Beautiful Aspen trees, eh? Love the lines and colors in that pic. Found this pic on All That Is Interesting recently.
Man, what a hot week it's been here in SoCal. Sweltering is a good word. Although I'm sure it's been this way just about everywhere. It is the middle of Summer, so there's that about it.
I think I'm going to drop some more theology on you tonight, so if that's not your bag, or if you lack the patience at the moment, I won't be offended if you stop now. Thanks for dropping by; next time I'll bring the goofy nonsense...
So tonight's topic could be considered the next in my series of rants that appear to be calling into question some rather basic orthodox tenets of the widely-accepted Christian gospel. I hope you don't mind my contemplating them. I'm certainly not trying to talk myself out of my faith, or be disrespectful... I'm just having a hard time squaring certainly widely-embraced gospel concepts with both logic and scripture. It isn't the Bible or certain scripture I'm chewing on, but rather how they are presented, and certain conclusions that have been drawn by them and offered as truth.
Tonight's Topic: That Should Have Been Me
On the way to church this morning, a song was playing on the local Christian radio station as we drove. I've tracked it down just now, since I want to discuss the lyrics, and ask some questions. The song is called Should've Been Me and the artist is Citizen Way. Here is the pertinent section (the chorus, I believe).
It should've been me, it should've been us
Should've been there hanging on a cross
All of this shame, all of these scars
Should've been stains that were never washed
Why do I hide, why do you try
Over and over and over again
I guess it just leaves saying thank God
It leaves me saying thank God, thank God
For the should've been
I've heard this concept a million times, in many different ways. "We are all filthy sinners who deserve eternal punishment, but thank God, Jesus died for us, forgiving us and granting us eternal life when we didn't deserve it." Pretty much the backbone of the gospel, yes? Just being human is enough to warrant eternal condemnation, and that it's deserved, because of God's sense of judgment and all that. Based, it is said, upon Adam's original disobedience.
I suppose my question (if it isn't obvious already) is why on Earth would God created us condemned, as if we had a choice in the matter? We deserve eternal punishment because... why, exactly? We are "born in sin and shaped in iniquity?" Did God create us that way, or does He create us holy but we become tainted (and thus worthy of death) just by being born? Can you hold a newborn, look at it in your arms, and say, "yes, this baby deserves eternal punishment in hell, just like the rest of us." Really? Seems ridiculous on the face of it, to me. But then the conversation would naturally segue into the idea of an Age of Accountability, and that's not where I want to stray in this post.
That should have been me on the cross, the song says. My stains should not have been washed away, but remain forever, as a testament of my filthy sinfulness, the song says. Which stains? The stains I was born with, or stains I acquired here? The song says all we can do is thank God for His mercy... in finding a way to bypass His own rules, I guess. He created us condemned, and then mercifully created a way for us to escape it if we want, but we don't deserve it.
So, what am I missing? How am I looking at this incorrectly? Is that an incorrect summary of that piece of the gospel puzzle? Born condemned? Born deserving eternal punishment? Where's the logic in that? But if we call on Him, He saves us, and then we get eternal (undeserved) reward instead? Where is the logic in that as well?
I'm apt to think it stems from incorrect conclusions drawn from certain verses that may have been talking about something else. Blanks filled in by well-intentioned folks trying to simplify a complex issue for the sake of mass consumption, perhaps. It reminds me of something my pastor said today about righteousness. Are there righteous people in the world, or not? Are we (as Christians) supposed to try and live righteously, or not? It may seem silly to ask such things, but he told us to ask fellow Christians that we know those questions, and see what they say.
The verse that always comes to mind is when Paul (in Romans) quotes the verse from Isaiah that says "there is none righteous, no not one." From this comes the idea that every person on earth, including those that have lived before us, are all unrighteous, and thus (I presume) unworthy of eternal life, etc. Meshes nicely with tonight's topic. HOWEVER, there are numerous places in the Bible which name righteous people (Noah, Abraham, the parents of John the Baptist) and also passages that admonish us, in no uncertain terms, to be/live righteously. Here's a couple:
So are there righteous people, or not? "We can't be righteous apart from God." Is every act of righteousness that a person (Christian or not) performs only God-inspired? Does God prompt every act of kindness that is performed, or is it possible that a person could, of his own accord, hold a door open for someone that has his/her arms full?
- Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times. (Psalm 106:3)
- Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. (Isaiah 3:10)
- But in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted with him. (Acts 10:35)
So getting back to the initial idea of "that should have been me," don't you think that it would have been illogical for God not to provide a way of escape from the predicament He put us into (born condemned)? How is it possible that God could ever hold a person eternally responsible for the way He created him? That doesn't make sense to me. It is wonderful that He has "made a way of escape," but wouldn't a way of escape be expected as part of the plan? The other side of the "created condemned" coin?
And I better not get started on the idea of eternal punishment/rewards in and of themselves. Because of choices we make in a comparatively short time frame on earth, while living in an environment cut off from God, which we had no choice but to enter and live in, we receive eternal consequences that will never end or change. I have a feeling there's misunderstanding in that soup as well. Perhaps it's true, and it makes sense in a way that I'm just not seeing, or not programmed/capable of seeing, but for now, that makes no sense to me. It makes more sense that the punishments/rewards will be dynamic, forever contingent upon our day-to-day actions, forever. That would require a fresh, moment-by-moment relationship with God, with His involvement in our every decision, which is (I believe) the real goal in it all (not just a house in Heaven). The relationship is the goal, and the key to preventing rebellion forever, I think. THAT makes sense to me.
So, should that have been me upon the cross? If so, then why? Because I was born? Because of the way I was made? Or because of what I've done in my life that has missed God's best? Or another reason I'm missing?
What say you?
Dave the Puzzled