Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Original Sin, Consequences, and Bootstraps

I've avoided writing an 'original sin' post for two weeks. It's been 'next on the schedule' for my Wednesday post, but life happened. I wrote off-topic 'Wednesday' posts instead:
Maybe those weren't as off-topic as I thought: 'none of the above' would have been an issue, if it weren't for original sin.

My Way, or God's Way

Original sin, Catholic style, isn't the idea that God created an utterly vile, warped, basically bad, humanity. Or that we're icky to the core now. I've posted about what sort of creatures we are:
'If God is good, how come people to bad things?' That's a reasonable question.

"it has something to do with free will" is true: but nowhere near a complete explanation. (May 23, 2012) Here's part of what the Catholic Church says about why people do bad things:
"ORIGINAL SIN: The sin by which the first human beings disobeyed the commandment of God, choosing to follow their own will rather than God's will. As a consequence they lost the grace of original holiness, and became subject to the law of death; sin became universally present in the world. Besides the personal sin of Adam and Eve, original sin describes the fallen state of human nature which affects every person born into the world, and from which Christ, the 'new Adam,' came to redeem us (396-412)."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary)
There's quite a bit more to say about original sin: Catechism, 388-412, for starters. Before wading into that, I think I'd better explain what "Adam and Eve" means, from a Catholic point of view.

Adam and Eve, Lingerie, and Sacred Scripture

In my native culture, the phrase "Adam and Eve" shows up:
  • In the name of several erotic lingerie stores
  • As a topic for
    • Cartoons
      • Funny
      • Otherwise
    • Jokes
      • Funny
      • Otherwise
  • In association with a refusal to learn about God's creation
I've written about being a practicing Catholic, and getting a grip about Adam and Eve, before. Basically:
  • Do I think Adam and Eve
    • Really existed?
    • Were Germans?
    • Made a really bad decision?
  • Do I think Sacred Scripture is
    • Inspired by the Holy Spirit?
    • True?
      • Yes
      • In a Western, literal, sense?
        • No
        • Not entirely
          • (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 115-119)

God, Creation, the Bible, and Me

I recommend reading this discussion of the Bible:
  • "Understanding the Bible"
    Mary Elizabeth Sperry, Associate Director for Utilization of the New American Bible, USCCB
It's one of the best, and briefest, explanations I've run across - of what the Bible is, what it isn't, and how Catholics should approach it.

As a practicing Catholic, there are some things I have to believe, like:
  • God is real
    (Catechism, 198)
  • God created/is creating - everything
    (Catechism, 279, 301, 302-305)
  • The universe is beautiful
    • And may be studied
    (Catechism Church, 341)
  • Honest research can't contradict faith
    • Because God made the universe
    (Catechism, 159)
  • It's faith and reason
    (Catechism, 50, 156-159)
If this doesn't sound 'Biblical,' I'm not surprised. Catholics aren't Calvinists, and what the Catholic Church teaches doesn't conform to assumptions rooted in America's cultural history. I've posted about the Bible, the Magisterium, and Tradition, before.

Original Sin: Catholic Style

The Church says that original sin is:
  • Real
    (Catechism, 388-389)
  • The "reverse side" of the Good News
    • The Good News is that
      • Jesus is the Savior of all men
      • All need salvation
      • Salvation is offered to all through Christ
    (Catechism, 389)
Is original sin important? Can't I just sincerely believe in God?

One question at a time.

Original Sin Matters

About original sin, yes, acknowledging it is important:
"...The Church, which has the mind of Christ,263 knows very well that we cannot tamper with the revelation of original sin without undermining the mystery of Christ."
(Catechism, 389)
'Having the mind of Christ refers to 1 Corinthians 2:16, by the way.

Another 'by the way:' I think it's very important to remember that Jesus is either I AM, or a raving lunatic. (March 11, 2012) I take John 8:57-58 seriously, and know what happened later: which is why I became a Catholic. That's yet another topic.

About 'sincerely believing?' That's still more topics:

Evicted From Eden

Original sin "has something to do with free will," since "the original fault" was "freely committed:"
"The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative LANGUAGE, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.264 Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.265"
(Catechism, 390)
I think Catechism, 390, is also a good reminder about Western culture's tendency to avoid figurative language; or mistake poetry for statistics.


Genesis 3:16-19 outlines consequences of the "original fault freely committed by our first parents." Maybe "in pain shall you bring forth children" and "Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken" seems harsh. (Genesis 3:16, 19)

I don't see it that way: but I accept the idea that actions have consequences. In this case, very long-term consequences.

"The Well of the Past"

I'm Catholic, so I believe Genesis 3:1-6. But that doesn't mean that I believe Earth is flat, or that the universe is about 6,000 years old.

What we're learning about how "deep is the well of the past" (Thomas Mann) doesn't bother me. I might as well let my faith be shaken by the knowledge that "noon" in Minneapolis doesn't happen at the same time as "noon" in London or Bangkok.

The awesome scale of God's creation, as discovered in the last century or so, can be breathtaking. It also seems quite consistent with believing that God is all-powerful:
So what if Adam and Eve got evicted from Eden long before Sumerians developed a method for recording business transactions? I think it shows something about what's important, and has been from our beginning.

Kids, Remember This - - -

I've told my children part of what learned from my parents: but not everything. Some things were important in my youth, but not so much now. I'm sure that I've forgotten some of the tidbits of knowledge I received.

I remembered 'the important stuff,' though, and made sure that my kids learned it. I'm sure that my parents did the same for me, and their parents before them.

Knowledge can be lost that way. But one memory was so important that it was passed along for thousands of generations.

We once were in harmony with God, but chose to disobey.

Fallen, Not Forgotten

There's quite a bit more about original sin and creation's 'back story' in this part of the Catechism:
  • Fallen Angels
    (Catechism, 391-395)
  • Friendship, freedom, and God
    (Catechism, 396)
  • Our first sin
    (Catechism, 397-401)
  • Consequences of Adam's sin
    (Catechism, 402-406)
  • "A hard battle . . ."
    (Catechism, 407-409)
  • We're fallen, not forgotten
    (Catechism, 410-412)
We are a fallen people, unable to return to harmony with creation, ourselves, and God by ourselves. (Catechism, 400) Happily, we don't have to pull ourselves up 'by our bootstraps.' God never forgot us, and that's - yet again another topic.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.