When even some religious magazines ask people to reassess the most basic of Christian doctrines through an evolutionary lens, society is clearly drifting farther and farther from biblical truth. Can we - will we - continue to rely on sound Bible doctrine?
All modern education is fundamentally based on accepting evolutionary theory as fact. The exaggeration is only a slight one. Yet even established churches are deeply affected by this false view.
Columnist Clifford Longley, writing recently in the Roman Catholic weekly magazine The Tablet, stated: "The Catholic Church accepts Darwin's theory of evolution at least as probably true; and has rejected the historical accuracy of the creation account given in Genesis, including the story of Adam and Eve and the apple" ("Christian Doctrine Needs to Evolve," Nov. 26, 2011).
This declaration certainly doesn't apply to all church members, but it is seriously disturbing that it was published in an official religious magazine!
Even the most basic Christian doctrines are not spared by this Tablet article. It continues: "What sort of God requires that His beloved Son die to remedy an act of disobedience by someone who may have existed, but probably didn't. If God was that bothered, why couldn't He just pardon Adam and Eve and be done with it?"
Anyone who has truly experienced the relief a genuine Christian has after being forgiven would never even have such a question. King David of Israel committed two capital crimes and sins against God and man. After his repentance, can you imagine the relief he felt when the prophet Nathan told him in 2 Samuel 12:13, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die"?
From the beginning of creation, God has strongly condemned sin. Scripture says, "But the thing that David had done was evil in the eyes of the Lord" (2 Samuel 11:27, New American Standard Bible).
Our Creator hates all types of sin because of its toxic effects on His human children, made in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27). For instance, God hates divorce because of the disruption it causes family life, especially the children (see Malachi 2:14-16).
This remains a moral universe. God wove cause and effect into the very fabric of His creation. Therefore, sin results in its own negative consequences. And ultimately sin requires the ultimate punishment of death—lest it appear that sin is not really so bad.
Of course, while God hates sin, He loves the sinner and desires to spare him or her. And this is where Christ's sacrifice comes in. Our Creator's love was totally triumphant when He gave us His only begotten Son Jesus Christ so that we would not perish, but instead inherit everlasting life in His family Kingdom (see John 3:16-17).
Christians must never be ashamed of the sacrifice of Christ. Instead, it must be recognized that in God's great plan of salvation, Jesus died to help all of mankind come to realize both the terrible graveness of sin as well as the immeasurable depth of God's love and mercy for us. Indeed, His sacrifice sets us free.
God's justice and mercy
Many do not grasp that the love of God embraces both justice and mercy. He is a God of justice as well as abundant mercy. It's because of the divine attribute of justice that the penalty for our sins—our transgressions of God's law (see 1 John 3:4)—had to be paid.
And it is through His divine mercy that Jesus Christ died for our sins. Since the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), the sinless Christ willingly suffered a cruel death in our place so that the God of justice could also show His great mercy—thereby freely forgiving our sins so that we could be reconciled to Him and receive everlasting life (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
Cheap grace has never been part of the Father's plan and is absolutely contrary to His divine character. So reconciliation to God the Father is made possible only by the steepest price imaginable—the shed blood of His Son Jesus Christ. As the apostle Peter expressed it, "You were not redeemed with corruptible things like silver or gold from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:18-19, emphasis added throughout).
When Jesus returns to the earth, He will bring to the whole world the utopian order that mankind has sought in vain throughout time. He will "establish it with judgment and justice" (Isaiah 9:7). Also notice that "with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth" (Isaiah 11:4).
We should never overlook God's justice, which is generously tempered by His great mercy. The apostle James wrote that "mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13). And the apostle Paul praised God, stating, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3).
But the necessity of God giving His Son as a sacrifice for our sins offends some who nominally embrace Christianity as well as many unbelievers, as the New Testament explains.
The cross offensive, but not to true Christians
Paul plainly wrote of "the offense of the cross" (Galatians 5:11). It tends to offend those who misunderstand its true meaning. Certainly the coming crucifixion was deeply offensive to Peter before he understood its purpose as the means for God the Father to demonstrate His justice regarding sin and His mercy in forgiving us (see Mark 8:31-33). Further, Paul tells us that "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing" (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Yet Paul clearly associated the power of God with the cross of Christ (figuratively meaning the atonement for our sins). The apostle explains: "For though He [Christ] was crucified in weakness, yet He [was resurrected and now] lives by the power of God. For we are also weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you" (2 Corinthians 13:4).
So the symbolism of Christ's cross remains an integral part of the true gospel message. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).
Paul expounded this principle in personal terms: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me [through the power of the Holy Spirit]: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20, King James Version).
No wonder he later stated, "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14). Of course, the original physical cross no longer exists, having long since crumbled into dust.
The cross of Christ—an instrument of peace
Paul explained to Christians at Rome that, "having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). The apostle also tells how: "And by Him [Christ] to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross" (Colossians 1:20).
Only the shed blood of God's Son can satisfy the just demands of God's holy spiritual law. Only the sacrifice of Christ can meet the Father's terms and conditions. God will not compromise with His spiritual law. We have to repent of our sins and strive to obey Him (John 15:14; 1 John 5:2-3). Jesus Christ kept His Father's commandments, setting us an example for all time (John 15:10).
Still, God takes our fragile physical human frame into consideration (Psalm 78:37-39). When through weakness we commit sins and then repent, "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).
Yet humanly we simply cannot fully and effectively keep God's law until we know that we have been completely forgiven for all of our sins, our transgressions of His holy spiritual law. Clearly people tormented by guilt find obedience to God a difficult task. But there is a way to get rid of guilt.
Our guilty consciences cleansed
The ordinances, gifts and sacrifices of ancient Israel could not make people perfect who performed the required services "in regard to the conscience" (Hebrews 9:9). But Christ's atonement can! "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (verse 14).
After we have been fully forgiven and washed clean from our sins, firstly by Christ's blood and secondly symbolically in the baptismal waters, we are told to "draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience [by Jesus' shed blood] and our bodies washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10:22).
The apostle John expressed deep appreciation for Christ's sacrifice: "To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood" (Revelation 1:5). At the time of Paul's miraculous conversion, Ananias asked him: "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). The salvation process encompasses both the shed blood of Christ and the waters of baptism.
Christ's sacrifice leads to everlasting life
Jesus explained to Nicodemus: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness [a special sign fashioned for people bitten during a plague of serpents to look on and be healed], even so must the Son of Man be lifted up [by being crucified], that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:14-16).
John recorded the very words of Christ: "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him [the Father] who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life" (John 5:24). That's why real conversion is so important (Acts 3:19). Finally: "And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life" (1 John 5:11-12).
Truly, Jesus did die to reconcile us to God—paying the death penalty for sin in our place and presenting to us the pathway to eternal salvation. Let us never allow ourselves to be corrupted by society's false worldview into erasing or diminishing from our minds this wonderful good news for which we should be forever thankful!