Friday 18 December 2015

In our innermost heart has been set the best of our nature (and not, therefore, original sin)

While we must be wise and take account of our limitations in autonomy; without the desire to enter into life and gather its experiences we will fail to live as God intends for us.

We should therefore be wary of being 'too virtuous' by negative avoidance of action, when this prevents us living fully; since not even trying to live is the worst thing we can do.

The idea of original sin may be crippling of our purpose in life, because its sets something rotten in the heart of our being where, to the contrary, our Divine Parents have set the best of our nature - that which is of God.

With the idea of original sin, the mainspring of our life is broken - because we come to believe that the core of our nature is rotten. Yet it is upon this core of our nature which we must draw, if we are to survive this world and enter most fully into life.

Indeed, the suspicion insinuated by the doctrine of original sin destroys not only our sense of self-worth and the energies we need from it; but also denies the validity of any instinctive recognition and understanding of the difference between Good and evil, and the value of God; when we need Him to take-over after our own efforts have proven inadequate, which they often will.

And who can value a God who created us rotten at heart, and who then makes a great play out of saving us from this wretched condition? This cannot be the behaviour of that Loving Father which we know our true God to be.

Original sin is a paradox which, if accepted fully, would destroy the possibility of valid discernment - leaving us helpless in the world: helpless to know good, helpless to know God.

(Paraphrased, edited and expanded from the Chapter entitled 'Sin' in A Geography of Consciousness by William Arkle, 1974.)


William Wildblood said...

I think of original sin as meaning that since the Fall we human beings all have a tendency to deny the reality of God, preferring the pseudo-reality of our own separate selves. Thus walking the path of holiness requires effort and, to an extent, swimming against the tide of our nature, or the aspect of it we are most identified with, rather than being a totally natural way of being which is what might have been the case. So I do think there is some truth in the doctrine but it needs to be balanced by the idea that fundamentally we are all sons and daughters of the Most High and made in His image.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WW - OS has meant many thing to different people. But the dangerous conception is the one described in the post - I think it originally developed as an explanation for why all Men needed to be saved - but it has very undesirable consequences IF the implication is taken to be that Men have rotten hearts, all Mankind is tainted at core by the events of the Garden of Eden, and *therefore* are destined for deserved eternal torment unless saved by Christ via some conditions imposed by a church.

Geraint Apted said...

Perhaps Original Sin is in our hearts because we chose freely to disobey. But before OS (freely chosen), God had already placed the Holy Spirit within us. We were dust from the ground plus the divine spark or HS. So we are not totally rotten at heart - we are both rotten and divine at heart - it is the essential truth about the human condition.

This creates a duality in us - the duality of good and evil. Not only is it a duality, it is duality based on war, reflecting the war between God (goodness) and Satan (badness).

The free will to choose good or evil remains as it did in Eden (God didn't want robots to talk to). If we choose good - faith in Christ as Saviour, our reward is immortality with God, even though OS may still be within us causing us to sin (some think baptism washes it away).

Nathaniel said...

@Bruce - My understanding is the problem isn't quite as you/Arkle propose - that the Western church's intention is to solve the presented problem before it gets to the point you're attacking:

While the Western church does set up original sin as a problem that *must be solved*, it presents that solution in Baptism after-which our nature is believed to have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and we become children of God (though by adoption). At this point we are supposed to have the ability to receive direct guidance from the Holy Spirit. We only lose this if we commit mortal sin, but this state is restored upon a sincere confession.

So if all children in the church receive baptism as infants, it's never really a problem in this way.

Nathaniel said...

It might also serve as more of a "feature" than a "bug" when dealing with non-Christians from a cultural standpoint. One would, instead of, as the modern argues, exposing oneself to abuse by these people - understand that they may be more predisposed to sin and bad behavior than those of Christian civilization.

Unknown said...

This is only true if you completely ignore the actual doctrine of Original Sin, set up your own, misapplied version of it, and then assume that everyone labors under your idea of the thing.

It has always been understood that Original Sin is a parasite that corrupts an essentially good nature (except, of course, by heretics). Yet this parasite can corrode even what is best in us - and the Scriptures clearly witness to this. "For behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother conceive me." "There is none that doeth good, no, not one." Yes, this even muddies the heart. "But the things which proceed out of the mouth, come forth from the heart, and those things defile a man. For from the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies." "The heart is perverse above all things, and unsearchable, who can know it?" This is the "mystery of iniquity" - "but as for sins, who shall understand them?"

