Saturday, March 07, 2009

Letter to a relative with thoughts from their church newsletter

I was reading your church newsletter this morning. Your minister's letter I usually pay attention to and this one gave me cause to write to you. He said Christianity ("the faith") has two "words" to speak. One is a moral message, what I would call a Law message. The other message, he said, was one of unintended judgment. This he labels as "Good News" and says it is about the future of eternal life which he indicates is not for "the self-interested rich", but "the simple, hungry folks who want goodness and faithfulness to be the norm of life."

It is at that point that I would disagree. It actually sounds like the second word, the one of judgment is another word of Law. It is a message that you need to live your life in a certain way or you will not attain eternal life. I believe it is totally wrong to call that Good News. To me, the Good News is only good if it says that eternal life does not depend upon our works, how we life our lives. The Good News is never law or judgment. If it were, then it would not be good. Instead it is Gospel, that tells us all about Jesus and what He has done for us. Jesus died on the cross so that we might reach eternal life. Without Him doing that as your substitute all hope would be lost. All the works we might offer in order to obtain eternal life are not really good works. The way we live our life, being simple, hunger, wanting goodness and faithfulness, does nothing to help us gain eternal life. It all depends on Jesus. You will notice that your minister's letter never mentions Jesus, except incidentally, at the start, in the names of the books he is reading.

I hope that you keep your focus on Jesus and not depend on how you live life.

This subject made me think of a newspaper column I just submitted this week. I included it below.

Love, Kevin
Suggested Title: "What is the purpose of Christianity?"

What view of Christianity do you have? How do you answer these simple questions: Why does Christianity exist? What purpose does Christianity serve for you?

I regularly hear people say they believe the purpose of Christianity is to teach us how to live a good life. We can learn the rules for proper behavior, to make God happy. I would call this a "moral" purpose. With such a view, some people might read the Bible and see "blessed are the poor in spirit" and think that they should be poor so they can be blessed. Some critics of Christianity hold the view that Christianity should have a moral purpose, but it does poorly at that. They see the Bible is full of accounts of people who did not live good lives. So, if we were to read the Bible for a good moral example, these critics would say it is not a good example.

My view is different. I think that the purpose of Christianity is not to teach good behavior but to deal with the problem of my misbehaviors. I, like all those characters in the Bible, regularly have trouble following God's rules. It is a big problem called sin and it goes so far as to corrupt our very natures, so we have sinful natures. The solution to that problem comes from the one whose name is placed upon the religion, Jesus Christ. He comes not to condemn us but to free us from the burden of our constant failures. He comes to be our substitute, paying the price for our failures that we owe and thereby dying on the cross. Then He rose from death and lives on and that is that. He did what I could not do.