Thursday, June 24, 2010


recently on another blog, my friend hineini left a question in the comment box that got me going:

what would our theologies gain/lose
if we were to jettison the idea of original sin?

now, i LOVE the idea of jettisoning original sin. really i do. the problem is that i and all the 'good' people i know have this capacity to do 'bad' things.

bad: self destructive. disunitive. exploitive, self-absorbed and self-serving at the expense of others, ... all that.

somehow we have to deal with this because we are called to something existentially higher than the 'survival of the fittest/ fight or flight' defaults of the animal kingdom. seems that the stakes are higher for us.

what i mean is that, in being exalted above an instinct-driven state of being, we are afforded both the luxury and the responsibility of not only contemplating morality, faith, and a spiritual realm, but engaging in the expression or at least the exploration of these things. in being raised up to this higher level of awareness, we are pressed to do something useful with it.

but all that botching up... all that hurting and being hurt. all that violence. without the doctrine of original sin, these things become even more confounding than they already are with it.

the question is a pretty intriguing one though:
what would our THEOLOGIES gain/lose if we were to jettison the idea of original sin?

if theology is the
science/knowledge of God and so much of our picture of things turns around our picture of the creator of these things, then the change we're talking about here is something fairly all-encompassing: our picture of God would change drastically if we were to do away with this idea, even just in speculation. i mean, all that business of grace and hope and redemption would be moot. i think we'd lose a great deal in our picture of God if we decided that somehow we should be able to just raise ourselves above the current state of 'fallenness' simply because there would be aspects of God that are inherently positive and comely which would disappear from our perspective. we would have no reason or context through which to encounter them... could it be that, with the fall of man came an exaltation of God, as certain things about God's nature became apparent for the first time?

(NOTE- tangent: ...much like the way radio waves are invisible to our eyes. radio waves are 'real' within our physical realm, yet are imperceptible to us because we have no natural way to engage with them. the best we can do is develop a theory, then develop a technology to try to meaningfully bridge the gap between our theory and our experience. turns out we know radio waves are real because in small measure they can be used to communicate information relatively cleanly and efficiently- provided we have a network of transmitters and receivers in place. we know that they are real because, in large measure they can be used to either fuel our greatest exploits or kill one another... yet whether we're dealing with a little or a lot, to our senses radio waves remain undetectable. in a quirky, but mildly interesting curio called Radio KAOS, roger waters, conceptual mastermind of the band pink floyd, explores some of these ideas... found a vid on youtube circa 1987: mullets and mall hair abound!)

so anyway, our knowledge of God is very heavily affected by the ways that we are permitted to encounter, explore and interact with him- the ways God chooses to reveal himself to those created in his image. all this kinda makes me wonder what other aspects of God are also true but have not found expression within our reality.

what aspects of the image of God are yet unrealized amongst those who bear it?

and what aspects of God are interfered with or otherwise distorted because of the doctrines we've constructed in our attempts to arrive at some kind of reasonable agreement with one another about some of the most troublesome aspects of our own existence? somehow our knowledge of God seems to be contingent upon our knowledge of self in community with others, and vice versa.

perhaps, without all this business of fallenness and original sin we'd also be able to embrace at face value the invitation of God to participate in the ongoing celebration of life and love within the cosmos. perhaps our relationship with God would also be freed of all that self-interested, soul-saving stuff and, in being freed of it, be released to one of loving God for God's sake, rather than our own?

like LSD in the 60's which promised to unlock the real potential of human consciousness but instead just left, in its wake, a generation of seekers whose minds had been so opened that they struggled to discern the difference between the real and the surreal, is our doctrine of original sin a version of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that we have become addicted to because no one has passed a law against it yet?


but what to do with all that other negative stuff that we carry within and express so easily? pretend it's not there?

hmm... hmm...
and again i say hmm...