Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Original sin is that thing about man which
makes him capable of conceiving of his own
perfection and incapable of achieving it.
Reinhold Niebuhr, Protestant theologian;
he was born on this date, 1892.
Ah. The doctrine of “Original Sin”. It’s very ………. problematic! Alas, one could write a book on the subject ….. and I have not the time nor the space nor the intellect. (I tend, too, to be an erratic thinker.)
“Original Sin” makes an initial assumption – if I am correct about the nature of the thinking of the times and philosophical culture of Augustine – with which I profoundly disagree. And that is the assumption that there was a time when human beings were not sinners, or, to put it another way, were made by “God” not to sin (i.e., act unlovingly or against the “nature of God), but “rebelled” or “fell”, sinned, and from that moment had to be “rescued” from eternal death by God specifically by the death and resurrection of God’s Son. (Or something to this affect.) (or is it “effect”?). And following, that human beings are not capable of love without God’s grace/assistance, from “outside us”.
This is presumably what the people who shaped the Genesis Creation Stories thought. Why? Because they were deeply frustrated since, as Niebuhr points out, we (at least some) human beings are indeed capable of conceiving how superb we can be, and completely bewildered about how incapable we are of sustaining such an existence as a human community and as individuals. Our own present times shout out this reality.
The reality is, as I understand it, that it is and always has been in the very nature of human beings to love and hate. The “story of the Fall” and the story of “redemption in Christ” is essentially a profound wail from the depths of the human mind and heart at the reality of Evil, and an expression of hope that there is something or Someone “out there” who will help us. Hence, the invention of “God”. In many ways, it has been a very helpful invention.
I’ll come back to this in the future, perhaps a lot, but today I would say this: “God” is the power within to Love, that is at our core; the Christ that is of the essence of being human. This is the “Original Blessing”. “Satan” also dwells within, a power to do evil that astounds us. There is, to my mind, no useful or good purpose in denying who we really are. But we do not need the “grace” of a God Without to help us. We need to seek and find and know the God Within.
When we worship THAT God, and when our will and God’s will are reaching towards each other, we catch a glimpse of Eden ….. an Eden that lies in each and every one of us, waiting to blossom.