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Total Depravity and Self-Esteem

Discussion in 'Exploring Christianity' started by doubtingmerle, Jun 19, 2022.

  1. public hermit

    public hermit social troglodyte Supporter

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    I don't know if this will help the discussion, but I'll throw it out there. I think it's natural to feel good when having done something good. But should we feel particularly good about ourselves when we do something good?

    If I do something good for another person, say on Tuesday, should I esteem myself on that account? Why would I? Have I somehow gone above the call of duty by doing something good for another? From a Christian perspective, I haven't done anything special; I'm created to do good things. Doing good should be as natural as eating or going to the bathroom.

    If I esteem myself for having done something good, what was I doing the rest of the time? Perhaps there is a difference between the good feelings that naturally follow from doing good things and esteeming one's self for having done good things. If I do good things, I'm simply doing what a human should do and there's nothing special about it. It only seems special or noteworthy in a world where humans, myself included, do things that aren't good.
     
  2. Sketcher

    Sketcher Born Imperishable

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    Yes to both.

    Unlike being a good mathematician or a good boxer, these intersect heavily with personal morality, and how you treat people. If you decide you're a great boxer and don't work to stay great or be greater, then you stagnate, and you probably get knocked out until you retire. But that's not nearly as morally relevant as resting on your laurels as a father, friend, husband, citizen, or employee. Someone doing good at either of those needn't be full of self-pity, but when you say you're good enough and aren't careful to be at least as good as you were yesterday, it's only a matter of time before you slack in some aspect of one or more of those roles, and hurt others as a consequence.


    I'm not limiting you, it's a free country. I'm sharing my beliefs which you asked for.

    Well, I have to take the position then, that you either are unregenerate in that your going proved that you were never really one of us to begin with, or that you did genuinely convert and became regenerate but you left and are going to come back at some point. I don't know which is true of you.

    Regenerate people started out totally depraved, but have been given a new identity in Christ, and his righteousness was put on us in exchange for our sins, and we are living projects in a sense, that we must grow into the identity in Christ that God made for us.
     
  3. Psalm 27

    Psalm 27 Well-Known Member

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    The New Testament would probably explain it to you better than i could. Personally, I don't believe that anything to do with 'self' is compatible with Theology.
     
  4. doubtingmerle

    doubtingmerle I'll think about it. Supporter

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    Sketcher,

    Remember, we are not talking here about how to get to heaven. We are talking about whether we are totally depraved. If so, how can we then have positive self-esteem? In particular, the OP quoted a site that defined total depravity like this:
    every part of man—his mind, will, emotions and flesh—have been corrupted by sin. In other words, sin affects all areas of our being including who we are and what we do. It penetrates to the very core of our being so that everything is tainted by sin​

    And it appears you think I am totally depraved. Do you think the above paragraph describes me? If so, do you think I have no basis for a positive self-esteem?
    I think I experienced the same thing in my past Christian experience that you did. See my story. So if you are regenerate, why was I not regenerate? What did you experience that I did not that allows you to claim that you were regenerate, but not me?

    I later changed my mind. But I once was experiencing the same thing as the other Christians around me.

    And no, knowing what I know now, I am not likely to change back. In fact, the Bible says that would be impossible (Hebrews 6:4-6).

    Did you forget? You are sharing a belief that some people are totally depraved. How could a totally depraved person be a caring friend, a loyal husband, a moral citizen, and an employee with integrity? If I was all those things, I would be only partially depraved.

    I think we agnostics and atheists share with you the inner spirit that loves others and seeks good. We all are growing to become better people.

    So maybe we aren't all totally depraved. Maybe there is something worth loving in all of us.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2022
  5. doubtingmerle

    doubtingmerle I'll think about it. Supporter

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    So self-image, self-love, self-esteem, and self-confidence are all incompatible with your theology?
     
  6. doubtingmerle

    doubtingmerle I'll think about it. Supporter

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    I have been concentrating on a positive self-esteem about who we are, as opposed to one based on what we do. We can always feel good about who we are as human beings, even though, at times, we can and should feel bad about what we did.
     
