Kierkegaard on the Mystery of Sin

Blocher Original Sin Henri Blocher discusses the annoying oversimplifications that have gone into understanding how original sin is transmitted. He offers this quote from Soren Kierkegaard, intended to add a little respect to a difficult topic:

“Sin is precisely what cannot be conceived of and penetrated, the riddle of the world, because it is the groundless thing, a gratuitous interruption.” as cited in Blocher, Original Sin: Illuminating the Riddle, pg. 108

Sin is mysterious because there is no need for it in the world, thus it is always an interloper, and that makes it harder to understand how it works. And that should encourage humility in our reflections on it.

The Mystery of Humanness

Blocher Original Sin “In order to relieve the tension [in identifying the source of evil in humanity], some criticize on epistemological grounds the unwarranted ‘reductionism’ often associated with scientific method. Human being transcends what ‘controlling knowledge’ can apprehend; experience witnesses, for those who have ears to hear, to the mystery of humanness, to the person as homo absconditus (whether there be a ‘hidden God’ or not)…

I suggest the duality of experience is better explained by the doctrine of original sin. It teaches both personal responsibility (‘I am a man of unclean lips’) and social conditioning and solidarity (‘and I dwell among a people of unclean lips;’ Is. 6:5). Henri Blocher, Original Sin: Illuminating the Riddle, pp. 94.

Nature or Nurture? The Mystery of Humanity and the Duality of Sin

Blocher Original Sin“The starting-point, the riddle, is found in the entanglement of social factors and individual spontaneity is the common experience of evil. For centuries, or millennia, no-one doubted that misconduct was to be blamed on, and chastized in the person of, the subject. We moderns, however, have grown more and more conscious of the social ‘conditioning’ of individual behavior—to the extent that behavior may appear, in deterministic fashion, to be the mere result of objective factors and of their interplay..The net result is that individual responsibility almost vanishes.

But it cannot vanish. The sense of free agency, of being the source of one’s actions through personal choice, is also a fact of experience. We cannot repress it. Modern individualism actually heightens this sense to an extreme degree. We are caught between the tide of [social] determinism and the cult of the autonomous self.

In order to relieve the tension, some criticize on epistemological grounds the unwarranted ‘reductionism’ often associated with scientific method. Human being transcends what ‘controlling knowledge’ can apprehend; experience witnesses, for those who have ears to hear, to the mystery of humanness, to the person as homo absconditus (whether there be a ‘hidden God’ or not)…

I suggest the duality of experience is better explained by the doctrine of original sin. It teaches both personal responsibility (‘I am a man of unclean lips’) and social conditioning and solidarity (‘and I dwell among a people of unclean lips;’ Is. 6:5). Henri Blocher, Original Sin: Illuminating the Riddle, pp. 94-95.

The Problem with Dualism

Blocher Original Sin“Actually, dualism turns evil into a metaphysical principle, equal ultimately with good. Dualism grants evil a place with good, within some kind of order. Indignation at its presence thus becomes pointless. Berkouwer makes the incisive comment: ‘Dualism is only a cosmic excuse in metaphysical garb.’ But sin in experience and in the doctrine of original sin is literally atopos–a word used in the New Testament for people who behave ‘out of order,’ with malignant motives (2 Thess. 3:2).” Henri Blocher, Original Sin: Illuminating the Riddle, pg. 93

BW COMMENT: What this means is that if one holds to a dualistic view of good and evil, as always eternally present, battle with evil becomes pointless because you can never defeat. All concern for justice is a fruitless waste of time and contrary to the very fabric of the universe, itself. For good to truly be a purposeful endeavor, evil must be an intruder in the world.

Illustrations: Original Sin

Blocher Original SinCorruptio optimi pessima, ‘the corruption of the best is the worst.’ In Shakespeare’s words, ‘Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.’ It could well be the secret meaning of ‘Antichrist,’ I would suggest; anti-Christianity is post-Christian sinfulness, which uses the riches of Christ to fuel and intensify human rebellion against God.” Henri Blocher, Original Sin: Illuminating the Riddle, pg. 92

Blaise Pascal on Original Sin

Blocher Original Sin “The transmission of sin seems to us not only impossible, it even seems very unjust; for what could be more contrary to the rules of our sorry justice than the eternal damnation of a child incapable of willpower for a sin in which he seems to have played so small a part, and which was committed six thousand years before he was born? Nothing, to be sure, is more of a shock than such a doctrine and yet, without this mystery, which is the most incomprehensible of all, we should be incomprehensible to ourselves. The tangled knot of our condition acquired its twists and turns in that abyss; so that man is more inconceivable without the mystery than the mystery is to the man.” As cited in Henri Blocher, Illuminating the Riddle: Original Sin, pg. 84.

BW Comment: I don’t take Pascal to be saying the reality of original sin is truly unfair and unjust, but simply that it is shocking. And yet once the shock wears off, we realize that without a (shocking) doctrine like original sin, very little about us makes much sense.