Monday, February 20, 2012

Ask the Religion Experts: Are people inherently sinful?

Rev. KEVIN FLYNN is an Anglican priest and director of the Anglican studies program at Saint Paul University.

Whatever their differences, all the great spiritual traditions of the world agree that human beings, as they are commonly found, are not what they are intended to be. Christians believe that people are created in the image and likeness of God, but like a cracked mirror, we give back a marred and distorted reflection. The story of Adam and Eve is the story of all of us. We all carry a memory, as it were, of a paradise, of a happiness and wholeness that might have been, could be, but is forever escaping us, like a dream disappearing at the break of day.

To say that we are “inherently” sinful would be to deny the goodness of God’s creation. In fact, however, human beings do sin, do fall short of the ideal. Why this is so is a mystery. Perhaps the cause lies in the tensions of human freedom, where the possibility of wrong choice always is found. Anyone can relate to St. Paul’s experience: “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want ... it is no longer I that do but sin that dwells in me ...” Rom 7: 14-25

The story of Adam and Eve — our story where something went terribly wrong after dinner one day in the garden, is redeemed and healed by God’s initiative in sending to all humanity prophets and sages who point the way back home to God. Christians believe that in Jesus we can encounter not only the model and image of the full human life, but one who gives the power to experience a recreation of our broken humanity. As the fathers of the Church taught repeatedly, God became a human being so that we might become divine. Keep reading

Compare the views expressed in this article with the view expressed in the ACNA "theological lens" and the view expressed in the Thirty-Nine Articles. Of the views expressed in the article and the ACNA "theological lens," who comes closest to the view of the Thirty-Nine Articles. Note the Thirty-Nine Articles link is to Philip Edgcombe Hughes' Restatement of the Thirty-Nine Articles in Today's English on the Church of England in South Africa website.

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