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

How could one re-image the central idea of Liberation Theologies in light of An Archaeology of the Fall?  Some sort of fusion of the idea of the “sin of the world” and the concept of the Fall appears attractive.

I do not speak as a theologian, merely as the fictional entity that I regard myself.

A transition from hand-speech talk to speech-alone talk entailed a change in semiotic characteristics in the way we talk.  The human Lebenswelt changed from a world when talk seemed referential to a world where talk created referentiality.  Rather than naming “things” or “patterns” that you could point to (with hand-speech talk), humans created “symbolic orders or systems of names” that generated “social constructions” (with speech-alone talk).

To me, this transition recalls the same sensibility expressed by Liberation theologians in regards to Original SinME (Original Sin in context of the modern era) as Social Sin.

The sensibility can be expressed in terms of nestedness.

The transition created the possibility for the production of symbolic orders that (as in chapter 12C of An Archaeology …) inspired social constructions of “what they name”.

These social structures promoted personal sin, instituted injustice, and created a field of biases that directed the individual away from God (and toward the social constructions of that particular symbolic order).

What puts the situations containing these social constructions into context?

Answer: The Doctrine of Original SinME.

Thus, the transition in our Lebenswelt may be portrayed as a nested set:

“What puts these into context”(social constructions(transition to speech-alone))

Expressed in terms of Liberation Theology:

Original SinME(personal and social sin(Bible texts describing ‘sin of the world’))


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

As an aside: Ironically, Liberation Theology pursued “social justice” (by “advocating” for the poor, and so forth) while setting the stage for “cosmic injustice” (by promoting and justifying Marxist leaning dictatorships that eventually oppressed everyone, including the churches that originally supported them).


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

“Liberation theology” was popularized in Latin America in the 1970s in response to the oppression, poverty and injustice endemic to that region.  Leaving the metaphysical theories of the Catholic scholastic traditions behind, they forged new theories based on the social sciences and Marxist perspectives.   They intended to raise awareness of the social dimension of Original Sin.

In addition to personal sin (the product of individual concupiscence) and Original Sin (the universal consequences of the Fall), liberation theologians included Social Sin (the consequence of individual sinful acts and embodied in social structures).  But then, what would be the difference between Original Sin and Social Sin?

The idea of Social Sin may be grounded in both St. Paul’s letters and John’s Gospel.  But, the Catholic College of Cardinals ended up rejecting the idea that the biblical “sin of the world” equaled the doctrine of Original Sin.


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

In Chapter 6, Wiley covered “Original Sin in a Contemporary Context”.

After modern thinkers rejected what medieval and patristic writers assumed, rejected the historicity of Genesis 2.4 on, and offered their own alternative “formulations” of humankind’s sins, Christians were left to either cling to their old (discredited) illusions or forge a new synthesis.

Is there anything valid about what the medieval and patristic writers imagined about fallen human nature?  How should Christians situate the Genesis text in light of the lack of historicity? Is there another way to conceptualize Original Sin?

Of course, An Archaeology of the Fall addresses these questions, in 2012, by proposing an answer to the question: Why civilization?

Wiley presented three thinkers who wrote 50 years prior, in the 1960s.  The next few blogs look at these thinkers.


Thoughts on Original Sin by Tatha Wiley (2002) 5E

Finally, how does the postmodern (Age of Semiotics) An Archaeology of the Fall change the picture?

Doctrines of Reason and Resistance become examples for a semiotic-oriented Doctrine of Original Sin based on the recognition that cryptotheological doctrines are symbolic orders.  These symbolic orders exclude other potential symbolic orders. Social constructions always have unintended consequences (that is, consequences that cannot be symbolized by the formulating order).

“The society that we live in” changes to “the social constructions that we live in”.

“The various imaginings that support cryptotheological symbolic orders (the various anthropologies of “what went wrong?”)” change to” an artistic (imaginative) parallel between the Biblical stories in Genesis 2.4 – 11 and the adoption of speech-alone talk”.

Furthermore, the structure of modern imaginative anthropologies most likely harken to the – originating, but now impossible to return to – world of hand-speech talk.

Why?  The entire frame of

Cryptotheologies(“social construction”(nature of humans))

is a symptom of the change of Lebenswelt that occurred when humans adopted speech-alone talk, which has vastly different semiotic qualities than hand-speech talk.  And, inexplicably but importantly, the change from one way of talking to the other allows us to re-mythologize the Stories of Adam and Eve.


Thoughts on Original Sin by Tatha Wiley (2002) 5D

So let me complement Wiley’s Chapter 5 with this list of changes:

Latin Age changed to Age of Ideas

Medieval changed to Modern

Theocentric changed to anthropocentric

Doctrine of Original Sin changed to Doctrines of Reason and Resistance

“The fallen world that we live in” changed to “the society that we live in”

The anthropologies concocted from the Story of the Fall changed to various “anthropologies of what went wrong”

The image of “Genesis 1-11 as history” changed to the image of “Genesis 1-11 as myth (completely non-historical)


Thoughts on Original Sin by Tatha Wiley (2002) 5C

By the time we get to Rousseau and Kant, the Enlightenment is well on its way to symbolizing the post-Latin Age Europe.  Each pointed to some aspect of past debates on Original Sin.

Rousseau proposed a substitute to Fall itself.  What went wrong?  He identified the Fall as the adoption of the cultural value of “private property” at the start of Civilization.

Kant proposed an ethical substitute for Sanctifying Grace.  The categorical imperative relied on Reason and stated that “you should act as if ‘the maxim from which you act’ were to become, through your will, universal law.” (At the same time, Kant’s categorical imperative justified Resistance).

From the previous blog, I can put each into a box.

