The Socratic versus Christian View of

The difference between the Christian definition of sin and that of paganism, particularly the Socratic understanding of sin, is also made apparent by their respective views of what sin is. Lacking a notion of original sin as the antecedent state that explains the obscuring of human knowledge, Socrates identified sin with ignorance, by which he meant that one does the wrong because one does not know what is right.52 If one knows the right, then one will do the right, as no one knowingly does the wrong. For Socrates, therefore, sin is due to a lack of knowledge. But if no one ever knowingly does the wrong, then sin does not exist, since for Anti-Climacus

52 Cf. Plato, Protagoras 352b-358d (1997: 782-7).

sin is consciousness of doing wrong. He thus charges that 'Socrates does not actually arrive at the category of sin, which certainly is dubious for a definition of sin', and it is 'specifically the concept of sin... that most decisively differentiates Christianity qualitatively from paganism' (SUD 89). Christianly understood, sin is not a matter of knowledge but of the will, which was responsible for a much earlier obscuring of human knowledge in original sin, thus requiring a revelation from God in order to understand what sin is. In a certain sense, then, sin is ignorance inasmuch as Christianity regards human beings as being so deeply in sin that they do not know what sin is or that their condition is one of sin. In Christendom, where everyone presumably knows what sin is, Anti-Climacus charges that the problem of sin is not a matter of not being able to understand what is right due to ignorance, as in ancient paganism, but of not being willing to understand the right (95). One is unwilling to understand because one does not will what is right. Moreover, one sometimes does wrong even though one knows what is right. Yet modern philosophy, which in Anti-Climacus's estimation 'is neither more nor less than paganism', makes light of the transition from knowing to doing in the assumption that 'to think is to be' (Descartes's cogito ergo sum) and 'wants to delude us into believing that this is Christianity' (93).53

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