Thursday, March 30, 2017

Lies We Believe About God (27)

Summary of Chapter 27
The 27th 'lie' we believe about God, according to Young, is that 'sin separates us from God'. Young wants to distinguish between mistakes and sins. Mistakes, he suggests, are an essential part of being human (as in, even Jesus would have made mistakes and needed to 'grow' in, for instance, wisdom). Sin is something fundamentally deeper. It is, according to Young, failing to realize (missing the mark of) the relational reality that you are a child of God... an image bearer of the divine. The truest truth about all of us is that we are part of a very good creation. Sin is failing to see this and live it out. Deep down, you are all those things that Paul says love is in 1 Corinthians 13 (even if that is difficult to believe). Your sin doesn't separate you from God. Nothing could ever do that (Romans 8:38-39). Jesus' incarnation shows us what it looks like for a human being to live out the truth of our inherent goodness.

It seems to me that we are here, again, dealing with the major point of contention in this book. Young's anthropology is different that most. He believes that we are fundamentally good. That sentence (my words, but Young's sentiment) will automatically turn off some Christians. But our rejection of it shouldn't be automatic. There is much truth in the sentiment. Genesis 1 (that we are 'good' and made in the image of God) does come before Genesis 3 ('the fall'). So, fundamentally (at the most basic level), we are good. Our inherent goodness is, indeed, the truest truth about us.

In saying this, Young is almost certainly reacting against a particular interpretation of the doctrine of total depravity. Some have used this doctrine to say that human beings are utterly sinful (sinful in every sense). We are just, basically, piles of poop (to get right to the point). This is actually a misunderstanding of the doctrine of total depravity (which only states that every aspect of humanity has been tainted by sin). It seems to me that Young is reacting against the mis-interpretation of this doctrine by going to the opposite extreme. Rather than agreeing that all of our goodness has been tainted by sin, he prefers to speak of it as still present (just deeper down). Our goodness hasn't been twisted so much as it has been buried. These words (twisted, buried) are metaphors, of course, but I think they get at the heart of where many will depart from Young. Personally, I think I'd rather have someone err on the side Young may be erring than err on the other side. But, of course, I'd rather we not err at all!

One thing Young seems to clearly want to dismantle in this chapter (though he never specifically mentions it) is the "Bridge of Life" illustration that many Christians use to evangelize. This illustration (literally, a drawing) shows a chasm between God and us. The chasm represents sin. Jesus builds a bridge across this chasm and invites us back to God. Young doesn't see it that way. He says, "Jesus did not come to build a bridge back to God" because he insists that we were never separated from God's love in the first place. But why does this illustration have to be seen in such a way that it imagines us being separated from God's love? It need only be taken to mean that there's a relational distance between us and God (caused by us). God still loves us despite this distance (like the father still loved the son in the prodigal parable). God initiated reconciliation (by sending Jesus to bridge that distance) because God loved the people on the other side of that chasm. By following Christ, we aren't making our way back to God (Jesus is God!)... we are walking with God toward deeper relationship. Perhaps I'm splitting hairs, here. But it seems a point worth making.

Overall, I appreciate some of the points Young is making in this chapter. I do think there is a difference between mistakes and sin. I'm intrigued by his way of defining sin. I like that he emphasizes the truth of Genesis 1. But I also think he goes too far in imagining that our inherent goodness is just buried deep instead of twisted. Perhaps I'm mis-reading him. But I do object to what I think he's saying to some degree.

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