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As I understand, Christians believe the world is inherently sinful and going in a downhill spiral until its end, when Jesus rescues the good and leave the bad. Am I correct?

If I am, are the initiatives to make the world a better place by Christians (without the intent to convert people to Christianity) genuine? In other words, are Christians being cynical when working on such initiatives because they truly believe it is an impossible task?

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A different question, but possibly related: Can Christian charity be truly selfless if we're all just seeking eternal reward? –  svidgen Jan 15 '13 at 19:37
    
@svidgen, sorry but I do not see how this question relates do mine. I am not referring to a reward at all. –  Gustavo Cavalcanti Jan 16 '13 at 2:49
    
The relationship is simply in the nature of charity. Why be charitable at all? Lots of reasons to question both the value and "effectiveness" of charity. –  svidgen Jan 16 '13 at 2:57
    
To be clear, I'm not suggesting its the same question. But, I suspect that a single good statement about charity addresses both questions. –  svidgen Jan 16 '13 at 3:00
    
And by good, what I really mean is elegant. I don't mean to imply the answers already given here aren't good ... –  svidgen Jan 16 '13 at 5:10

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Christians believe that mankind is inherently sinful (original sin) and that the world suffers from the curse of sin in mankind as well.

It is true the evil will increase, but "where sin increases, graces increases much more." (Romans 5:20) The Bible informs us that before the end of the world there will be people from every tribe, nation, and language who will name Jesus as Lord (Revelation 7:9). So, even though things do get worse, at the same time the Gospel continues to spread to more and more people, and they experience the the forgiveness, joy, peace, and fulfillment that is only found in Christ.

Christians are absolutely genuine in their attempts to make the world a better place. It is instructive to see in John chapter 5 that Jesus heals a man who was an invalid for 38 years, and when people ask him who healed him, the man didn't even bother to get Jesus' name. Jesus healed the man not to get something out of him, but simply because He delighted in doing good.

As Jesus said elsewhere, it is better to give than to receive. Giving is its own reward, as is serving. There is true joy in giving to others and helping them in their times of need.

I would also say it most certainly is possible to make the world a better place. Jesus actually tells us that we are the "salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13). Salt is a preservative. Christianity ought to hold up a very high standard of moral excellence to which unbelievers can aspire. Without that standard of morality, the bar is set much lower.

Also, historically speaking, as Christianity has spread, the world has indeed gotten better. Only when it decreases does the world get worse. Europe was full of barbaric people prior to Christianity. The gospel transformed it. Orphanages, hospitals, saving girls from forced prostitution, the feeding of the poor, the digging of wells... all this comes from Christian organizations all over the world today. In fact, it is a sobering thing to think of how dark the world would be without Christianity.

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Those adhering to total depravity ... –  Yuletide Geek Jan 15 '13 at 20:37
    
Narnian, thanks for your answer. Although your last paragraph sounds naive, depicting everything so good when Christianity shows up. Let's not forget some of the worst times in history brought by Christianity as well. (truthbeknown.com/victims.htm#.UPYUdidlEaE) I do not subscribe to any religion but my question was not loaded. I was really trying to see this point from the Christian perspective and you and David Stratton helped me. Thank you. –  Gustavo Cavalcanti Jan 16 '13 at 2:47
    
@GustavoCavalcanti sermons.logos.com/submissions/… –  Narnian Jan 16 '13 at 13:11
    
"world has indeed gotten better." what? .. yeah sit behind your nice flat screen tv with your big mac and your ticket to heaven. –  gerdi Sep 15 '13 at 16:13

Making the world a better place is not impossible.

Making the world a perfect place is humanly impossible. Until God destroys this universe, and creates the new heaven and new earth promised in Revelation 21:1 this world will not be perfect. But that doesn't mean we can't make it better.

So no, we're not being cynical. The purest motivation taught by Christ is to act in love: to do good because we love God and our fellow man. We're merely obeying God's will to love our neighbors, and to be salt and light for the world. There is nothing in any doctrine or teaching that indicates that we are relieved of the responsibility to do so just because we believe the world is headed for judgement anyway.

Think of it this way... We are all going to die some time, so would it be cynical to eat right and exercise knowing that in the end we will still die? Of course not.

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Thanks David. Your last paragraph is a great analogy. Thanks. –  Gustavo Cavalcanti Jan 16 '13 at 2:48

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