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Old 01-22-2003, 03:12 PM   #1
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Could the Christians on here please explain this to me?

I have a question about the Christian religion. It’s about a particular thing that bothers me so profoundly that I am losing sleep over it at night. As this forum is positively crammed with Christians, this is the place to go to find the answers! Surely SOMEBODY here can explain this to a newbie like me and make me feel better. And please don’t take offence to this question, it is something I genuinely can’t wrap my head around, and I want to understand this with an open mind.

As some of you know, I have no religious background at all, and am at the moment pondering my spiritual path. A very good friend is providing me with all kinds of information and is very concerned about my eternal soul. Unfortunately, this is one of those mysterious questions that she is having trouble answering to my satisfaction.

One thing that she and every other Christian friend I have says to me, is that if all of your sins on this earth will be forgiven – as long as you believe in Jesus, and that all sin equal in God’s view, from a small white lie to murder and rape. Well for starters I have a problem swallowing that. If all sin is the same, then you might as well REALLY sin a lot and get the most bang for your buck. But that isn’t even the question!

Of course I understand the importance of true penance and forgiveness. It is very comforting, as we all have our foibles. What upsets me is the thought of how many criminals see this as “carte blanche” really to do whatever they want while on this earth, as I am told one’s actions in this life don’t matter AT ALL. How can this be?!? Where is the motivation to be a good person at all, beyond one’s own conscience and society’s laws? If I were God, I’d say “you aren’t allowed up here until you live up to your full potential, whatever that might be!”

It seems (and no one has yet contradicted this) You can literally do anything you want and as long as you repent at the last minute you get away with it. Meanwhile, the person you may have sinned against who might not be a Christian but may be the world’s nicest and most charitable person, living a life very close to Jesus’ ideals, gets to go to hell because they are not a Christian? Where is the justice in this? How can anyone stomach this in good conscience???

The reason I bring this up is the other day, I read a horrible, disgusting news item about a man (and I use that word loosely) who raped his daughter for 17 years straight from the age of 4, and taught her two brothers to do the same. The uncle even videoed one eposide. They continued to do this when she was in a wheelchair recovering from ovarian cancer! She died recently and they are now on trial. It just kills me to think that these guys will get away with this, maybe not on earth but by moving on to a happy afterlife, just because they happen to be Christians.

HOW CAN THIS BE ALLOWED? Shouldn’t they at least be forced to atone for this somehow before being forgiven? If not on earth than to her in the afterlife?

It makes me want to cry every time I think about it. Could someone please explain this to me?
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Old 01-22-2003, 03:33 PM   #2
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guess i get to be the first one to answer this...


the answer is in Romans and the Gospels. you kind of have to read the whole of it to see the resolution to this conundrum

Penance is a Catholic idea, as far as i know there is no mention of it in the bible, though just consequences are

forgiveness of course is, it's the basis of Christ's actions

try reading "What's So Amazing About Grace" the book Bono gave to the Gallagers, it gives a view of our grappling about such questions in modern times.

Peace and happiness on your walk!
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Old 01-22-2003, 03:36 PM   #3
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I am of the opinion

that faith, love, and the almighy power are all a crock...I mean I grew up in a rather strict French Canadian roman catholic household. I dont know - I just have a hard time thinking and believing in something or someone that views and forgives a mass murderer or a child molester with the same amount of love and on the same day as someone who feels bad because they found a $5 and feels bad because they kept it rather than turning it in. To have everyone on equal footing is not right...degrees matter....at the end of the day the important thing is not that God has forgiven that soul....but that the soul can look in the mirror and live with what they have done...that is what matters....true sense of self not the false sense of security that a murderer has that knowledge that God has forgiven them and that their course to afterlife is safe....

If I knew then what I know now, I think I would have ran straight the other way as fast as I could. Some of you Im sure take offence to this view but where I sit...I see it this way.

Knowing that I lived through a long stretch of abuse at the hands of family...where was religion then. Did it guide me? Did it save me? Did it protect me? Did God hear me when I cried at night..when I prayed for someone not to come through the door...guess he was off forgiving some other well-deserved soul because my faith and belief certainly failed.

