- Religion and Philosophy
Spiritual - Sin and the Bible
You must know that my thoughts on this matter come from a relatively distant and ignorant point of view as I do not speak Hebrew or Greek. I have not read the entire Bible. I've discussed a few Biblical passages with those who are educated in the matter, but for the most part, I come to you with an opinion driven by the limits of my own pure thought of a religion that originated thousands of years ago, in a foreign land with it's teachings translated into the language of my birth. Nothing I say can be taken as Gospel (I always fall back on the old saying of Lao Tzu: "The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao"), but I feel the need to articulate my personal feelings on the matter.
From what I understand, Original Sin has its roots in Adam and Eve's fall from grace. When they disobeyed God, they became labeled as sinners and we have been living with this legacy ever since. Some people believe mankind has a collective guilt for the original "fall" while others do not believe in the collective guilt, but believe that Original Sin means we are born sinners (we have a dark side) and begin our life in need of repentance from God. It's as if we inherited sin in our DNA. In other words, we can't help being sinners any more than we can help being a man or a woman. It's in our nature. We are easily tempted and are drawn towards things that we know are unhealthy, unwise or just plain hurtful to others. The question is why? Is it because of the doctrine of Original Sin? Is it the devil? Is it learned? Why is it so difficult to "do good" all the time?
Of course, these are deep questions and you might say, "speak for yourself, Mark." So, yes, I must admit at this point that I have a very hard time doing good all the time. But why is that? Someone might say "it's because you are selfish, Mark." But, why am I selfish? It seems there is something deeper than the symptom of my failings. I understand that many things deemed "sinful" or "bad" actually feel good or can provide things that make me happy, but why is it that I might prefer to take a shortcut to the happy times or pursue something that makes me happy all the time, even if I achieve these things "the wrong way?" Am I that desperate to live in my perceived state of bliss regardless of the admonitions of those wiser than I? Or am I just genetically predisposed to relish the dark side due to the failings of the biblical story of Adam and Eve? And is the story of Adam and Eve just a figurative narrative designed to alert us to the perils that lay within each and everyone of us?
Regardless of all these questions, the fact remains that, at one time or another, we have all behaved in a way that could be labeled as less than perfect. Ok, so what? Is it just a matter of degree or should we pursue perfection at all times? I don't intend to "do bad" when I wake up each morning, but at the end of the day, there invariably is something that I would like to "do over." We are all under stress from work, lack of sleep, our shortcomings and the like and these things combine to work against us. So, when I do something less than perfect is it because of the stresses of life or is it that mysterious Original Sin rearing it's ugly head? In other words, "did the devil make me do it?"
As I get older I personally feel the devil angle is a cop-out of epic proportions. I know the difference between right and wrong. I know the difference between helping and hurting someone. At this point, it's on me. But, is it merely because I have the strength to "fight the devil" or is it because I've done what everyone should do: look in the mirror? This is not to say that I am perfect; it is to say that I have no excuses for my actions.
As I've aged (as opposed to matured) I've become acutely aware how my selfishness can hurt others along with myself. I didn't see this when I was a boy, a teenager or even (especially) when I was in college. I just reacted to what I wanted. There was something inside of me that drove me in the wrong direction so many times. Where did this come from? Not from my parents. They provided me with every proper example a child should receive. Yet, I still was tempted and acted on that temptation. So, it became a matter of getting a handle on the direction of my wants. But, unfortunately, I had to suffer the consequences of my actions many times before I could gain control. But why did I not recognize this earlier in my life? The inner forces that drive my selfish desires remain. I still like what I like. The desire to please myself has not rescinded it's demands, yet I have the strength, at times , to say no.
The interesting thing is that as I typed about my apparent control over temptation, I was thinking "who are you kidding?" I realized that I was comparing today's control over the control exhibited by a child. As an adult, I am measured against a different standard and I realize my control is still far short of what it could be.
So, I find myself back to where I started. Am I wholly inadequate because of a dark nature eminating from Original Sin? The devil? The fact that I am just a human being regardless of the origins of my existence? It seems I cannot succeed in life. I can make money; make someone laugh; buy a present for a child; but I cannot achieve anything regarded as holy. So, do I need an advocate? Or am I doomed? Can I speak to God personally or do I need a proxy? It is at this point that I wonder about the need for Jesus. The story say's he died for our sins. He supposedly paid our debt to God because we do not have the holy capital to pay for our wretchedness. But, am I to avert my eyes from God? Do I have to shift my loyalty to Jesus? Is this not a form of idle worship? Are we worshipping God or Jesus?
I want to talk to God directly. I want to understand why I am the way I am instead of just pleading guilty via my lawyer (Jesus). I may or may not have this option, but it seems to me that I should stand forward and receive my judgement. I understand the Christian argument that I cannot earn my way to heaven and that grace is my only option. But, I feel this let's me off the hook. Somehow, I have to have a greater force to change my ways. The free gift of paradise makes it seem as if I can have my cake and eat it too. But, maybe this is the difficulty of Christian doctrine. Saying "I accept Jesus" and all will be well seems too easy. Maybe the real answer is this: God knows your heart. If you repent, he will know even if we mere mortals remain skeptical. Frankly, our skepticism is meaningless if God really exists because we are not asked to judge or advocate on behalf of one another. We are merely luckless pedestrians (Steely Dan reference). So, the death row conversion may seem unfair to you and I, but God knows if this person has suffered. The death row conversion is truly a bitter pill to swallow by those who have suffered at the hands of the murderer, but we are not wise in the ways of Godly forgiveness and rehabilitation. We only dream and poorly conceive of heaven. We know nothing of the transition from this world to the next. So, as Jesus said: "render unto Caesar that which is Caesars' and render unto God that which is God's."
I know that I am human. Tomorrow I will fail someone. I will not blame them for unreasonable expectations. I have to ask myself why it is that I cannot perfect myself as an adult. I am the only one who can do this. Continuously blaming others only delays what might be the true bliss of life: the blessing of giving...