24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He had Paul summoned and listened to him speak about faith in Christ Jesus.
25 But as he spoke about righteousness and self-restraint and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “You may go for now; when I find an opportunity I shall summon you again.” (Acts:24:24-25)
One thing I have noticed in modern Christianity is the tendency of the believer to choose or not choose a belief based not on whether it is true, but on whether it is appealing. Thus we hear the message of love, but believe the messages of obedience and judgment are left behind.
The Origin of the Term
In his insightful book, Socrates Meets Jesus, the character of Socrates speaks of the modern beliefs in Christianity as such:
Socrates: And I still don't know why you believe what you believe.
Bertha: I just do, that's ail. Maybe it's irrational, Maybe we choose to believe things and choose to do things for other reasons than rational reasons. Didn't you ever think of that?
Socrates: Like eating that candy bar, for instance?
Bertha: Yes. I think you're wrong when you teach that evil comes only from ignorance. That's rationalism. That assumes that reason always rules. It doesn't. It gets pushed around by the desires and the will sometimes.
Socrates; I think you are convincing me of just that. In fact, I think I have seen two instances of it just this morning— instances of something I disbelieved in until now.
Bertha: Two instances?
Socrates: Yes. Your candy bar and your beliefs. You choose both not because they are good for you, or because they are true, but because they are sweet. Your belief that God forgives but does not judge is rather like a candy bar, is it not? It Is a sweet thought, the thought that we have only half of justice to deal with when we deal with God, that God rewards goodness but does not punish evil—is not that thought sweet and desirable? And are you not attracted to it just as you are attracted to the candy bar? (Page 55)
How It Afflicts Christianity
The reason this afflicts [no, I did not mean to type "affects"] Christianity is that it focuses on one aspect of God, making it the whole. When the Church insists on looking at God as both Love and Just, it is the Church which is accused of legalism or being hard hearted in relation to God instead of considering the possibility of a lax conscience of the individual.
Such a view of Christianity seems to make use of the following kind of reasoning:
- [God] is [Good] (All [A] is [B])
- No [Punishment] is [Good] (No [C] is [B])
- Therefore [God] Does not [Punish] (Therefore No [C] is [A])
The problem is the assumption of the minor premise, that no punishment is not good. This is begging the question because the minor premise needs to be proven, not assumed. Now of course some punishment may be wrong because it is excessive or inflicted on the wrong individual. However it does not follow no punishment is good. Sometimes parents must correct their children. Sometimes the state must incarcerate law breakers for their correction or the protection others. We can argue more reasonably as follows:
- [God] is [Just] (All [A] is [B])
- Some [Punishment] is from [God] (Some [C] is [A])
- Therefore Some [Punishment] is [Just] (Therefore some [C] is [B])
We can demonstrate the second premise from Scripture and Church teaching. In both the Old and the New Testament, we see God speaking of punishment and warning of punishment as a way of calling the sinful man back to Himself. So from this, the believer has to look at the major premise. Do they believe that God is just or do they not? If they believe God is both good and just, then it follows that if He punishes, He does so for reasons which are good and just.
If they don't believe God is good or just, then why follow Him?
"Does God really care about X?"
However, most people who do believe in God believe He is just and good. It's just that they don't think their own behavior should be considered bad. Because God is good and they don't think their behavior is bad, they reason that therefore God doesn't think the behavior they do is bad, but rather the "mean old Church" imposes this on people for whatever reason.
So we thus see all sorts of questions:
- "Do you really think God cares if I have sex with my girlfriend/boyfriend?"
- "Do you really think God cares if a married couple trying to be good uses contraception?"
- "Do you really think God wants me to be unhappy because my spouse was unfaithful to me and ran off with another?"
- "Do you really think God cares about homosexual acts?"
The unvoiced part of the objection is "This is really unimportant and only the Church thinks it is important. Yet it is that unvoiced objection which must be proven.
The problem is, of course, you can justify any kind of behavior from this point of view:
- "Do you really think God cares if I offer sacrifice to an idol?"
- "Do you really think God cares if I participate in the Death Camps?"
- "Do you really think God cares if I apostatize from the Faith?"
- "Do you really think God cares if I steal from a rich man?"
- "Do you really think God cares if I eat of the tree of knowledge?"
The thing is, if an act is contrary to His will and we know it is contrary to what He decrees, we are obligated to do as He commands and are guilty if we defy Him. If a thing is contrary to His will and we do not know it is contrary to His will, our guilt or innocence will depend on what we could know if we bothered to find out.
The Ultimate Satanic Deception
Ultimately the Satanic deception behind such a mentality is Do what you will. If you think it is good, it must be good. Good is made subjective to feelings. Because a God who forgives but does not punish is a pleasing thought, we hide from the consideration of if a thing is good, and what the consequences are for disobedience for what God commands. Thus we have the sweetness of a forgiving God and the sweetness of self-indulgence without the responsibility and the obligations to obey and the consequences of disobedience.
It is an act of tremendous arrogance to assume for ourselves what is good or bad depending on what we want to do instead of what we ought to do. To decide that punishment and sin is only for things which do not involve us and fail to consider what we are required to do or what happens when we disobey is foolish indeed. It is not based on what is true, but what is pleasing to us.