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  7. Sketcher

    Sketcher Born Imperishable

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    Blindness to or willful ignorance of a person's sin condition before God falls within the scope of total depravity. So when you eliminate those very important concerns and focus on things you're good at, you can very realistically have a high self-esteem. It's the calm before the storm (judgment), but you can still have your high self-esteem.

    There's minutiae of our faith and psychology that doubtlessly play into this that neither of us can do justice to describing, so I'm not going to speak presumptuously about that. And, since you're still alive with a chance to return, the book isn't closed on you so I don't want to speak presumptuously about which category you fall under.

    For that to be your case, you would have to be worse than Peter denying Jesus three times, and yet was restored.

    Under total depravity, you're not as caring a friend, as loyal a husband, as moral a citizen, or as honest and diligent an employee as you could be. Furthermore, it means that you have not consistently lived intentionally for the glory of God and out of faith in God in all of these areas for all of your life, since sin has infected them.

    That would be the Imago Dei, the image of God that you bear simply because you are a human being. It's not works-based justification.
     
  8. doubtingmerle

    doubtingmerle I'll think about it. Supporter

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    Sketcher,

    I am not here to argue. I am here to understand how Christians can promote both total depravity and self-esteem. Many Christians here have seen the problem, and have chosen to abandon one or the other.

    Some have chosen to abandon self-esteem. Really? If I had to abandon one or the other, that is not the one that I would pick. Seems depressing to me.

    Others choose to abandon total depravity. They adopt the feel-good, psychological view of life. But one wonders, if it is true that people are worth esteeming, why does God allow good people to suffer forever in hell? Belief in hell is usually the next domino to fall.

    Now lets look at your attempt to reconcile the two.

    By "the storm" you mean hell, yes? So I can feel self-esteem, but only if I ignore those things that are destining me to hell? If I can have self-esteem only if I ignore who I really am, that is ersatz self-esteem.

    Do I deserve to burn in hell forever? If so, then I don't see how my self-esteem can be anything meaningful. I cannot see a lot of reason to feel good about a person who deserves to be treated like that.

    We are back to your all-or-nothing thinking, that one can be either regenerate or unregenerate with no middle ground. That is not true. People can fall anywhere in a wide range of the degree of their acceptance of your faith. And then there are ex-regenerate people like me that once were solidly in your category of "regenerate" but have changed our minds. That doesn't seem to fit anywhere in your dichotomy.

    Now you resort to saying that perhaps there was some minutiae in my faith that made me not be regenerate, even though I, and everyone around me, thought I was. If I was not truly regenerate due to some "minutiae of faith", how do you know that you also are not truly regenerate due to some minutiae in your faith?

    What a pity that would be to learn at The Pearly Gates that some minutiae was keeping you out, huh?

    Humanism says the same thing.

    But total depravity says that sin penetrates to the very core of my being, and as a result, I deserve hell. This is the point where humanism disagrees.
    I have no convincing evidence that there even is a God.
    If I bear the image of God, how can I deserve to be tormented in hell forever?
     
  9. Psalm 27

    Psalm 27 Well-Known Member

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    That's right. Self and Christianity don't go together. Dying to Self is the underlying message throughout the Bible. Inner peace, love, joy etc. comes via Jesus.
     
  10. Jonaitis

    Jonaitis Justified

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    I am not sure what you are asking. The doctrine is essentially saying that God's image in us has been "damaged" or "contaminated" by our forefather's sin. However, if you are born again, you have a new spirit, while the flesh remains corrupt. Do you sometimes think sinful? It is because of Adam's corruption. This is an example. You can still have meaningful positive self-esteem, and if you are born again, you have a new spirit, because you are a new creation. The flesh is still opposing to God, but not the spirit.
     
  11. doubtingmerle

    doubtingmerle I'll think about it. Supporter

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    You seem to have changed from "total depravity" to "partial contamination". I do not see how the link in the OP is referring to partial contamination. Do you disagree with the page I linked to?

