Here are our responses from last night as we finished up Chapter 16.
We focused on the Spanish Inquisition and the legacy that Erasmus left in influencing the Protestant Reformation.
We had a lively discussion last night, mainly spurned on by Erasmus’ preference of Origen’s theology over and against Augustine. We discussed the nature of original sin, and I was surprised to find out that basically half the group still held on to (or were at least somewhat reluctant about abandoning) the doctrine of original sin. Though we all agreed with the basic understanding of human evolution, most of the group still believed that God somehow interfered in the process and specially endowed human beings with the capacity to know and understand God. (I personally am in the very small minority of believers who believe that was not the case – in terms of divine interference in human evolution – but I’ll leave that for a future post perhaps.)
The talk then shifted from the nature of sin in humankind towards the humanity of Jesus: was he fully human like us, but also fully divine at the same time, was he capable of sinning? At times, I entertained the possibility of adoptionism and arianism into the picture, pushing the boundaries of our understanding of just how really, really human Jesus was – even considering the legitimacy of psilanthropism <gasp!>. Just what if Jesus was completely human, born from the sexual union of Mary and Joseph (or some other man, and that the gospels of Matthew and Luke tried to cover up the illegitimate birth of Jesus by producing a narrative about Jesus’ divine origins as a form of religious propaganda)? If this were so, would it diminish your faith in Jesus? Surprisingly, most in the group said it would not diminish their faith if Jesus had been born through a completely natural/biological way.
We delved a bit into the philosophy and nature of God and the creation, seeing that it is a logical contradiction for Him to create something equally or more perfect than himself. If that is the case, then creation is less than perfect and leaves room for imperfection, which then leads inevitably toward (unfortunately) the reality of sin, death, disease, suffering, etc. from the very first moment of God’s act of creation – something called existential sin – i.e. we sin by the very fact that we are not God or divine, that sin is an ontological condition within humanity and creation itself. This leads to a strong indicator that there was no perfect, pristine, sinless reality before the sin of Adam and Eve, and therefore no original sin. (A position agreed upon by Erasmus, Origen, and the Orthodox Church.)
However, very few of us, understandably, were willing to let go of some prevailing beliefs such as there actually being a real historical Adam and Eve.
With all of this, I’m blessed by the fact that here at Project Augustine, we can come together as believers and really challenge one another on why we believe what we believe in, even if it means testing the limits of the philosophical and scientific legitimacies of certain Christian doctrines such as creation, sin, and the nature of Christ- certain “sacred cows” of the faith we dare not question or challenge in a normal church setting.
Thank goodness there’s no Spanish Inquisition around these days, or else everyone in the group would’ve been really, really screwed.
Speaking of the Spanish Inquisition, here’s Mel Brooks’ musical adaptation of the history of the Spanish Inquisition from “History of the World: Part I”. Enjoy.