Sunday, August 22, 2010

Original Sin vs. Imago Dei I: Born to Sin

[commenter] What if ...  

• We were CREATED in God's image in Genesis 1-2
  • All God's creation (including man) was declared GOOD (i.e. perfect)
  • Sin entered the world in Genesis 3 and BROKE the goodness/perfection of creation
  • Because of sin, we are incapable of any truly good works/motives on our own (totally depraved, not as in always at the worst, but as in there is no part of us that escapes depravity)
  • Because of Christ, by faith in Him (even for pre-ressurection believers who were looking forward to the coming Messiah), we are RE-created to be perfect again in God's eyes, and to be slowly renewed in the whole man (body, soul, mind, spirit, social, etc.) as a work-in-progress that will be fully completed in the resurrection
  • We still REFLECT God's glory in this life, but imperfectly, as in a cracked and stained mirror

...  just some thoughts....

Interestingly, of all the religions in the world, only Western Christianity, Roman Catholicism and most Protestant denominations, subscribes to the idea that we inherit guilt from sin (or actions that foster less than good) not our own.  Islam, Judaism, Orthodox Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, all hold that we are judged strictly on our own choices in this lifetime after reaching an age of reasoning skills. Only Augustine, Luther and Calvin, the biggest names in the Original Sin/Total Depravity game, insist that we are born evil with no capacity whatsoever to do good until and unless we “accept the grace of God”, which phrase will have to be its own whole other post.

The thing about Original Sin/Total Depravity is that it emphasizes the human end of the duality.  I think, from the explanations of those for whom these doctrines work to bring communion with God, that the point of the doctrines is to bring the outrageous grace of God into sharp relief.  To highlight the vastness of his love and the marvel of his works.  All to the good, but my question then is this?  Is God not gracious, vast, and marvelous enough all on his own or does he really need us to be belittled, shamed and beaten down in order for him to look good?

I prefer to worship a God whose people acknowledge that we humans are in our free will sometimes awful, sometimes really great, and usually both at once, and that our God is infinitely more.

I'm reading a book by a fairly traditional (though not at all fundy) preacher--and surprisingly I really am enjoying it--but I'm at a point where he's bemoaning that we don't talk about sin much anymore.  It makes us feel bad.  Well... yeah!  Who wants that? 

Perhaps the Sin/Depravity motif worked in Christianity for so long because it resonated with how people actually already felt about themselves.  I mean, most people in Christendom really had harsh and brutal lives until the modern era so maybe it wasn't so much a beating down of humanity as much as recognition of their place in the world--lowly, abused, exploited, short-lived.

Modernity changed a whole lot about our view of the world and our place in it.  As religion lost favor among intellectuals, psychoanalysis grew in its place.  Sin/redemption themes became alienation and recovering the unconscious.  People still feel separated from the Divine but no longer feel as though they personally are lowly and shameful.  Without Christianity telling me how morally bankrupt I am, any wretchedness I feel has no shame attached.  Most people that I know feel pretty good about their work and their place in the world and see no reason to think of themselves as Sinful--except as it is pounded into their heads from preachers, parents, and religious authorities.

I grew up on the "hearts desperately wicked", "from the moment of my conceiving" (or whatever those verses are that supposedly prove Original Sin). The idea that I started out behind the cosmic eight ball, through absolutely no fault of my own, so that from the very moment that I came into being, God couldn't stand the sight of me and considered me used tampons ... yup, hard to believe in a God as Love after that. 

And I still carry that baggage embedded in my soul--that I am utterly disgusting and that only when God looks at me through the Jesus-colored sunglasses will I ever be anything else. 

Even though, I no longer rationally subscribe to anything resembling an Original Sin doctrine, or any kind of moral overlay to the fact that there is suffering in the world, I can't seem to transform this hideous indictment of myself.

During my time as a heathen, I developed some interesting theories to describe how I think this whole thing works, based on physics and sound theory and other stuff, that took the whole judgment aspect out of it and also gets rid of the whole either/or polemic that Christianity is so fond of---either I am totally depraved or I am perfect in Christ (when obviously neither one is literally true). And rationally I accept these and reject the total depravity BS. Now if I could just convince my psyche to let go of that ghoul...

I suppose there are those who would use my ongoing struggle as proof of the Holy Spirit convicting me of the truth of Original Sin--except that I've supposedly been saved and made perfect from that so why exactly am I still feeling like steaming dog poop on the bottom of God's foot? No amount of reason and intellect is working on this one, nor is praying or meditating. My husband has suggested exorcism once or twice....

(for a fuller explanation of Original Sin and its history:

1 comment:

  1. "...that I am utterly disgusting and that only when God looks at me through the Jesus-colored sunglasses will I ever be anything else."

    Wow, that is so well said!

    I'd love to hear some of those theories on how this stuff works.

    Thanks for the link to the Rabbi's article too; I found that really helpful.

    I think I'm starting to wrap my heart around this stuff. It's starting to feel better.