Friday, July 18, 2008

Human Sinfulness

From Dr. Michael Brown, debating with Jewish apologists who question original sin:

Of course, it is possible to point to oustandingly moral individuals, such as the Chafetz Chayyim in Judaism or Mahatma Gandhi in Hinduism. But these seeming exceptions actually prove the rule of the pervasive nature of human sin.
"Really?" you say. "How so?"
Let me answer your question with three questions of my own. (1) Why do men like this stand out in their generation? Why are such individuals so rare? It is because we are a sinful lot. And even someone like Mahatma Gandhi had the fatal flaw of being a devoted idol worshiper, something Judaism forbids for Gentiles too. (2) What do these people say about themselves? Aren't they far more critical of themselves—and certainly far less impressed with themselves—than their admirers are? (3) Would the saintliest rabbi say that he had no need of atonement? Would he say he could stand before God without pleading for mercy? Then how much less can the "average Jew" trust in his or her own righteousness? Let me say it again: We all fall short.

The above quote came from one of Dr. Brown's books on Jewish evangelism entitled "Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus." Although dialogue with Jews (Dr. Brown is a Jew) is the key focus, I think what he had to say is certainly applicable to all of us. We all are capable of getting on a high horse. We love (as the human race) to hold certain individuals up such as Mother Teresa, Gandhi, etc. But all of us (even them) are fallen and are in need of a Risen Savior.

There are people who will argue with that. There are people who will argue cleverly with anything. The truth is the truth. Jesus is the only way. Don't like that very much? Too bad.

Sola's note: I need to clarify something here. My purpose in posting the above was for those who think their good works are sufficient to enter Heaven. The last line was aimed at those within the church who are beginning to take on a universalist bent. Universalism is not the message of Scripture.


crownring said...

If you do some digging, Sola, you might find Mahatma Gandhi was not as he's been largely portrayed. In fact, he was very close to being baptised as a Christian at one point. Ghandhi later said that he did not go through with the baptism because he was offended that the ministers/missionaries were using the baptismal ceremony to aggrandize themselves instead of giving glory to God. As for idol worship, Ghandhi offended a great many Hindus by declaring one of their most revered and ancient shrines was obscenely pornographic and should be destroyed.

Personally, I have not studied what Ghandhi believed to any depth, so I will not comment on it, other than saying he did openly embrace certain aspects of Christianity, particularly non-violent protest. Regardless of what Winston Churchill might have thought of Ghandhi, I find much to be admired about the man and find idle (if not malicious) speculation and/or declarations about his soul's fate completely ridiculous. I also consider it hypocritical and nervy for Christians to call Ghandhi an idol worshipper when so many of US bow to the gods of money and pride on a daily basis and turn a blind eye to our own sin. We were told that we'd have authority to judge the world only AFTER we cleaned up our own act, and, frankly, it doesn't look like we are anywhere near THAT point yet.

Solameanie said...

Somehow I don't think Dr. Michael Brown is guilty of shoddy scholarship.

One can admire someone's humanitarian works until the cows come home, but all the humanitarian good works you could do through an entire lifetime wouldn't be good enough to earn one drop of Christ's blood. At the end of the day, if you don't have saving faith in Christ, you are lost. That is the message of Scripture.

Can I judge someone's heart? Of course not. However, the Lord has left us a pretty good indication of what qualifies for eternity.

Where does the Bible add the qualifier about cleaning up our own act? I can't think of it off of the top of my head.

crownring said...

What I believe, Sola, is that we Westerners judge people far more on the basis of our own culture rather than the Gospel. We even designate people who live in conditions we consider unacceptable for ourselves as TRASH. As much as I'm for and support foreign mission work, there are also lot of people here in the U.S. who need to hear the Gospel just as much and from people who are sensitive to THEIR needs and THEIR culture. Churchill could not have cared less about Ghandhi's salvation through Christ, Sola, he was incensed because Ghandhi refused to stop being Indian.

BTW, Ghandhi was far more than a mere humanitarian, Sola. Ghandhi was the Indian version of Moses for his country, working tirelessly to free his people from British rule without bloodshed and living a life most of us would say was nearly empoverished. God uses people who are open to Him, Sola, whether or not they ascribe to every small detail of our particular belief system. The Old Testament is full of the stories of men and women who were sinners to the n-th degree and yet God still used them to deliver his people from slavery and protect them from invaders. The Bible states that men look at the outside, but God sees the heart. It is only when we ask to see people and situations through God's eyes instead of our own, that we see The Truth for what it really is. And I often wonder how often our "theological correctess" is a barrier to people seeing Jesus as the SAVIOR and LORD for ALL PEOPLE, not just Anglo-Saxons in their three button suits who sit in fancy buildings for an hour or two on Sunday.

Solameanie said...

I certainly agree with you about people needing the Gospel here, crownring. You'll get no argument from me on that. However, you're making things a bit fuzzier than Scripture makes them. The Gospel transcends culture. God commands everyone everywhere to repent. What their culture thinks or does is irrelevant. Of course, when taking the Gospel to another culture, one has to communicate it in ways that it can be better understood, but the message does not change.

Gandhi might well have been the "Moses" of his people, but in terms of his standing before God, it really doesn't matter. Of course God can, and does, use people of every stripe. But NO MAN comes to the Father but through Christ. Period. No ifs, ands or buts.

You also can't confuse God's manner of dealing with individuals and nations in the Old Testament and what is expected now in the New Testament era. God's use of individuals in the Old Testament did not necessarily mean that they were justified before Him. Scripture says in earlier times, He overlooked quite a bit, but now, He has commanded men everywhere to repent. Romans 1 says mankind is without excuse.

One can certainly turn people off through self-righteousness, and I hope you're not accusing me of that. I have no righteousness of my own and never claimed to have any. But I won't compromise on the Gospel, or the truth. We can disagree and hold differing opinions on non-essentials, but core doctrine is something we all had best agree on if we are truly Christian. And the nature of the Gospel -- and man's need for salvation -- and the fact that there is no salvation outside of Christ -- is about as core as one can get.

Don't forget, I work for a foreign missions agency, so I'm not ignorant of the subject.

Solameanie said...

As an aside, review Paul's actions in Acts 17 (Mars Hill). He did establish some commonality with the Athenians, but he still moved forward with a clear evangelistic message. That's our model.