Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Monday, January 26, 2009

Incurvatus In Se

"If humans are totally depraved then there should be some motivational or cognitive bias, some tilt of the mind, that produces the depravity."

"We tend to think of human self-interest, selfishness, as the root cause of human sin. In the language of Augustine we are "curved in on ourselves" (incurvatus in se). This self-focus contaminates even our best moral efforts. As Martin Luther said, "Every good work is a sin"."

What is at the heart of man?

Genesis 2:16-17, " ... and the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

Why the command if there existed no chance, nor opportunity for disobedience?
Why the command if Adam was an impotent creature?
Why the command if Adam was immutable (unchanging) and impeccable (non-liable to sin)?
Why the command if free-will was not an inherent characteristic of Adam?
Why the command if Adam was not both rational and moral, acting as a responsible creature understanding the cause and consequence of decision?
Why the command if Adam and Eve did not have discernment in the use of the power of choosing or embracing what appeared agreeable and good to the dictates of their understandings, or in refusing and avoiding what was evil?
Why the command if Adam and/or Eve were incapable of complying with any external temptation to evil or to sin (disobey) God?

"It is not a proper trial of reverence for a superior when the action which he prescribes is recommended by other considerations. It is when it stands upon the sole foundation of his authority; when, having no intrinsic goodness, it becomes good only by his prohibition; when the sole inducement to perform it is His command. It is in these circumstances it is known whether we duly feel and recognize our moral dependence upon him. The morality of an action does not depend upon its abstract nature. but upon its relation to the law of God. Men seem often to be judge of actions as they are judge of material substances—by their bulk. What is great in itself, or in its consequences, they will admit to be a sin; but what appears little they pronounce to be a slight fault, or no fault at all."

Psalm 66:8-9, "Oh, bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise to be heard, Who keeps our soul among the living, and does not allow our feet to be moved."

"God alone acts from His own power, whereas the creature acts by a power given to him which is distinct from himself. Goodwin, pointed this out: "God’s own goodness and happiness is His ultimate end, therefore He can never act but holily,(or apart from His love) for He acts by Himself and for Himself, and so cannot fail in acting, but is holy in all His ways and works, and cannot be otherwise." But man neither acts immediately by his own power nor is himself the legitimate end of his acting, but rather God."

Adam and Eve were given " ... power to retain their integrity. This is evident from the clearly revealed fact that they were under an indispensable obligation to yield perfect obedience to God, and liable to deserved punishment for the least defection. Therefore they must have been given a power to stand, a liberty of will to choose that which was conducive to their happiness."

With Adam, whose nature was holy and provided with everything necessary to his yielding to what obedience demanded of him, there existed the possibility that he would rise to the stature and authority given him by God and in abhorrence of disobedience to Him Who had given the breath of life refute the lies and temptations of Satan. Instead, Adam resigned the full use of his faculties as 'federal head ... legal representative' and father of the human race and chose to become the 'servant of sin' and in that decision the imputation of the offense was passed to all.

What is at the heart of man?

Matthew 15:18-19, "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies."
Luke 6:45, "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks."
Acts 5:3, "But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?"

Plato. "For all good and evil, whether in the body or in human nature, originates, as he declared, in the soul, and overflows from thence, as from the head into the eyes; and therefore, if the head and body are to be well, you must begin by curing the soul. That is the first thing."

We have a tendency to equate our sinful nature as an inherent and intrinsic trait of being human. We fail at times to allow for the extrinsic factors of life which are employed and arrayed against mankind. At times we may place more emphasis on one factor and not the other, possibly to our detriment. Whether motivated intrinsically or extrinsically men are not supposed to be free from guilt, from the fact that they have been tempted to commit sin. God requires men to resist temptation; and if they yield to it, they must be punished.

What is at the heart of man?

The tendency to sin for whatever reason or motivation is suggested to be comprised of factors involving behaviour and environment, psychological and sociological, the intrinsic and extrinsic, the dispositional and selfish and what lies at the heart of the matter are our fears and our finitude ("Finitude: To be carefully distinguished from "mortality." Finitude refers not to the fact that man dies but to the fact that as a free choice of his own project of being, he makes himself finite by excluding other possbilities each time he chooses the one which he prefers.) Whatever forms the logic and reason for the decisions made is determined by the need for the creation of safety and security to assuage the fear and vulnerabilty which we feel. The decision to sin (strictly a Christian term) or to disobey the law of the land, the law of God, or to harm, inflict pain, or disregard other people's rights to freedom and safety are acts seeking to placate fear.

We are not born fearful. However, our sense of fear becomes highly developed early in life. Augustine was previously quoted as thinking that sin was a turning in on oneself (closing oneself off to God and neighbor) but he also thought that sin was a greedy, angst-ridden "grasping" as illustrated in his discussion of the sinful infant in The Confessions who is sated but nevertheless cries when witnessing another child at the breast. The fear is there, expressing itself in a Malthusian view, assuming that the resources at hand will be diminished and unable to be replenished and a fear based on selfishishness is enlivened. Sharing and giving require sacrifice and vulnerability, exposing oneself to the consequence of depleted resources and possibly bringing harm upon oneself. The existence of a "felt vulnerability," in this situation creates the opportunity for a person to pridefully try to transcend that vulnerability, which is sin. We wish to control, to become the god of our life and lessen the impact of the decisions made by others which affect the determination of our finitude. It is the anxiety created by the loss of opportunity and the narrowing of life's choices with each choice we make and are made by others that allows for the introduction of fear-based and selfish decision-making resulting in a predominantly sin-based life. Our anxiety regarding our finitude is what makes us sinful and this anxiety is dispositional or habitual but nonetheless, it is our inherited human condition. We inherit our anxiety about our finitude but just because we have felt anxieties on the inside does not mean that sin is intrinsic. Those felt anxieties are produced by the Malthusian situation. The extrinsic situation produces certain psychological responses, but we need to be clear about the order of the causal chain: The extrinsic circumstance creates the internal worry. The reality of this scenario, life, is that it is a zero-sum game (http://undertheeagleswing.blogspot.com/search?q=zerosum) " ... unless we rely on one who is more powerful than us to heal the ruptures in our human state and elevate us to our goal of happiness and harmony."

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