Wednesday, March 31

Further reflections on Tomorrow's Catholic

So, I've been thinking (dangerous words, I realise).

The SCM (Standard Christian Model) sets the individual as a craven person from birth, unable to overcome his baser instincts and fundamentally unworthy to receive the mercy of the Divine, who is justified to pour wrath and misery upon them. There is no way for a person, without the mercy of the Divine, to enter a state of Grace. That means that a person is stumbling about in the dark, constantly being without any personal value and living in the hope that, at the end of days, some celestial accountant will note that they said enough prayers, apologized enough and performed enough good deeds to put their ledger sheet in the black. The SCM allows God, through his son, to put a thumb on the scales, but there are provisos with that as well.

Morwood's thesis is simple and yet shifts the theological paradigm. Note I don't use phrases like that, so I really DO mean it.

The Divine resides within all creation, which includes each and every one of us, so every person is born in a state of Grace. You START as worthy. Our spiritual journey isn't a matter of reconciliation, but of reconnection...not a matter of learning an untold number of arcane rules, but unlearning the selfish and short-sighted behaviours which are societally taught and embracing the basic idea that you should 'be excellent to one another' ('s perfectly valid and reasonable, despite the origin of the phrase).

This also means our own salvation is our own personal responsibility. With the lack of 'Original sin', everyone starts with a green-light. It is only by purposely and willingly turning away from the Divine do we get 'into trouble'. A note on that....I agree with the Angelic Doctor, who said that for sin to be real, one must understand/recognize the error. If I, through action or inaction, cause someone else harm and I have no knowledge of it, then there is no sin there.

That said, if the action/inaction is willful, and the individual wishes to cause that sort of harm, I would argue that the error has been made regardless of the outcome. Do not mistake this for Deontological ethics, however, for there is no specific 'duty' or 'moral code' that a person must follow. This brings things around to virtue ethics, where the individual's internal qualities drive their actions, not any perceived requirements. I recognize that this sounds like a bunch of malarkey, but I'll put it in simple terms.

I do what is right...
not because of what it will do for me,
not because others have told me that it is right,
not because it is expected of me,
not because that's the way it has always been.

I do what is right because, after examination, I know that it is right.

In short, the onus for 'being good' is on us. If we're unkind or cruel, thoughtless or's not the fault of God, Eve, the Devil, our priest or our parents. Society isn't to blame, nor are "the times". It is our responsibility. How's that for an empowering...and unpopular...notion?


  1. Hi Tim! Welcome to the God-blogging world. I especially like your Ratzinger piece.

    A thought on Morwood: I haven't read this book but I have been reading a lot of Judaism and Islam this term as I have been teaching world religions....And my understanding is that original sin is pretty much a Christian thing that they don't really agree with, having very different exegeses of Genesis and no Paul to read it through....In fact I was blown away to learn that in the Qur'anic view Adam and Eve made a mistake (no extra blame for her), repented, and God being loving and merciful immediately forgave them! Very different than the millenia of burning babies....As an aside I do actually believe in original sin but not at all in that way, more of a dysfunctional family generational patterns model....

  2. Thanks and welcome to my brain. :)

    I was unaware that the Christians were the ones who 'invented' the whole Original Sin thing. Thank you for the correction. I have edited the post to reflect that.

    I would be interested to know more about your concept of original sin.

    Again, thank you for the kind comments.

  3. My pleasure.

    I should probably blog about original sin sometime. I hear in you the kind of prophetic impatience with easy answers and lax Christianity (the devil/Eve/whoever made me do it) that fueled Pelagius, who gets a bad rap.

    I guess I kind of agree with C.S. Lewis that it's the one empirically verifiable doctrine of Christianity! (And like him both from looking in my own heart and history, sigh, and from that of the whole world). Not to see God/dess as blaming or judging or refusing to forgive without a horrific blood sacrifice...and not in the sense of excusing actual sins on my own or others' parts. More in the sense of the way we hurt each other so deeply, even in our most loving relationships, in part out of choice and in part out of our own deep wounds passed on from those who were also acting out of a mysterious mix of choice and wounds inflicted on them. The generational patterns of abuse and addiction are the closest metaphor, I guess. The experience of so much of my own healing being knowing my own goodness and belovedness by God/dess and creation in Her image...and yet also experiencing, like Paul, that often I do not do the good I long for and I do the evil I don't. Yet with him experiencing the love and compassion and transforming power of Christ and the Holy Spirit as well, and hoping it will make me, eventually, loving and compassionate with other sinner as well.

    Don't know if that helps at all...If nothing else, you can probably tell that I went to Confession yesterday! Tears of sorrow and joy mixed--I love my sweet old AngloCatholic rector.

    Easter blessings to you, your gal, your guy, and all the critters!

  4. *grins sheepishly* I have done a fair bit of studying of the early Church (pre-600s) and you're very right in that Pelagius' big sin is that he crossed the one theologian who had the ear of the Pope. Further, I admit that at least part of my present thoughts on this whole matter have evolved from a rejection of Augustinian/Calvinistic TULIP thought. A good portion of what I read in the gospels point towards a lot of self-responsibility and such which was never a part of the catechism when I was confirmed.

    As to your thoughts, I've written my reflections on your comments. Please correct me if I'm off-center here.

    There are two parts of what form who we are - our 'nature' (the internally driven, genetically-induced potential) and our 'nurture' (the externally derived,environmentally-induced training).

    Our 'nature', which includes being made in the image of the Divine, is not sinful. Rather, it is the 'nurture' which we receive by those around us, from family and friends to community and, most generally, society, that drives our definitions of and propensity to sin. As it is exceptionally difficult (if not impossible) to exist without these things, it is arguably impossible to exist without the seeds of sin being sown within us.

    I would, however, point out that those seeds are not inherent within ourselves (which was made by a perfect Creator), but are inherent in the communities, as imperfect humans, create. Even more important is the lesson of the human Jeshua bin Joseph which is that one can, as a human being, live in a sinful world without sinning.

    This thought process and the discussion thereof should fill point 3 of my Credo thread(once I get to penning them all).