Tuesday, August 01, 2006

How Much of a Sense of Sinfulness Does a Person Need?

Question from the audience: This may be a unique problem to me, but I doubt it. Where I live and minister, the people do not have a very strong sense of their sinfulness. And in your presentation, I was looking for that, and I’m not disappointed that I didn’t hear it, but how much of a sense of man’s sinfulness does one need? Now you mentioned the terms salvation and savior. Are we to assume that people are going to naturally know that they are sinners, that there is a rift between them and God? How do you handle this when you’re presenting the gospel?

Answer from Professor Hodges: That’s an excellent question. And the way I would want to answer that is this: In saying that you trust Jesus as the One who guarantees your eternal life, that implies that you need someone to guarantee it. If you came to Jesus and thought, “I don’t really need anybody, not even Jesus, to guarantee my eternal future,” then obviously you couldn’t trust Him to guarantee your eternal future.

So this gets us off what I think is a terrible and misleading dilemma that sometimes occurs in the evangelical movement – how sinful must we think we are before we can believe in Christ? Well if I know that somehow or other I need somebody besides myself to guarantee my eternal well-being, then I have the grounds for believing in Christ.

But in America, as we know, this is not a very major problem. You don’t need to talk to most Americans very long before they will acknowledge that they are sinners. And most people have, because of the near-Christian culture that we have in our society, something of a fear of the future precisely because they know that they are not everything that they ought to be. But when you get, let’s say, to the experience of a little child, how deep must a child’s conscience be of sin before he can trust Christ? If the child is able to say, “I’m going to believe in Jesus to take me to heaven,” that’s enough, regardless of the degree of the child’s sense of sin.