Aboriginal calamities

If there be a God, since there is a God, the human race is implicated in some terrible aboriginal calamity.”

John Henry Newman

I am never going to be accused of theological orthodoxy.

And yet, there is one traditional Christian doctrine that I have no problem with: the doctrine of original sin. Ironically, contrary creature that I am, this is the one that mainstream liberal churches are particularly embarrassed of these days.

For me, original sin is the one doctrine that has good evidence stacked in its favour. You only need to open the daily newspaper or spend a few minutes checking a Twitter feed to gather it.

Throughout human history, has there ever been a good intentioned plan or utopian experiment that has not gone wrong? A hero not discovered to have feet of clay?

Perhaps optimists come up with examples. As for me, I can’t. I see fallenness, even if only as a metaphor, as the thread running throughout human history, society – and my own life too.

My dour, Calvinist forbears were right about something.

How we came to be fallen is where I would part company with any orthodox interpretation.

The naughty gnostic in me is liable to see the whole of creation, and not just mankind, as implicated in this botched aboriginal calamity.

This raises questions about the attribution of blame that the story of Adam and Eve leaves unsatisfied.

Putting the question of attribution aside, I return to my instinct that somehow evil is a metaphysical reality in the universe, one that cannot be explained away by relativism or materialism.

There is no biological or materialistic reason why viruses like ebola or bird flu should not be rather pretty and pleasing to the eye when viewed under the microscope. But they are not. They look ugly, almost demonic:

Ebola
Bird flu

The glimmer of light is that if evil is a metaphysical reality in our calamitous universe, then goodness must be too.

With this sort of reasoning I find myself in some sort of Manichaean territory.

Well, I didn’t promise orthodoxy.

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