What is so wonderful about religion when God loves everyone exactly...shouldnt it hold special meaning to you? I mean knowing that at the end of the day as long as you pray and say bless me father for I have sinned..that makes it alright...that allows you to sleep at night...well Im sorry but if the almighty father can forgive me and also forgive the man who abused me..well then Ill live without religion and the quest for the afterlife..because to have an afterlife with a vial man who committed unspeakable crimes aganist me is to have no life at all...

just my .02...but I think its overrated...and what exactly would god loving Christians feel towards me if I went out and took the life of the man who stole mine...would you feel that I was at the same level as he for his crime.
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Old 01-22-2003, 03:38 PM   #4
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Mrs. Edge: I'm no theologian, but I'm going to address your concerns as best I can. First, Jesus knows the human heart like no one else possibly can. Jesus knows things about you, and me, and everyone that we don't even know about ourselves. Every single one of us will be judged on what is in our heart--on what is REALLY in there--and Jesus knows what that is.

So let's say there's a really heinous criminal, and he or she "repents" for his or her many sins. If he or she isn't really sorry, then Jesus knows that and he or she is screwed in the afterlife. But if he or she truly repents, then (as much as we might not like it) they are entitled to the same grace we enjoy.

Incidentally, I don't go in for either straight-up works salvation or salvation by grace alone. I can't imagine that Jesus would save someone who treated other people like dirt, but "believed" in His sacrifice; how could you believe in the sacrifice of Jesus, anyway, and treat people like dirt? On the other hand, everyone screws up from time to time, even good people, and we need the grace of God to get through our lives, to help empower us to do good, and forgive us when we've done something bad.

That's my short, awkward, imperfect answer to a hard question, Mrs. Edge, and I hope I've helped you. I think the bottom line is that God knows things that we don't, and that everyone is going to get what they have coming to them eventually. You just have to trust God on that one.
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Old 01-22-2003, 03:38 PM   #5
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Mrs. Edge,

You bring up a number of important, soul-searching questions regarding God's grace. What you state is true, if a person has led a sinful life, they can repent at the last minute and "get away with it".

Repentance is not a simple decision. It is not something you can simply verbalize to achieve salvation. God’s only requirements are stated in Romans 8:9-10, which states, “That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

Now, there are two levels to belief. One is the intellectual assent. Anyone can read the bible and say, "Okay, Jesus is the Son of God, died on the cross and was raised from the dead." Even Satan says that - and he is not saved.

The other type of belief is the true acknowledgement of who God is, who we are, why we are separated from God, and that Jesus is the only way to gain reconciliation with God. God knows the workings of our heart; He knows our words before we speak them. If the evil rapist says he believes in Jesus (confesses with his mouth), but has no inward change (does not believe in his heart), he may have fooled man, but not God.

This is not to say that a truly evil person cannot be changed. Consider Saul. He persecuted the first Christians, approved the stoning of Stephen, yet when called by God, his heart changed (and his name, to Paul) and he became the most ardent witness for Christ.

This is what is so amazing about grace. It is completely unearned and is given freely to all who believe. Many other religions of the world follow a “works doctrine” where you need to demonstrate your own righteousness before you can be accepted by God. A “works doctrine” requires that we erase some of our sins through good acts before we can be forgiven. Not only does this run contrary to Scripture, it shows a weakness in God - that God somehow needs our help and cannot do it all.

Grace runs contrary to our human instincts. And the fact that it can only be given by God is what keeps us humble. I must love all my neighbors because (i) they are all created in God’s image and (ii) anyone can be adopted into God’s family.

I hope this is helpful in some way. Please feel free to PM me with any other questions, critiques or concerns.

God bless.
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Old 01-22-2003, 03:39 PM   #6
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Re: Could the Christians on here please explain this to me?

Anyone who actively thinks about committing as much sin as he can get away with before doing the deathbed conversion bit is probably no Christian at all.

But yes, it is possible for a serial rapist or mass murderer to enter heaven, if he is genuinely contrite about his past sins and repents in earnest. If Hitler had honestly repented of all of his sins prior to his death, you'd see him in heaven, and you could be assured that the Hitler you met in heaven would be nothing like the one who walked the earth.

It is possible for genuinely nice people who are non-Christians to be saved; I'll try to write more about this at a later time.
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Old 01-22-2003, 06:54 PM   #7
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First off, you really need to learn about different kinds of Christians.

