lyef & thymes

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Niebuhr's thoughts on sin.

I borrowed this from my friend Ry Flyer. Check him out in my friends bar.

Whatever your views are concerning Niebuhr, his insight into the human condition must be taken into account. Check this out: "Sin is rebellion against God. If finiteness cannot be without guilt because it is mixed with freedom and stands under ideal possibilities, it cannot be without sin (in the more exact sense of the term) because man makes pretensions of being absolute in his finiteness. He tries to translate his finite existence into a more permanent and absolute form of existence. Ideally men seek to subject their arbitrary and contingent existence under the dominion of absolute reality. But practically they always mix the finite with the eternal and claim for themselves, their nation, their culture, or their class the center of existence. This is the root of all imperialism in man and explains why the restricted predatory impulses of the animal world are transmuted into the boundless imperial ambitions of human life. Thus the moral urge to establish order in life is mixed with the ambition to make oneself the center of that order; and devotion to every transcendent value is corrupted by the effort to insert the interests of the self into that value. The organizing center of life and history must transcend life and history, since everything which appears in time and history is too partial and incomplete to be its center. But man is destined, both by the imperfection of his knowledge and by his desire to overcome his finiteness, to make absolute claims for his partial and finite values. He tries, in short, to make himself God" (81-82). Niebuhr, Reinhold. An Interpretation of Christian Ethics. New York: Meridian Books, 1956.

Thus the moral urge to establish order in life is mixed with the ambition to make oneself the center of that order.

Wow, that really spits my own limitted views of the world, and my work in it in my face. In two ways really. In one way I am clearly too small in my vision of the world, in that I mostly just live with my own reflection in view, but also in that my impact on the world is so much farther reaching than I want to admit. My efforts and exertions ripple out, and changed someone else's reality, and then I cease to be the center of that ripple, and they become it. Jesus did this all the time, with an eye on the Father, and an eye on his fellow man. He never tried to be the center of his own movement. He let his message go out and change the world.

Not really gonna address what Niebuhr says about sin, because he already says it so well.


At 10:38 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey Jake-long time no see.

Yeah I definitely see what he's saying there. We claim to have a handle on absolute truth, and maybe sometimes we do, and sometimes we don't, and sometimes we act in it and sometimes we don't.

I used to think TACF was at the leading edge of what God was doing on earth today, and boy was I wrong. Then I thought Intervarsity was the leading edge of what God is doing, but that's probably still wrong. It probably has to do with Western arrogance: the "leading edge", if there is such a thing, is almost surely in Africa and Asia. Of course I can't entirely be sure...


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