Thoughts on Original Sin by Tatha Wiley (2002) 8C

To me, Lonergan’s existential experience of “conversion” is rooted in a model of human nature that is nested: intellect(moral(religious)).

Ironically, this nested model parallels the medieval (static, logical essential) model of anima (soul) joined to caro (flesh) by way of spiritus (an immaterial principle), once the medieval model is presented as nested:  anima(caro(spiritus)).

However, “parallel” does not mean “identity”.

To me, the parallel indicates that Lonergan – similar to many modern thinkers – assumes medieval definitions despite themselves.  This is not bad.  This is one of the ways to recognize postmodernism.

Postmodern thought channels medieval thought.


Thoughts on Original Sin by Tatha Wiley (2002) 8B

Methodological theology (evolutionary, scientific & historical) focuses on the “situation”.  Medieval theology (static, logical & essential) focuses on “judgment”.

Lonergan asked: Does the idea of “the infusion of sanctifying grace” refer to an existential experience?

Answer:  Yes, the experience of conversion.  “Conversion” denotes an inner reorientation of existential development.

Conversion is nested: Correct understanding(agency(being-in-love)).

The core is being in love with divine mystery.  Divine mystery exists in Peirce’s category of firstness.  Being-in-love has the character of feeling.

Feeling is situated by agency.

Agency is contextualized by correct understanding.

Conversion – reorientation – can start at any level.  It can start with confusion, in the shock of an event, or with the undertow of a feeling.


Thoughts on Original Sin by Tatha Wiley (2002) 8A

Chapter 8 covers the thought of Bernard Lonergan, S.J., who died in 1984.  Even though the Story of Adam and Eve is not mentioned, the concept of Original Sin is.  Lonergan sees that our views of the world have changed, from a static to an evolutionary world perspective.

The static world perspective of the premodern era saw the world in terms of logic and essentials.  The classic Doctrine of Original Sin was a static, logical, and essential reading of Genesis 2.4 on.

The evolutionary world perspective sees the world in terms of science and history.  Doctrine develops.  Original Sin needs to be re-symbolized.

Wiley looked at four areas of Lonergan’s writings: methodological theology, the conditions for human development, the problem of development, and sustaining human development.


Thoughts on Original Sin by Tatha Wiley (2002) 7E

In conclusion, pre-2012 feminist theology – that names Original Sin to be “sexism” and its cause to be “patriarchy” – is a part of a “language” – a symbolic order – that excludes the “bio-“ of “biocultural”.  As such, it serves as an example of what Original Sin could be (especially in light of Chapter 12A of An Archaeology of the Fall).


Thoughts on Original Sin by Tatha Wiley (2002) 7D

The social consequences of pre-2012 feminism were multifaceted.  The social consequences allowed some women to obtain powerful positions at prestigious universities.  At the same time, more (maybe 1,000,000 to 1) women lost their ability to “keep their man” and slid into a particular type of dependency.

In the USA, the central government has become the “provider” for millions of families headed by only a single woman.  The “social justice” of helping “a woman who lost her husband” has morphed into the “cosmic injustice” of millions of fatherless children.

But there is a plus:  As if dimly aware of their (now erased) need to exhibit fidelity, single women vote for their “man” (the Progressive “Democratic” Party) unfailingly.  And their “man” pays them back by giving them “slightly less than ‘what their husband might have provided’ but more than pittance” as well as grants to the few hundred feminist academics whose studies, by definition, always find that their sister’s plight is due to “sexism”.

Neither feminist academics nor single households headed by a woman can break out of the symbolic construction in which they are bound.  They do not even have the words to articulate what they all must know in their hearts.  In fact, their own words place “what they know in their hearts” under erasure.

Sounds like Original Sin to me.


Thoughts on Original Sin by Tatha Wiley (2002) 7C

The claim (of pre-2012) feminists that “gender is culturally constructed” must now (in 2012) be regarded as radically inadequate.

However, a “language” does not have to be adequate to engender social constructions.

The (pre-2012) feminist claim may be regarded as a button that goes into a buttonhole of a symbolic order.  The claim is axiomatic. The claim and the “language of feminism” compose a tautology that does not even have words for the “bio-“ of “biocultural”.

The disclaimer that “gender” is not due to “nature” veils the “bio-“ as well, because it presents “nature” as an entity separate from culture, not co-evolved.

The (pre-2012) feminist theologians (most discussed in Wiley’s Chapter 7) “name” the fundamental sin through deduction.  If “gender is culturally constructed” and if “gender-bias distorts personal relations and social systems”, then the fundamental sin must be related to gender (“sexism”) and culture (“patriarchy”).

If this is so, feminists are free to explore the historic question of the origin of male privilege in the ancient world.  Wiley dutifully spends pages on this, plus the next deduction:  Jesus should be interpreted in light of these findings.

All these deductions are flawed.  “Gender” is not exclusively cultural.  It is biocultural.


Thoughts on Original Sin by Tatha Wiley (2002) 7B

In the last blog, if you haven’t figured it out, “XY” stands for “male”; “XX” stands for female, I mean, feminist; and “XY over XX” stands for one type of “gender bias”.

Everything in the last blog points to “gender bias” as a “cultural” issue, rather than a “biocultural” conundrum.  In several places in chapter 7, Wiley noted that the disputed differences in social relations were due to culture, not nature (biology).