In my opinion, Dr. Charlton, your consistent shortcoming is a failure to give due attention to the nature of the profound abyss of evil. In your optimism, you are always trying to minimize it, or speaking of its existence (and its punishment) as some kind of demerit or discrediting of God, as though it were offensive that something so bad could actually come to pass, and be hated by God to a concordant degree. But minimizing the nature of evil, necessarily diminishes the goodness of God. Evil is the void left where God is denied; it is necessarily the most nefarious and unspeakably perverse, queer, spine-tingling, freakish, horrific thing that could be imagined. A true abomination. To minimize this, is to say that the defiant void of non-being against Being is really just "too pessimistic" an idea for flourishing. On the contrary! To minimize it, is itself inimical to human flourishing; one must call a spade a spade. Nobody is saying that man's nature is an abomination; but the abomination - "the nothing," if you will (from Never-Ending Story) - seeks to eat away at man. And as good as man's nature is, even so bad is its corruption by sin.

Otherwise, why did Christ die? Why did He command that we die and raise with Him in Baptism? The Church has always used these to cleanse the poison of Original Sin, not because man's nature is fundamentally bad, but precisely because man's nature is fundamentally good, and God wishes for it not to suffer such a degradation and indignity. Yes, men who consent to evil are destined for deserved eternal torment unless saved by Christ via the conditions He imposed on His Church, Himself.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CP - I don't think this is about the quantity or severity of evil, but whether evil is at the heart of Man.

It is about the general 'set-up' of the situation in which Men find themselves. And this is about metaphysics.

Is the Christian vision one of asecnt/ progression/ theosis towards divine status as Sons and Daughters of God; or did Man start-out at the highest attainable level, fall, and we are trying to get back to where we were?

Is Hell the default, or is it chosen?

All these matters are linked; because all are aspects of God's creation - how he designed us, and this world.


wrt comments on baptism - there is so much variation among denominations about what baptism does, when it should happen, what procedure should be undergone - that I do not have much confidence in any of the explanations. Indeed, I don't find any of them coherent - or, at least, they all have built-in large social assumptions.

Furthermore, while I certainly believe that baptism (done in some proper way) is helpful; I do find it impossible to convince myself (when I have tried to do this) that a loving Father would make everything hinge-upon this procedure; that seems utterly bizarre to me.

In other words, while I can see that Bbaptism is treated as a matter of great importance in the Bible, and therefore I believe that baptism potentially has a positive effect in some way (perhaps the different types of Christian baptism have different effects? - since the procedures have extremely little overlap); no doctine that makes baptism essential to *salvation* (rather than helpful to theosis) can be correct - because it spectacularly fails the 'loving Father test'.

Geraint Apted said...

The following is written as a 'perhaps this may be how it is'. I can't know with certainty, and neither can anyone else. We have been told something of the divine, but not everything. What I say below could easily be mistaken. I'd like feedback.

Christ says to be saved you must have faith that He is the Saviour because He died for our sins. If we have such faith in Him, He will take our sins on His shoulders when we commit them. Isn't that the promise?

If that is how it is, then Original sin doesn't matter does it? Even if we are born rotten, with hell as the default destination, faith in Christ as Saviour cancels out OS. Unless we are saying that baptism is required to cleanse OS. If OS is a special sort of sin requiring baptism to negate it, for me that rather diminishes the Christ effect of faith.

Infant baptism seems to me to be the parents/godparents asking God to cleanse the infant of OS in case the infant dies, and also committing themselves to bring up the child with faith in Christ as Saviour. The first part may well be pointless because I find it hard to believe that a new born child is born in sin, or is capable of sin. I think it has the capacity to sin later.

The capacity to sin is within every human being, that is what I think OS is, that capacity to sin. But it is only triggered when the human comes to the stage of development when moral choices can be made. Until that time, the infant is unblemished, and if it dies, then it is saved. To believe that a young child, who has not been presented with the fact of Christ as Saviour, is damned, makes God a monster. And I don't believe God is a monster, so it follows that very young children must be sinless, albeit with the capacity to sin when they make their first moral choices and thereafter until death.

Part two to follow

Geraint Apted said...

