Monday, May 7, 2007

Justification by Faith Alone

If you want to read something funny, and I'm trying to keep a little bit of humor in my blog under the hypothesis that my readers like a good laugh now and then, then read this critique of a Jack Chick tract from Enter the Jabberwock. It's good stuff.

The satirical critique is about a fairly common interpretation of Matthew 7:22-23:

22: Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23: And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

The interpretation is that “good works” don't get a person into heaven, only justification by faith alone. That repentance and “accepting Jesus into your heart” are the only ways to get to heaven.

Enter the Jabberwock gives some of the fairly obvious conclusions to this – that it justifies immorality being at the top of the list. No, really, it scans. If you only need to do something nebulous like “accept Jesus into your heart” (or, more properly called, justification by faith alone) and actively repudiate good works as a means of attaining heaven, you're basically saying the only thing that counts is accepting Jesus. Nothing else you do in this world matters. Just that.

I think it is important to emphasize this selfishness is one of the key tenets of American Christianity and, I think, is probably the key reason why so many of the most utterly backwards organizations in America are so rabidly pro-war, anti-poverty and generally more evil than Satan himself. It's because they believe, truly believe, that all you need to do to get into Heaven (which is the reason why most Christians are Christian, of course – they've been told if they don't believe they'll burn in hellfire forever, which would be a compelling argument if it had even a whiff of truth about it) then there's no reason to do anything else. Faith, alone, justifies oneself. Actions, other than “acceptance” of Jesus – which as I've said elsewhere is little more than the glorification of one's interpretation of the Bible to the point of unimpeachable “fact” – simply do not count.

(Of course, the general Christian response to this, when pointed out, is a big “uh-uh”. But it never stands analysis, because they'll then go on to agree that it is faith in Jesus, alone, that gets people into Heaven, and rejection of Jesus, alone, that condemns them to hell. If you but “accept” Jesus into your heart, he forgives you of all your sins; if you do not accept Jesus, he does not forgive any of your sins, and since you're born in sin, you go to the burning place.)

Since, then, deeds do not count, and a Christian's actions are never seriously held against them, anything is permissible. Oh, they say that isn't the case, but it is – Jesus forgives all sins, and if you join their religion any sinner is welcomed to the company of saints.

Interestingly, of course, is this is what Christians frequently accuse atheists of believing. I think it's a classic case of projection. Atheists – a few of the more nihlistic aside – generally believe that we work with other people to create a generally acceptable code of conduct based on human reason and human needs. American Christians, with their widespread belief on justification by faith alone, accept nothing of the sort. The accept that there is simply one thing a person must do to be righteous, just one, and it comes from a selfish interpretation of an old book.

No wonder Christians have made a mess of morality! From the medieval purchase of indulgences to the more clever justification by faith alone, Christianity has constantly subverted any attempt at all to make a coherent morality. It isn't just that Christianity has struggled with morality, but that it has by and large renounced morality. It is with Christians that anything is indulged, anything possible, because their god will always forgive me, and ever judge them by any act, save a simple statement of faith.

So, remember that the next time a Christian accuses an atheist of immorality. Atheists struggle with the concept of what is really moral, while Christians can just ignore it with, really, the full support of their religion.

None of this is original, but you can't expect me to have an original thought every day, do you?

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L>T said...

I'll read & respond to you post later.
I just have to say that link was was the funniest damn thing I've see in a long time! Thanks!

I've got to put it on my blog with a link back to you, of course.

May 7, 2007 2:24 PM  
L>T said...

I am working on a Christian morality post too. I decided that after listening to so many Christians try to hold that over everyones heads. I am approaching it from a philosophical standpoint. Nietzsches Slave morality vrs. Master morality.

To pull the pins out from under them you have to circumvent their God argument. That is what I am working on.

May 7, 2007 6:02 PM  
Chris Bradley said...


My tactic with that is to assume that they're right and that one god (or religious system) is right and then ask the question of why, y'know, if the Christian god is the "real" god the Christian morality so strongly resembles, say, Confucian morality or Shinto morality? Where did the Confucians and Shinto get their morals from if morality must be divinely commanded?

Then I point out that, in practice, even people inside a religion use moral reasoning. Few Christians, for instance, agree on the meaning of divine morality -- what's the difference between the disagreement about divine morality and the moral reasoning of atheists who merely eliminate the divine moral agent?

I should point out that this rarely goes well when I do it. ;)

May 7, 2007 6:10 PM  
L>T said...

Good point. But christians will say their morality is universal anyway. IMO, this is the key. not on the divisions but the common ground.

Morality is universal. I don't think that can be argued. But, it's the element of humanity, where the common ground is. & this IS what is important anyway. Christians cannot deny "It's all about humanity."

May 7, 2007 8:46 PM  
Chris Bradley said...

I think you fill find that . . . Christians will, as a group, strongly cling to the difference between "morality as a universal human construct" (which it is) and "morality as a universal created by an infallible and transcendent god". Tho', y'know, most of them won't know very much about morality at all. That's my experience, at any rate, hehe.

May 7, 2007 9:09 PM  
L>T said...

"morality as a universal created by an infallible and transcendent god".

OK let's you are "man in essence" & let's say you start from Descartes point of veiw, "I think therefore I am". & you philosophically take the steps
( Jacobs ladder?) up to the Christian God. Ding!! you get some morality. Then you walk back down (like Moses)with your tablets, to spread the Christians Gods infallible and transcendent morality through out the world. What happens with the first group of savages that you meet? They've already got a form of morality!

May 7, 2007 11:15 PM  
Chris Bradley said...

What happens with the first group of savages that you meet? They've already got a form of morality!

It's a false morality, or perhaps copied from Christianity, seem to be the most common retorts to this argument. IME. I hope you get a better response. ;)

May 8, 2007 1:15 AM  
L>T said...

& in reading your post again & thinking about it some more:
Christianity has constantly subverted any attempt at all to make a coherent morality. It isn't just that Christianity has struggled with morality, but that it has by and large renounced morality. It is against the interest of Christianity to acknowledge any other morality. Of course(ding! the light comes on), & that would go for acknowledging any other common ground.
Hmmm, well I can get my little jabs in for the moment.

May 8, 2007 6:17 AM  
ConcernedEngineer said...

You guys need to seriously get a life. How many hours do you spend mocking God and then slapping each other on the back - congratulating each other on how cool your latest mockeries have been. How sophomoric! Grow up.

May 9, 2007 1:00 PM  
Chris Bradley said...

We need to mock god until the last king is strangled with the guts of the last priest, and people have a chance to be free. :)

May 9, 2007 2:10 PM  
Chris Bradley said...

Also, Mr. Offended Person, you should read my story Immaculate Conception. It's about Mary and Joseph! I'm sure you'll like it. :)

May 9, 2007 2:14 PM  
L>T said...

Oh! you ARE evil ;O

May 9, 2007 5:54 PM  

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