Place yourself in the shoes of a pagan who knows little about Christianity, but who has taken the first step of accepting that Christ has authority and Christ is God. Our convert also knows about sin, and has the sense he is missing something. To wit, he’s sick and he knows it.
Some particular man may find walking around his fellows while sick helps. Perhaps the fresh air, or the camaraderie, rejuvenates him.
But this takes too low a view of his illness, which is always terminal. It undermines the clear objection that some sick man be dissuaded of his diagnosis by meeting our wanderer, and vice versa; we also forget the effort may kill him. This also ignores our others, so ill that a brisk walk would always kill them. Hospitals, with doctors and nurses and somewhat controlled conditions, make natural sense.
I write this because Christianity presents, broadly, two choices:
- Merchant square, or
- Hospital for sinners.
If you make the case that God wants the merchant square model, you have a unique argument to hawk.
For any credibility, you must show that the bazaar of the bizarre functions as a better hospital than the hospital. (And you must shout louder, and more persuasively, and with more truth than anyone else, lest someone be led to the two-cent peanut cart across the street.) Given:
- Complexity of scripture, that
- Discerning truth is a high-stakes game even in this life, and noting that
- Mental contortion damages evangelism of honest men,
- Especially those who look past the sins of others and directly the nut of the matter.
Amid the shouts and chaos of the marketplace, finding truth is will be an unending battle. What honest, sick seeker would not resign in disgust if, all the day, basic truths are not just questioned but discarded in favor of the latest flavor? There’s no time for this, he should say. I’m dying.
As a result, not just the merchant square loses credibility but also the hospital. You see, separatists annexed hospital grounds 500 years ago, and their descendants have since made the patio a place for moneylenders and gilt calves. Sick men may not know the difference; the merchant square causes such scandal they may not care. Honest men leave the grounds altogether.
If you will bracket a perhaps troublesome understanding of sin, just look at the words of one former atheist:
This was a huge problem. If God is all that is good, then to define what is bad — i.e., sin — is to define the very boundaries of God himself. It was nonsensical to suggest that his religion would be confused on that issue.
I’d found what I was looking for: the flaw that showed that Christianity didn’t make sense. It was time to move on.
If we accept that men are sinful, why is it absurd that God’s Church, which participates somehow in teaching men about sin, could in some minimal but real way survive the onslaught of sin? Why is absurd that God, who knows all things and preserved even sinful Israel, would or could not preserve somehow his Church?