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26 January 2012

Why Then, God at All?

One of the ongoing reflections that I have had as a student of theology is the means by which I handle sin in whatever formulation of fundamental theology I possess.

Sketching in broad strokes, it seems as the transcendentalists of Rahner's stripe don't give enough credence to sin.

The political theologians, beginning with Metz, largely assign sin to the other -- of course, the other isn't you or me -- which is rather helpful in maintaining a righteous indignation toward the world.

I think both of these theological positions -- and of course, I'm painting in entirely too broad of strokes -- miss the boat on what exactly is going on with sin.  Sin is social and structural, surely.  Yet, when examining my conscience nightly, I'm troubled -- nay, horrified -- by my own commitment to my own personal sins.

It seems to me that the only way God makes any sense at all is if we acknowledge our own atrocious insistence on sin.  Because quite frankly, if sin is always outside of us, then I would be best off engaging in self-worship predicated on self-serving altruism.  Thus, I feel good and appropriate for myself what I need.  Salvation thus becomes a parlor game of avoiding all of the bad people out there.

And, well, I think that is missing the point.

2 comments:

Anthony Zuba said...

What is personal is never only individual. This morning I was reading about the woman who worked for the Archdiocese of New York who is facing charges of embezzling over $1 million earmarked for the Catholic schools. According to the law, the crime is hers. But by the Spirit we know the sin belongs not only to her but also to everyone who knew what she was doing, knew it was wrong, had the power to intervene, but did nothing to stop her, or even abetted her acts. And abetted not only her sinful acts, but the sinful thoughts and words that premeditated them. We are fallen each of one of us, yes, but we are fallen together.

I would agree that sin is always outside of us because, existentially speaking, sin alienates us from our true selves. To sin is to be "other" than who we are. To repent is to come back to ourselves. To recognize the social and structural dimensions of sin is to lament that we have built a world where to survive we must "other" ourselves and one another. You rightly note that we see too easily how other persons "other" us, while we ignore how we ourselves do the "othering." So yes, let us neither judge nor shun the sinner, either our neighbor or ourselves. Let us look at ourselves and confess our complicity with sin. But let us also acknowledge the surd character of sin, whose depths surpass our individual faults, and, as you say, "give enough credence" to its sorrowful mystery.

Anthony Zuba said...
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