Sunday, 23 February 2014

Problems with the explanation of Original Sin

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Original Sin is two things - what actually happened and the various explanations of what it means.

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IF Original Sin is taken to imply that Men are rotten at the core - then I fear it will be a lethal idea for many people in many situations in this world where the institutional churches certainly are rotten at the core.

Because if Christians cannot trust themselves, but instead regard themselves as fundamentally and intrinsically mastered by pride and helplessly subject to demonic deceptions - and furthermore a world where there is a high probability that any outside help mediated by humans is going to be corrupt - then there is no hope of us making right choices: no hope at all...

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The situation is strictly hopeiless because we cannot even choose the correct denomination, and within every denomination there are factions - and we cannot choose the right faction either.

there is no hope if Original Sin means we cannot make right choices from within ourselves, because then we cannot even decide who to trust.

And no hope means despair, and despair is a sin.

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So, if Original Sin is being understood to mean that we are rotten to the core and cannot trust ourselves, then we are simply doomed.

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(But, alternatively, if we can make good decisions about which person, denomination, religion to trust - then there must be some goodness at our very heart; and a strict/ extreme interpretation of Original Sin cannot be true.)

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Luckily, that 'strict/ extreme understanding of Original Sin as implying that all humans are necessarily rotten at their very core is not entailed by scripture, but is a secondary matter of explanation and extrapolation.

So Christians don't have-to believe in original Sin.

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However, it might - plausibly - be argued that without the concept of OS, then Christianity will be too weak and wishful and wavering - but we know from 180 years of the CJCLDS church that this is not necessarily so: Mormonism has conclusively demonstrated that a church and a people can be steady and firm in a Christ-focused faith while not believing in Original Sin.

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Some fear that it is only Original Sin which implies the absolute need for a Saviour, that if we were not all utterly rotten, we did not really need salvation; and if we dispense with OS we will, sooner or later, dispense with Christ...

But this tow-sided analysis is just too simple.

It is too simple to regard salvation as either/ or - either our doing, or Christ's doing - this either/ or dichotomy is too simple a dichotomy even for ordinary everyday life, such as understanding family disputes!

If we cannot understand a fight between two children if we insist in advance that the reason must be necessarily and inevitably and only either the full responsibility of one child or the other child - but not-ever both; then why should we expect to understand salvation that way?

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It is ridiculous to apply either/ or to salvation! - although it is a very typical philosophical error to fall into the trap of either/ or - often either zero or infinity - both of which are incomprehensible nonsense.

That kind of thing was built into philosophy from its very origins - and carried over into Christian theology. 

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In sum, Original Sin is not necessarily wrong, and/ because many or most great Christians have believed OS in some fashion - but they were able to be Christian and believe it only because, in practice, OS was not understood to apply absolutely, and because they lived inside a religious society and implicitly accepted the wisdom and goodness of some source of external spiritual guidance.

Modern secular people - adrift in a spiritual and ideological marketplace and with no implicit authority source - cannot really believe in, live by, Original Sin - but in attempting to do so they can destroy Christian faith in themselves and in others: they can induce paralysing despair in themselves and in others.

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Modern Christians will just have to be more sensible - and less philosophical - about these matters; because the theology of our relationship with God ought to be at least as complex as our ordinary everyday understanding of ordinary everyday human relationships - surely?

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