Sin is a Position

Anti-Climacus also subjects modern speculative theology to criticism for employing a duplicitous 'bait and switch' tactic with regard to the (Lutheran) orthodox Christian teaching that sin is a position. This teaching holds that sin is a reality or state of being that is wilfully brought into existence or 'posited' by the individual, not a negation in the form of a lack or defect in some given condition in the human personality such as weakness, sensuousness, finitude, or ignorance (SUD 96). The view that sin is a negation has its source in the Plotinian-Neoplatonic view of evil as a privation or lack of good and was taken over by St Augustine and later medieval scholastic theologians such as St Thomas Aquinas.54 While agreeing with Lutheran orthodoxy that sin is a position, speculative theology nevertheless undermines this tenet, Anti-Climacus contends, by claiming to comprehend it logically, with the result that the concept of sin as a position is dialectically annulled by the higher position of comprehension in abstract thought. This issue is theologically important, as Anti-Climacus sees it, because Lutheran orthodoxy 'has correctly perceived that when sin is defined negatively, all Christianity is flabby and spineless' (96). Not only is

53 Cf. Descartes (1951). 54 Copleston (1953-75: i. 469-70; ii. 84-5, 371-4).

personal responsibility for sin compromised but the qualitative distinction between God and humanity is also blurred in that they tend to merge pantheistically into one in the medium of pure thought. Moreover, for Anti-Climacus the Christian teaching that sin is a position is a paradox that cannot be comprehended but must be believed, inasmuch as 'Christianity teaches that everything essentially Christian depends solely upon faith' (99).

The moral that follows from Anti-Climacus's analysis of sin as intensified despair before God is the strange conclusion that, in the strictest sense, sin is a great rarity in the world, since the lives of most people are too spiritless to be called sin, especially in Christendom, which in Anti-Climacus's view is 'not merely a shabby edition of the essentially Christian, full of printer's errors that distort the meaning and of thoughtless omissions and admixtures, but is also a misuse of it, a profanation and prostitution of Christianity' (SUD 102). This is made even more apparent in the intensification of sin into even deeper forms of despair through the continuation of sin.

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