atonement, judging and being a child of God

“The devil makes many disciples by preaching against sin. He convinces them that the great evil of sin induces a crisis of guilt by which “God is satisfied," and after that he lets them spend the rest of their lives meditating on the intense sinfulness and evident reprobation of other men.” -Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

While working on a sermon I came across the lines above from monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton. In this passage he seems to be commenting on an aspect of atonement theory. What is atonement theory? It is the notion that humanity had a debt of sin to be paid to God and the only way to satisfy God’s need for justice was for one to atone for our sins. Jesus, as one without sin, died to make that satisfaction. We then need to confess him as Lord and Savior in order to be saved by his atoning blood. The emphasis here is pretty much on human sinfulness and depravity. If we look at only our sins or the sins of others, we are not looking at Christ or the love of God; we’re too taken up with judging ourselves and our fellow man or woman.

To explain the death and resurrection of Jesus this way and use it as a means to exalt those of us (there’s usually an ‘us’ in this way of thinking) who are saved and simultaneously condemn those we deem are not saved is contrary to the witness of Christ as we encounter him in the Scriptures. Best to let God determine who is saved, who isn’t. Best for us to praise God in awe and wonder for the many gifts and blessings that are ours as God’s adopted children through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

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