Good and Evil in Degrees

By Robin Schumacher

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So while every sin is the same in that it causes us to fall short of God's perfect standard, every sin is not the same in God's sight where the seriousness of the offense is concerned. Proof of this is seen in the oftentimes misunderstand Old Testament principle of "eye for eye" (Exodus 21:23-25), which simply means a punishment should fit the crime — an easy way of articulating what Welner is trying to devise with his depravity standard.

The Grace Standard

It is interesting to contrast Welner's future depravity standard of separating the various degrees of heinous actions and their punishments with the good news of God's "Grace Standard" found in Scripture. The best explanation of this that I've heard comes from one of my favorite Christian apologists, Michael Ramsden, who is a part of Ravi Zacharias ministries.

Ramsden asks us to imagine a good/bad person hierarchy much like that being devised by Welner where the top of the hierarchy contains morally exemplary people like Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, and similar individuals. The next level down might have people who have lived a sacrificial life for their country or families. The next would have "decent" people who are trustworthy and helpful to others.

The subsequent planes in the hierarchy would contain individuals who either covertly or overtly exhibit signs of depravity. The initial depravity level might contain those who are creative with their taxes. They might be followed by those who openly steal. They, in turn, would be followed by truly "evil" people who harm others in serious ways.

Ramsden then asks us to take a pen and draw a single horizontal line of judgment between the levels that represent those who will spend eternity with God and those who will not. This is how most people determine good from bad and how they believe God will act where a person's eternal destination is concerned (i.e. if you are a "good person," you go to Heaven).

After that, Ramsden describes the true way God will draw His line on judgment day. The line will not run horizontal but vertical through the hierarchy. On one side will be people who are infected with sin and depravity, who committed sinful acts whether small or great, and who repented of those actions and received God's gift of forgiveness granted through Christ's work on the cross.

On the other side are people who are infected with sin and depravity, who committed sinful acts whether small or great, and refused to receive God's gift of salvation.

This is the Grace Standard and accurately describes how God overcomes our built-in law of moral failure. It is His good news that says it doesn't matter what you've done, My grace is greater than your past sinful actions.

While Welner's work in constructing a depravity standard may be useful for deciding judgments in human courts, I find it very comforting to know that God's Grace Standard allows all to receive a pardon for our sins if we will simply receive Christ as our Lord and Savior, which then enables us to live in the way God intends.

The question is: what side of God's judgment line are you on today?

1. Steven Edwards; "Measuring evil: Noted psychiatrist seeks tool to quantify wickedness"; Fox News.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Koehler, L., Baumgartner, W., Richardson, M., & Stamm, J. J. (1999). The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament (electronic ed.). Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill.
5. Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.) (409). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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Published 12-9-14