In April’s volume of International Journal for Psychology of Religion, research shows when someone thinks their god is mean, the believer is more likely to avoid immoral behavior. The ones who believe their god is compassionate, are more likely to bank on his forgiveness and less likely to avoid immoral behavior. In the experiment, 100 undergraduates were given a math test. The students were then told that the computer was going to offer them a computer glitch which would reveal the answer. Every test taker however, had the option to opt out of the revealed answer beforehand. After the test, they were given a survey which asked them questions concerning their religious convictions. That is how the conclusions were made.
My immediate concern however is was this test telling them there would be any immediate consequences? Or was every participant aware that this was purely an experiment. If they were aware that this was an experiment, then those who profess faith in a forgiving & compassionate god, could have taken the test less seriously. Honestly—they were told in advance: you will be given the answer. Choose it or don’t choose it. So, in the end, does this really teach us anything about those who profess faith in such a god?
However, if the students were told this was an experiment that directly affected their transcript, their GPA, and they understood this was more than research, that would change some things. If it is true then, that those who profess a forgiving god lend to immoral behavior, then that confirms some thoughts I’ve been having recently concerning repentance in Christianity. It is too simple to merely say God is forgiving. We forget the reason why God is able to forgive and still be just. He had to die so that the punishment of those sins were taken care of. He is not some corrupt judge who plays favorites and just lets sin go for some, and others not. He actually paid the price of the pain deserved for those sins. Of course, it is true that God is forgiving of sin. He does however, require that we repent of sin. Biblical repentance is one where we fall on our knees and our hearts are shattered when we realize how truly ugly sin is in God’s eyes. Then, after repentance is the Christian forgiven of his sin. So, if this research does a truthful job in reflecting the human heart—the weightier truth is: people do not see the dire need to live a life of daily repentance, and they have forgotten the beauty of God being murdered, so that we could be saved. It is because God bore the punishment we deserve that he is able to forgive us and still maintain his attribute of justice. And according to this research (assuming genuine Christians were involved), that means that people have forgotten to see that every sin we commit, God has suffered the eternal tormenting pain so that we could be spared. It is the repentant who hate sin, and avoid it with all their forces. Not to mention, they have forgotten the scariest portion of the Christian Bible: Hebrews 12:17. It says, “He [that is, Esau] found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.”
This has also showed me something else. What about those who profess they are not Christians. They believe in some new age form of god instead. Yet, they still maintain that god is forgiving of all sins and supremely compassionate. Do they believe their God is just? How do they maintain that he is just? Does he forgive some sins and not all? Does he pick and choose which sins are forgivable and which not? Is he just and forgiving of all sins all at the same time? But I guess that would just lead down a tunnel of perpetual questions.