    Or as C. S. Lewis put it:

    Theoretically, I suppose, we might say “Yes, we behave like vermin, but then that is because we are vermin. And that, at any rate, is not our fault.” But the fact that we are vermin, so far from being felt as an excuse, is a greater shame and grief to us than any of the particular acts which it leads us to commit. (The Problem of Pain, cited here).​

    Do you agree with Lewis that we are vermin? Do you agree with him that this fact is a greater shame to us than the bad acts we commit?

    If we are not totally depraved vermin, but rather, are people whose good intentions are sometimes flawed by human frailty, do we deserve hell? Total depravity explains hell. Under that doctrine, people go to hell because they deserve it. Under your views, do partially contaminated people deserve hell?

    I was born again (past tense). But then I changed my mind. You can read my story here. So, do you think I now still have a new spirit, or do I have only a corrupted flesh?

    I know Christians that do good, and Christians that do bad. Similarly, I know Atheists, Jews, and Hindus that do good and bad. If Christians have a good spirit in addition to the corrupted flesh, why am I not seeing a clear distinction in behaviors?

    Are you telling me that you have a good spirit, but those who do not believe like you do not? Can you see how people would be offended if you said that?

    Adam? We descended from a long line of evolutionary ancestors. Where did Adam fit in?

    Was his father a beast? And if so, one should certainly pardon mistakes he may have made, yes?

    And if I am no longer born again, then what?
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2022
  12. doubtingmerle

    doubtingmerle I'll think about it. Supporter

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    I once taught basically that same message as a Sunday School teacher (but I later changed my views). I think the mainstream of Christianity now disagrees with this.
     
  13. ViaCrucis

    ViaCrucis Evangelical Catholic of the Augsburg Confession

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    The thing that is frequently missed when it comes to Total Depravity is that Total Depravity does not deny that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and are the good creation of God. That is, the innate goodness of creation.

    Being human is innately good. Total Depravity speaks to the way that our good humanity has become twisted because the passions or desires are disordered on account of sin, what western theologians call concupiscence. Lutherans speak of this concupiscence with the Latin phrase homo incurvatus in se, man curved or bent inward toward oneself. That is desires turned and oriented inward to satisfy ourselves, the exaltation of the self over and against others. To be curved inward means we care more about our own creature comforts than those of our neighbor and fellow creatures; it is this curved-inward-ness that leads us to exploit creation, including the exploitation of our fellow human beings.

    The matter of self esteem is not a matter of sin, but a matter of the intrinsic and innate dignity of being human. This can be seen even in the chief commandment of the Christian religion as given by Christ, "Love your neighbor as yourself." The commandment has "as yourself", the commandment assumes that a person will consider their own needs and extend the innate love of the self to one's neighbors. This is also true in Christ's commandment "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"; it assumes that the person wants and deserves to be treated well and therefore we should extend the same to others.

    It is not caring about one's own bodily needs, or desiring love, respect, kindness from ourselves and others that is a problem--i.e. self esteem--but when desire rises up to sow injury against others. That is the problem. When I cause injury against my fellow human beings because of my own desires I deny my neighbor's good humanity and also deny my own good humanity (the same humanity that God the Word Himself took upon Himself in the Incarnation to heal and save and restore and make righteous and holy).

    Total Depravity is not the doctrine that human beings are utterly despicable and deserve nothing; it's the doctrine that even in my will, emotions, etc I am sinful. It's not that I am a pure soul with a good will that is inhabiting a sinful body; even at the core of my own human personhood is something that drives me away from God and away from loving my neighbor as myself. That something is sin. Or Original Sin or concupiscence. And therefore I need my "insides" cleaned up, what Scripture often speaks of the change or renewal of the heart and mind, poetically speaking of a heart of stone being turned to a heart of flesh, to change my "spirit", etc. "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit in me." (Psalms 51:10), or "Do not be conformed to the pattern of this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2).