Rousseau proposed an anthropology.  (The Anthropology belongs to the same category as the imagination, since one can imagine this pre-civilized condition but one has never encountered it.)

Kant proposed a Doctrine of Reason and Resistance.  (For Reason, consider the actor not committing an act, such as jaywalking, because, if jaywalking became a universal law, many people would get injured.  For Resistance, consider the actor adopting a cause, such as “not owning private property”, then forcing that stance on others, because it is consistent with the maxim that this “act” should become universal law.)


Thoughts on Original Sin by Tatha Wiley (2002) 5B

After the previous blog, Wiley’s treatment of history should be a pleasure to read.

However, maybe I should point out that the previous blog suggests a mind-boggling range of causalities between the nested worlds of symbol(index(icon), ordering(participating(imagining)) “normal context”(situation(“whatever happened”)) and so forth.  Here are three:

Changes in any one category alter the other two categories.

The law of unintended consequences applies only to the situation.

The presence of unintended consequences alters the imagination (before the normal context is altered).

Also, the previous blog allows a nested image of Modernity:

Doctrines of Reason & Resistance(Society(Anthropology)

The Renaissance re-centering of the imagination from a theocentric to an anthropocentric worldview empowered cryptotheological Doctrines of Reason and Resistance (that found full expression in the Enlightenment traditions) which, in turn, contextualized the emergence of the “Society” of Industry and Science characteristic of Modernity.


Thoughts on Original Sin by Tatha Wiley (2002) 5A

In Chapter 5, Wiley began the second half of her book, which focused on the last 500 years.

Remember that terms “Renaissance”, “Enlightenment” and “Modernity” are labels in an anthropocentric rather than a theocentric symbolic order, will these labels change in the future.  Who knows?

Each of these periods mark an increasing erasure of the prior Latin Age, with its theocentric symbols, its feudal power structures, and its Biblical and Augustinian imagination.  Allow me to give a series of idiosyncratic snapshots:

In the Renaissance, “kingdoms” replaced feudal arrangements, the Church fissured into the Catholics and the Protestants, and wealth from trade began to enrich Europe.   This was the time of the Council of Trent.

In the Renaissance, people began to imagine a world different from the static world of “society as body”.  This is seen in the new art of perspective and illusion.  At this time, most everyone still believed that Genesis portrayed literal events, but some skeptics imagined that these stories could be mythological.   Theology was in the air.

In the Enlightenment, people began to symbolize images from the Renaissance plus the new situation of nation states plus the new situation of scientific discoveries. The Story of Adam and Eve was no longer regarded as literally true.  Skepticism gave way to the deification of Reason.  Religion was regarded as irrational.  The Genesis text was irrational.  Yet, the findings of the Council of Trent remained like a fortress.  Theology was in retreat.

In Modernity, people began to construct societies based on the symbols of the Enlightenment.  The great Religions of Reason were born: Communism (International Socialism based on the Reasoning of Marx); Fascism (National Socialism based on the Reasoning of … um … Marx); and later, Progressivism (Incremental Socialism … need I say the Reasoning?).   In the European colonies, the great Religions of Resistance were also born.

These Religions of Reason and Resistancewere formulated through – what I call -“cryptotheologies”.  Cryptotheologies claim that they are not “religious”, because they speak of “No Supernatural Being”.  Yet, their central claim is: By faith (in Reason) alone, you shall live.

The Religions of Reason and Resistance claimed the victories of Science as their own.

One of those victories was a new theory of origins: evolution.  The Evolutionary Sciences appeared to show that the Stories of the Fall were not historically true.  Genesis was mere fable.  There is no connection between these stories and the Real.

Furthermore, the languages of Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Economics, Sociology and Psychology cannot admit God or anything Religious into their symbolic orders.  This provided more fodder for the cryptotheologies of Reason and Resistance.

The Story of the Fall is bogus.  Original Sin is irrelevant.  Long live Reason and Resistance.


Thoughts on Original Sin by Tatha Wiley (2002) 4O

Humans in civilizations know they are depraved.  They are always trying to turn back, to recapture the Lebenswelt in which we evolved, by formulating systems that will allow us to “Be Born Again”.  These formulations offer the promise of a return to a world where we all belong, where we all believe, where uncertainty and risk is shared by all, where each gets according to her needs, where each gives according to her abilities, where each person knows what to do and why she is here, where everyone’s voice has importance, where differences are perceived as commonalities, and so on and so on.

Luther’s descriptions of Original Sin, to me, amazingly capture the “sensibilities” of modern ideologues.  Some of these ideologues did not grasp for sovereign power, forming communities that were separatist and later, trapped in the time in which they were formed, like the Amish and the Hippies.  Some of these ideologues grasped for sovereign power, in order to facilitate the Baptism – the Baptism of Blood – of new social orders.

The Modern Era invented new ways of talking.  As a result, almost all cultures and civilizations have been Born Again, either by withdrawal or by blood.   In this way, Modernism itself re-enacts this weird parallel between the transition to speech-alone talk and the concept of Original Sin.

Luther’s definitions even capture the topsy-turvy character of Modernity.   For example, the situation of “acts of unbelief” has mutated.  In Progressivism, the phrase “the Constitution is a Dead Letter”, is “an act of unbelief” in a symbolic framework where “the Constitution is a Living Document”.

Various Modernisms detached Luther’s variation of Original Sin from its moorings in Christianity and, in doing so, literally brought his definitions to life.  All aspects of his formalism have been re-interpreted in the vain attempt to return to the Source.

Luther’s variation on Original Sin was:

Need to be Born Again(acts of unbelief(flawed faculties “of nature”)

It is almost as if Luther’s voice was the voice of Eve as depicted in An Archaeology of the Fall.