Mark 9:24

Posts Tagged ‘illustratively’

Original sin means hope

In Armchair Apologetics on July 30, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Original sin is the deprivation of original holiness among men. Properly understood, such a deprivation is, to use a skeptic’s buzzword, empirical. Wrote Lewis:

The key is history. Terrific energy expended — civilizations are built up — excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin.

What better description of the human condition is there besides original sin?

We do not bear particular guilt for original sin, but we suffer under it all the same.

Confucian Taoists explain this through a dualism, giving equal force and substance to evil as well as good, assigning equally matched agents to each side. Marxists, for their part, explain this observation with a similar dualism, dialectical materialism, offering also the hope that utopia is just around the corner. Buddhism blames attachment. In each of these, some men are really evil— in the case of Buddhism, we replace these scales with measuring attachment to things and persons. It takes only a civics course here in the United States to learn that our restricted government is thanks to the very similar observation that no man in high office should be trusted with much power.

If we approach original sin with this understanding, we see the outstanding thing about it very clearly. Original sin is essentially hopeful.

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Good without God?

In Armchair Apologetics on July 16, 2011 at 7:29 am

Men who say, “It is possible to be a good person without being a Christian,” speak the truth, but the error is in the thrust of this spearpoint and not in its hardiness. By this point, the speaker means to continue with the implication, unspoken, that it is pointless to be a Christian, a deposit of unnecessary effort, because to try to be a good person is all that is needed to enter any final reward the Christian posits. Let us separate the wheat from chaff in this fuzzy thinking. In short, the statement is true as far as it goes; the problem is that it doesn’t go far enough. We must know, if we know anything, that only being a good person is not the goal of Christianity.


Mere goodness is not the goal.

Goodness as it is meant is not “living sinlessly” but instead “living without sinning too much.” This is inadequate, if not in works then certainly in temperament. To be a great person — holy, God-fearing and devout — is the goal, the requirement to enter the Kingdom of God. If we are not, it will be “like passing through fire.” Furthermore, we will not enter Heaven by aiming for Purgatory. We will only enter even Purgatory — the shower room for the eternal pool party with God — by aiming for Heaven. By Christian doctrine, we know that this kind of greatness happens as a gift of grace, that which comes only by Christ, the one mediator between God and man.

If it is possible for anyone outside the Church to nonetheless receive the grace of God — which it surely is if God freely gives and men freely accept such a gift, and Christians are not in the habit of limiting God in His omnipotence — it is not the ordinary means of receiving grace. It is, in an illustrative word, extraordinary.

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