Sin Bearer II

The question, from my Muslim friend, was as follows:

I have perused the section in Galatians. I was intrigued by the verse that talks about everyone being responsible for their own load, and perplexed as the very foundation of Christianity is the belief in Christ bearing the burden of our sins. If you would clarify for me, I would appreciate it.

Neil Remington Abramson has previously responded, at my request; I’m in no zone to speak about these things. He later commented further (reproduced with permission):

Of course He died for our sins. That is the theology. I hear it in church every week. As with all things, then there is the interpretation. I can only offer my own, derived from others with the authority I lack.

I think Augustine said He saved us from our original sin, that we are all born with. Original sin is the human inclination to prefer our own will over God’s. It is Adam’s sin, repeated in every human born since. Likely genetic.

In earlier times, and I empathize with it, Christians believed that since Christ died for our sins, we participate in his crucifixion, even now, and constantly. When I am sinning, I am a cause of Christ being crucified. There is a painting of The Crucifixion in Munich, painted by Rembrandt, where he has painted his face as the one guiding the cross into the ground. Even if everyone else were perfect, Christ would still be crucified because of me alone – for the sake of the one lost sheep he intends to save, 2000 years after his death.

And one must remember Christ is God, born as a human and not aware he is God, so suffering as a human, he understands human life and suffering with an empathy that understands the need for forgiveness, with repentance. So Christ humanizes God, because God has come to participate, to understand better what humanity is all about. His response is to forgive, even those who are torturing Him when he is blameless. And the Holy Spirit is the spirit of God, actively intervening for God, daily, in the world. It came after Christ was removed to Heaven, as part of God. So this is the Trinity.

And there is also the Judaic sense, where he is the sacrificial lamb, upon whom the sins of the people are loaded, and the lamb is cast out, and the people are freed of their accumulated burden to start again. And He functions in this role once and for all, but also weekly, as one tries but fails over and over to live according to the eternal values, blamelessly and in faith.

What an outsider might regard as a “contradiction”, the insider receives in the spirit of faithfulness. I find that the more complicated and precise the explanation, the less light is shed, or perhaps as Jung said, the brighter the light, the darker the shadows. Human understanding is in itself a limitation, and intellect often less incisive than intuition.

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2 Responses to Sin Bearer II

  1. On November 7, 2011, Jane commented as follows (e-mail correspondence reproduced with permission):

    Read the latest blog posts and thought of Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical Letter, FIDES ET RATIO:

    “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves (cf. Exodus 33:18; Psalm 27:8-9; Psalm 63:2-3; John 14:8; 1 John 3:2).”

    “But our vision of the face of God is always fragmentary and impaired by the limits of our understanding. Faith alone makes it possible to penetrate the mystery in a way that allows us to understand it coherently.”

    Or, as a parish priest once said more simply, “Faith is there to explain what is not rationally explicable.” Or, as U2 says, “We are going to a place that has to be believed in to be seen”:

  2. On November 8, 2011, Neil Remington Abramson commented as follows (e-mail correspondence reproduced with permission):

    Jane’s comments are interesting, especially the reference to the wings. So often reason and intuition are like gliders, in the sense that one only relies on reason (Kant, Aquinas) or intuition (Scheler? Kierkegaard? – “?” to connote only a preferential leaning). I suppose the point of the wings is their complementarity and coordination. It’s a good point!

    On the other hand, I suspect St. Paul has “reason” in mind, when he speaks in 1 Corinthans about the “wisdom of the wise” coming to nothing. But I speak without authority, and my predilection for Kierkegaard and Scheler may typecast my observation.

    I am likely a very field independent person. I would prefer authenticity if I can achieve it. I find Sartre very appealing, except his atheism. I have chosen to follow God. I would rather offer no excuses or justifications. I stand over against the crowd, as best I can, so I am not a Christian who secedes my personal responsibility to the Christian community.

    Without God, I see my life, my actions, and the world as essentially meaningless, in its apparent relativity. God and the eternal values are the eidos underlying all appearances. I have prayed for faith, above all, and hope and love. At least faith and hope have been granted. As for love, the fruit comes at the end of the season.

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