Posts Tagged ‘original sin’

There was a Roman Catholic priest who did not believe in the Biblical doctrine of original sin, but wrote about “original goodness” (He was excommunicated, I believe, and rightly so).  Generally, I think the heretical notion of “original goodness” is the basic theological problem of the post-Enlightenment/post-60s world view.  If we just make society better we will have better people except that would mean upper income neighborhoods should be Eden revisited.  They are not.  If we go with this heresy, then what becomes of the rule of law, and with it police and armies? And before those authorities what becomes of the need for the original authorities, instituted by God:  mother and father? Father and mother are called not only to curb but to guide and direct their children to the Lord’s Way and in His Way.  We still need all these authorities  because of the tendency from the origin of man to do terrible things to man. When we look to our selves as pretty good, then pretty bad stuff happens. This is what Lutheran theology has called the political use of the Law as curb to humankind’s wayward lusts to steal, hurt and murder in original sin.

I thought of this recently because of a song from the 80s and this stunning lyric: 

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?
I travel the world
And the seven seas,
Everybody’s looking for something.

Some of them want to use you
Some of them want to get used by you
Some of them want to abuse you
Some of them want to be abused.

This describes original sin.  I do not know if Annie Lennox is a Christian but she sure describes this key doctrine better than the social romantics who believe in social engineering.  What she describes is not  sweet. The Lord knows that as He has  told us:  see Matthew 15: 18-20; Romans 3: 9-18. And so He did not come looking for Himself but for us He came down from heaven. Annie Lennox’s solution?

Hold your head up
Keep your head up, movin’ on
Hold your head up, movin’ on
Keep your head up, movin’ on
Hold your head up
Keep your head up, movin’ on
Hold your head up, movin’ on
Keep your head up, movin’ on

It is good, in this dog-eat-dog world, to “hold your head up” and keep “movin’ on” but to where and  to whom?  Into this abusive world came One who never abused but was abused beyond recognition, so we are forgiven.  Yes, He said, hold your head up and look to Me Who has seen your plight as He is our light in this dark world.  Yes, Keep on movin’, following Me.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12)

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With the 50th anniversary remembrance of the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22nd, I heard, yet again, that on that date “America lost its innocence”.  This is a pervasive reflection by the secularists.  It’s a bunch of fantastical  nonsense.

A Roman Catholic monk, Thomas Merton, wrote a semi-autobiographical work, he  tellingly entitled,  The Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander.  There was no time that America was “innocent”, as no country on earth has been innocent, that is free from sin.  I think in this hackneyed observation indicates a confusion between innocence and naiveté.  I think we as a people have an incredible talent in being naïve about the nature of evil, but that only came about with the wholesale rejection of Biblical understanding of original sin,  sin and evil and it’s depths.  The Lord in His Word has  no trouble calling a thing what it is, see  Romans 3:  9-20.  A heretical Roman Catholic theologian wrote there is no original sin but “original goodness”.  He must have lived in a different world than the proverbial real world. Our naiveté is such that somehow there was, as in the case of President Kennedy’s short three years as president, a kind of a “Camelot”,  a national innocence… and that fantasy was promulgated  after the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Holocaust, the Korean War, slavery, the subjugation of the native Indians etc.  Then in the early ’60s,  we were prevented at the time of knowing much about that President’s adulteries, his own incompentencies,  his father’s absolute lust for power and the like.

The founding fathers of this country knew the desire for a king and tried to stop it by writing The Constitution. Thomas Paine wrote that there are governments because men are not angels.  President Lincoln wrote in his proclamation of the first Thanksgiving Day about our “national perverseness”.  I think they all had in common was the real Biblical  understanding again of the depths of evil.  It is only our age that conveniently jettisoned it.

There is a part of the Constitution that says no one in government can receive royal titles.  Thomas Paine commented on this:

“Dignities and high sounding names have different effects on different beholders. The lustre of the Star and the title of My Lord, over-awe the superstitious vulgar, and forbid them to inquire into the character of the possessor: Nay more, they are, as it were, bewitched to admire in the great, the vices they would honestly condemn in themselves. This sacrifice of common sense is the certain badge which distinguishes slavery from freedom; for when men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.”