    To acknowledge one's sinfulness is not a denial of the innate good humanity made by God and the human dignity that all persons are worthy of (including that of oneself, self-esteem); but rather it is a matter of recognizing that in spite of our best efforts we still fail, because we sow injury rather than healing with the ways we think, speak, and act. And thus I need mercy, mercy to rescue me from myself and my own self-destruction; and the mercy that invites me to change how I think about myself and the world so that I can learn what it means to truly carry my cross, follow Jesus, and love the world even as He does. That I might learn to share my humanity with others, not hide it away; to share our humanity with one another through love, acts of service, kindness, compassion, by being patient, gentle, respectful, etc. Cultivating, by God's grace, the fruits of the Spirit and to tame the wild passions.

    To forgive instead of holding a grudge.
    To bless instead of cursing.
    To pray for those who oppress us.
    To turn the other cheek and love one's enemy.
    To be generous and compassionate and selfless in our works toward our neighbor.
    Etc.

    -CryptoLutheran
     
  14. doubtingmerle

    doubtingmerle I'll think about it. Supporter

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    Greetings, ViaCrucis. Its always good to see your informed perspective on things.

    I'm well aware that, in addition to a belief in Total Depravity, there is a belief that humanity is central to the universe, made in the image of God. I think this is a thought distortion in the opposite direction. If a God exists, how would we even know that we are in his image? Perhaps ancients who thought that were mistaken.

    Two thought distortions in opposite directions does not equal truth.

    Being human is innately human. Most of us find that good.

    I agree there is a problem with thoughts being curved inwards such that they ignore the needs of others. We are social creatures that need other people. If we react in ways that alienate others, that is not good.

    The issue is not whether we are sometimes curved inwards, but whether we are innately bad. I see you support the Augsburg Confession. It says:

    since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Ghost. (The Augsburg Confession )
    And if there is any question of what the Augsburg Confession means by "eternal death", the confession says elsewhere that "ungodly men and the devils He will condemn to be tormented without end." The confession specifically disagrees with those that say the torment will end.

    So no, I do not think we can interpret depravity as taught in the Augsburg Confession as simply condemning acts of selfishness by otherwise good people. It is talking about people truly deserving eternal torment. That is a problem.
    I too find humanity to be of intrinsic goodness. But I can not say that the universe, or a God of the universe agrees, for I have no way of knowing what they think. I find people to be of value and worth, and so I live my life based on that.
    Yes, we all want to be treated well. And yes, we should treat others well, just like we expect them to treat us well.

    This in no way refutes that the Bible, and Christian teaching, often condemn people as unworthy, miserable offenders.


    I agree that self-esteem affects the way we treat others. However, I do not think self-esteem is the same as caring for our own needs. They are two different things. One can care for his body, while thinking that he is a wretched, miserable, hell-deserving wretch.

    But one will do better if he has a more realistic yet positive view of himself.


    Do we or do we not deserve hell?
    I can't say if there is something that drives me from God, for I don't know if God exists.

    But from my neighbors, yes, like all humans, the thoughts that originate within our own minds are more accessible than thoughts that originate in other minds. So it is much easier to attend to those thoughts that originate from neurons that are fixated on the self.

    But the healthy mind realizes it lives in a social word with social needs, and so is concerned about the needs of others also. This concern comes to us through cognitively thinking about others, instead of the more direct root that one's own needs are felt through the senses. It sometimes takes effort to develop sensitivity to others.

    Am I a filthy person who needs to be cleaned? Or am I a human with social needs, who sometimes needs to develop better attention to the needs of others?
    I don't see that the link in the OP is talking about this kind of human frailty.


    In addition to mercy, we need cognitive awareness of our thought distortions, and awareness of unhealthy thinking patterns that can be improved.
    We all are on the side of being moral. Whether that morality means prayer is a significant question. And whether good morality involves turning the other cheek when attacked is also a good question.

    But yes, we should all work to live cooperatively with others.
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2022
  15. ViaCrucis

    ViaCrucis Evangelical Catholic of the Augsburg Confession

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    I think there may have been a leap to an assumption on your part. I didn't say human beings are the center of the universe. If there are other intelligent beings in the cosmos they also share in redemption; and I'm not so bold as to claim that in the great big universe only human beings bear the divine image. But whatever may or may not be out there is, at least at present, entirely outside of what can be known or said.

