Monday, 29 April 2013

Sinners or victims?

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Convincing modern people that they are sinners is a big problem for Christian apologetics, and has been for many decades.

Moderns are nihilists - they don't believe in the reality of reality - so they believe that sin is relativistic, and can be redefined-away.

Why repent of a sin when that sin can be abolished by a change of law?

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Modern people are encouraged by the culture to interpret their feelings of guilt as evidence of oppression - instead of recognizing themselves as sinners, dyed in the wool, they feel themselves to be victims.

No matter what their own faults, no matter what their own imperfections, their bottom-line self-understanding is as a victim.

It is not that they suppose themselves perfect, nor that they are immune from guilt - but that victimhood trumps guilt. 

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This ultimate, existential self-definition as a victim goes right through modern society, from the most powerful person in the world to the most aggressively parasitic lowlife; and this status pretty much defines the secular-Christian divide.

Self-defined victimhood is at the polar opposite of Christian humility.

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10 comments:

Matthew C. said...

This is a very cogent insight!

Bruce Charlton said...

@MC - It seems fairly obvious once stated - but I didn't make the link till this morning; when I was 'modelling' in my mind how a typical (therefore Leftist) modern person might react to a direct attempt to confront them with their sinful state.

deconstructingleftism said...

Jesus didn't insist that people identify themselves as sinners before he would talk to them further, or help them.

Bruce Charlton said...

@dl - Yes, and...

The Crow said...

Insightful. Love it :)
So obvious when you see it, and so murky before you do.
Real victims don't see themselves as victims. Maybe there's something to be said for real victimhood. It can certainly encourage humility.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Crow - sounds a bit like Catch 22 ! But I know what you mean: one cannot validly define oneself as a victim - this status has to be ascribed by another.

Adam G. said...

I have had some success in persuading people of the reality of sin from the other direction, like this:

Repentance is another word for change. If your problems in life aren't sins, you can't repent of them.

Being a victim means you're stuck. Being a sinner means you aren't.

The Crow said...

Well, honestly, I've been a real victim, on many levels, at various times in my life. But it really never occurred to me that I was one.
Rather, it settled my rather low spot in the general hierarchy, at least in my own view, and there was a certain comfort in that.
People react differently to different things. For me, it was a useful discovery that to be unwanted on so many levels, freed me from a great many obligations I might otherwise have had to those doing the unwanting.

Exclusion can be a wonderful thing :)
Leftists don't seem to be aware of that.

jgress said...

I think you're definitely right that, when confronted with idea that they have sinned, and when they don't believe they have done anything wrong, your average leftist feels "victimized" by the idea of sin.

I don't believe this extends to all kinds of guilt, however; just guilt for certain things that modernity no longer considers immoral, such as sexual immorality. So I don't think it's about rejection of guilt; rather, it is simply being selective about which things to feel guilty about. As you put it, they are re-defining the law to suit themselves.

My impression is those things that it is still easy not to commit, like theft and murder (abortion aside), are still considered "wrong" (the modern word for sinful), while those things that are hard not to commit, like fornication, are no longer "wrong".

Alat said...

A quote from Peter Kreeft's Christianity for Modern Pagans, published in 1993:

"In the past, the difficulty in accepting Christianity was its second point, salvation. Everyone in premodern societies knew sin was real, but many doubted salvation. Today it is the exact opposite: everybody is saved, but there is no sin to be saved from. Thus what originally came into the world as ‘good news’ strikes the modern mind as bad news, as guilt-ridden, moralistic and ‘judgmental’."