The Sinner I Know
The recent debates triggered by Rob Bell's Love Wins have echoed across the blogosphere, bounced back, and circled repeatedly. Hell is not popular, nor should it be, but popularity has nothing to do with truth. Death is not popular either but undeniable. Much of the debate dovetails into controversy as well over other fundamental and biblical doctrines of the Christian faith, I'm thinking here of total depravity and original sin. Total depravity is the truth taught by the Scriptures that human beings since the fall of Adam and Eve are utterly sinful. It does not mean that all humans are as possibly wicked as they could be, no, we can thank the restraining grace of God that that isn't so. But it does mean that all humans are truly sinful, evil, and wicked in their natural state.
The 19th century American pastor and evangelist, Ichabod Spencer (quite a name for a preacher) would confront people with God and if they would reply, "I am a sinner" or "I have sinned," he would often reply, "You have no idea how wicked you really are." Wow, we have come a long way from that. Amazingly Spencer was noted for leading many people to Christ and he was correct. The Scriptures declare this bald truth: "the LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one." (Psalm 14:2-3).
Original sin is the truth taught by the Scriptures that the sinfully bent-out-of-shape nature experienced by Adam and Eve after their disobedience was passed along to murderous Cain and faithful Abel and all the way down to you and me. It is inherited by being a descendant of Adam, or as Lewis put it: a son of Adam or a daughter of Eve. Yes, we are, and we have collectively proven so generation after generation.
These are difficult and unpalatable truths for all of us. According to the Bible, we are born sinners, have all proven it repeatedly, and we are justly deserving of death and hell. But I don't know you and I don't know your sweet grandmother. And we can argue over whether some great man, be he Socrates or Gandhi, will be so condemned apart from Christ, but let me merely say that the one sinner that I know the most, namely myself, qualifies. The sinner I know has demonstrated many times over his sinful nature, and finds it amazing not that God would actually condemn him, but that God would not condemn him. I'm that man, and I know what I deserve. So count me in with John Newton for I can sing with complete agreement: "Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me."