    The historic Christian position is that everything that exists is, by virtue of it being made, good. The declaration of God in the first chapter of Genesis is that God saw all that He made and saw that it was exceedingly good. Trees are good, dogs are good, the sun is good. So when I say human beings are innately good, this is what I mean.

    The Confessions explicitly reject a then-contemporary view of some Anabaptists who dogmatically said there would be an end. There's nothing in the Confessions that forbids Christians from hoping and praying for the salvation and the ultimate reconciliation of all.

    I apologize if that is the impression my post gave. What I was pointing out was that Total Depravity doesn't mean we can't have healthy self-esteem; because regardless of our current state as depraved sinners we are still the good creation of God, we are still human, we are still creatures who live, breathe, have feelings, who think, and are deserving of respect, kindness, and basic dignity. At no point am I invited to behold my neighbor in disdain, or as unworthy, or as less-than. My neighbor is always to be the object of my utmost affection. I am called to move outward from myself and be directed outward. To love my neighbor as myself and do unto others as I would have them do unto me.

    Total Depravity does not render the human person less than human. You're a human person, and therefore you deserve respect, compassion, kindness, love, to have your needs met, to be treated with justice and mercy, etc.

    Which is to say, a proper view of Total Depravity doesn't mean one can't have a healthy self-esteem.

    When I confess myself to be a wretch and sinner, believe it or not I am not saying I don't deserve kindness, or that I don't deserve respect from my fellow human beings. I am recognizing within myself my failure to show that kindness and respect toward others--and that this is deeply, deeply, deeply wrong. And I want that wrong to be righted. That's repentance. My esteem as a human person isn't rooted in how I see myself under the condemnation of the Law, but in how I see myself in the love of God which I behold through Jesus Christ. Likewise, I do not esteem my neighbors through the condemnation of the Law, but again in the love of God in Jesus Christ.

    Or, more accurately, I daily seek to do so, I regularly fail here--I sin, I'm a sinner. And thus creeps in hypocrisy, when I say I love my neighbor, but stumble and fail to do so; when my actions and my words don't match. As St. Paul says in Romans 7, the good I want to do I don't do, and the evil I don't want to do, I do.

    I suppose on this there is simple disagreement. I don't see self-esteem and the recognition of one's sinfulness as at odds. Because, again, I believe the esteem of the human person is located not in sin, but God's love.

    I would first want to be very clear that I do not hold to a view of hell that involves eternal conscious torment in separation from God in some place called "hell". I have frequently expressed my (admittedly diverse and complicated) thoughts on that subject many times in other discussions.

    With that said, I certainly would say I deserve hell. Which doesn't mean I deserve to be punished for all eternity in some fire and brimstone pit being tortured forever. But rather I mean that the fruit of myself, left to myself and my own ambitions would eventually become hell.

    And I would identify that disparity--between what we ought do and what we don't do as sin. The cause of which is concupiscence or "Original Sin"; the inborn disordering of our passions.

    One might argue it's a matter of perspective. In the discussion of sin, we are all of us the former; but that doesn't mean the latter is wrong. We are humans with social needs who need to care for the needs of others. I don't view these two statements you've made as mutually exclusive.

    I can't speak to the original link other than the definition of Total Depravity given in your OP, which didn't sound like it disagreed with the Lutheran understanding.

    I would agree. That's, in part, why repentance is important. Repentance is about the recognition of our failure and the need to change--which starts from the inside. "Do not be conformed to the pattern of this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds" "have this same attitude in you that was in Christ Jesus", etc.

    But the Christian understands this is something much deeper than psychology and sociology; these things are indicative of a deep and abiding wrongness. These things point to a sickness in the world, not just in men, but a sickness in creation itself. The sickness of sin and death.

    I am of several minds when it comes to the topic of morality. To an extent, I don't even know that I find the term morality to be helpful beyond talking about society in a more mundane way. I think the subject of sin and death means talking about something much bigger and more important than morality; and that's the subject of justice. When I turn on the news what saddens me isn't the lack of "good morals", but the lack of justice. Injustice being done to others, injustice runs a straight line from bottom to top and back again in all our systems and enterprises.

