Get Out of Jail Free Card

A person wrote to Billy Graham stating they were tempted to do something they knew was wrong. They asked if it mattered whether they gave in to this temptation because God has promised to forgive our sins. [1]

This question essentially views Christianity as a “get out of jail (hell) free” card. It is not an unusual way of looking at Christianity because the apostle Paul faced the same question.

The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 5:20-6:4 NIV)

In the above passage Paul states that Christ’s work on our behalf includes his death for our sins but also his resurrection so that we can live a new life. This new life is just as much a part of salvation as Jesus’ death for our sins. If our doctrine of salvation made this plain instead of stating that salvation is through belief in Jesus alone, then we might see fewer people trying to use Christianity as a “get out of jail free” card.


[1]   Billy Graham, “God will forgive every sin except one”, Tulsa Beacon, February 4, 2016, p. 2B.

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A Slave Religion

I’m reading Edward J. Larson’s book, Summer for the Gods. It is about the Scopes trial in 1925 in a small town called Dayton, TN and it concerned a Tennessee law forbidding the teaching of evolution in public schools. In setting the stage for the trial, Larson writes about some of the main characters and describes Clarence Darrow’s view of Christianity. Darrow viewed “Christianity as a slave religion, encouraging acquiescence in injustice, a willingness to make do with the mediocre, and complacency in the face of the intolerable”. [1] Is this what Jesus taught us to do? Some might think so because of the passages quoted below:

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. (Luke 6:27-31 NIV)

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12 NIV)

However, as we have consistently said in this blog, we can prove any point we want by just picking out certain verses in the Bible. If we read the entire Bible, we discover that Jesus was not always so meek and mild as Darrow would have us believe.

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” (Matthew 10:34-36 NIV)

Jesus constantly challenged the status quo. For example, he violated Jewish law by healing a person on the Sabbath which resulted in the Pharisees plotting to kill Jesus (Mark 3:2-6). And Jesus used violence when he used a whip to drive commercial enterprises out of the temple (John 2:13-16).

What the Bible tells us is that our use of violence to correct injustice should be extremely rare. Most of the time we should use peaceful means to change what is wrong in our world. And if the Darrows of the world consider that to be the action of a slave, I would ask them if Jesus acted like a slave.


[1]   Edward J. Larson, Summer for the Gods, New York: Basic Books, 1997, p. 71.

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Charles Koch in his book Good Profit lists the principles that have guided Koch Industries to its phenomenal growth. First on the list is integrity and he gives a very good reason for this emphasis: The transaction costs in business are greatly reduced if people have integrity. Think of all the money that could be saved if people had integrity. There would be no spending on security systems (alarms, locks, safes, weapons, guards), lawyers to write contracts, lawyers to sue those who default on contracts, internal and external auditors to verify a company does what it committed itself to do). [1]

Integrity is defined as: adherence to moral and ethical principles. This definition implies that we must do more than just believe in ethical principles, we must adhere to them; we must actually practice them. So why do we Christians maintain that all we need to do to be saved is to believe in Jesus and his death for our sins? To hold such a belief means that God is not concerned about our integrity; that it does not matter to God whether we put our beliefs into practice or not. Is that the God you read about in the Bible?


[1]   Charles G. Koch, Good Profit, New York: Crown Business, 2015, p. 123.

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Altar Calls

Whenever I go to a Protestant church, the part of the service I like least is the altar call. It seems that at the end of every service it is a requirement to have an altar call. Why? Because standard Christian belief is that one must believe in Jesus and his death for our sins to be saved. Therefore, convincing people to believe and make a public statement of that belief is the top priority for a church.

But if, as this blog maintains, salvation is the renovation of our soul so it becomes like God then a change in people’s lives should be the church’s first priority, not altar calls. What would a church be like whose primary mission was to move people to become more God-like? An example is Rosaria Butterfield’s conversion to Christianity that we discussed in the last blog. Her conversion was not the result of attending a church; it was not because someone recited the Four Spiritual Laws to her. Her conversion was because someone lived Christian principles. After she wrote an opinion article, she received “the kindest letter of opposition I have ever read” from a pastor. The pastor and his family started a relationship with her, not with the idea of converting her. She said: “This was not friendship evangelism but friendship”. [1]

There is a place for altar calls in church just as there is a place for the rite of baptism. Both are a public expression of a commitment to follow the teaching of Jesus. When we place these rites above the task of becoming more like God, then there is something wrong with our belief system.


[1]   Bill Sherman, “TU community gracious to ex-lesbian speaker”, Tulsa World, November 21, 2015, p. A11.

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Living Our Beliefs

This blog is often critical of Christians who think that belief is the only requirement for salvation. So it is refreshing to hear of a Christian who thinks that salvation involves actually putting our beliefs into practice. Such a person is Rosaria Butterfield.

Ms. Butterfield was a very successful college professor who was also a lesbian and Marxist. When she became a Christian, she realized it would mean giving up her lesbian lifestyle. So she changed and it cost her. She says the aftermath of her decision was a “bloodbath” as she felt that she had betrayed her friends and community [1] and I’m sure the feeling was mutual.

Ms. Butterfield understands that the purpose of salvation is to make of us a new creation and that means we must change. That has always been the problem we humans have with God. God wants to interfere with how we think we should live our lives, with the type of person we want to be. Human nature, being what it is, means we constantly try to think of ways to avoid having God meddle in our lives. And one way to accomplish that is to make salvation only a belief system.


[1]   Bill Sherman, “TU community gracious to ex-lesbian speaker”, Tulsa World, November 21, 2015, p. A11.

