"Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." - Romans 5:18-19
Paul continues his rather dry monologue.
Chapter 4 starts with Paul talking about circumcision again. This time with respect to Abraham. Abraham, Paul says, was able to be righteous before his circumcision (considering he was the first to receive the revelation of circumcision). I didn't think that was quite the way it worked. I thought the point was that circumcision was the new covenant with the people. That is, the good that's supposed to come from circumcision (I'm still not quite sure what that is) only took effect after the covenant.
Paul goes on to say how awesome Jesus was for dying for our sins. Because the average person would not even die for a righteous man, and Jesus died for all the ungodly people. Of course, Jesus never really mentioned that he was dying for the forgiveness of our sins. He said he was dying to fulfill the words of the prophets.
Paul then talks about original sin, and how Jesus is the perfect antithesis to Adam's original sin. One of the results of Adam's sin is that we die. So Jesus's death gives us eternal life. Of course, to the rational observer it still looks a lot like people die. It seems like a cop out to say that even though Adam would have had eternal (physical) life had he not sinned, that humans must suffer a physical death even after Jesus forgave the original sin. Not to mention that Christians would be much more convincing (and have much more of an opportunity to bring salvation to the masses) if they didn't die a physical death.
The next big question (and one I have a lot) is, if Jesus forgives everyones sins, then why not sin all the time? Paul attempts to answer this. He says that when we sin we are being a slave to sin, where we should be a slave to righteousness. I'm not even going to begin to try to reconcile this with "free will". More important than the free will issue is that this really doesn't fix anything. By this definition someone can be a "slave to sin" for 99% of their life, have a deathbed conversion, and be saved. This is by no means consistent with an "all just" God.
The last part of this section is just strange. Paul tries to explain that the laws of the prophets actually cause people to sin. I'll try to give an example: I make a law that says "don't think about elephants". The very first thing you do is think about elephants, so my "law" has caused you to break it. In the same way, Paul says that when God says "do not covet" the first thing he does is immediately covet everything he can think of.
This actually seems kind of insightful until you realize that God wants to kill you and/or send you to hell for coveting things. Then it just sounds like God is looking for an excuse to kill people. It adds yet another layer of absurdity when you realize that God is supposedly the creator of covetous feelings in the first place.
The answer to all this nonsense, Paul says, is Jesus. I guess the millions of pre-Jesus people are just screwed. As are the people today that, through no fault of their own, are unable to access the gospels of Jesus (people in fundamentalist Islamic countries come to mind). I guess God still sends them to hell for their stray thoughts (which God himself originally implanted in their brains).
This isn't the first atheist conversion story, and it probably won't be the last. But it's certainly the most absurd:
A former atheist says he has been forced to rethink his religious views after Jesus' image appeared to him twice.
A year later, the man who is a university scientist has decided to finally speak about his experience because he wants others who have had similar life-changing experiences to come forward.
These two images must be pretty convincing to convert a die hard atheist. Let's take a look:
To be perfectly honest I don't even see the second one. Moral of this story: pour the coffee in your mouth, not all over your nasty cups. I was hoping this was a joke, but then I kept reading:
"It was 11.30pm on a Sunday," he recalls.
"I had switched the television off and I said: 'Give me a sign, show me something, I know I am arrogant'.
"Then I said: 'Talk to me, show me' and then I went to sleep."
The next morning, the man says he woke up and noticed the strange image as he went to wash his mug.
Even a year later, it is easy to see why the man was so struck by the picture - the brownish-coloured stain clearly shows the crown and head of Jesus, slightly titled, with his arms stretched out wide and his feet together.
What it "clearly shows" is a coffee stain. The man seems to forget that he asked God to talk to him, not show him his dirty cup.
Now the man says he is desperately searching for answers from all religious sectors and experts.
"I know I have a soul which I cherish and I know I must be careful of what I say," he says.
"I plead with anyone to examine the mugs and explain how the pictures were formed."
He's supposed to be a scientist. Take the cup to a lab. See if the stain was from coffee (which is what my layman's observation tells me). If it is, in fact, coffee, he can reasonably surmise that he just forgot to clean the cup before he put it in the cupboard. Next time, ask God for something a little more convincing.