    And I want to be clear, when I talk about justice I'm not talking about "getting the bad guys", I mean the fact that victims of oppression, victims of systemic pain and suffering are not given justice. There is no justice for the parents whose children were lost in the school shooting in Uvalde, TX. And even here, I'm not talking about the justice of punishing those who failed; but the injustice that these parents lost their children to something terrible. That injustice runs deep, it is wound in the world, in the cosmos itself and it cuts through each and every one of us.

    -CryptoLutheran
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2022
  16. doubtingmerle

    doubtingmerle I'll think about it. Supporter

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    It is important that our self-esteem is realistic. Else, we might make bad decisions based on our misunderstanding of ourselves. And it is also important that our self-esteem is positive. Else, we might become depressed. I have found in humanism a self-esteem that is both realistic and positive.

    Understood. Your image of us as humans is that we bear a divine image, something we might possibly share with other beings out there.

    I do not see this as realistic. Actually, we share much of the image of a chimpanzee, being very close in structure and makeup. But an accident of history caused our species to need a phenomenal concentration on brain development and complex social relationships. That led to a species that has special characteristics that, in my opinion, are quite good. See Why are there still apes? .

    Good, but not in a divine image.
    ...Mosquitos are good. Malaria is good. Locusts are good. Salmonella is good. Is that how it works?

    It is important that our view of ourselves and the world is realistic, as well as being positive. If humans are good, not all things we contact are also good.
    You are a good person. I am sure you hope and pray for the ultimate reconciliation of all. That's not the issue here.

    The Augsburg Confession, which you also support, says we are born, "with concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin, even now condemning" us. As a consequence, it says some are "to be tormented without end".

    Do those people deserve to be tormented without end? If they deserve that, it makes little sense to say that they can realistically view themselves with high self-esteem.
    In what way does tormenting a person without end treat that person with respect, kindness, and basic dignity?
    ...and not to be tormented without end?
    Or as others have implied here, one can have a positive self-esteem, as long as he ignores how wretchedly bad he really is. That is ersatz self-esteem. If I am bad enough to deserve torment without end, it would be hard to be positive about who I am.
    Then may I suggest you word it differently? Instead of saying you are a "wretch", why not say that you are a human, with all the goodness and weakness that this involves?
    But you do hold the view that some are going to eternal conscious torment, yes? (see Augsburg Confession). You just don't think this is eternal conscious torment in separation from God in some place called "hell"? How does it improve that sentence when one removes the words in italics?

    OK, you deserve "hell", provided we define it as something different from eternal conscious torment. That hardly bypasses what the Augsburg confession says about eternal torment.

    One statement sees us a bad, filthy wretches who do bad things because we are bad. The other sees us as humans with all the goodness of humanity who sometimes make bad decisions. Those are mutually exclusive.
     
  17. ViaCrucis

    ViaCrucis Evangelical Catholic of the Augsburg Confession

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    I'm not talking about genetics or bodily form. The image of God means to be created to reflect God and His love and goodness.

    I more-or-less follow N.T. Wright's view that the first chapter of Genesis functions as a "temple narrative". The creation of heaven and earth is presented as the making of a temple for God to inhabit, the final act being the installation of the divine image into that temple. Human beings are to bear God in the world, and simultaneously are as priests who bring that creation before God in worship. Note that by worship I don't mean singing songs or things of that nature; by worship I really am getting at the idea that worship of God is found in inhabiting our vocation as human beings to love. I think this is a much larger topic than can be explored here, however.

    Are they any less good than human beings? We call mosquitos, malaria, etc bad because of the negative impact they have on us. The Christian religion understands this as the fallen state of creation at present on account of sin and death. Is the tree not good when it falls and lands on a house? Or is it the destruction itself that is not good?

