" a man; but they definitely will reveal what a man, in fact, is.
And if you are someone that cannot, and will not, tolerate hardship, then Christianity is not for you.

I, personally, have spent considerable time loitering on Coward's Lane and Passion Street. And if it wasn't for the mercy and grace of God, I would probably still be hanging around there....a lot.

Ken said...

I think what is obvious to everyone is that if someone offered you pie in the sky without strings attached, the intelligent person might think such a thing too good to be true. Tack on a few noble obligations and it seems more plausible as well as to provide some moral guidance. Most humans have a natural disposition to be social and we take some happiness and fulfillment from doing good for others.

Christians accept Christianity as a discipline that they love and are willing to sacrifice a few things toward a great goal. No one who loves sailing and girlfriends is going to complain about preparing a lunch for two and the hot, long drive to the lake. Is the whole business of sailing with your girlfriend a mixed bag? All is done with pleasure and such is the nature of a good, pleasurable challenge.

Gregory said...

"He deals with them as a good teacher with his pupils, coming down to there level and using simple means. St. Paul says as much:

'Because in the wisdom of God the world in it's wisdom knew not God, God thought fit through the simplicity of the News proclaimed to save those who believe.'

Men had turned from the contemplation of God above, and were looking for Him in the opposite direction, down among created things and things of sense. The Savior of us all, the Word of God, in His great love took to Himself a body and moved as Man among men, meeting their senses, so to speak, half way. He became Himself an object for the senses, so that those who were seeking God in sensible things might apprehend the Father through the works which He, the Word of God, did in the body. Human and human-minded as men were, therefore, to whichever side they looked in the sensible world they found themselves taught the truth. Were they awe-stricken by creation? They beheld it confessing Christ as Lord. Did their minds tend to regard men as Gods? The uniqueness of the Savior's works marked Him, alone of men, as Son of God. Were they drawn to evil spirits? They saw these driven out by the Lord and learned that the Word of God alone was God and that the evil spirits were not gods at all. Were they inclined to hero-worship and the cult of the dead? Then the fact that the savior had risen from the dead showed them how false these other deities were, and that the Word of the Father is the one true Lord, the Lord even of death. For this reason was He both born and manifested as Man, for this He died and rose, in order that, eclipsing by His works all other human deeds, He might recall men from all the paths of error to know the Father. As He says Himself:

'I came to seek and to save that which was lost.'"

--from St. Athanasios' "On the Incarnation"