--Calvinist Christians are the ones big on the "everyone is a sinner" line, and I must admit that the modern interpretation of that is much better than the 17th century Jonathan Edwards interpretation. They are also the most common Protestants in the U.S., and the most tricky. Most non-denominational fundamentalists owe their philosophy to Calvinism, but won't acknowledge it (mostly because I don't think that they know themselves), and are also the ones to think that they are the "truest" Christians. You have to take care to ignore that last sentence when they try and bring it up.

--Roman Catholicism is a major Christian religion in its own right, and puts more emphasis on Church tradition than the Bible, which it views as "divinely inspired," but fallible since it was written by humans. However, this is just the official line, and you get Catholics of all walks of life, most of whom haven't a clue about what the official teachings of the religion are. The hierarchy is very aloof, but divided: priests would likely revolt if they weren't used to the de facto tradition of keeping their mouths shut. A religion that, generally, its followers have no control over.

There are several other types of Christians--Lutherans, Anglicans--and subdivisions between the existing sects--charismatics, etc.--that it is really difficult to explain everything in depth.

As for your concerns over sin, its a semantical game. Back during the Reformation, Catholicism emphasized faith and good works for salvation. Hence, very wealthy, but otherwise despicable people would purchase "indulgences" to free them of their sin. Martin Luther, rightfully so, found this despicable, and, thus, proclaimed that it was only faith that brought on salvation. Fighting ensued. Fast-forward to the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, where Catholicism "Protestantized" itself, and all ideas of indulgences were finally cast away. However, it still maintained the "faith and good works" line, but under a more realistic definition: that one must have faith and live their faith through good works. In essence, this is exactly what Martin Luther wanted all along, and, de facto, both are exactly on the same page. I mean, why else would the Christian Coalition be so obsessed with people's personal actions if they didn't matter to them? However, semantics still win out.

The rapists you described, according to Christian lines, will rot in hell, unless they truly and sincerely are sorry for what they have done. Only God will know if that is the case or not.

Melon
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Old 01-22-2003, 08:05 PM   #8
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Thank you to all of you, this is all very interesting so far! And so much easier to understand having my peers tell me in a way I can understand in a nutshell without having to go to weeks of classes. Speedracer, I am particulary interested in what you have to say about nice non-Christians being saved.

nbcrusader, you never know...I might just PM you at some point!

Melon, thanks for clarifying these subtle differences, and I sure hope the last paragraph is true!

But what I also want to know is, what about the victim? It's one thing to be sorry and apologize to God, but really it's the victim who is hard done by here. Why doesn't God make this person demonstrate how truly sorry they are to them before allowing them in? It would be good both for the victim and the perpetrator I think.
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Old 01-22-2003, 09:25 PM   #9
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I am glad all the responses were helpful.

Melon's last paragraph is very true - no matter the denomination.

As for the victim, I believe perpetrator's seeking of forgiveness from the victim is an evidence of the inward change.
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Old 01-22-2003, 10:52 PM   #10
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This is a great thread! This question, is a difficult one. On the surface it seems so simple to recite doctrine, but if you were the injured party, a very difficult one to grasp.

Peace
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Old 01-22-2003, 10:56 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mrs. Edge


Speedracer, I am particulary interested in what you have to say about nice non-Christians being saved.

Well, after hemming and hawing about this for about twenty minutes, I've decided that I can't address this point any better than the good Fathers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli of Boston College. They wrote a book titled "Handbook of Christian Apologetics", and the following excerpts are from chapter 13, "Salvation."

------------------

For Christ is not just a six-foot-high, thirty-three-year-old Jewish carpenter. He is the second person of the eternal Trinity, the full expression, or revelation, or Logos, of the Father (Colossians 1:15,19, John 14:9). He is to the Father as sunlight is to the sun. As such, he is "light, which enlightens everyone" through reason conscience. Thus, the doctrine of Christ's divinity - classified as "conservative" or "traditionalist" by liberals - is the very foundation of the liberals' hope that pagans may be saved.

