Posted by: AJ the Irish Lass | November 24, 2007

Soft on Sin, or True to Transformation?

     I recently had a discussion with a friend who attends a holiness Pentecostal congregation and made a surprising statement about one of the things that drew her to this group. She stated that the preacher there out and out tells  people in the sermon that if they do this, that, or the other thing, they’re going to hell, in contrast to Baptist congregations she’d attended that downplayed sin due to “once saved, always saved”. Apparently many people are genuinely unaware that most Christians espouse neither “grace plus this plus that” or “sin freely” theology.

The truth is, conservative/fundamentalist Christians and mainline Christians alike believe in and teach about sin. However, it’s the emphasis that differs. That’s where the divisiveness kicks in.  Conservative Christians are often accused of being hung up on or obsessed with sin. Mainline and liberal Christians are accused of not taking sin seriously enough. It could be said that conservative Christians tend to focus on humanity’s sinfulness and Jesus’ need to die for us to save us, often from a substitutionary atonement view. However, many other Christians tend to emphasize on Jesus’ love for creation and His death on the cross reconciling us to Him. This perspective is focused on Christ’s ability to transform us. Christians of both groups, of course, hold a variety of views, but this shows how two groups of Christians recognize the same problem, but have different methodologies in dealing with it.

One of the oldest conflicts within Christianity that dates back to before the formal split from Judaism is doctrine vs. legalism. Many of Jesus’ confrontations with the Pharisees had to do with this. Doctrines are grounded in Scripture and the earliest teaching tradition of the Church.  However, a doctrine becomes legalism when extra-Scriptural additions are added and treated as necessary and/or salvational. Some of the harshest criticisms against the transformational approach to redemption come from legalistic groups.

What it finally comes down to is that it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict us, not other sinners. Those who focus too heavily on what’s wrong without pointing people to the solution miss the point of God’s offer of salvation entirely.

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