Greetings Mr. Reynolds,
First of all, I would like to thank you most graciously for your well thought out and very relevant reply. I appreciate the time you took to consider my statements.
I agree with much of what you say. However, when it comes to the question of sin, it would seem that our understanding remains radically different. Therefore, I believe it is important to reach at the heart of what separates us here.
Saint Augustine wrestled hard with the question of sin and evil, trying to put aside the teachings of the Manichaeans in order to understand the Catholic faith. He said famously, “I sought from whence evil came and I could not find the answer.”
What he finally realized, is that sin or evil is not anything of substance. In another manner of speaking, it has no existence. Rather, evil is a privation of substance. Darkness is not a force or particle, but the absence of light.
The Evangelical Protestant answer to this question sets up an unacceptable dualism. Evangelicals propose that human nature is an evil THING which produces the evil within man. In proposing such a solution, they give evil the characteristics of a created thing.
I am thus forced to ask my Evangelical friend, where did this nature come from? Nature is something created. The entire universe is nature governed by laws, what we call natural law. Everything functions according to a divine order established by the LORD at Creation.
When man walked in the garden, he had a man’s nature. Surely you agree that human nature was good, since God examined everything and declared that it was very good. The Evangelical seems to be proposing that human nature became something radically different. A good nature became an evil nature. However, if that nature was altered in such a tremendous fashion, wouldn’t it be an entirely different nature? Again, where does the sinful nature come from?
The Catholic philosopher answers this question with the concept of ‘fomas peccati’ and the law of sin spoken of by the Apostle. When Adam loses faith in God, the vitality of his nature is broken, the original justice of man is lost. Man is punished with concupiscence (the desire for sin).
Thus, we might compare man to one who is imprisoned. We understand the law of sin to be a force (a nature) which shackles man in an unnatural state.
Where does this nature come from? The sin nature, understood by Catholics, is the natural law as it pertains to beasts. In other words, it is human nature to exercise the faculty of reason, but the animal nature to be overcome by impulse, passion, and desire. This is why I’ve harped on the idea of sin as being opposed to reason. When man sins, he abandons proper use of the rational faculties God endowed him with. That is the law of sin and the ‘fomas peccati’. All men are held down by the flesh.
Perhaps the best example of this is found in sexuality. We are in a society which glorifies fornication. Men drool like animals when they turn on the television set and see any number of sinful things. Sexual satisfaction is seen as a major priority. The various things which this entails go without saying.
Is this a rational desire of man, or an impulse and instinct? I think you would be hard pressed to prove that sinful desires (such as fornication) are born out of a rational inclination. Rather, we have at work the desire to gratify impulses.
The Evangelical understands being ‘born again’ as a change in human nature, or perhaps abandoning human nature entirely.
I would explain our understanding by returning to the idea of an imprisoned man. When the shackles are cut and the man steps outside of the prison walls, he is quite truly a new man. Natures are not being swapped, but the force of evil and imprisonment is being abandoned. It is a question of freedom as opposed to slavery.
I have a feeling further dialogue will be needed on this topic and I appreciate your on going participation. I do think genuine progress has been made in this debate and again I thank you. An in-depth look at a number of Scriptures is probably in order.