    That still leaves a very large open question on what "torment" means. I also maintain a position of agnosticism as to duration. Philip Melancthon in the Augsburg Confession does use the Latin perpetua; though I remain unconvinced that this is most valid understanding of the use of aionios in the New Testament. E.g. Matthew 25:41 which has τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰώνιον, often translated into English as "everlasting fire" or "eternal fire". I would maintain that aionios is perhaps more literally translated "of the age" or similar, in the same way that the promise of "eternal life" speaks of the life of the Age to Come (which is received now, in part through faith, but is made full and real in the resurrection). I don't think the word alone presents us with sufficient data to determine whether this is endless or rather an undefined duration of time, or something else. If it were obvious there would never have been the kinds of diverse opinions and ideas among the ancient fathers, for whom the Greek of the New Testament was there first and native language.

    You'll find that Lutherans are, broadly speaking, of two opinions concerning the Lutheran Confessions. One being the quia view (Latin for "because"), which argues that the Confessions are true because they agree with Scripture. The other is the quatenus view (Latin for "insofar as"), which argues that the Confessions are true insofar as they agree with Scripture.

    I find myself somewhere in the middle of those two, I suppose. I believe the Confessions and receive the Confessions as a true witness of Christian faith; but I certainly don't view the Confessions as inerrant. Which is why yes, I uphold the Augusburg Confession, but as I said I am agnostic as it pertains to a number of things, the subject of hell perhaps being chief among those. It would be deeply problematic, in my mind, to take a position that would effectively call many great theologians and saints of the Church heretics (for example, St. Gregory of Nyssa maintained that hell should be compared to a refiner's fire that purifies, describing the fires of hell as purgatorial in nature). Likewise, St. Isaac the Syrian who I greatly admire, while never straight away saying it, does speak of hell as the flame of God's love, the love which He has impartially on all creatures--none being deprived of His love for such is impossible, God is love.

    I think this question still presumes, or assumes, a view of things that I don't share. When I say that I deserve hell, at least in my mind I'm not thinking "I deserve to be flogged day and night without end" or something to that end. I'm saying that, at the end of the day I've done nothing that would be deserving of that life for which I hope; and that if I look upon myself honestly on the basis of what I should be and what I should do, I see myself as naked and shameful. But, and this is crucial, again my esteem comes not from this condemnation of the Law, but the love of God in the Gospel.

    And Lutheran theology, without this incredibly important understanding of Law and Gospel, isn't going to make sense. The "Law and Gospel Dialectic" is central to Lutheran biblical exegesis and how we talk about just about every aspect of theology. The Law on the one hand which condemns, and the Gospel on the other which destroys that condemnation and liberates us from the guilt-ridden conscience that one bears under the Law.

    I see this as being realistic. Realistically, I'm not good. That is, when I observe my own thoughts, behaviors, and take a long hard look at my innermost self what I see is a whirlwind of emotions and ideas and impulses. Do I love my neighbor as myself? Do I really? Or do I, whether by action or even inaction, contribute to the suffering of my neighbor here?

    The evil I see in the world, the systemic evil I see in the world, does not arise from nothing--it arises from each and every single one of us. So that this line of evil splits right through the middle of each and every single one of us. Racist systems arise from racist people and then perpetuate themselves.

    We're the ones who are sick. And our sickness affects everything around us. I am culpable and responsible. I can't blame others for my lack of love, for my lack of compassion, for my failures to be kind--to not just act kind and to speak kind, but to think kindly. The problem runs deep, deep down to the center of myself.

    I don't deserve hell because I'm a bad person who should be tormented forever and ever. I deserve hell because when I take a long hard look at myself with eyes wide open, that hell is already inside of me. To quote C.S. Lewis, "It's not a matter of God sending us to hell, but rather that there is something in us that will become hell unless it is nipped in the bud."

    See above.

    Then rather than being negative or positive about who we are, perhaps we should be honest about ourselves. Because only in that frank honesty, and together in love, can we build one another up. Rather than relying on myself to think highly of myself.

    Perhaps we mean different things by self-esteem. I view self-esteem as the acknowledgement that I am a human person deserving of basic respect and kindness from my neighbor, that I am not less-than my neighbor; nor that I am greater-than my neighbor.

    I don't know that this is being entirely honest with myself. But also, I don't view those two statements as inherently contradictory. Both are true: I am a wretch, and I am a human with all the goodness and weakness that involves. Furthermore, I am not just human, I am also seeking to be human. Because that wretchedness I speak of, that's a wretchedness that gnaws and tears away against my humanity. When I sow injury against another, I not only deny their humanity, I deny my own.

