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Falling into Freedom: Searching for New Interpretations of Sin in a Secular Society*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 January 2009

Mary Grey
Affiliation:
La Sainte Union CollegeThe Avenue Southampton S09 5HB Hants.

Extract

‘Whatever became of sin?’ – the title of American psychiatrist Kark Menninger's book – encapsulates the problem with which I begin. That there is appalling suffering today, organized crime on a scale which almost defies analysis – and certainly detection! – moral evil in a variety of repugnant forms and so-called ‘natural’ catastrophes which threaten the very continuation of human life on our planet, is beyond dispute. But ‘sin’? Is sinfulness still an accepted category in our society for eidier religious believer or nonbeliever? It is hard to accept that when Professor Kerkhofs (from the University of Leuven, Belgium), surveyed the attitudes on sin and guilt of European Christians in 1985, 40% of those interviewed admitted that they had never experienced any feelings of regret about their actions! There is a double tendency prevailing with regard to responsibility for acknowledged wrongdoing: increasing sense of diminished responsibility for crime seeks either to scapegoat a certain sector of the populace as blameworthy, or attempts are made to cope with criminal damage – for example, injuries sustained by drink-driving – by assessing it in exclusively (reductive) monetary terms.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Scottish Journal of Theology Ltd 1994

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References

1 Menninger, Kark, Whatever Became of Sin? London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1973.Google Scholar

2 See The Tablet, 26 February 1985.

3 The phrase is the tide of Rich's, Adrienne collection of poems, The Dream of a Common Language, New York, W. & W. Norton, 1978.Google Scholar

4 The late Professor P. Fransen of Leuven University, Belgium, is the author of The New Life of Grace, London, Chapman 1969, tr. by Dupont, G.Google Scholar, and for many years his numerous courses on ‘The Theology of Grace’ were a prominent feature of Leuven student life.

5 ‘God's son fell with Adam, into the valley of the womb of the maiden who was the fairest daughter of Adam, and that was to excuse Adam from blame in heaven and on earth…’ Julian, of Norwich, , Long Text, 51, p. 274Google Scholar, in Showings, tr. Colledge, E.O.S.A, and Walsh, JamesS.J., , Classics of Western Spirituality, London, SPCK and New York, Paulist Press, 1978.Google Scholar

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15 ibid., p. 285.

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17 See Constance Fitzgerald, , ‘Impasse and the Dark Night’, in Women's Spirituality: Resources for Christian Development, ed. Conn, Joann Wolski, New Jersey, Paulist Press, 1986, pp. 287311Google Scholar; Suchocki, Marjorie, Sin in a Relational World, in God, Christ and Church: A Practical Guide to Process Theology, New York, Cross roads, 1989.Google Scholar

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19 Cited in Kirkham, Dominic, A New European Awakening, The Month, November 1991, p. 471.Google Scholar

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25 Cf Redeeming the Dream, op cit., p. 17: ‘The Danish philosopher Kierkegaard was apparently aware that there was a difference. The two forms of sin, he noted, were the sin of weakness and the sin of defiance: ‘the one form is, so to speak, the despair of womanliness, the other of manliness’. See The Sickness unto Death, New York, Doubleday 1951, tr. Lown, V., pp. 183184Google Scholar. On the question of whether despair is sin, see Bringle, Mary Louise, Despair, Sickness or Sin? Nashville, Abingdon, 1900Google Scholar. For Williams, Daniel Day, see The Spirit and the Forms of Love. Welwyn. James Nisbet, 1968.Google Scholar

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28 Cited by Daphne Hampson, op cit., p. 124. The citation is from Vaughan, Judith, Sociality, Ethics and Social Change: A Critical Appraisal of Reinhold Niebuhr in the Light of Rosemary Ruether's works, Lanham MD, University of America Press 1983.Google Scholar

29 ‘This, above all to choose not to be victim’ was the conclusion of the protagonist of Attwood's, Margaret novel Surfacing, London, Virago, 1979, p. 191Google Scholar. The rejection of victim status remains an important part of the ‘quest for self in the feminist theological canon.

30 Katie Canon, Black Womanist Ethics, op cit, is quoting Fisher, Dexter ed., The Third Woman: Minority Writers of the United States, Boston, Houghton Mifflin 1980, p. 139.Google Scholar

31 Thistlethwaite, Susan, Sex, Race and God, London, Chapman, 1990, p. 82Google Scholar, discussing Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, op cit., p. 132.

32 See Grey, M., Augustine and the Legacy of Guilt, New Blackfriars, 70/832/Nov. 1989/pp. 476488.Google Scholar

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34 Cited from Wehr, Dernaris S., Jung and Feminism: Liberating Archetypes, London, Routledge, 1988Google Scholar, Ch. 6, ‘Analytical Psychology Through a Feminist Lens’, pp. 99–126.

35 Daly, Mary, Beyond God The Father, Boston, Beacon, 1973, (reissued 1985 with original re-introduction), p. 647.Google Scholar

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37 See Daly's third and fourth books, Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism, London, The Women's Press, 1979Google Scholar; Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy, London, The Women's Press, 1984.Google Scholar

38 Here I follow the work of Scherzberg, Lucia, Sunde und Gnade in der Feministischen Theologie, Mainz, Grunewald, 1991.Google Scholar

39 See Heyward, Carter, The Redemption of God, Washington DC, University of America Press, p. 162.Google Scholar

40 Pagels, Elaine, Adam, Eve and the Serpent, London, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1988Google Scholar, Ch. V, The Politics of Paradise, pp. 98–126; Ch. VI, The Nature of Nature, pp. 127–150. For critical reaction to her argument, see O'Connell, R. J., in TS 50/1/1989/p. 201Google Scholar, and Quispel, Gillies in Vigiliae Christianae 43/1/1989/pp. 100103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

41 Ruether, Rosemary, ‘Dualism and the Nature of Evil in Feminist Theology’, paper delivered to Society for the Study of Christian Ethics, September 1991 in Studies in Christian Ethics, Vol. 5, 1, 1992.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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45 See for example, Moore, Sebastian, Original Sin, Resurrection and Trinity, Lonergan Workshop 4/1983/pp. 8598Google Scholar; Soelle, Dorothee, To Work and To Love: A Theology of Creation, Philadelphia, Fortress, 1984, Chs. 1–3.Google Scholar

46 Scarry, Elaine, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World, New York and Oxford, OUP, 1985.Google Scholar

47 ibid., p. 137.

48 See Nussbaum, Martha, The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy, Cambridge, CUP, 1986, p. 79.Google Scholar

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