Are Christians “Sinners”?

March 31, 2009

I started reading yet another book today that insists it’s essential for Christians to see themselves as sinners. Is this true or not? Here’s my suggested approach.

First, aside from the term itself, let’s look at the things that most Bible-believing Christians can agree to, related to Christians and sin. When a person trusts in Christ, they are credited Christ’s righteousness (Rom 4:5). Also, in some sense the power of sin over that person is broken (Rom 6:20-22). However, there is still a battle within the believer between sin and the Spirit (Gal 5:17), and no Christian is ever entirely without sin in this life (1 Jn 1:8). A Christian can overcome this sin to progressively grow in holiness, by relying on the power of the Spirit (Gal 5:16) and renewing his mind to the truth (Rom 12:2), among other things. A lot of times, disputes over the term “sinner” arise because one side believes that the other is missing one of these key points (and it can work both ways). It’s important, then, at the outset, to discuss these points, to see if both sides really agree to them.

If we can agree on these points, then, the question remains, should a Christian see himself as a sinner? We agree to all the above *assertions,* but should that *label* be additionally applied?

Here’s some hard Biblical evidence. “Although the New Testament provides plenty of evidence that the believer sins, it never clearly identifies the believer as a sinner. Paul’s reference to himself in which he declares, ‘I am foremost [of sinners]’ is often referred to as contrary (1 Tim 1:15). Despite the use of the present tense by the apostle, several things make it much preferable to consider his description of himself as the “foremost [of sinners]” as a reference to his preconversion opposition to the gospel…The only other places in Scripture that could be referring to Christians as sinners are two references found in James. The first, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners” (4:8), is one of 10 verbal commands urging anyone who reads this general epistle to make a decisive break with the old life. This is best understood as calling the reader to repentance and therefore salvation. The second use of “sinner,” found in James 5:19,20, appears to have a similar reference to unbelievers” (Anderson, Victory Over the Darkness, pp. 48-49). If you are aware of any passages that counter this, please let me know in the comments – this is the best information I have so far of NT use of the word “sinner.”

In light of this Biblical evidence, my questions to someone who would advocate referring to Christians as “sinners” would be:
– Do you think it is *essential* for Christians to see themselves as sinners? If it’s so essential, why did Jesus, Peter, Jude, and all the apostles recorded in Acts never call them that? Why did Paul only (possibly) refer to himself as a sinner, never any of his readers? Did the Lord and the inspired apostles really so thoroughly ignore such an important doctrine? One that you, over and above their ignorance or dullness of speech, have brought to light? Does the Word not really make us “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17), until it’s supplemented by your additions?
– Do you, instead, think that it is not *essential* for Christians to see themselves as sinners, but *helpful*? If so, why would it be more helpful than simply explaining the above Biblical truths about a Christian’s relationship to sin? The term “sinner” is subject to misinterpretation leading to excessive guilt, but those truths, when well explained, are not subject to misinterpretation. So, then, isn’t it the explanation of the truths the helpful part? And didn’t the apostles find it most helpful to explain the truths, and found no helpfulness in ever referring to Christians as sinners?
– Do you, instead, think that it’s not necessarily *helpful*, but at least *permissible* for Christians to see themselves as sinners? If so, would you be willing to permit others to teach the essential truths about Christians and sin, *without* referring to Christians as sinners? And would you be willing to entertain discussions about the negative effects that self-identifying as a sinner could have?

Therefore, I’d say there is a strong Biblical argument to say that a Christian should not see himself as a sinner. Incidentally, most of the points so far in the book I’m reading work whether or not you use the label “sinner” – the emphasis seems to be focusing on the common truths I described above. If that’s the case, let’s focus on those, and leave our zealotry about extra-Biblical terminology aside.

Incidentally, the argument could be raised that this is analogous to the extra-Biblical term “Trinity.” I’d argue that it’s not analogous. The term “Trinity” was coined to defend clear Biblical assertions of the nature and relationship of persons in the Godhead, against heretical denials of these Biblical assertions. But there is nothing heretical about the person who affirms all the above Biblical truths about Christians and sin yet does not use the term “sinner.” Also, the word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible, but began being used later, whereas the term “sinner” *does* appear in the Bible, but not in reference to Christians. The term “sinner” already has an inspired meaning, so we do not have the authority to change the way it is used.


Martin Luther’s humor

March 24, 2009

Martin Luther is hilarious. Check out this quote from On the Bondage of the Will. He’s talking about the inherent contradictions in the Sophists’ view of free will, and imagines a conversation in which he repeats back to them their own view:

“Suppose a Sophist of the best type were given me, with whom I could talk these things over privately in informal discussion, I should ask for his candid and unbiased judgment like this: “If anyone should tell you that a thing was free, which of its own power could go only one way, that is, the bad way–it could indeed go the other way, that is, the good way, but not by its own power, only with the help of another–could you refrain from laughing, my friend?” For on these grounds I shall easily establish that a stone or a log has ‘free-will’, because it can go up and down; though by its own power it can only go down, and can go up only with the help of another!”


