The Trouble with Mere Grace

 Because every single person violates God’s instructions every single day; the Bible is quite explicit on that, and any cursory view of human history would tend to support this. So if God comes down on us every time we violate His rules, we are all damned to hell, quite literally. This is my point in the above statement: we cannot live up to God’s instructions. We cannot do what God tells us. That’s why Christ is necessary: we are saved by grace, not through our own actions, which deserve only condemnation.

So I think that the Bible IS the Word of God, but this does not mean that it tells us the thoughts or beliefs of God, which are unknowable. And I think that while it does tell us how to behave, we cannot possibly live up to this standard. This is the ultimate reason why Christian condemnation of homosexuality makes no sense: we are all unable to live up to God’s standards. Even if homosexuality is a sin, then it makes homosexuals no more sinful than any of the rest of us; we just find other ways to violate God’s instructions. We are all, equally, “stinking sinners,” as Luther put it – regardless of race, or creed, or sexual orientation. And we are all equally reliant upon God’s free, unearned, and unconditional love.

These comments seem to confuse a couple things. First, there is a major detail left out. That detail is the salvation and the subsequent grace is only through becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. That is the reason why Christians who are actually doing that will receive grace from their sins. This created 2 different situations, those who know and follow Jesus Christ and those who do not. As a side note: Sure, we can have a separate argument about who will eventually be saved in the end of the world, but I believe what the Church Fathers have explained for the last 2000 years which is that we hope for grace to the whole world but we live through what has been revealed, which is that following Christ is necessary.

With that distinction made, we can make 3 comments. The first is that God tells us that the better we live by His standards, the better our life will be because that is how He designed us, Christian or not. So from a moral standpoint, all people should do their best to follow His guidelines. On the whole, I think most people would believe this to be true, at least for the easy stuff like compassion and mercy. 

The Trinity

The Trinity

However, the second point is that Christians have, in a way, a different set of rules than those who are not. A Christian is commanded to follow Jesus, not just in order to have a moral life, but because living a moral life is only the beginning to “theosis” which means to become like God in character (this term refers to an Eastern Orthodox idea that seems to have been lost in the west, especially in Protestantism). The Holy Spirit assists Christians in this process by helping them, comforting them, and giving them wisdom. Orthodox Christians also believe that other Christians help in this process, both ones still on earth and those who are with Christ. Why else would we ask other Christians to pray for us? St. Paul explains about sin and grace in Romans and tells Christians that simply because God’s grace is greater with greater sin, we should not continue to sin (Rom 6). Just because we cannot live perfectly does not, by any means, mean that we give up the effort. The Church Fathers have a saying, “The attempt is equal to the accomplishment” (this idea is based in scripture but I honestly do not know if it is from a particular verse or an overarching idea). So to say that since we cannot possibly live a perfect life, we should abandon God’s guidelines for avoiding sin and embracing Him, is a colossal error and in opposition to the entire Bible.

My third comment is specifically in regards to homosexuality, since it was brought up. The Bible is pretty clear that God doesn’t like it and in order to get a different view, you have to do a lot of acrobatic maneuvers to the original text and plus, you have to stand in opposition to 2000 years of Church history. This leads to a problem. On the one hand, Christians are obligated by their commitment to God to follow what He has said about morality (sexual, physical, emotional, relational, financial, etc) in their lives. It is certainly much easier to pick on homosexuality instead of other issues like self-control for instance, but a Christian is bound to abide by them ALL. But those who are not Christians are of course not obligated to do this. 

Herein lies the problem: Christians believe that God is pleased when society follows God’s laws and guidelines for morality (and that it leads to better society), which leads to Christians wanting everything to be illegal that is immoral according to scripture. Allowing things a Christian believes to be immoral to be legal is somewhat of a abdication of their responsibility to the world to improve it by following God’s law (which is still in place, since Jesus said He came to complete the law, not to do away with it). Here is where many Christians make HUGE errors. God does not hate fags any more than He hates liars, thieves, adulterers, gossips, and a long list of others who commit these sins. But to say God “hates” is to twist what God is trying to say – God wants all people to be in relationship with Him and those things keep people from Him, so He hates it. Personally, I believe that Christians should pay a lot more attention to the spiritual condition of those who are not Christians and a lot less attention to the specific sins that those people are involved in.

The above comments also touched on a conversation about knowing God’s mind versus knowing what God has said. I agree that God is very clear that as much as we do NOT know His mind but He has been equally clear that He has communicated what He wants us to know through His scriptures and through what has been passed down to us. We should never be confident we know everything about God but it is foolish to say we know nothing about what makes Him happy, sad, angry, etc. If we say that, we are basically calling worthless everything God has given to us.


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