That is a frightening assessment of our fallen tendency to actually admire the  vices in dignitaries with the luster of “star” and “lord”.  Let’s face it:  President Kennedy and his wife looked good, in fact great and this occurred right at the cusp of the television age. Personally,  I think he wanted to do good.    After old President Eisenhower, a “vital man” as President, young, handsome and rich.  I could say we were “innocent” of knowing the idolic hold of the television image on us…but note: we have not gotten over it. We get the gods of our desires and lusts. This is more a  reflection on us and false doctrine than it is on a national day of grief and sorrow.  Like a comedian said in one of his characters:  “It’s better to look good than to feel good”. We could just as well quip, “It’s better to look good than be good.”  It sure doesn’t look good. So we can no longer call vice a vice, virtue a virtue and call upon the Savior of us all.  May the Lord save us from our naïve idolatries which are never the less our own dead ends which stop  us from living out of liberty.

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                                                                           Pride goes before destruction,and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16: 18

1oo years ago yesterday  evening, at 11: 40pm, the HMS Titanic struck an iceberg.  Then 100 years ago today, April 15th, the Titanic, the ship considered to be “unsinkable”, with not enough life boats sunk at 2:20am into the icy North Atlantic waters, killing 1,496 people.  The Carpathia saved 712 passengers.

In an excellent article, Titanic Presumptions by Allen C. Guelzo, in the National Review and on NR Online, he begins his piece this way,

  • The Titanic, name and thing, will stand for a monument and warning to human presumption.” That was the judgment of Edward Stuart Talbot, the Anglican bishop of Winchester, in the sermon he preached the Sunday after the fabled Atlantic passenger liner Titanic took nearly 1,500 lives with her as she sank after striking an iceberg in mid-ocean on April 14, 1912. “When has such a mighty lesson against our confidence and trust in power, machinery, and money been shot through the nation?” Talbot could not have known it, but an entire cascade of mighty lessons was about to be visited on human presumption in spades, in the form of two World Wars (Talbot would lose a son at Ypres) and the genocidal sacrifice of millions on the altars of Fascism and Communism.

Mr. Guelzo cites these interpretations of the Sinking of the Titanic:

  1. Nobility: In both Britain and America, it was an example of Ango-Saxon nobility.  People extolled the heroes who had “sacrificed themselves in obedience to the rule” of “women and children first”. “…and quietly ignoring the greater likelihood that those cigar-lighting gentlemen were motivated instead by the bizarre confidence that, as one of them remarked, ‘no matter what we have struck,’ the Titanic “is good for eight or ten hours’”
  2. Governmental:  The next interpretation was to blame a lack of regulation.    “…to pillory the White Star Line for mismanagement, something that played into the hands of progressive politicians such as Senator William Alden Smith of Michigan, who conducted the U.S. Senate’s inquiry into the loss of the Titanic and who called for more of the regulation that had done so little to prevent the disaster in the first place.”
  3. Class Warfare:  “But the most popular narrative to wrap itself around the Titanic has been that of class. The disaster has increasingly become a parable for the evils of callous upper-class wealth, (the ship’s manifest included some of the most famous of the upper class of the time) saving its precious hide while honest and authentic immigrants are locked away in steerage to drown. (There is actually no evidence that anyone was “locked away” in third class, or that the sort of folding metal gates that appear so prominently as the immigrants’ prison bars in recent movie versions of the Titanic were even installed on the ship.) James Cameron, who joked that his bloated Titanic fell “just short of Marxist dogma,” pressed the class-warfare fable to the point of caricature.”

Mr. Guelzo then concludes that the Anglican priest has the correct interpretation.

He also points out that the Master of the Carpathia was one of the stand-out heroes of that “night to remember” because of his quick thinking it was his ship that saved all who were saved, 712 people.  Mr. Guelzo quotes Captain Rostron’s recollections of that cold evening:

“The Carpathia arrived to retrieve the lifeboats just after 4 a.m. Arthur Rostron, standing on the bridge-wing of his ship, his lips moving in silent prayer, was the hero of heroes that night. As the sun rose, he saw that “all around us were dozens and dozens of icebergs, some comparatively close, others far away on the horizon, towering up like cathedral spires.” It made him shudder, and he could “only think that some other Hand than mine was on that helm during the night.'” (emphasis my own)

 I think there is a causal connection between Captain Rostron praying and the people he and his crew were able to save.  I think there is a difference between a talented man, humble to pray and those who built the Titanic who had not prayer.

