There is an interesting article in today’s newspaper which supports my last post concerning the unpopular doctrine of original sin (I’m using dial up at the moment, so I don’t have time to locate the article online). The Josephson Institute of Los Angeles surveyed 29,760 students at 100 randomly selected high schools nationwide, and found that:
30% said they stole from a store within the past year;
20% said they stole something from a friend, 23% from a parent or relative;
64% acknowledged cheating on a test within the past year;
36% said they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment;
42% said they sometimes lie to save money.
Despite this confession of wrongdoing, 93% said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character, and 77% said they are better than most people they know. As the founder and president of the Josephson Institute exclaimed, “What is the social cost of that—not to mention the implication for the next generation of mortgage brokers?”
It seems to me that some “successful” ministries today present a gospel tailor made to this high school audience. They replace the biblical doctrine of original sin with softer terms. They are careful not to offend by saying that we are sinners, but they say that we are “broken,” “fragmented,” and “on the journey towards wholeness.”
They dismiss the notion of God’s wrath. They say that a loving God has no wrath—not upon his Son on the cross or upon the good people who inadvertently end up in hell.
When asked how their fresh understanding of the gospel coheres with the passages of Scripture which seem to say otherwise, they reply that Scripture isn’t all that clear and that there is more than one plausible interpretation of those verses. Besides, other religions see things differently, and since all truth is God’s truth, we should open our minds to learn from their insights.
Above all, they emphasize our need to refrain from using our distinctively Christian beliefs as a litmus test to assess another person’s salvation. They are happy to believe in the Bible and the Nicene Creed, but they caution that we should not judge those who don’t. Everyone who follows the way of Jesus—loving the other as he did—will ultimately find acceptance in his loving embrace, regardless of what they believe.
Given the beliefs of our culture, it isn’t surprising that some of these ministries are quite successful. But are they still proclaiming the Christian faith?