JavaScript Documentation Recommendations

March 19, 2009

For the project I’m currently working on, here are some best practices I’m using for JavaScript documentation:

  • Use YUI Doc syntax. Even if I never actually run YUI Doc, it’s a standardized comment format.
  • At the top of every JS source file, put a multi-line comment, with the first line starting with the source file name. I combine my JS files in the build process, so this allows me to easily find out which source file a particular line of code is from. I even add these headers to JS library files I use.
  • In that file header comment, add an @global directive that lists all the global variables the file creates. Ideally, each of your files would correspond to an @module, and you wouldn’t create any global variables other than classes in that module; and any instances you create would be inside anonymous closures. But some JS libraries you use may create global variables (DWR, for example), and it’s helpful to document the variables they create.

YUI Logger Bookmarklet

March 19, 2009

So you’re using YUI Logger in your webapp, and loving it. One problem: how do you hide the console for production, but show it in development? You can have separate build targets, but what if you want to deploy the same package in all your environments?

One option is to use this bookmarklet to load YUI Logger. In other words, just load your page, then run the bookmarklet to load the logger.

One of the upsides of that bookmarklet is that it uses YUI Loader to load the logger code dynamically, so that you don’t have to include the logger code in your production side. The bookmarklet doesn’t work if you don’t have YUI Loader included on your page. For me, though, this was a problem. I don’t use YUI Loader – instead, I combine all my JavaScript library code into a single JS file that’s downloaded once, so that can be cached. And when I looked at the YUI Loader code, it’s actually larger than the YUI Logger code!

So, as an alternative, here’s a bookmarklet that will start a YUI Logger console, assuming you already have the logger code loaded into your page. Bookmark it, or drag it to your toolbar or bookmarks folder.

YUI Log

Note: as far as I can tell, your log statements are recorded even before the console is displayed, so if you have code that executes on page load, its log statements will still appear in the console when you use the bookmarklet after page load.


We’re engaged!

March 2, 2009

Jen and I are engaged! Here’s the description of the engagement that she e-mailed out:

That’s right. Last night, Joshua Justice asked me to marry him! And I said yes! =D I had suspected it might be the night because he had told me Saturday night would be a “surprise,” and I knew he already had the ring, ha. He told me later that he couldn’t lie to me, and I figure that’s probably a good thing. 😉

 

After a fun busy day looking at wedding venues (yes, we’re unconventional and have been discussing wedding plans pre-engagement), he started driving me to our secret destination. I actually had my own theories of what he had planned but quickly found I was completely wrong when he started driving me west on 285 from Kennesaw and past Cumberland Mall–a direction we never go. So that was exciting. =)

 

Eventually we arrived at a house in a neighborhood that looked vaguely familiar. We had been to our friend Lauren’s house one time before to practice swing dancing with some friends because she has hard wood floors that are perfect for such things. Josh left me in the car for a few minutes while he readied some things inside, and I got rather excited and nervous waiting there. =) When he brought me inside, I saw that it was in fact Lauren’s house and there were candles lit everywhere, and there were chocolate and cheese fondue pots set out on the table with bread and vegetables and fruit. It was lovely. =)

 

So we enjoyed these delights with a glass of Moscato wine (one of the few I have found I enjoy, ha). And then there was dancing. Josh had found new songs just for the occasion, which was very sweet. There was charleston and lindy and a few waltzes because he knows how I love to waltz. =) And then he told me that he had a poem he had written for me, a sonnet actually. He pulled out this scroll tied in purple ribbon–my ring was attached at the top but I wasn’t allowed to see that until later ;-). And he read to me the most beautiful words. It’s kind of funny—because I had to pay close attention to follow the meaning of the sonnet (you know how poems can be), I followed and remembered what he said through it much more than what he said after the poem. I was worried that I wouldn’t remember a single word, so that is one of many reasons I am glad of that sonnet. The last line of the poem asked if I would be his wife. And Josh got down on one knee, and he said those many other things that I cannot remember so well, and he asked me if I would marry him, and I said, “Yes, of course I will!” =)

 

I knew within a month of knowing Josh Justice that I could and would marry this man if he asked, but learning of him these past 5 months, I am astounded, humbled, and overjoyed by God’s abundant goodness and loving-kindness toward me in giving me such a gift, such a loving, kind, sincere, and passionate man to spend the rest of my life with.