Saturday, February 21, 2009

Are we all evil?

Increasingly, thinking Christians are beginning to wonder whether the concept of 'original sin' has had its day. I'm certainly confident that as an evangelistic strategy, the message that 'you are entrenched in evil from birth' is not going to be a successful starting point for conversations with most people today.

To be absolutely clear, I'm not saying that there isn't an important element of truth in this doctrine. Most honest (or sane) people will acknowledge that their best efforts are often marred by imperfection. Too often are we haunted by temptations to do something that we probably think we ought not do. The weight of self-consciousness and the burden of human moral choice can indeed be equated with the idea that 'all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God'.

However, it is perhaps long past time to wonder whether this should be the singular lens through which Christians view the human condition. I would argue that not only does it decrease our capacity to dialogue with sensible 21st century people, but it doesn't even do justice to a wider reading of the Biblical record. Given that most Christians would say that the idea of original sin is based on the story of Adam and Eve, would it surprise you to know that Jewish people do not share this concept? How is it that Christians came to think that we had a better understanding of Genesis than Jews? How have we lost sight of the blessing of creation and the judgement that it was good? (For more on this, read Matthew Fox's book 'Original Blessing').

We cannot continue to ignore the psychology behind our beliefs and the potential for overzealous interpretations to unwittingly harm the vulnerable. The reality of human sin is clear, but do we in fact do ourselves a disservice if we only allow the gospel to be heard in this single context?


Anonymous said...

For some reason your comment brings to mind the following song I heard on the radio recently,

"Lazy Jesus" by "Nashville Pussy"

See a version here:

JDK said...

It's hard to make out the lyrics in the YouTube clip but it's ok, I don't feel like I'm missing out too much. Not really my style of music :-)

Anonymous said...

Another good book to read in regards to this issue is Harold Kushner, "How Good Do We Have To Be?"