I want to begin this series of posts by stating that these ideas are the result of many years of musings over something that I find to be fundamentally flawed about modern Christianity—perfection. The Christian religion has become inescapably infused with talk of perfection. Personally, I find this focus to be destructive and toxic to the Christian religion.
Indeed, all this talk of perfection is not only skewing our perception of God, but is causing people to walk away from the Christian faith because the emphasis on perfection is suffocating and soul crushing. I refer to this emphasis as the Perfection Paradox. Unlike many of my musings where I can get all the ideas into one post, the Perfection Paradox is like the tendrils of neurons. They unfurl in so many different directions and are interconnected that there is too much to digest in just one sitting.
Therefore, I am going to release the Perfection Paradox in several different posts. Hopefully, this will allow you the opportunity to reflect on the nuances of the arguments being discussed. I would like to begin Part 1 with the story of how I first encountered the Christian emphasis on perfection. If this story resonates with you, I would be interested to hear your own story of how you first encountered the Christian emphasis on perfection. Feel free to leave your story in the comments section.
When I arrived at Rice University in 1998 as freshman, I struggled to find my footing. Rice is a wet campus, so drinking alcohol is acceptable in dorms. Unfortunately, as someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, I was having a hard time fitting in with my peers. I quickly discovered that the only people on campus who didn’t drink were the hardcore Christians. I figured if I wanted to have any kind of social life, I would need to attend some of their meetings so I could get to know people.
When I arrived at my first meeting of Campus Crusade for Christ, I quickly discovered this was a different brand of Christianity than what I had known growing up. The speaker at this particular meeting began by talking about God. He said that God was all good, all knowing and all powerful. He wanted us to know, in no uncertain terms, that God is perfect.
Unfortunately, we as humans are the exact opposite of God. We say horrible things. We do horrible things. We think horrible things. Humans are, in no uncertain terms, sinful. These two opposing natures result in conflict. A perfect God can have nothing to do with a sinful humanity. God’s nature and human nature are like oil and water. They repel each other. Our sins force God to reject us.
Thankfully, God figured out a way around this by sending us Jesus Christ. Jesus is able to live the perfect life that we are unable to live. From the time Jesus is born, he never sins. Jesus never utters a bad word, performs a bad deed or conjures an impure thought. Jesus is the human that God always intended for us to be.
Finally, when Jesus dies on the cross, he becomes the perfect sacrifice for our sins. As a result of Jesus’ blood being shed, God can now forgive us for our sins. Jesus cleanses us and we are now able to be in relationship with God. Thanks to Jesus, God and humans are no longer like oil and water. Now our perfect God can embrace us because we have been perfected by Jesus.
There's only one catch: in order for you to be cleansed, one must have faith in Jesus. You must give your life to Jesus and believe in him. Without this faith, Jesus’ sacrifice will not apply to you and you will ultimately be rejected by God in the afterlife. Those who have faith will be with God in heaven and those who do not will be rejected by God, spending the rest of eternity in hell.
You Know What Happens When You Assume…
I had never heard anything like this before in my life. As I left the meeting that evening, I will admit that I felt pretty horrible about myself. The speaker was correct. I certainly wasn’t an angel. My thoughts, words and deeds were often negative or inappropriate. I kept coming back to the core idea of the talk: God is perfect. I am not. God can have nothing to do with me. I need Jesus if God is going to have a relationship with me.
I would hear some version of this talk on the sporadic occasions when I would attend Crusade over the next four years of my college career. However, deep down inside, something about this approach to Christianity didn’t sit right with me. At the time, I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what didn’t sit right with me, but I eventually came to realize there were several assumptions being applied to this line of thinking that were at the heart of my discomfort:
1. God is perfect.
2. God expects humans to be perfect.
3. God needed Jesus to be perfect because we could not meet God’s expectations.
When I was able to articulate these three assumptions, I began questioning their origins. I quickly realized that I had stumbled upon a rabbit hole that required an complete shift in my approach to Christianity. In the next post, we will take the time to examine each of these assumptions in detail because they are core to the argument that many Christians make when trying to justify their belief in Jesus.
As I will demonstrate to you in Part 2, not only are these assumptions fallacious in their logic, but they also promote a version of Christianity that is the exact antithesis of what I believe is at the core of Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament.