Compare Luke 6:43-45
These verses contain one of the most manifestly useful rules in scripture.
Sound religious teaching should have positive implications in day-to-day life.
Obviously, of course, any particular religious individual may be inferior, in terms of behavior, etc., to some particular irreligious or theologically-different individual. And especially so at any particular time.
I’m talking in the aggregate, of overall tendencies. Of communities over time.
And, of course, any specific given religious person may have started off from a less advantaged point than some particular secular person, so that, for him, having started out at 2.3, reaching 5 on a “goodness scale” of 1-10 may be a more notable achievement than the secularist’s reaching 8 may be, the secularist having started out at 7.5 (or at 9!).
At moments of peak motivation, for example, I have occasionally reached almost 0.023 on the “goodness scale.” Normal people probably come in, on an average day, at approximately 6.0. But the point at which I started must always be kept in mind.
”How could you be so wicked?” the English novelist Nancy Mitford (1904-1973) once exploded at the her fellow English novelist Evelyn Waugh — a devout Catholic — after he’d behaved particularly badly, even for him. (He was famously difficult, and a notorious curmudgeon.) ”I thought you were supposed to be religious,” she said. ”You can’t imagine,” he replied, ”how much worse I should be if I were not religious.”
Please note that I don’t really think such things are quantifiable, and that I don’t actually have a judgmental “goodness scale.” Spare me the expressions of outrage and indignation on that score, please. And don’t bother to tell me that unbelievers can be good people. I know that. I’m acquainted with many of them.
Compare Luke 6:46; 13:25-27
I believe that I’ve said it before, but — even if I have — I’ll say it here again:
A reader would be extremely hard-pressed to construct a case for the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, without works, from the four New Testament gospels (which is to say, from the recorded teachings of Jesus himself).
This passage is an illustration of why that would be so difficult, if, indeed, not impossible — as, in my view, it actually is.