Items posted on 8 September 2010
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Ezekiel 18.25-27 – Repentance and Salvation
Posted: 8 September 2010 in Ezekiel

Yet ye say, The way of the LORD is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal? When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die. Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.

One of the things which can scandalise people about Christianity is its doctrine of repentance. According to the Christian understanding, had Adolf Hitler had a dramatic conversion experience a few weeks before his death in 1945, suffered near suicidal remorse over his past misdeeds, and turned wholeheartedly to God, he would, according to the Christian understanding, have stood justified before God. On the other hand, somebody who spends most of their life working for the poor and underprivileged, whilst remaining resolutely atheist, and ridiculing religion at every turn, will stand condemned before God.

How can it be right, it is asked, that somebody who has lead a mostly evil life gains access to heaven, whilst somebody who has lead a mostly good life doesn’t. The question presupposes that salvation is based upon some sort of calculus, whereby if you do X amount of good in your life, and Y amount of evil, then, provided X is greater than Y, you get into heaven.

Imagine an alternative scenario. You have paid 80% of your tax bill, decided that you have parted with quite enough cash, and if the taxman wants the other 20%, that’s hard cheese on him. After all, you argue, he can’t reasonably complain, can he, when the amount you have paid him is four times greater than the amount you haven’t paid him?

Most people would be extremely surprised if that sort of argument worked with the taxman, but that doesn’t prevent them from trying it out on God. In reality it works with neither God nor with the taxman. What is more, we struggle to pay God even 50% of what is his due by way of our service and worship.

The difference is that if we want God to forgive us the maybe 99% of our “tax bill” which remains unpaid, the only requirement is that we be prepared to kneel before him and ask for forgiveness. That, however, is where pride can yet again intrude itself into the divine-human relationship. The very notion of humbling ourselves before God can too easily result in a rebellious conviction that we have done quite enough to earn our ticket into heaven, and there is no way we are going to get on our knees – before the Lord of all Creation or anybody else.

You don’t have to spend too long around the new atheists before you realise that is one of the unconscious motives behind their atheism.

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