Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Of Sin and Death

One of the vexing problems of the Church in its mission to preach the Gospel is the issue of sin, the consequences of sin, and the role of the man Jesus of Nazareth regarding this sin. If you have read any of my other postings you may have read that I think the various doctrines of atonement -- i.e. the Augustinian view of original sin and what Jesus did on the cross to atone for that sin -- to be the biggest barrier to evangelism. Later theologians (Anselm, Abelard, and Aquinas) modified St. Augustine's view of original sin but it all starts from his doctrine.

The question is always: If God is infinitely good and is love (and loves his creation), how is it that he would sacrifice his Son to expiate a sin that we didn't commit. Moreover, how was it necessary for God to appease his own sense of honor (per Anselm) with his own beloved Son? etc, etc. These are just some of the questions that non-believers (Agnostic or otherwise) have when the Good News is preached. And it all comes back to original sin.

All of this is introduction to the document that I have just read and that I commend for your edification. The title is "Ancestral Versus Original Sin: An Overview with Implications for Psychotherapy" and I feel it's not only excellent resource about sin for any Christian but in particular for Lutherans. I'm coming to the conclusion that Luther was closer to Orthodoxy as a basis for his theology than previously thought (yes, the Finnish school of Luther study has affected me. To the good I might add).

One thing I've noticed while reading about Lutheran history is that the founding fathers of Lutheranism were very concerned about "innovations" to the faith. The arguments leading up to the writing of the Formula of Concord were debated among the various followers of Luther (all laying claim to the true/pure teachings of Fr. Martin), and it seems that those theologians who "innovated", i.e. created new doctrine (or doctrine which was felt to be new) -- whether heretical or orthodox -- were chastised and said doctrine rejected; in some cases rightly so. However, it seems to me that this might have been an easy way to maintain control over doctrine that wasn't from the western tradition. Because of this, theologies from other Christian traditions seem foreign to us westerners. I say this because I don't think this paper is such an innovation since this paper is, by definition, Orthodox. But I'll leave that for you to decide.

Please click on the post title above for the PDF document and let me know your thoughts.

Note (2008/01/12): A number of edits have been made to fix sloppy terminology (and thinking).