Are Christians immoral?

The Christian life is contrary to morality because it is not repetitive. No fixed duty has to be done no matter what course life may take. Morality always interdicts this type of being. It is an obstacle to it and implicitly condemns it, just as Jesus is inevitably condemned by moral people.

The Subversion of Christianity, Jacques Ellul

When typing the above quote, I wanted to put quotes around “moral” so that the last phrase read: “just as Jesus is inevitably condemned by ‘moral’ people.” But, I try to keep direct quotations undisturbed so as not to mislead anyone. I think that Ellul would have agreed with that editorial change, but he is currently incommunicado (he died in 1994).

So, what does it mean to say that “the Christian life is contrary to morality”? If you take “morality” to mean a number of set, fixed rules, then the true Christian is immoral. Even a light reading of the Gospels shows that Jesus regularly did things to violate the rules of the Pharisees (see, for example Matthew 23:38).

The message is that when you are filled with the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit), then you will act appropriately without a set script of “dos” and “don’ts”. This is the real sense of the now-trite phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” and what has been for millennia known as the concept of The Imitation of Christ (see, the example the book by that name by Thomas à Kempis, ca. 1418).

This is the same notion as is written in the Tao Te Ching (replace “the great Tao” with “God” as you read it):

When the great Tao is forgotten,
Kindness and morality arise.
When wisdom and intelligence are born,
The great pretense begins.
When there is no peace within the family,
Filial piety and devotion arise.
When the country is confused and in chaos,
Loyal ministers appear.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 18 (Feng & English)

In other words, the only time you need rules of conduct is when people are not in tune with the Spirit of God. This is evidenced by our current society: as people lose touch with God they replace it with an unending series of “dos” and “don’ts” that are quite literally impossible to keep up with. (See, for example Three Felonies a Day which lists many things you probably have done that are crimes.)

If we return to a connection with God, we can do away with the human-made list of rules of conduct. However, this is not carte blanche for doing anything you feel like and then claiming “God wanted me to.” Like Jesus, you have to be willing to face the human-made consequences. Being right, unfortunately, is not a legal defense — just ask the people who were thrown in jail for eating SpaghettiOs or for warning friends about a software bug.

As a society loses its soul, it increases its penalties.

 Jan van Boeckel, ReRun Productions [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater

Logos, (Greek: “word,” “reason,” or “plan”) plural logoi, in Greek philosophy and theology, the divine reason implicit in the cosmos, ordering it and giving it form and meaning. Though the concept defined by the term logos is found in Greek, Indian, Egyptian, and Persian philosophical and theological systems, it became particularly significant in Christian writings and doctrines to describe or define the role of Jesus Christ as the principle of God active in the creation and the continuous structuring of the cosmos and in revealing the divine plan of salvation to man. It thus underlies the basic Christian doctrine of the preexistence of Jesus.


I usually try to use quotes from original sources, but for this post I thought the above quote was the most instructive. The article is short and to the point and I suggest it to anyone who is interested in this topic.

The opening chapter to the Fourth Gospel (“John”) indicates how the concept of Jesus/Christ had developed by around 90 AD. By then, Christians had started to realize that maybe the Kingdom of God wasn’t arriving as soon as they had thought, and they started to modify the message into something more “sellable” given this unfortunate fact.

When I say this, I don’t mean any disrespect. But, it’s important for every well-informed Christian to understand the history of the core ideas that became orthodox (small “o”) Christianity.

The metaphysical concept of the Logos had been around Greek (and later, Roman) philosophy at least since Heraclitus (540 BCE). The word had/has multiple ordinary uses (such as “word”), but also became the go-to label for the organizing principle of the universe, something like the concept of “Tao” in Taoism. Thus, when trying to “market” Christianity to the Greek-speaking general public in the Eastern half of the Roman Empire, it was a natural step to equate Jesus Christ with the Logos — if for nothing else than as an easy way to explain what Christians were talking about.

In addition, there seems to be some evidence that the first verses of John were added to the rest of the material, and possibly came from another source entirely.

Even so, you might ask, then so what? Information like this helps to make it clear that Christianity is a human artifact. Years of divine inspiration and trial-and-error have honed its truth, but — like every human artifact — the dogma is not itself infallible. The trick, as I have written elsewhere, is not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” (as the old saying goes).

To be a Christian, you don’t have to check your brain at the door.

 Richfife [Public domain]