Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Original Sin and the Unfairness of Gravity

The story was told about a Protestant minister, but my guess is that Catholic priests have run into similar situations - - -

As folks were leaving the church, an older member of the congregation told the minister, "I wish you'd preach more about sin!"

The minister was puzzled, since he'd been preaching about nothing but sin for weeks. Then he realized that for this person "sin" was a handful of activities that the person either didn't enjoy, couldn't participate in, or actively disliked.

Sin: Dissing God

We can decide to use our reason, pay attention to truth, and act in an ethical way. Or we can decide to do 'none of the above.' The choice is ours. I've written about free will before. (June 27, 2012; May 23, 2012)

Deciding to act against reason and truth shows disrespect toward God. It's also a bad idea. It's not that we'll 'hurt' God: but we can offend God. That sort of deliberate offense is what the Church calls "sin."

Here's a quick look at Catholic Church's definition of sin:
"SIN: An offense against God as well as a fault against reason, truth, and right conscience. Sin is a deliberate thought, word, deed, or omission contrary to the eternal law of God. In judging the gravity of sin, it is customary to distinguish between mortal and venial sins (1849, 1853, 1854)."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary)

Sin, God, and a "Distorted Image"

Sin is bad for us. Deciding to act against reason and and truth makes as much sense as walking off the top of a cliff. The physical laws of this universe apply, even if we don't believe in gravity: and eventually that exhilarating rush of air leads to whatever's at the bottom.

Ethical laws are part of this universe, and are as real as the physical ones. I've posted about natural law before. (October 16, 2010)

Ignoring natural law hurts us just as surely as ignoring gravity, although the effects generally take longer to build up.

That's not the big problem with acting "against reason, truth, and right conscience."

Sin makes a gap between us and God. Whether or not we decide to act ethically is up to us. If I decide to walk away from God, it's my decision. God isn't a sort of cosmic killjoy, waiting for a chance to 'smite the sinner' and toss some hapless victim into eternal fire. (November 20, 2010)

The Catholic Church acknowledges that folks sometimes see God as 'getting even' with us. The Church also says that this "distorted image" happened because of humanity's first refusal to obey God:
"Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness.280 They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image - that of a God jealous of his prerogatives.281"
(Catechism, 399)
Maybe giving the first humans free will, and the power to make decisions that make a difference, seems harsh. I don't see it that way, and I've been over that before, too:

Original Sin

Original sin is what got humanity into trouble. It's not the idea that God made defective people, or that we're completely bad, and - what else? That's something I've posted about before, too:
One more definition:
"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, Glossary)
Complaints about the 'unfairness' of original sin are fairly common - along with claims that God can't exist because a loving God wouldn't have made people who can think for themselves.

Oddly enough, I haven't run into the idea that gravity is unfair, and that a loving God wouldn't have created a world where folks can hurt themselves by stepping off a cliff.

Anyway, when our first parents decided to disobey God, bad things happened.


"The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul's spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination.282 Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man.283 Because of man, creation is now subject 'to its bondage to decay.'284 Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will 'return to the ground,'285 for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.286"
(Catechism, 400)
There's a lot going on in that paragraph. I think the bottom line is in the first sentence: By driving a wedge between ourselves and God, breaking a connection with our creator, the first humans destroyed "the harmony in which they had found themselves."

Right now, the universe sometimes seems like an unfriendly place. That doesn't surprise me, since I'm a Catholic. God created a good world, and (basically) good people.

We don't get along with the universe, or each other, as well as we should: but that's not God's doing, or a flaw in the cosmic design. We don't get along because the first humans broke the harmony and control that we had at the beginning.

It's not all bad news: God never 'forgot about us,' and that's almost another topic, for another post.

One more thing, and I'm done. There's a mention of "lust and domination" in Catechism, 400. American culture has good points, but we've also got seriously messed-up notions about sex. I keep posting this reality check:
Next week, I plan to write about Cain, Able, and hope.

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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.