The Human Condition Created and Sinful

If someone wishes to see God, who is invisible in nature and in no way visible, he understands and knows him from his works.. .Through the incarnation of the Word, the universal providence and its leader and creator, the Word of God himself, have been made known. For he became man that we might become divine; and he revealed himself through a body that we might receive an idea of the invisible Father; and he endured insults from men that we might inherit incorruption. (St Athanasius, De Incarnatione, 54)

Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. Some.in their almost too fastidious spirituality, admit divine sinlessness, which they cannot see even in their dreams. But they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street. (G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy; ch. 2)

Intelligent and perceptive books on the human condition, especially in its Western setting, have not been lacking in recent years. Such sociologists as Robert Bellah and Anthony Giddens have offered their account of the modern situation.97 Some philosophers have described in striking terms our current state.98 Cosmologists have fascinated the general public with

R. Bellah et al , Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1985); id., The Good Society (New York: Knopf, 1992); A. Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity (Palo Alto, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1990).

See Alastair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2nd edn. 1984); Charles Taylor, A Catholic Modernity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).

their findings and theories about a universe that began in an initial fireball of radiation. But let us go beyond sociologists, philosophers, and cosmologists and ask in the light of Christian faith: what can we say about the existence and nature of the whole cosmos in general and of the human condition in particular? Where does the world come from? These questions challenge scientists and believers alike, but the latter have to deal with further, thorny issues. How can we understand the relationship between creator and creature? Does this relationship limit creaturely freedom? Sin and human weakness, while raising doubts about the goodness of God's creation, also call into question the extent to which humanity can shape and give meaning to its own existence.

In responding to these questions, this chapter will set out Catholic beliefs about creation and sin, beliefs also endorsed by many other Christians. Such doctrines constitute a common heritage that stems from Paul, John, Irenaeus, Augustine of Hippo, and other ancient writers. They developed a theology of creation and sin, which served as a foundation for their faith in the Trinity and in the redemption effected by Christ and his Spirit.

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