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Paul Monk, in his piece It’s time to abolish the erroneous idea of sin, states that teaching about ‘sin’ and the ‘fall’ has all sorts of pernicious consequences. He says that these notions are utterly without credibility and that to teach that we inherit a fallen and sinful nature is odious. He maintains that such teachings should be rejected root and branch and that to do so would pull the rug from the whole edifice of revelation and salvation.
Monk is correct in everything he says. What needs to be stressed, however, is that to reject these teachings would do much more than pull the rug from the edifice of revelation and salvation.
Rejection of these concepts goes to the core of Christian belief – the belief in Jesus. Jesus, the saviour and son of God, came to earth to have himself sacrificed so that all those who believe this story can have their ‘sin’ cancelled and go to heaven. If there had been no original sin, then there would have been no need for God to have impregnated a betrothed Palestinian virgin in order to give birth to Jesus.
Rejecting the absurdities of original sin and the ‘fall’ is equivalent to rejecting Jesus. No Jesus equals no Christianity. Rejection of these beliefs is, therefore, a rejection of Christianity.
On reading Paul Monk’s article on sin where he contends that the very idea of a fallen nature “is an odious doctrine which in no way contributes to the development of enlightened or compassionate ethics”, I was struck that, rather than strengthening his case by argument, he was in fact weakening it.
His very appeal had the tone of an old-style preacher preaching fire and brimstone against a heretic to the true faith. In fact, it was a direct appeal against those whom he deemed were indeed fallen and needed to be lifted up to his higher standards. This had me reflect upon the very notion of rationalism, for both he and those he castigated had arrived at their differing conclusions on the subject by the same process – the act of reasoning.
It was not reason per se, then, that they were in argument over but rather the deeper ethical ground on which they stood. Monk was morally affronted by the notion of sin. Those whom he opposed were not
Because we are reasoning beings, there must be a reason for the existence of this clash of beliefs. In other words, where does truth lie?
In truth, there is contentment and, thus, no further argument. You could say that sin is error and that we are all guilty to degrees.
Part of the tragedy of the church is that we witness it preach that there existed in our midst a perfect man, pure in all his ways, exhibited in his life power and authority which revealed his unity with his father, God, and that he was crucified and rose again and conferred upon men the power to be like him through his spirit poured out upon them. And, while they preach this, we see no evidence in them that it has happened or is happening in them.
If this is the witness of the hidden mystery of Christ, we might as well reject him. In the main, we do. While the church believes in perfect love, they do not dwell in it and, thus, prove they do not really believe in what they preach.
Concerning Monk’s observations that a fallen nature is an odious doctrine, where is the peace in that? Surely, the whole world, with its problems, its divisions, its inequality in every direction, reveals that love does not dwell in the hearts of men and that, if we are not fallen, however will we get up?
What we lack is not reason but love, for love is joyful, peaceable and does not take into account a wrong suffered. Rather than railing that I am not fallen, I instead hope that I can yet be lifted up to stand.
Photo by to Paul Zoetemeijer on Unsplash