Saturday, February 24, 2007

The problem of sin nature ("So, what of sanctification")

It's disturbing to me that many tend to equate "sin nature" to "human nature". I can say it no more plainly - This is destructive.

Case in point - it is completely in my nature to want to give my girls big hugs and praise them when they've done well. It s completely in my nature to want to want to be intimate with my wife. Most people would believe these things are good.

It is also completely within my nature to occasionally want to kick someone in the teeth, or be intimate with women who aren't, in fact, my wife. The vast bulk of those who make up any sort of moral standard distribution in the bell curve sense related to this certainly agree that these things would be BAD.

I am able, without too much undue intellectual exertion, to think of twopossibilities; the evolutionary and the religious.

1 - evolutionary: Humanity has evolved a nature without any intervening divinity. Because of interactions between the actions brought about by this nature and the environment in which my ancestors lived, certain traits have led to more success in survival and the production of offspring than have others.

Due to the complexities inherent in the higher order species, these traits are, at time, at odds one with another. Example - most modern human males experience a tension between the urge to spread the genes (not my wife) vs. nurture existing offspring and strengthen family (wife). These dual options present the tension between quality vs. quantity, and are further complicated by the evolution of predatory species which use our reproductive traits against us, much in the same way a hunter would use deer musk.

In this model, right and wrong are simply constructs of our highly evolved social nature that we have superimposed over an essentially a-moral process.

2 - religious: Jeanie's explanation is one of the more sensible treatments of the sin nature that I've encountered.

She seems to be proffering (at the risk or speaking for her by elaborating on her assertions) that sin nature is a specific subset of human nature. More explicitly, it is a tendency to self-centered behaviors that are not only destructive to the community, but either directly or indirectly to one's self. The sin nature is, therefore, the egocentricity with which we are all born.

It is not difficult to recognize the process of socialization that begins shortly after birth, during which we learn empathy for others and are taught things like how to live with one another, good citizenship, etc. It seems obvious to me that this is not a spiritual or religious process, at least not in the strictest sense, although it could be argued that it is in the sense that absolutely everything bout a homo religiousous (humanity) is in some way religious or spiritual.

If we accept Jeannie's definition of the sin nature, and accept that the religious experience is essentially that of the subverting of the sin nature to something higher, where does that leave us?

It would seem that this is a long lived process, essentially spanning religious and non-religious activities and, in most cases I'm sure, the vast bulk of one's years on earth. Some are extremely successful (Mother Theresa, for example), and others fail miserably.

So, what factors play into this process? How much is rooted in the spiritual, and how much the biological? (or, is there even a distinction to be made?)

And, if this is a process, what is to be made of this crazy doctrine of sanctification?

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