Monday, July 19, 2010

Sermon Scraps: Envy and Original Sin

On Sunday I preached my second sermon in this series about the 7 deadly sins. Here is what I have experienced thus far:

First, this series is not as easy I thought it would be to write. I was fond of making fun of my friend Paul and his love of acrostics in sermons, saying they were the easy way out. The truth is, it’s pretty difficult to make up acrostics. If ever Paul comes out of hiding, I’ll be sure to apologize to him for that.

Secondly, the statistics I look up each week break my heart. I didn’t include any stats in this week’s sermon. There were just too many choices and the numbers, while true, are unbelievable.

Thirdly, when my buddy Paul preached this series, he said he didn’t grow tired of it. Usually, I can go for a 4 or 5 part series before I get sick of whatever topic I’m covering. Unlike Paul, I’m not sure I’m not going to grow weary of this series before it ends. I’m not tired of it yet, but 7 is a lot of sermons on sin.

On to other topics . . .

After church on Sunday, Walt caught me and offered me a suggestion. In my sermon , I said that I believed the most obvious action of envy was theft. I still stand by that. Envy is not just that I want what you have, but I also don’t want you to have it. Walt offered that vandalism is another obvious action of envy. Very true, and a great insight. Often vandals are more interested in the destruction they can create (if I can use that word for it), than the object they are defaming. In any case, it is a matter of causing pain or anxiety or a great deal of clean-up work for another.

My final thoughts about this week:

I talked to Br. Scot this week, and as usual, we embarked on a serious and meandering theological discussion, this time about original sin (How strange).

We are born into sin. We are born into dysfunctional families (All families have some level of dysfunction, whether we admit it or not). We are born into a world that hurts us out of its own hurt – continuing cycles of poverty, addiction, and abuse. This is where I left my credo and where I left my commissioning question initially. And while I agree with all of this, I am left feeling as though I haven’t fully described original sin.

Like Scot, I am finding myself more and more frustrated that Augustine was not as wrong as I first thought. I believe that original sin is something with which we are born, not just born into. We are born incapable of not sinning. This is not to say that we are born evil, but we are not born knowing how to do what is right. God’s grace, from even before we are born, comes to us through different media and takes away our bent to sinning (to borrow a phrase from our beloved Charles Wesley). This leads me to wonder, however, if original sin is internal, as I have just described it, is it a design flaw? Shouldn’t a good God have created us without sin? Shouldn’t a good God have been able to create us without sin? Is it a matter of God’s ability?

I’m asking these questions to start a discussion. I hope it works.


  1. Discussion started...

    Which came first, the declaration of the goodness or its breaking?

    Should which came first matter in this conversation?

    Does the plausibility structure ("meta-meme") behind evolutionary theory (and also much psychology and cognitive theory but in different ways) purporting some sort of mythos of "adaptation = survival => thriving" leave any room for the coherence of notions of sin as foundational to self-understanding or understanding of ourselves relative to others (God, earth, people)?

    Might this meta-meme (also embedded in process theology) be creating an almost insurmountable cognitive dissonance with Christian theologies of original sin? For is the question moral agency, or even agency at all?

    From a scientific perspective, we're clearly not born knowing how to live well in our particular cultures. Those skills are up to our cultures to teach us.

    But should such a lack of initial knowledge and skill which COULD be supplied over time by culture be equated with something like sin?

    Or is the scientific account missing something critical about our situation that only something like a concept of sin can supply?

  2. Ah! The original sin question - gotta love it! Were Adam and Eve "born" with original sin? Or, were they "created" with the capacity to make their own choices - out of which we human beings became sinful? Is sin an action or a state of being or both? Perhaps the original sin is that we are incapable of sustaining a relationship with God or anything else on our own. Perhaps being born in, out of, within, consumed by or whatever term you use is actually a GOOD thing in that our "original sinfulness" ultimately leads us to God.

    Just thinkin' out-loud here.

  3. The question becomes, is God perfect? My answer is no, God is imperfect and that imperfection is what makes God perfect. His imperfections are reflected in Man as we are made in his image (and He in our image.)