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The Christian Gospel is the most powerful “meme” ever crafted on this planet.

1/3 of the terrestrial population claims it plays a central role in personal life.

In its most reductionistic form, it takes on a phrase like “Jesus died for our sins.”

Of course, unpacking that phrase theologically could take a lifetime of work.

The problem is, it becomes a language game which can be accepted or rejected without any actual spiritual experience. Isn’t it possible that a person could say yes to it without any real “saving” happening at any meaningful level in his or her life?

Language games don’t need a real God any more than Monopoly boards need a real Atlantic City. They work because they keep their own rules.

This “disconnect” effect becomes even more pronounced with usage; even those who accept the Gospel can face serious diminishing personal returns and even boredom when a reductionistic form of the Gospel is repeated over and over for decades.

For this reason, I wrote the June 2011 Summerside Press novel The Blackberry Bush.

I wanted to explore biblically-responsible atonement models in a medium (fiction) that would allow great freedom of expression.

You see, getting saved or not had to be “real” and believable for Kati and Josh, the protagonists. Just having someone approach them on the beach (props to Mr. Luptak for the image) and presenting them with a reductionistic Gospel would not have been believable to the readers.

And I wanted their “salvation wrestling” to work for two kinds of people:

1) Those who don’t identify with the Christian salvation ‘meme.’

2) Those who have heard it for so long that it no longer really matters to them in real life.

More on this later…

How would you describe salvation without getting reductionistic?




I’m not going to answer this question.

First I want to hear what you think.

With so many Christian “brands” out there, each of which has a different “take” on sin, it’s pretty hard to know how to feel and what to think when we’re in that grey area between virtue and depravity.

Roman Catholics talk about mortal sins (felonies) and venial sins (misdemeanors). Before you dismiss it out of hand, it does make some sense to treat axe murders differently than those who just make unintentional little mistakes.

We just plain ignore (no matter what our Christian/Jewish flavor) most of the sins listed in the Bible. We skateboard over the Sabbath and pick and choose what we want to follow.

There are “sins” (and everyone would disagree as to what’s on the list) and then there is “sin” as in the “human condition” of brokenness.

I was on the chairlift talking about Romans 6:23 and a young woman floored me by saying “I’ve done some wrong things but nothing to deserve a death penalty!” I had no answer for her. Isn’t she, in a sense, right?

Do we really deserve death? And what does that even mean?

Isn’t the human condition just a wee bit more complex than “total depravity?”

Some see the central sin as “idolatry” or putting something in the place of God. There is some promise in this thinking, but I can’t really wrap my head around it yet.

Laying our theologies aside, what does God think of sin?

And if what Jesus did on the cross got rid of it, then why are we still talking about it?

Did it make any difference in the human race, objectively speaking?

It seems like we are /exactly/ in the same human condition before and after saying yes to Jesus.

What does it mean to be free of sin? Does trusting Jesus’ work on the cross at a deep level guarantee any change in our behavior?

Try to answer for yourself, and not to please a former pastor or professor who may not even be alive anymore.

I hold conventional conservative Evangelical views on sin, but am trying to think of old truths in fresh ways. Perhaps you can help.

What is sin?

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