Friday, April 22, 2011

Offsetting Sin

Today is Good Friday, the day when Christians celebrate Jesus Christ's death on the cross for the forgiveness of the world's sins.  And today is also Earth Day, the day when neo-pagans celebrate Mother Earth by laying their offerings of compact fluorescent light bulbs at her altar.

So, as you'd expect from two different theologies, there's a bit of competition in the air today.  Obviously Christians have sided with the Cross and Hippies have sided with Gaia.  No big surprise there.  But it seems that many who bathe on a regular basis have also lined up behind the unwashed masses.  Yahoo's home page has a cute multiracial pair of children kissing a globe today.  Google's has a slightly less barftastic mural of pandas and penguins and waterfalls.  So why is that?  Why would the average, "uncommitted" person rather side with streams of water than stream of blood?  To answer that question, let's look at these two very different religions competing for today's status as a holy day.

At the heart of Earth Day is the doctrine of the carbon offset.  A carbon offset is where you offset, or nullify, an emission of carbon or some other environmentally unfriendly act through a reduction in carbon emissions or some other environmentally friendly act elsewhere.  For example, if you burn fossil fuels by driving your 1993 Mercury Sable to Bonnaroo, you can undo that action's impact on the environment by planting a couple of trees or taking lukewarm showers for a month. So the system of righteousness that Earth Day offers is this: if you can balance out your sins (carbon emissions) with good works (carbon reductions), they you will be considered righteous.

But at the heart of Christianity is the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement.  So "atonement" quite simply means "at-one-ment."  It refers to how a person is made one with God, how one's sins are taken away so that he can be returned into the arms of his Father in Heaven.  But since only sinless blood can take away mankind's sins, then it is only through a sinless substitute, one who takes our place, that atonement can be made.  And, of course, that substitute is Jesus Christ, the spotless Lamb of God, who is condemned in mankind's place upon the cross, who sheds His own blood to forgive our sins and make us at one with God.  So the system of righteousness that Christianity offers is this: Because your sins have been erased through the blood of Jesus, then you are considered righteous.

And when you look at these two systems of righteousness side by side, it becomes quite clear why the masses have lined up behind Earth Day, why Bing's homepage is celebrating trees (or possibly broccoli) today and why anyone would ever consider it news when Sheryl Crow suggests we all use less toilet paper (public health notice: never shake hands with Sheryl Crow).

You see, when it comes to Christianity, when it comes to believing that the blood of Jesus killed your sins, that also requires believing that your sins are dead things that you ought not play with, dead things of which you ought to disavow yourself.  You know, that whole "how can we who died to sin still live in it?" thing.  And that's not fun to do when you really like sinning.

So if you don't particularly want to stop having premarital sex, if you're really quite fond of getting drunk or stoned, if you happen to be really good at amassing treasures for yourself on earth or if it makes your tummy feel all happy inside when you speak hatefully about your neighbor, then that Earth Day system of righteousness becomes quite attractive.  Because within that system, you can keep fornicating as long as you offset it with a few hours at a soup kitchen.  You can keep worshiping mammon as long as you nullify it by buying a pair of Toms.  You can keep hating your neighbor as long as you balance it out by spaying or neutering your labradoodle.

But as enjoyable a system of righteousness as sin offsets may be, it's only a delusion.  True righteousness is never won when sin remains.  Atonement with God is never accomplished when sin is balanced, but only when sin is destroyed.  And only the sinless blood of Jesus can accomplish that.

So when it comes to Earth Day vs. Good Friday, I'll take Good Friday.  I'll take the day where God erases my sin through the blood of His Son over the day where I hide my sins underneath a thin layer of free trade coffee grounds.  Because on Earth Melts Day, on the Day when I stand before God in judgement, I'd rather tell Him that I deserve eternal life because the blood of Jesus has annihilated my murderous heart rather than telling Him I deserve eternal life because I planted a bed of roses atop the bodies I buried in my backyard.

My name is Pastor Hans Fiene.  Thanks for reading.

12 comments:

jacob.corzine said...

That's "fair trade."

jacob.corzine said...

And furthermore, thank you for the Sheryl Crow long. Oh so very much. That was, like you Hans -- like you -- awesome.

Jenn said...

TOTALLY AWESOME! :) Thank-you! :) Sharing! :)
Oh, and taking my Issues Etc mugs to Starbucks and Caribou for free coffee, cause that's what Earth Day means to me. ;)

James said...

Well done Hans,
Though ironically I felt bad that I am not working on my paper, but that I was making up for it by reading your blog.

John E. said...

“Have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing…. See, I have given to you every plant…every tree…. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:28-31)

Celebrating Earth Day has nothing to do with showing misaligned worship, and has everything to do with respecting what God created. It took him 7 days to build, and it's taking humans thousands of years to destroy. I apologize if I'd like to pass on to my children something God created for all of us.

Pastor Fiene said...

I profoundly disagree, John. The words from Genesis that you quote show how God created the earth to serve mankind. The very foundation of Earth Day is that man exists to serve the earth. So it is rooted in a false theology of creation.

Anonymous said...

fundamentalism...bah.

Anonymous said...

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing...

Frank said...

"fundamentalism" -- You mean the carbon-offset Gaia worshipers, right?

Anonymous said...

I would sure like to hear you preach!

drjoan said...

Atonement does NOT mean "at one ment." That is a lazy attempt to water down the real meaning of the word which implies that a Holy God, having required specific, holy, sacrifice for horrible and evil sins, receives that substitution in the sacrificial death of his beloved guilt-free Son who presented himself in my place.

corzine said...

Actually, as cheap as it sounds, that's exactly the etymological origin of the word:

1505–15; from phrase at one in harmony + -ment, as translation of Medieval Latin adūnāmentum; compare Middle English onement unity

The blog post doesn't leave any question about how that happened, either. I don't see the issue, drjoan.