For Part 7, click here: The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 7: Imputed Righteousness?
Or start at the beginning: The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 1: God is a Trinity of Persons?
And now we come to the final faulty foundation of faith alone—for now!
According to faith alone theology, after Christ’s merit is “imputed” to sinners, when God looks at those sinners, instead of seeing their sin God sees Christ’s righteousness.
In other words according to faith alone theology, God doesn’t look at the human heart and character at all. Instead, God looks merely at the surface—at a veneer of righteousness that Christ supposedly covers us with even though our true heart and our actual character is still that of a sinner.
In effect, faith alone theology says that God’s vision so poor that when people accept some supposed faith that Christ died to pay the penalty for their sins, God doesn’t notice that those people are still evil, immoral, sinful, selfish, and greedy at heart.
8. The Father then accepts us as righteous even though we are still sinners?
Here on earth, in our human courts, it sometimes happens that a person who is guilty of a crime such as murder is not convicted of that crime, but is instead declared innocent. That person can then go free and continue with his or her usual life. And that person’s friends, family, and supporters may believe that justice has been done.
But does a murderer become innocent just because a judge and jury were not presented enough evidence for a conviction? Or because there was a miscarriage of justice and a guilty man was knowingly set free due to bribes and blackmail?
Even if some people might be fooled when a guilty person is declared innocent, God is not. God sees not only our actions, but our thoughts and the intentions of our heart as well:
The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5, italics added)
When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:6–7)
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely. (Psalm 139:1–4)
Can we really believe that God, who looks at our hearts, and knows every one of our thoughts before we even speak them, can believe that a person who has a wicked, selfish, greedy heart, and whose thoughts are all about how to gain money, power, and pleasure, is actually a righteous person because Christ’s righteousness has been “credited” to that person?
No, God is not fooled.
God sees who we truly are, and what our true character is, from the inside out. There is no way that God can look at us and see us as righteous and saved when in fact we are still miserable, selfish, greedy sinners.
There is only one way for God to see us and accept us as righteous.
That is for us to be righteous.
As long as we are still sinners, God will see us for exactly what we are: as sinners.
From sinners to righteous people
Of course, we can’t stop being evil and sinful through our own power.
Oh, maybe we can deal with some of our lesser vices. We might be able to quit smoking, or quit talking about women in sexist ways, or quit using our feminine wiles to finagle men into doing stuff for us. But chances are we’re stopping our wrong words and actions only because we realize that it’s getting us into trouble. If it weren’t for that, we’d go right on doing those things.
After all, we really don’t see anything wrong with just one cigarette, or just one dirty joke at the expense of a female co-worker, or just one wriggle of the hips to get a male co-worker to do our dirty work for us.
No, to really change from a sinner to a righteous person at heart, we must recognize that our thoughts, desires, words, and actions are wrong because they are against God’s commandments, and contrary to God’s path of loving our fellow human beings just as much as we love ourselves (see Matthew 22:36–40).
And when we start facing our deepest and most ingrained character flaws and destructive habit patterns, we will sooner or later realize that we are no match for them on our own. After trying and failing to fix them by our own will power, we will realize that we need God’s power working in us if we are ever to leave behind the ol’ ego, or leave behind those intractable self-destructive ways of thinking, and become a new person.
No, God doesn’t see us as righteous when we are still sinners because of some supposed “imputation” of Christ’s righteousness to us. That is the eighth and final (for now!) faulty foundation of faith alone. As with all of the others, the idea of “imputed righteousness” is not only contrary to the plain teachings of the Bible, but contrary to common sense.
Life just doesn’t work that way. And God certainly doesn’t work that way.
Besides, there are far more beautiful and sensible things that the Bible does teach us about how, through God’s love, wisdom, and power working in and through us, we can stop being a miserable excuse for a human being, and instead become a truly loving, truly thoughtful, truly kind, truly human being.
For further reading:
- God is Love . . . And That Makes All the Difference in the World
- The Logic of Love: Why God became Jesus
- Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?
- How do I Love God with my Whole Heart?
- Heaven, Regeneration, and the Meaning of Life on Earth
- What does Jesus Mean when He Says we Must be Born Again?