Part two

When we are faced with moral choices, the capacity to sin is triggered, as is the capacity to resist it (the divine spark God planted in us before we chose to defy Him, so loading our beings with OS as well). God gave Adam and Eve free will. They used it to listen to Satan, did what he suggested, and they took on the consequences of their choice - the capacity to sin thereafter, every time that they and their descendants were faced with a moral choice.

This war between goodness and sin goes on constantly, even if we accept Christ as Saviour. The great thing is Christ's promise that we are saved if we believe in Him, even though we carry on sinning. Faith is a "get out of jail free" card. It has to be, or it would not be so marvelous a thing.

Free will has to be central to our decision to have faith, and only after that free will has been given, do we get our sins cancelled. Simply splashing on some water onto the forehead of an infant who doesn't not know what is going on is not informed consent. Adult baptism makes much more sense. The will and consent of the baptised is required before baptism. Even then, the faith at baptism must be real. It seems to me that baptism without faith reduces the ritual to nothing. Where there is faith at (water) baptism, then I think that the Word/Christ is present at the ritual and He allow/tells the HS to baptise the subject as well.

In the end, it seems irrational to me to believe that water baptism is essential. Baptism by the HS is what counts, and this happens when a person accepts Christ as Saviour, whether this is before, during or years after water baptism, or even if water baptism never happens. At this point, all sins are cancelled. But the capacity to sin (OS), our inheritance from Adam and Eve remains.

This inherited capacity to sin is permanent, which is why we need faith in Christ as Saviour. Satan tries to shatter our faith. His best weapon is our capacity to sin that he persuaded Adam and Eve to take in Eden. If He manages to shatter faith, then sins count against us. This is why we can be sure that He is present at every death bed scene. A last minute profession of faith in Christ of even a mass murderer, and that person escapes Satan's clutches. It is why the Catholics worry so much about the last confession. But, even if you die alone, an avowal of faith in Christ in your heart will do the job.

Nathaniel said...

@Bruce - I did not mean to argue about the purpose of baptism, but to argue that in traditional Christianity the concept of original sin shouldn't be applied to the extreme outlined in your post.

However, on further reflection, of the few traditional Catholic works I've read, there is a consistent theme to emphasize how horrible/terrible of a sinner the person writing is, or we all are (e.g. saints practicing self-flagellation) and rather make me think I must be really-really-really bad if this holy-person hates themselves so much. I have felt a sense of helplessness with regard to my own temptations, sins, etc. when in this mindset.

Observing said...

This puzzles me. What if one has a disposition to be a mystic or monastic? They are accused of 'not wanting to live'.

What if you tried to live as life is said to be, either in modernity or in Christianity, and it simply didn't work? Too many hardships, problems, obstacles arise compared to others, and are totally unpleasant to deal with.

I think a section of humanity, mostly men, are supposed to be detached from life and simply be in Yoga (union), or God, or in absorbing Nature. That modernity has no place for this, nor do Mormons, is I think a great failing of our time.

In fact this is a core hidden cause for decline. There are insufficient spiritual power sources, such as monastic or spiritual communities, to fuel life in the now defunct West.

Bruce Charlton said...

@O - You may be interested by this

Anonymous said...

Men are held culpable for their own sins and not for Adam's transgression. The thought that this is otherwise originates with Augustine and not the Bible.
Christ's commandment that all be baptized to enter God's kingdom is perfectly fair if the opportunity to accept baptism is universal; if Joseph Smith's restored ordinance of vicarious baptism for the dead is true, then indeed all have the opportunity to choose.
We do of course follow the procedure of baptism for the remission of sins, but there is more to the immersion than just being made clean. Even Jesus, who was without sin, submitted to the ordinance and it was counted for righteousness.
- Carter Craft

The Crow said...

To desire knowledge is at the heart of original sin.
Knowledge of 'good' and 'bad', introducing judgment between the two, rather than innocently manifesting our divine nature, without thought or judgment.

This is the ongoing conflict between intuition and intellect, inherent to man.
Intuition is divine, our connection to God.
Intellect is human, severing that connection.

Observe and consider any creature long enough, and this becomes evident.
Observe and consider any human long enough, and the evidence becomes clear.

Humans are the only creatures that actively think; everything else intuits.

A return to intuition circumvents the continuation of Adam's original sin.
If God cares, either way, what humans do, it seems likely that God would approve.