So objectively, it is only Christ who can save pagans. But subjectively, what kind of faith is it that might save pagans, or Hindus or agnostics? Is it: (1) a vague, generalized honesty and sincerity; (2) a total commitment to the Truth not as something diffuse but as something absolute, implicitly a divine attribute; (3) seeking not just the Truth but also Goodness, true morality, a fundamental option for good rather than evil, in general; (4) love of Goodness not as something diffuse and general but as an absolute, a divine attribute; (5) repentance for sin, however unclear may be the concept of the God to whom the pagan repents; (6) faith in God, the God of natural revelation, the intelligent Designer of nature and the holy Source of the voice of conscience; (7) a deliberate, free and conscious response to divine grace, however dimly understood? The Bible seems to point to all seven as being necessary.

But explicit knowledge of the incarnate Jesus is not necessary for salvation. Abraham, Moses and Elijah, for instance, had no such knowledge, yet they were saved. (We know this from Matthew 17:3 and Luke 16:22-23.) The same person - the second person of the Trinity - is both the preincarnate Logos who "enlightens everyone" and the incarnate Jesus who was seen only by some. Those who know either one, know the other too, because both are the same person.

If you were to ask Abraham, "Do you believe in Jesus as your Savior?" Abraham would not be able to answer yes. His yes was only implicit in its knowledge, but it was a real contact with the real Christ. Yet Abraham did say yes to Christ implicitly, and so was saved. Therefore, the inability to answer with an explicit yes to that question does not automatically condemn you. Therefore Socrates is not automatically damned. Whether and how Socrates had real contact with Christ as Logos is the remaining question. The mere abstract, intellectual pursuit of truth is not sufficient to save you. But neither are intellectual mistakes sufficient to damn you.

God does not give you a theology exam when you die, as an entrance test to heaven. If he did, we'd all flunk parts of it. And there would be the problem of the arbitrary cutoff point. What then could the faith of a Socrates be that which would save him? What would it mean for him to believe in Christ the Logos? What can he do to be saved?

Let us consult our data again, namely, Scripture. There are three answers in Scripture: you must seek God, repent of your sin and believe (i.e., accept by faith, and thus receive, God's grace).

....

The question of just what knowledge of God we must have to be able to choose to believe or disbelieve, is answered more easily in other languages than English. Most other languages have two words for know where English has one. One means knowing facts, the other means knowing persons. The first is knowing by objective description, the second by personal acquaintence (e.g., wissen vs. kennen in German, savoir vs. connaitre in French.) Knowing facts can be quantified. You know so many facts. But either you know a person, or you don't, no matter how many facts you know about him. All know God, though they do not know much about him (see Romans 1 and Acts 17).

To summarize our solution: Socrates (or any other pagan) could seek God, could repent of his sins, and could obscurely believe in and accept the God he knew partially and obscurely, and therefore he could be saved - or damned, if he refused to seek, repent and believe. There is enough light and enough opportunity, enough knowledge and enough free choice, to make everyone responsible before God. God is just. And a just God judges justly, not unjustly; that is, he judges according to the knowledge each individual has, not according to a knowledge they do not have (see James 3:1).

----------------

Whew.
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Old 01-22-2003, 11:33 PM   #12
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Can I just say that I think it's really beautiful how the liberal and conservative Christians on this forum can really come together at times like this? Even though we don't see eye-to-eye on everything, we helped to address a serious and significant issue that Mrs. Edge is having. In all of our many stripes we arrived at very similar answers, focusing on the divine grace of Jesus and the importance of repentance and living in peace with one's neighbors.

I want to thank you all for giving such thorough, thoughtful, and tactful answers. FYM is (knocks on wood) mellowing...maybe...
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Old 01-23-2003, 12:08 AM   #13
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Jessica

I'm meditating on this and empathize with your difficulty in making sense of these issues. I'll jump in soon - this new rotation at school is keeping me surprisingly busy and I shouldn't even be on here.... Hopefully will have the time to articulate my thoughts by the weekend.

BTW - nbc is a very wise guy - and I mean that in the best possible way
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Old 01-23-2003, 12:43 AM   #14
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lots of great responses here. what a nice thread.
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Old 01-23-2003, 01:30 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mrs. Edge


nbcrusader, you never know...I might just PM you at some point!

don't. he's a presbyterian (right?) and he's going to Hell. hope you can find the truth among the lies, the Devil is the Master of Deception.

and he used to be God's musical angel
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