Chapter 12A in An Archaeology of the Fall presents a hypothesis in evolutionary psychology that undermines the assumption that “gender-bias is exclusively cultural”.  Plus, it does so at the start of a re-imagining of the Story of the Fall.

The hypothesis concludes that male-female pair-bonding was one adaptation of the Homo genus (maybe around 3 million years ago).  This adaptation evolved in the format of a bargain:  The bonded male would provide for the bonded female & her (and presumably his) children.  The female would provide hard-to-fake guarantees of her fidelity, which consisted in (culturally formatted) exhibitions of “submission” to the male’s “authority” (which were accompanied by demands for provisions).  In this bargain, both the male and the female would guarantee their own reproductive success (that is, that their genes were passed on to the next generation).

These adaptations relied on behavioral variability.  Those who were more psychologically suited to the bargain were more reproductively successful.  Those who learned to disguise their cheating were also selected.  So the selection pressure never quit.

Traditions also varied, favoring the cultural evolution of hard-to-fake signals of female fidelity.

This biocultural evolution changed the hominid body.

For example, male and female size differentials are not that large for the Homo genus.  If the cultural-based guarantee (of female fidelity) had not worked, larger size differentials would be expected (with a different sociality than male-female pair bonding).

Another example, female ovulation is concealed in our genus.  Is concealed ovulation a biological or cultural trait?  Or is it a biocultural trait?


Thoughts on Original Sin by Tatha Wiley (2002) 7A

In chapter 7, Wiley covered (pre-2012) feminist views of Original Sin.  Consider this conclusion, stated with two substitutions:

“XY theologians have used the doctrine of original sin to denigrate XX, blame them for evil, and prohibit them from full participation in the life of the church.  By deeming XX’s subordination a divine punishment, instead of exposing human bias, the doctrine reinforced a cultural ideology of XY superiority. … A XX reconstruction of the doctrine of original sin calls for an anthropology expunged of “XY over XX” hierarchy and privilege, a critical theory of history, and a social analysis of the dynamics of power and ideology.”

Does this sound intimidating?  Does this sound like a project that involves selective attention, selective intelligence, selective reason and selective affections?  Is anyone who disagrees automatically guilt of a variety of charges?

Or, are these questions false leads?


Thoughts on Original Sin by Tatha Wiley (2002) 6F

Peet Schooenberg S.J. wrote “Original Sin and Man’s Situation” in the 1960s.

As he saw it, in a nutshell, sin is the guilt resulting from the decision to do evil.  This decision was conditioned by one’s situatedness in a disordered world.  The world is in fellowship with sin.  This corresponds to the condition of Original SinME.

(Here comes the caveat: Wiley warns: In order to get to the meat of the nut, rather than what is here presented as “in the shell”, you have to read the author himself.  So Schooenberg is on the list for a future blog.)

Schooenberg’s formulation does not address the nature of the transition that made our disordered world possible.  It corresponds to the claim by medieval theologians that Original Sin was a “sin of nature”.  As such, the Fall is existential.  It is part of the individual’s environment.  The person accommodates.  But is she doomed?

The Fall offers the possibility of Redemption.  At root is a refusal to love.  At root is an absence of an interior life of faith and love of God.  But such a root, when planted in the soil of Christian community, the community of the redeemed, has the capacity to sprout in a most surprising way.  The water of baptism enters into the soil.  Through the soil, sanctifying grace enters a root that, if left alone, would grow into “refusal and absence (Marx’s word for it: “alienation”)”.  With the waters of sanctifying grace, the root begins to grow into “what it refuses to do and what it lacks”.

In many ways, Schoonenberg’s ideas mirror Rienhart’s:

For Reinhart: “Will to power”(anxiety(egoism))

For Schoonenberg: “Sanctifying grace”(baptism(growing out of refusal to love and absence of an interior life of faith and love of God)

With “baptism” paired against “existential anxiety”, charges of Pelagianism seem unfounded.  The gap cannot be bridged by personal well-intended regimens.

Promises of a New Age of Self-Improvement are merely fashions of the “will to power”.


Thoughts on Original Sin by Tatha Wiley (2002) 6E

Reinhold Niebuhr (d. 1971) saw “anxiety” (or better, “existential anxiety”) as the reaction to the situation of personal and social sin formulated above.  His focus is on the situated individual (who is contextualized by theology).

Anxiety belongs to the realm of the situation.  It directly correlates to Liberation Theology’s milieu of personal and social sin (that is contextualized by Original SinME (ME = in the modern era).

Anxiety situates “one’s own stance towards the milieu of personal and social sins” when that stance is “egoism”.

“Egoism” is an act of the imagination.  “Egoism” is the feeling of me-first.  “Egoism” fantasizes that “I can protect me, promote me, survive by me-alone, and so forth”.

A “will to power” finally contextualizes anxiety.  The “will to power” uses words, tools and appeals to manipulate the me-in-the-situation of anxiety(egoism).

Thus, the individual’s experience of the situation that is contextualized by Original SinME may be written as a nested term:  will to power(anxiety(egoism)).

An Archaeology of the Fall complements Niebuhr’s insights by noting that speech-alone words define “reality” and in the process “construct society” regardless of the consequences.

One cannot even call our inclination to use words, tools and appeals for assuaging the anxieties that well up through our fragile egos; “temptation”.  It is part of our nature.  We know not what we do.