Friday, 23 May 2014

Social implications of the doctrine of original sin

I've been teaching the doctrine of original sin in my theological anthropology class this semester. Here's a table I created to try to explain the social implications of the doctrine of original sin. Obviously this isn't meant to be a nuanced scholarly presentation, just a rough and ready tool for teaching purposes. The table presents the doctrine of original sin as the foundation of a Christian understanding of society, as opposed to the two generic modern "heresies" of gnosticism and romanticism.



Gnosticism


Romanticism

Christianity
Nature is…
Split into good and evil
Pure and innocent
Created yet fallen
Human nature is…
Perfectible
Already perfect
Not perfectible
Salvation is…
Victory of the good side of society over the evil side
The spontaneous flourishing of human nature
Never fully present until the last judgment
The problem with society is…
The presence of evil forces or evil structures that need to be eradicated
Laws, institutions, and social constraints that need to be abolished or transcended
The fallenness of every aspect of society. All relationships, groups, institutions, and structures are ruled by a fallen nature.
Education is…
About enlisting children in a pre-defined struggle against evil. Education is a form of propaganda.
A threat to the child’s spontaneous freedom and creativity. Education is the root of all evil.
Necessary to form children in virtue, and to help them manage their own fallen tendencies
Sex should be…
Either rejected (as evil) or worshipped (as a god)
Allowed to flourish spontaneously without any social constraints. Repression vs emancipation.
Managed and disciplined within covenantal relationships which are protected by various laws and customs
National and ethnic identity should be…
Protected and purified at any cost, as a bulwark against external evils
Transcended and obliterated. There is no ethnicity in the state of nature.
Respected in spite of its imperfections, and valued for the sake of higher goods
The role of government is…
To eradicate evil and to make the world good; to pursue absolute justice in order to usher in a utopia
Invalid, since it interferes with the state of nature. Grass-roots movements are a better path to justice.
To seek approximate justice; to provide law and order so that sinful tendencies are restrained
The purpose of life is…
To be true to your vision of a better world.
To be true to yourself.
To be true to something beyond this world.

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