I recently engaged with someone on a comment thread under one of my articles for The Conservative Woman, on a point which is — in my experience — a very common response to Christianity. The commenter said that Christians seem to claim a monopoly on doing good deeds, and he then went on to mention that although he is not religious, he both believes in doing good and actually does it.

Since this is such a common response to Christianity, I thought I’d give you my thoughts on why I believe it to be a big misconception. Actually, that’s not quite the case. It is several misconceptions, as I will do my best to explain.

The first misconception is the idea that Christians claim a monopoly on doing good deeds. I have also heard this expressed as something like, “You Christians think you’re so good”. Yet this is the very opposite of what Christianity claims. The fundamental basis for the faith is not that we are “very good”, but that we are “very sinful”. Why else would we claim the need for someone to save us from our sins?

The second misconception is that Christians say unbelievers are incapable of doing good deeds. Again, this is not true. What the Bible teaches is that we are marred by sin, and that this effects every part of us — our souls, our minds, our hearts, our wills and our bodies. Yet, that same Bible also teaches that all humans are made in the Image of God. Think of humans — yourself included — like this: we are like a beautiful painting that has had graffiti daubed all over it. The graffiti has utterly spoiled the picture, but underneath it all you can still see something of its beauty. When we “do good”, this is the Image of God underneath the mess shining through the graffiti. And so we are all capable of “doing good”, but that does not make us fundamentally good. Quite the opposite, and so we are all in need of a proper work of restoration to make us into what we should be. Not creatures where — in the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn — the line of evil runs through our hearts, but ones who have been thoroughly purged of all evil.

Which brings me onto the third and final misconception. What do you call a person who talks about being good and of doing good deeds? The answer to that is someone who is not good. Note, I’m not saying it’s a person that is incapable of “doing good”, but rather one who is not “good” in his or her very essence.

Think of it this way. The Bible starts with a man who it says is created Very Good. He is holy, he is righteous, he is blameless. Picture such a man, and now ask yourself this: would he go around talking about how good he is, and telling people about how much good he does? Of course not. It’s utterly impossible. Why? Because he is good. Not just capable of doing good, but entirely good in his very being. And since he doesn’t have anything else to contrast his innate goodness with, he would never go around telling people that he is good.

In other words, when people talk about being good, or that they do good, what you have is not a person who is good, but rather a sinner who is able to do good. Nothing more; nothing less.

I suppose where the confusion lies is probably because Christians have a standard which is far higher than anything any other religion or philosophy ever came up with. It is Very Good. In fact it is perfect. Yet the point is that we fail every day to match up to it. We sin every day. We do things from wrong motives every day. We gratify ourselves when we should be looking out for others. Well at least I do. Do you?

But thanks be to God, he pardons my sin, my wrong motives and my selfishness, each and every day. And yours hopefully too.

4 thoughts on “You Know What You Remind me of Man? A Beautiful Painting Daubed in Graffiti and in Need of a Work of Restoration

  1. Yes, thanks be to God for pardoning my sins. I wish more Christians would spend time absorbing the idea that they are sinful. Too many Christians walk around with a “holier than thou” mindset which turns people away from Christianity by the droves, which in turn is a sinful act (as I recall). My preacher made a comment I really liked. He said: “It’s my job to preach, not to judge. I leave that up to God.” But Rob I do wonder: Although I agree with you more or less that “good” people don’t go around proclaiming their goodness, where do you get the confidence to assert “Of course not” in that regard. It seems to me a matter of opinion.

    1. Hi Richard,

      You ask: Although I agree with you more or less that “good” people don’t go around proclaiming their goodness, where do you get the confidence to assert “Of course not” in that regard. It seems to me a matter of opinion.”

      Two reasons. Firstly, someone who *is* good as opposed to just being able to *do* good, has no reference point to judge their goodness. They just *are* good. Period.

      Secondly Jesus, who *is* good, never went around proclaiming his good works. He just did them. The only time he mentioned them was when he was accused of being evil and in league with Beelzebub. Otherwise, he’d never have mentioned them, and in fact at one point he says “Why call me good. There is only one who is good, and that is God”.

      Rob

  2. I love it when you post an article where politics is not involved 🙂
    What is “doing good” anyway? And you’re spot on: if we were really (very) good we wouldn’t even know what doing good is. Our natural state of being wouldn’t involve anything else which leads us to the inevitable conclusion that now we are …
    I would only add that when you do “good” in this wicked world, you have a big chance that it goes wrong or you get frustrated because in many cases you will do it at the expense of yourself. How will you hold on?

    1. Hi GV,

      Good to hear from you again.

      Ha ha! Whenever I post something here and on Twitter attacking neoconservatism, I get a few followers who hate neoconservatism. Whenever I post something attacking the liberal-left agenda, I get a few followers who don’t like that agenda. And when I post overtly Christian apologetics, I get a few followers from that camp. But when the anti-neocons who’ve come see the posts against the liberal-left agenda, they leave. And when the anti-liberal leftists see the attacks on neoconservative foreign policy, they leave. And when both those types see the overt Christian stuff, they leave. Thus my blog is the epitome of that old maxim: “You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” 😄

      I keep promising myself that one day I’m going to write a few pieces explaining why these views — anti-neocon foreign policy, anti liberal-leftist social policy, and Christianity — all belong logically and ethically together, so that folks who read my stuff and scratch their heads wondering if I’m bonkers might at least be able to see that there’s some rhyme and reason to my madness 😉

      But I’m on holiday now, so it’ll have to wait.

      Blessings to you,

      Rob

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