Bad Church Sign Theology

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The church right down the street from me has a message on one side of their sign that reads:

The wages of sin are death.

Quit before payday.

At first glance, this might seem to be a solid biblical statement. I mean, they’re paraphrasing St. Paul, right?

Actually, in their attempt to be pithy, they have done nothing more make bad bumper sticker theology.

  1. The implication of the sign is that we can do this on our own. It reeks of works righteousness!
  2. It completely ignores grace and the cross. If we can do this on our own, then Christ’s death and resurrection means nothing.
  3. Because there is no message of grace, there is only fear.

But we do know that Christ’s death and resurrection means something. In that, Christ conquered the power of sin Amber Jewelry Tea Set, death and the Devil. 

I could come up with some pithy statement of my own, but would probably fall victim to the same trap of bumper sticker theology.

If you come across Bad Church Sign Theology, take a picture and shoot me an email.

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10 Replies to “Bad Church Sign Theology”

  1. The sign is a problem in only some theological schools which accept certain precepts as Gospel. I would observe that the quitting should be done now, rather than some indeterminate point before “payday,” but that is a minor point within the larger picture.

    The facts are that the wages of sin are death, and we should not sin.

    1. I’m sorry, it completely ignores the second part of the verse. Lets take a look at Romans 6:23:

      The wages that sin pays are death, but God’s gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

      Law and gospel in one verse here. The church in question, chose to only focus on the law. There is no gospel in their message. Thus, bad bumper sticker theology.

  2. I don’t know their intent, but it isn’t a given that instilling fear was their motivation. For it to be bad theology, we would have to establish the parameters of good theology. Perhaps you believe you have determined that. OK, I suppose you can pass judgement on others schools of theology. There are however, valid schools which accept the agency of people and correlate that with the grace of God. It is true that they did not quote the whole verse, but it isn’t therefore bad theology except perhaps in your school. You may disagree with it, as obviously you do, but that by itself doesn’t speak to the quality of the theology.

    The Catholic church accepts the interplay of grace and effort, as do a variety of Arminian-esque schools. N.T. Wright accepts that effort is not opposed to grace, but earning is (to paraphrase Willard).

    What makes the sign bad theology is your interpretation of both the sign, and the Gospel. If we accept that it is a church sign, that the wages of sin is death, and that we should not sin, the sign becomes benign. The manner in which salvation is a free gift may depend on where we enter the discussion and the simple statement that salvation is a free gift may or may not be good theology when taken by itself.

    1. Pretty much everything boils down to interpretation, so of course it is my interpretation of the sign and the Gospel that leads me to believe that this is bad theology. And it’s not hard to find what my interpretative lens is.

  3. Except everyone dies. The wages of sin, or no sin, are still death. Seems rather illogical, if I was Spock. Just like the meek will inherit the earth. Meaning, perhaps, the meek get walked all-over, and inherit the grave. But I tend to be a horse’s behind.

  4. Eh, I dunno, seems like the point is to give people a nudge to quit some sins before the next payday (Friday? Next Friday?), when they’d have money to blow on said sins (alcohol, casinos, lottery, porn, etc).

    The use of “The wages of sin is death” is likely just to give it some weight so that the “quit before payday” has a chance to be noticed. If the person successfully beats the sin for this payday on their own, they have time and maybe some encouragement to really fully engage in the way you’re talking about.

    Overall, not the worst abuse of a church sign. At least the reader is allowed to identify the sin in themselves that needs fixing, rather than the sign shaming some segment of society.

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