Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Friday is for (Original Sin) Friends

posted by xscot mcknight

Alan Jacobs makes some potent claims in chp 7 of Original Sin, this one perhaps the most provocative, and I’m keen on whether you agree or not.
“It is, I think, fair to say that the continued existence of a strong doctrine of original sin depends upon the evangelical movement” (129) — and he means an Augustinian understanding of original sin.
One of the theses of this book is that the rise of a strong proponent of original sin is met by or sometimes overmatched by (in long term impact) an opponent of original sin. So, Pelagius and Augustine and in the 18th Century, George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley with Jean Jacques Rousseau. This chp is worth the price of the book for one simple reason: our culture’s war over original sin finds its origins in many ways in these central figures.
Whitefield believed if you have never felt the weight of your original sin, and not just the guilt of your own sins, then you should not call yourself a Christian. Edwards is sketched in his modernistic proofs of original sin, but then Jacobs delves into Edwards’ theory of original sin was at work when God judged the pagans, including the harem warfare to destroy children and women. Here’s the quote that frames the chapter’s title: “As innocent as children seem to be to us, if they are out of Christ, they are not so in God’s sight, but are young vipers, and infinitely more hateful than vipers” (142). And Wesley’s theory of education was rooted in original sin: the goal of the parent was to break the will of the child so the child would learn to submit to authority, including God’s.
These major leaders were opposed by Rousseau, Emile. Rousseau’s famous book on education was rooted in his belief in the goodness of human nature, his disgust with Pascal’s belief in original sin, his belief that humans are born good but are corrupted by other humans, and his contention that the way to educate was to leave kids in nature. (Jacobs exploits the cracks in Rousseau’s theories and gives quite a powerful counter in the example of Josiah Wedgewood’s attempt to rear his son according to Rousseau’s model, which was at best a total failure.)

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posted August 29, 2008 at 4:46 am

I sat down with Emile a few years back and tried to work my way through it. Besides the fact that I was reading a poor translation (the English was very difficult to read) I kept finding myself wanted to ask Russeau “are you sure that would happen?” every time he made another unfounded statement about the effectiveness of his proposed methods.
In the end I gave up, partly due to the translation and partly to the exhasperation of not being able to interact with the Author.

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posted August 29, 2008 at 5:19 am

I trust that anyone’s concern over OS can be rightly explained in the fact that God made man in His own image and therefore he is a relational being. That is, God is a Person. Yes, a dime a dozen person who is incapable of Holy health outside of a give and take relationship.
Enter the Divine Trinity in microscope. Joy boken and happiness a calling card for the interaction of body and thought derived from a needy, hidden and searching self. Spirit broken – a living soul introduced into it’s own limited limitless. A person then, a person now.
Enter the promised seed. Joy restored, Happiness defined, searching turned into revealing. Treasure in His rightfull place, container in his… participation? As a person (male and female). A Life giving Spirit, a person then, a person now.
We know that OS is not a thing in itself any more than Love, Life, Faith, Trust or Hope is, since they never existed outside a person. Thank you Jesus.

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David Brush

posted August 29, 2008 at 5:27 am

I think there is a hint of truth to Rousseau in the fact that there are systemic cycles of sin which often perpetuate human corruption and transcend individualism. There is often something afflicted on an individual as the result of one of these cycles and not something that would have naturally spawned out of that individual, take for instance sex trafficking and the like and it’s many victims.
As real as sin is we have tended to ignore the meta scale in which it operates. Instead our theology in the past has only brought hyper focus on personalized sin widgets. Sin is both meta and micro in it’s narrative. In Many ways I think Jesus wanted us to understand and think of sin as a shared burden, that we must strive in confession, prayer, and fasting to overcome sin not just in our own lives but to work as community of faith to break systemic sin cycles.

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posted August 29, 2008 at 6:37 am

David, Someone once said, “What goes around – comes around.” and as with the sex traffickers, “Garbage in – garbage out.”
The meta and micro has been met in Christ on the cross and it will always be so. (Not that you don’t know this.) His identification, His cross enables me to say that I am no better or worse than anyone else, which has always been my cry but now realized as Rest, as His Yoke and burden.
He, Jesus, abolished sin in the believer by making us new creatures, by giving us the new heart, making us one with the Father, a earnest that He, Jesus, desired. Victoreous over death making it stingless.
All that comes to us all from His hand daily is mercy, grace and Love. We share in the burden of others who don’t realize that they have been totaly forgiven. The last farthing has been payed and noy only do we get a clean slate but the teacher to write on it for us by His present Life.
We are brought in from the cold by Christ and because we still shiver from that cold, we, as faith directed to feeling creatures, quickly identify with that cold. God in His mercy and Grace puts that warm blanket over us until we can identify with the heat of His Love.
Sometimes in confession, prayer and fasting – not because we want to attain where God want’s us but because of where God has us. Until the individual and community see that living is an outcome of Life, they will try to produce life out of living.

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Dana Ames

posted August 29, 2008 at 11:06 am

Well, I think all of the views are lacking… ISTM that Jacobs hasn’t taken the Eastern church into account, unless it’s somewhere else in the book. But what do I know… As I said before, I love Augustine’s expressions of his own life with God, and what I have read of his pastoral advice. But his notions on original sin have been a dead end for me.

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posted August 29, 2008 at 5:53 pm

Did Edwards just miss “theirs is the kingdom” quote about Little children by Jesus? And how much weight of original sin do you need to feel to call yourself a christian? How do you know if you have felt the full weight or not?

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Doug Allen

posted August 29, 2008 at 7:59 pm

Here in the Bible belt where I have retired, there is an emphasis on sin and original sin that seemed lacking in the Northeast and the West where I lived. Here I read and hearr references to it in newspapers and journals, on the radio and TV, and in neighborly conversations. Strangely, the amount of anti-social behavior here , domestic abuse and all the other, is greater, too. I don’t know if there is a connection or not. I would argue that an emphasis on sin can become pathological and interfere with our ability to love God and love others. Some churches (and denominations?) seem to be caught up in that pathology.

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posted August 30, 2008 at 3:42 am

Aaron, remember Jesus saying ” He that is forgiven much, loves much.” We, His living trophy, His bride, do not stake our “Christianity” on original sin’s impact but on Jesus’s finished work of the Love Life that He is in our hearts. The 25 years or so that God so wonderfuly let my focus shift on myself so easily, so rapidly, in the form of suffering due to constant need, was filled with the True sense of Jesus actualy becoming more real than my understanding of my Bible was to me, that is, He is the Living Word. Our relationship is with a living Person, who might come to us as abstact, undefined or distant because He has a plan in our lives to work out our salvation.
If one continues to feel the weight of original sin, that could be the Holy Spirit’s way of edging his beloved one to consider themselves dead to sin but alive unto God. Strong words? more than so, miraculous, mature and risen Faith.
A true bride rejoices because of her completness with the only groom capable of making that completness possible, in the intimacy of their give and take oneness witnessed as Life. Her years of growing to marriage are seen as a time for bringing her to the Life compeled, seeked and hoped for but never experienced befor.

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posted August 30, 2008 at 9:58 am

That was a beautiful post, thanks for sharing wisdom from your 25 years of walking with Jesus. Good stuff on Him being the living word! Thanks again!

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