Carl Trueman’s Seminar

Original Sin in Modern Theology

He plans on dealing with four theologians (Friedrich Schleiermacher, Walter Rauschenbusch, Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann). Modern theology, in losing scriptural authority, has lost its unifying factor. He seeks to look at the implications of their project. His basic conclusion is that, in modern theology, sin is horizontal, and not vertical. That is, it brings about enmity between people, and has no implications with a relationship to God.

Friedrich Schleiermacher: original sin became distasteful, and therefore ignored. He wanted to rebuild Christian dogmatics. The God-consciousness (the feeling of utter dependence). Psychology is central to his understanding of sin. The human is two-fold: the higher consciousness and sense consciousness. Obstruction of the sense of the higher consciousness is Schleiermacher’s definition of sin. Sin is psychological. For Schleiermacher, Jesus is the primary example of someone living in utter dependence. He doesn’t care whether Adam and Eve were historical. He regards the traditional teaching on Adam and Eve is incoherent. He believes that creation is inherently flawed. The Fall is therefore a paradigm of how the sensuous consciousness obstructs the God-consciousness. Sin is a disruption of human psychology.

Walter Rauschenbusch: (the originator of the social gospel). Rauschenbusch sought to recast Christianity in such a way as to address social problems. The kingdom of God is central to his theology: but not as individual, but a more corporate focus (can anyone say New Perspective on Paul? LK). Sin of the structures is a Rauschenbusch construct. He implicitly denies the historicity of Adam. His view of Christianity is purely pragmatic. All ideas are judged by their practical merit. He views the traditional view of the Fall as downplaying later societal evils. He does, however, believe in human solidarity. For him, sin is selfishness (dependent on Schleiermacher). If sin is primarily horizontal, then there is no basis for opposing gay marriage. So, this is not just an ethereal irrelevancy.

Karl Barth: he was definitely a rebel against Schleiermacher and Rauschenbusch. However, his thinking on original sin owes quite a bit to liberalism. He often uses the language of orthodoxy, but opposes the ideas behind the traditional doctrine. Barth distinguishes between historie and geschichte (history and significance). Adam and Eve are saga, a third term that is close to myth. He posits a contradiction between Genesis 1 and 2. Plus, he rejects the unfallen nature of the creation before the Fall. For Barth, Adam is Everyman. Adam is the truth concerning us. Adam as the paradigm for us is something Barth has in common with Schleiermacher. Barth reverses the first and second Adams. This pushes Barth in a universalistic direction, though he is not explicit. We are not IN Adam, but we actually ARE Adam.

Rudolf Bultmann: arguably the most influential New Testament scholar of the twentieth century. He actually believed that the idea of a pristine creation is due to a gnostic intrusion into the New Testament. Bultmann says that Paul’s account of sin is incoherent. Bultmann believed that the Fall is a myth.

Conclusion: All are in the stream of Enlightenment theology. All reject the relevance of the historicity of Adam. They don’t necessarily say that Adam wasn’t historical. They are saying it doesn’t really matter whether Adam was or not. There is therefore no movement from pristine innocence to guilt, which in turn brings into question the transition from guilt to grace. The nature of sin as attenuated. The “problem” of the injustice of the imputation of Adam’s guilt is not solved in modern theology. If we can’t be held accountable for Adam’s sin, then why should we be help accountable for our own sin?

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1 Comment

  1. CD-Host said,

    April 21, 2013 at 9:39 am

    That sounds like a good seminar. Those are interesting summaries did he run out of time for Bultmann?

    I’m not sure about your last sentence. Why would rejecting the notion of accountability for Adam’s sin have any tie to our own sins?


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