Just as in Babel, this is a narrative of pride and humility and I think it begs the question:  Why is there such overweening pride in our day and time?  Oh, it’s always been there, from the tree to  East of Eden to the  plains of Shinar, to the base of Mt. Sinai and Golgotha and to the arrogance of our species to think an unsinkable ship was built with the unthinkable lack of lifeboats.  But why has pride taken on such incredibly destructiveness?  One reason:  pride has been couple with overwhelming technologies.  But it has been unfortunate that historically the total lack of inhibition of hubris has been unleashed in such a technological advanced era. It is grim to know that during World War II the Nazis greatly improved the technologies of mass extermination in just a several years.  But why is pride so un-contained?

In 1924, the Nazis promised religious toleration in their party platform.  In paragraph 24 of that platform, before it talks about the German fight against, “…the Jewish -materialistic spirit”, they wrote, “we demand freedom for all religious confessions in the state, so far as they do not endanger its existence or conflict against the ethical and moral feelings of the Germanic race.”  The faithful conservative Lutheran pastor, professor and historian, Hermann Sasse, “…perceptively wrote as early as 1932 that on the basis of section 24 a conflict was inevitable between Christianity and Nazism because the doctrine of original sin and unworthiness of the sinner would offend the ‘ethical and moral feelings’ of the Germanic race.” (Emphasis my own) Later the German-Christians (i.e. the Nazi-front ‘church’) declared, in fulfillment of Sasse’s prophetic statement:  “The (Christian) doctrine of (original) sin and the guilt of mankind is an insult to the Germanic people”, and ” We do not believe we were conceived and born in sin. We do not believe that God became man in Jesus.” Instead of speaking of “fallen mankind”, one should speak of “ascending mankind.” (quoted from Lutherans Against Hitler:  the Untold Story by Lowell C.  Green, CPH Publishing)

 Why is pride so un-contained and unleashed in it’s full Adamic rage?  Answer:  the utter denial of original sin and sin in general.  For instance:  the famous televanglist, Joyce Meyers, who was Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, left the Lutheran Church because she said she became tired of being a “a lost and condemned creature” and all the talk of sin. At one time Lent was about fasting but it’s now about the way to the “purpose-driven” life. The Mormons do not believe in original sin and I think this is what is frightening about their doctrine.  I would dare say that both Governor Romney and President Obama do not believe in original sin.  Then notice the talk is always about the future that someone will deliver to us for our deliverance and the still unbounded faith, yes, religious and spiritual faith in our own abilities to save.  An unsinkable ship.  The Reich to last a 1,000 years.  A Roman Catholic theologian denied the doctrine of original sin but taught his doctrine of “original goodness” (I give credit: that the Vatican booted him) This piece of a poem by Francis Thompson (1859-1907), British poet,  states it well:

…all man’s Babylons strive but to impart
The grandeurs of his Babylonian heart.

The founders of our republic and the especially the framers of the Constitution so wrote our law because of their profound understanding the capabilities and culpabilities of man to utter power.  James Madison in his federalist paper #51 wrote:  “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”  President Madison caught well the blessed Reformers understanding of the politicus usus, the political or first use of the Law: restraining our sinful propensities.  Once that is denied, then the lie that we can do everything good is unleashed.  We do not want to build a tower to reach God, we think we are God and the serpent’s lie is now at it’s maximum destructive power:  to be like God.

We must fight and we must resist temptation.  In popular culture, Lord of Rings caught well the temptation of saying we have no sin, thus deceiving our selves (1 John1–2: 2)  and what unbounded good in the hands of a sinner could unleash and the necessity of the fight to do so, even to do good:

The Church has the message of remedy of original sin in our original salvation in the man from heaven:  Jesus Christ.  We must proclaim both law and Gospel.  We know our limitations and in that limitation the true power to serve.

Read:  Matthew 4: 1-17;  Hebrews 4: 14-16;  1 Corinthians 10: 12-13 and pray the Our Father, Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil (or the evil one).

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