    As I fundamentally see being human as more than being an individual human person; it is a partaking of the common humanity found in all people. That's the humanity that the Word of God assumed and has partaken of in the Incarnation, Jesus Christ has come and shared in our humanity--drawing us to each other in Himself. Being human is more than just where I find myself right now, it's the goal and aim of the Christian life to be human.

    As Catholic theologian Fr. Herbert McCabe writes,

    (The context is the Incarnation, God the Son become human)
    "God's understanding of God is that he is not a special person with a special kind of message, with a special way of living to which he wants people to conform. God's understanding of God could not appear to us as someone who wants to found a new and better religion, or recommend a special new discipline or way of life - a religious code laid upon us for all time because it is from God. God's understanding of God is that he just says, 'Yes, be, be human, but be really human, be human if it kills you - and it will.'" - Herbert McCabe, God Still Matters, pp. 104-105

    See my comments earlier in this post.

    See above.

    Worded as such, I'd agree those are probably mutually exclusive.

    Instead: We are filthy wretches who do bad things because we are desperately sick and out of that sickness is every disordered passion and desire; nevertheless we remain the good human creation of God. And God, who is infinitely and unconditionally loving, will be faithful to all which He made, including even us unworthy and wretched sinners.

    -CryptoLutheran
     
  18. doubtingmerle

    doubtingmerle I'll think about it. Supporter

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    ViaCrucis,

    I think we agree that our self-esteem should be both realistic (lest we make decisions based on a false understanding of ourselves) and positive (lest we become depressed). Sometimes those two goals are at odds with each other. I contend that, through a naturalistic view of ourselves, we can have an esteem that is both realistic and positive.

    And yet genetics is what makes us what we are. We get started as nothing more than genetic code encased in a single fertilized egg. In the proper environment the zygote is transformed into a human by environmental forces working with the influences of the genetic code.

    Where is the image of God in all this? Is the genetic code written to somehow say this creature will be an image of God? Does the environment somehow influence the zygote to become in God's image?

    It seems to me that, if we are trying to be realistic in our self-image, we will see this as simply the natural processes that can make a human, a gorilla, or a dog as directed by the code. That is being realistic.

    I also find it positive.
    That is certainly positive. But is it realistic? If our self-image is based on assertions that make us feel good, but have little support in reality, we are in a tough situation. For we cannot allow the ideas to slip (with a collapse of our self-esteem into depression). And yet, if the ideas are not true, we should be willing to change them. That is why I would advise against building a self-esteem on a foundation that is not based on verifiable facts.
    One might argue that this is neither realistic or positive. It is not realistic, because no such event as a "fall" can be found in evolutionary history. It is not positive, because it blames humans for the struggles of nature that were happening long before we came on the scene. If we humans are to blame for the evils of this world, that is depressing.
    And I suppose we could also question what the meaning of "is" is. ;)

    I will just say that, if people truly deserve everlasting torment in fire, that this is a negative, depressing view of ourselves. We appear to disagree on whether that view is taught in your founding documents.
    Understood, you do not think of people deserving a flogging day and night without end. But there are people that do think they deserve a hell that they describe as far worse than that.

    Do you agree that people who teach that we deserve such things are promoting things which are extremely negative to their self-image?
    "Twas grace that taught my heart to fear; and grace, my fears relieved."

    But if religion is only curing a condition that religion itself caused, is that amazing? Or is it just an interesting sales technique?

    And I would say that, realistically, you are good. Yes, your mind and emotions are filled with conflicting interests that you need to sort out. That is all part of being human. But at the core you are human, and as such, you have the inner drive that is able to sort through all of this and be a productive contributor to that fantastic world-wide set of human accomplishments.


    A realistic view of ourselves acknowledges both this and the good that people do.

    Again, I side with being both realistic and positive.
    I agree that you are human. I do not agree that you are a wretch.

    I agree.

    Think about it. I think perhaps this self-view could be improved, both to be more realistic, and more positive.
     
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