Niebuhr on Sin

Reinhold Niebuhr
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Man is insecure and involved in natural contingency; he seeks to overcome his insecurity by a will-to-power which overreaches the limits of human creatureliness. . . . Man is ignorant and involved in the limitations of a finite mind; but he pretends he is not limited. He assumes he can gradually transcend finite limitation until his mind becomes identical with universal mind. All of his intellectual and cultural pursuits, therefore, become infected with the sin of pride. Man’s pride and will-to-power disturb the harmony of creation. The Bible defines sin in both religious and moral terms. The religious dimension of sin is man’s rebellion against God. . . . The moral and social dimension of sin is injustice. The ego which falsely makes itself the center of existence in its pride and will-to-power inevitably subordinates other life to its will and thus does injustice to other life. – Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man

The human is sinful when he or she tries to be anything more than human.

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John on purification

“5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:5-10 (NIV)

At the Easter Vigil Mass in Catholic Churches, the new paschal candle, having just been lit outside from the flames of the Easter fire, is carried into the darkened church by the priest as he sings ‘Christ our light’, signifying the resurrection of Jesus, and I believe our salvation. It is always a very spiritually powerful and beautiful statement.

Did Mary follow the Law? (Catholic doctrine)

Jesus fulfilled the Law, and the Law ended by His death and rising. Jesus was sinless and the only one who could keep the Law. To not keep the Law in the OT was a sin. Peter in Acts 15:9-11 said that no one (but Jesus) could keep the Law, and that salvation was then by faith in Jesus Christ.

Catholic doctrine is that Mary was sinless and was redeemed upon her conception, so her salvation was, according to Catholic doctrine, in advance of the death of Jesus.

If no one could perfectly keep the Law but Jesus, and Mary was sinless and already had salvation, does this mean that Mary was not required to follow the Law? By not following the Law she wouldn’t have been sinning as she would have already been living under the grace of Jesus the Son of God before the conception of Jesus.

So, is it Catholic doctrine that Mary was sinless only by the grace of God, and not by grace combined with following the Law perfectly (something she couldn’t do, as only Jesus could)?

Augustine on Moses’ Motherly Prayer

I was doing a bit of reading for the blog that I write for my church parish.  And, for today’s Old Testament lectionary reading from Exodus 32, I came across this quote from Augustine that I thought was interesting:

And in case you should suppose that he acted like this more from necessity than from charity, God actually offered him another people: “And I will make you,” he said, “into a great nation,” so leaving himself free to eliminate those others.  But Moses wouldn’t accept this: he sticks to the sinners; he prays for the sinners.  And how does he pray?  This is a wonderful proof of his love, brothers and sisters.  How does he pray?  Notice something I’ve often spoken of, how his love is almost that of a mother.  When God threatened that sacrilegious people, Moses’ maternal instincts were roused, and on their behalf he stood up to the anger of God.  “Lord,” he said, “if you will forgive them this sin, forgive; bit if not, blot me out from the book you have written.”  What sure maternal and paternal instincts, how sure his reliance, as he said this, on the justice and mercy of God!  He knew that because he is just he wouldn’t destroy a just man, and because he is merciful he would pardon sinners.

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In this episode of ER, a patient stricken with cancer is asking the hospital chaplain, who has an ‘inclusive approach to spirituality’, how he can find forgiveness for his sins – he killed someone. After hearing what he says is her “New Age, God is love, one size fits all crap” advice, he tells her –

“I want a real chaplain who believes in a real God and a real Hell” …  “I need someone who will look me in the eye and tell me how to find forgiveness, because I am running out of time”.

What would you tell him?