A hard education

Our sin is our resistance to going along with God’s initiative in making suffering reparative. We are deeply drawn towards God, but we also sense how following him will dislocate and transform beyond recognition the forms which have made life tolerable for us. We often react with fear, dismay, hostility. We are at war with ourselves, and responding differently to this inner conflict, we end up at war with each other. So it is undoubtedly true that the result of sin is much suffering. But this is by no means distributed according to desert. Many who are relatively innocent are swept up in this suffering, and some of the worse offenders get off lightly. The proper response to all this is not retrospective book-keeping, but making ourselves capable of responding to God’s initiative.

But now if that’s what sin is, then one can sympathize with a lot of the modern critique of a religion which focuses on the evil tendencies of human nature, and the need for renunciation and sacrifice. This is not because humans are in fact angelic, or there is no point to sacrifice. It’s just that focusing on how bad human beings can be, even if it’s to refute the often over-rosy views of secular humanists with their reliance on human malleability and therapy, can only strengthen misanthropy, which certainly won’t bring you closer to God; and propounding sacrifice and renunciation for themselves takes you away from the main points, which is following God’s initiative. That this can involve sacrifice, we well know from the charter act in this initiative, but renunciation is not is point. – from A Secular Age

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