None is Righteous (Romans 3:9-20)
The Great Apostle began this discussion about sin in 1:18. So, at its end in 3:20 he has expended 64 verses (of course there were no “verses” when he wrote) on this topic. Given that Romans’ systematic theology is a corner stone of Christian thought, we must ask ourselves why sin was the first component of Paul’s explanation of the Gospel, and, why he focused on it at such length and depth.
Perhaps the beginning of an answer can be found in John the Baptist’s proclamation preparing the way for Christ’s ministry (Luke 3:2b,3).
… the word of God came to John the son of Zechari′ah in the wilderness; 3 and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Thus, the first statement specifically about Christ’s Gospel was about repentance and the forgiveness of sins.
When Joseph was informed about the virgin pregnancy of his betrothed, Mary, the angel said of Jesus: “For it is he that shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Near the end of His worldly life at the Last Supper Jesus said: “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). And, very near the end, while dying on the cross He said: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
The Apostle Peter speaks of our sin’s place in Christ’s Gospel: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). And, the Apostle John also:
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; 7 but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10)
It is here that I return to the Progressive Christian belief regarding sin, though now at greater length.
There are some who say that liberal/progressive churches don’t believe in sin. That we never talk about it—or call people to confess. I would agree that we seldom talk about it. When I first came here I soon learned that was the “s” word that was never mentioned. But I don’t believe for a minute it’s because we feel no guilt or shame or remorse. In fact I observe that many people here at Southminster, take on guilt way beyond their need. But I think we are confused about how to describe, define, talk about sin. We know it is not as narrow as sexual behavior (as some Christians try to make it); we know it is not as simple as breaking 10 commandments, as we probably learned in Sunday School…if we went to Sunday School; because we know it has something to do with context. We many of us, don’t believe that Jesus had to come and die for our particular sins to atone a vengeful God. We don’t really know what to teach children because we don’t want them bogged down in shame and guilt—yet we also want them to grow into adults are moral and ethical and compassionate.
This is an important and remarkable statement. It is honest about Progressive Christianity’s rejection of sin to the point of refusal to even use the word. It admits utter confusion about how to define and therefore think about sin. It is only confident about what sin isn’t (i.e., not “narrow sexual behavior” or “breaking 10 commandments”).
But, eventually, the truth is blurted out. That being we: “don’t believe that Jesus had to come and die for our particular sins to atone a vengeful God.” The bottom line is that acknowledging the concept of sin is verboten because it relates to something terribly wrong with God Himself. Ultimately, sin speaks to God’s sinfulness, that being His vengefulness. Therefore these Progressive Christians will not expose their children to this awful concept so that they won’t become “bogged down in shame and guilt.” For, there are no “particular sins” for which they or their children need God’s atonement.
And yet these Progressives call themselves Christian while openly, defiantly contradicting the teaching of Holy Scripture about sin and its place in Christ’s Gospel. I wonder when was the last time that anyone in the Christian Church confronted them with this fact? In all probability for many the answer is never. For, when candidates for ministry in the PCUSA stood before the Presbytery of Chicago Assembly and denied their belief in sin they were overwhelming accepted and sent forth to “preach the gospel.”
Over ninety years ago in Mainline Denominations (including Presbyterian) the “Modernist” defeated the “Fundamentalist” camp in the Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy. The “Modernists” claimed victory as Christians who were more accurately, more completely teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The membership of these denominations therefore placed their trust in the “Modernists” to lead their churches.
These “Modernists” who now call themselves “Progressives” have been leading for over ninety years. It is long past time to ask what fruit they have generated.
It has been my misfortune to look deeply into that which the Progressive Christian leadership of the PCUSA is saying, thinking and doing. I strongly suspect that similar results would be obtained for most other Mainline Protestant denominations. I will not here rehearse my charges against them (though they can be easily found in this blog’s posts). What I will say is that it is time for a true reckoning concerning their stewardship.