Every once in a while I like to make sure nobody thinks I am arguing, “Look at how moral I am, therefore Christianity is true.” The worst part about my inflation bet wasn’t that I was out $500, or even that my personal forecasting reputation was cast into doubt, but rather that I hadn’t bent over backwards to say, “This is coming from my own guess about when financial markets will turn on Bernanke, this isn’t popping out of Human Action.” So by the same token, I want to make sure that if and when the NSA dumps my email history on MurphyHypocrite.com, nobody can fairly say (they will still say it unfairly of course), “Oh isn’t that interesting? And yet Bob talks about God all the time.”
Obviously, none of this is to suggest that Christians “can live however they want.” Of course not. If you are going to call yourself a follower of Jesus, then you certainly have a moral duty to be “salt and light” for the world; you are to set an example. But when you fail to live up to that ideal–and you will–that is hardly evidence that the doctrines of Christianity are wrong. On the contrary, it shows how right they are: Christianity teaches that we are natural born sinners and need a Savior to redeem us.
Here we run into yet another example of how Christianity sounds nutty if you just look at pieces of it in isolation, but taken together it’s not as ridiculous as it first seemed. Considered by itself, the idea that there is an invisible Person of infinite goodness who sees everything you do and knows every motive in your heart, would drive you insane. That is horrible, and I understand why someone like Christopher Hitchens says not only does he not intellectually believe in that kind of universe, but he wouldn’t choose it if it were an option.
But hold on. Another reason skeptics dismiss Christianity as nutty, is its doctrine that we can gain entrance to paradise simply by accepting God’s free gift of grace, and joining His family through the work of His Son. “What?! You mean a serial killer gets to heaven just by accepting Christ as his personal Lord and Savior?! That’s monstrous!!”
Yet if you put both “nutty” doctrines together, they cancel out. Yes, every time you sin–even if it’s just envying, hating, or lusting in your heart, not something any human would bust you on–you feel ashamed of yourself, and not because some other human is better than you (we are all awful), but because you let God down, and He knows it. But on the other hand, you can shake it off and get back in the game, because you know that your Father has truly forgiven you for it.
The older I get, and the more I learn about human beings work, the more I recognize that this is the only path to even earthly peace. It makes sense that it’s the way to eternal salvation as well.