Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Jews never derived a concept of 'original sin' from the book of Genesis....Original sin was a Christian invention, part of their theodicy to explain the presence of evil in the world. God knows the future, so he knows in advance who will sin or not...from this idea Augustine framed the concept of 'Grace'- which was later fully developed by Calvin in the 1500's into his theory of 'Predestination'-you either had God's favor, or you didn't. Only God knew- so the virtue of 'prudence' took root- God may know who had Grace, but Man could never be sure-so lets be 'prudent' and not declare that we absolutely know the truth.
The consequence: wherever Augustine-Calvinism took hold, certainty was often kept in check by 'prudence,' and may have prevented pogroms, holocausts, and other abuses. It was in Catholic-rationalist France that the guillotine did its mournful work without complaining....it was in Soviet Russia where the party was 'sure,' therefore they had the purges. In Italy in the last century, there were over 40 governments....But in the British Commonwealth, what do we see? How many governments has Canada had? New Zealand? or the USA? The tolerant Dutch low countries, Scotland, the Swiss....they were largely devoid of the urge to politically disagree and then chop off your head. They were 'prudent.'

Can Protestantism account for these developments? Did Augustinian piety eventually foster secular tolerance and inquiry? (I know, we got rational inquiry from the Athenians and Ionians, etc....this post might be a stretch).


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