From the time I started church as a second grader, I began to hear the story of sin and salvation. I heard it from the pulpit; I heard it from Sunday school; I heard it in adult discussions; and I heard it at home. It was an important story for us, and it was essentially the same wherever I heard it.
So far as I knew, it was the only story of sin and salvation, but many years later I discovered that what I actually learned was the Common Baggage Version (CBV). And I further realized that this version was severely flawed and, in fact, misleading and dangerous to people.
You might well have learned the Common Baggage Version, yourself.
The Common Baggage Story of Sin and Salvation
The Common Baggage Version of sin and salvation begins with God being really angry with us. See if you recognize this story:
God created Adam and Eve in perfection, but then Adam and Eve rebelled against God and sinned by eating the forbidden fruit. God put curses on both of them, and everyone born since then carries Adam’s ‘original sin’ and is separated from angry God.
God is so holy he cannot even look at us because of our sin. And because we are guilty of sin against an infinite God, we must receive an infinite punishment. Therefore we are all on our way to eternal suffering in the fires of hell, and there is nothing we can do to avoid it.
However, God himself made a remarkable provision. He sent his own son to take our sin upon himself. At the crucifixion, God poured all his wrath from our sin upon Jesus, who was infinitely righteous; Jesus suffered the penalty of sin for all of us. Therefore, if we accept the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, God is able to look at us through the blood of Jesus and forgive our sin.
If we accept Jesus as our savior in the proper way, and separate ourselves from sin in our lives, we can avoid eternal suffering in hell and, instead, go to heaven when we die.
Is this similar to the story you learned? Or have Christians told you some form of this story to urge you to give your life to Jesus and avoid hell? Probably so.
Concern, Confusion, and Insecurity Regarding the Concept of Sin
Distressing over sin and salvation issues is common among believers.
On one hand are believers who embrace the Common Baggage Version (CBV) and have ‘accepted’ Jesus. They deal with the issue in several ways, including these:
1. One group of CBV believers constantly struggle to be certain they are successful in eliminating and confessing sin in their lives in order to maintain their salvation. For some this is an endless source of insecurity about whether they will eventually burn in hell anyway. This is a legalistic approach toward sin.
2. Another group of believers also accept the CBV of sin and salvation, but they have less insecurity about going to hell because they are convinced they have control over sin in their lives. Their legalism is advanced to the point that they are able to check off that they have avoided every item on their list of sins.
3. A third group of CBV believers add a theological twist to avoid, or reduce, the stress of the continuing issue of sin in their lives and its consequences. Their overall story of sin and salvation is the same as others, but they contend that, once they are saved, the grace of God continues to cover sins that might occur.
On the other hand are believers who struggle with the validity of the Common Baggage Version itself. They question certain beliefs they have been taught and have difficulty with the sin and salvation aspects of those beliefs. This blog is for these believers.
A Series on Sin and Salvation—Not the Common Baggage Version
Today begins a new series on sin and salvation. We will challenge the Common Baggage Version as an inappropriate model of sin and salvation. I think the theory of sin and salvation that I call the CBV is very harmful to believers and to the advancement of the kingdom of God on Earth.
We will also examine the concept of sin in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and we will evaluate various theological theories of how salvation works in order to see the differences and discover which ones are most consistent with the teaching and example of Jesus. This series was among the leading topics chosen by those who participated in the preference poll in November.
Possible topics include:
- What is Sin but Pain and Alienation?
- Addressing Sin in the Old Testament
- What Does Jesus say about Sin? Not Much!
- Substitutionary Atonement
- We Do Not Inherit Original Sin from Adam
- The Soul that Sinneth, It shall Die?
- What does Paul Mean by ‘All Have Sinned’?
- The Problem with the Sinner’s Prayer
But you can influence what topics we actually cover. If there are specific aspects of sin and salvation you would like me to discuss, please share them in comments below. I am looking forward to the series!
Articles in this series: Sin and Forgiveness
The Story of Sin and Salvation—Common Baggage Version (CBV)
What is Sin but Pain and Alienation?
Addressing Sin in the Old Testament
The Prophets Begin to Talk about Sin in a New Way
What Does Jesus Say about Sin? Not Much!
The Misguided Concept of ‘Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin’
What Does Jesus’ Death on the Cross Do for Us?
How Substitutionary Atonement Fails
Why Did Jesus Die on the Cross?
Does Jesus Tell Us to Judge People in Matthew 18?
Are Sins Primarily Sins against God?
“If There’s No Hell then I Will Sin All I Want!”
Problems with the Sinner’s Prayer
What does the Story of Eden Tell Us? Is it about Sin?
We Do Not Inherit Original Sin from Adam
Original Sin or Original Self-Centeredness?
Who Does God Refuse to Forgive?