Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Original Sin...Is it Real? What is it?

I want to begin by saying that there are so many inflections and intonations that are lost in email, so please do not read anything that I may write as harsh, as that is not at all in my heart. As I briefly mentioned in my previous email I have been in the Catholic Church for 6 years now and came from a previous life in a non denominational/charismatic/Pentecostal background. The story of how I arrived where I am is much to long, boring and not the reason I write, however, I do feel it is important to place my writings into proper context. Until the time that I became a Catholic, I really was unable to piece together my theology as there is very little theological framework in the nondenominational churches and so many things come from "personal revelation" to the pastor. It really wasn't until I came to the Church that I was able to piece together Theology and get answers to so many questions that I have had for years.

I noticed a week or so ago that you had posted a question on Adam and Eve and the historical authenticity of the account in Genesis. After that you posted another question regarding Original Sin. I briefly looked over the posts, however I have little time to sift through hundreds of comments (as I have a full time job with a wife and 3 adopted daughters) so please forgive me if this is repetitive in nature with some of your other comments.

The creation account was one of the first issues that I had to deal with upon my arrival as my entire life I had been taught a literal seven day creation cycle. This theory, quite honestly, does cannot be squared with scientific evidence, and I now hold to an old earth theory: millions of years. I do think that science and religion can both work together as is exemplified by this quote from Pope John Paul II: "Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes." So in short, do I believe that the Creation account is literal, word for word? Probably not. There are many reasons that I hold to this but one of the main reasons is that to understand the creation account, you must understand how Hebrew history was written. I am not a student of Hebrew history, but I do know that their history was not written linear as our western history is written and as we are used to reading. Their history was written in much more of an elliptical method, to explain concepts and ideas rather than to delineate events when and where they happened. Having said that, I do believe that as the story may not be literal in all its details, we as humans did descend from one woman and one man. Now whether their real names were Adam and Eve....doubtful.

"A God we can understand is not a God we can worship". We do not know why God created man, but we know that he created man to be with Him and we don't know why God chose the methods that He chose. We read in Genesis that God breathed life, his very spirit into that first man. Therefore Adam, while not Deity, carried the life and spirit of God within him. But there is something more that God gave Adam: the freedom to choose. My belief is that while God wanted to be with man and created him for that reason, God also wanted man to CHOOSE to be with Him. He did not want humanity to be pre-programmed robots to do his will. When Adam and Eve (for lack of a better term) chose to disobey the directions given, it was not just disobedience that occurred, the took the option to willingly violate the covenant that was made between their Creator and themselves; The Creator that literally breathed his own life and spirit into them. What happened at this point was something more than we can understand. I believe that there was a basic spiritual connection between Creator and created in a way that we do not and cannot understand and the rebellion in which they partook severed that connection.

What we know about God is that He is Spirit: all powerful, all loving, all caring yet pure and holy. His very essence cannot inhabit the same space as rebellion and what we would call sin. At the point that Adam and Eve disobeyed the Almighty, they "fell out of Grace" with God. What we know from that point on is that just like humanity passes down hereditary illnesses, we also pass down spiritual illnesses and from that point on, all humanity would be born with a spirit that was wounded and broken....not turned toward God. This doesn't mean, as Calvinism would teach in the doctrine of Total Depravity, that mankind is evil, but that our souls are stained with what we would call "Original Sin". Original Sin, you see is not something that we have, as sin cannot be measured or weighed. Rather, Original Sin is something that we are born WITHOUT. It was explained to me that it is much like a baby born without eyesight laying in the nursery. When the doctor comes in and checks on the baby, it is determined that a simple salve would return the eyesight to the child. And through the mystical sacrament of Baptism, this is what occurs to us as Christians. Baptism is not just a symbol, but in a very real, spiritual sense, that water washes returns us into Grace with our Creator and opens our spirits to his calling.

For millennia through the Old Testament what we see is that God took that original covenant that he made with Adam and Eve (through the shedding of the animal to clothe their nakedness) and slowly expanded it from a couple to a family (Noah and his family), to a tribe (Abraham and Sarah) and finally to a nation ( King David). Throughout this time we see God setting up the guidelines by which he could have a people that belonged to him, which he has wanted from the beginning of time. He has always wanted a people that could be His, without spot or blemish but unfortunately, these people were unable to live up to His standards; and this was part of His plan. He knew His creation from the inside out and He knew they would fail miserably over and over and over again.

I read your quote about how the Incarnation was the most beautiful story of all time....or something to that effect and I would agree with you. When you consider that God (which is inconceivable to us) placed Himself in the form of a man, Christ Jesus, that is almost too much. But to go even further to say that this Man who was very God Himself, would take upon himself the very punishment that was due all humanity for our failure to keep the Law, that is almost unfathomable......ah but by faith.

1 comment:

Hattigrace said...

Beautiful. For more about this, read Called to Love. My copy is in your wife's possession!