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Good Profit

Charles Koch has taken a business his dad started and turned it into a $100 billion dollar company—one of the largest privately held companies in the world. It should be obvious this is a person who knows how to get things done. In discussing implementing the management system that has led to this phenomenal growth, Mr. Koch maintains the employees in a company must actually practice the system, not just talk about it. He states:

If you’ve never swung a golf club or driven a car before, theory and instruction will only get you so far. You need to pick up a club or get behind the wheel and keep practicing until you internalize the mechanics to the point where you can do it automatically. It needs to become second nature to you. [1]

He also quotes the scientist and philosopher Polanyi who “argued that we only truly know something—that is, have personal knowledge of it—when we can apply it to get results”. Koch summarized Polanyi’s argument by stating that knowing and doing are two different things. [2]

In this blog, we have taken examples from almost every area of our lives to show that it is commonly accepted that we must live something to truly learn it. Yet we Christians still hold to the idea that we only need to believe to be saved; that we only need a theoretical knowledge of what it means to be a follower of Christ to be saved. Why?


[1]   Charles G. Koch, Good Profit, New York: Crown Business, 2015, p. 11.

[2] Koch, p. 76.

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Free Speech

In the US, the first amendment to the Constitution protects our freedom of speech. Throughout the years, various court rulings have defined precisely what is free speech and has led to the legal principle that even “inflammatory speech is protected as long as it is not incitement to imminent violence”. [1] Our founding fathers and many courts have recognized there is a difference between what one says and actually acting upon those statements.

So why do we Christians have such a difficult time recognizing that fact? We say that salvation is only through belief in Jesus and his death for our sins. Do we really think we will be saved just by saying we have a certain belief?


[1]   Emily Belz, “Clamping down on speech”, World, February 21, 2015, pp. 50-52.

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Jeff Skiles was the copilot of the plane that landed in the Hudson River a few years ago (US Air 1549, Miracle on the Hudson). They are making a movie of this incident and the actor who will play Skiles asked him a simple question: Why does he like to fly? For someone whose vocation is aviation, one would think this would be an easy answer but it was not for Skiles. The reason this question was so difficult for Skiles was:

How does one explain the feel of an open cockpit on a spring morning, or the challenge of an approach to a remote high altitude mountain strip, or perhaps the view from 7 miles aloft of a landscape on the other side of the world. How does one express a feeling to someone who has never felt it? . . .Only those who have experienced flight can truly understand its many charms. [1]

This illustrates, as we have demonstrated in the last few blogs, the fact that theoretical knowledge, our belief system, is not sufficient in any area of our lives. To truly understand something we must live it. We cannot say we truly understand Christianity, we cannot say we know what Christianity is all about unless we actually live it. We must become a new creation, not just profess belief.

Belief in Jesus and his death for our sins is a good first step. But it is only the first step of a life long journey God has planned for us.


[1]   Jeff Skiles, “Why Do We Fly”, Sport Aviation, December 2015, pp. 36-38.

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Entrance Requirements

The cartoon Non Sequitur published on November 24, 2015 shows St. Peter at the entrance to heaven. Beside him is a sign which states: “Entrance Requirements: Actually practiced the morals taught by your religion”. A group of people are waiting in line to gain admittance into heaven and one, upon reading the sign, states: “I think it means we don’t have to worry about it being too crowded in there”.

This cartoon is really more sad than funny. The underlying premise is that religious people subscribe to certain ideals but largely fail to actually live them. Why is this so? Why would we say we believe one thing but do another?

For us Christians part of the reason is because we have made Christianity a matter of belief instead of action. Our doctrine states all we need to do in order to be saved and go to heaven is to believe in Jesus and his death for our sins. Nothing is said about our actions in spite of the fact that, as is detailed in this blog and my book, the Bible clearly states action is required (see the “What the Bible Says about Salvation” tab on this blog’s home page). Two examples are: I Corinthians 13 which describes love as an action and places it above faith and hope in terms of importance and James 2:26 which states that faith without works is dead.

Salvation is more than belief. It is putting those beliefs into action; it is the change of our soul so it becomes more like God.

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Knowledge Is an Abstraction

John and Martha King write a monthly column in Flying magazine about aviation safety. They teach that to improve safety pilots must use a technique called risk management which has two components. First is the “habit of situational awareness by systematically thinking about risks”. The second is “coming up with mitigation strategies for the risks you have thought of”. While this idea of risk management has been around for some time, Martha states that much of a pilot’s “aviation knowledge is an abstraction. . .until we apply it in a practical scenario” and therefore she suggests pilots develop habits whereby they address these two components of risk management before every flight. [1]

Our Christian beliefs are also an abstraction until we apply it in a practical situation. Jesus tells us: “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44 NIV). This verse is an abstraction for many (e.g. the Westboro Baptist Church) because they do not put it into practice. In fact they do just the opposite by spewing hate toward those with whom they disagree.

Paul tells us Christians should not sue each other but we are to resolve our disputes among ourselves (1 Corinthians 6:1-8). This passage is an abstraction for many churches and denominational headquarters as they sue each other over who owns a particular church property. Applying this verse in a practical situation would mean we would be prepared to and in some instances actually experience a financial loss instead of suing a fellow Christian.

Like pilots who institute habits that enable them to use risk management tools to improve the safety of each flight they take, we Christians must develop habits that assist us in actually putting into practice what the Bible teaches us.


[1]   Martha King, “Why Some Pilots Are Bad Risk Managers”, Flying, December 2015, p. 34.

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