Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 1.5S1

Summary of text [comment] page 33 and 34

[Eventually, a person habitually coheres to either thinkgroup(sin(consciencelacking)) or thinkdivine(virtue(consciencefree)).

At this point, we encounter an objective aspect in Schoonenberg’s argument.

Actuality (sin or virtuous acts) has constrained possibility (conscience) to a particular specification.  Technically, consciencespecified is possibilityconstrained_by_actuality.

Consciencespecified is subjectiveobjective.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 1.5R

Summary of text [comment] page 33

[Schoonenberg addressed two facets of sin and virtue.

The “subjective” facet concerns the habituation of the will. This calls to mind conscience and disposition in the intersecting nested forms.

Consciencefree and consciencelacking associates to the “will” in the moral and religious sense of the term.

Dispositions also appear “willful” in the natural philosophical sense.

The human “will” then, broadly describes both aspects of possibility in the intersecting nested forms.

Actions emerge from the will.  Human actions situate the will (consciencespecified and dispositions).

Habitual actions change the will by increasing the likelihood of a particular configuration of consciencespecified and dispositions.  We become accustomed to certain environmental triggers.  We may seek out those circumstances because they tell us what we want to hear (for sin) or challenge us to overcome our selfish habits (for virtue).

In time, we may adopt a thinkgroup or thinkdivine that consistently puts our actions into context and further habituates the will.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 1.5Q

Summary of text [comment] page 33

Let us look at those spontaneous appetites [dispositions] more closely.  They may be sensual (material) or spiritual (immaterial).  They substantiate the person as a mediating creature.

Mediation changes both the outside world and the creature.  So human action, as sin or virtue, changes both our world and our own persons.

How does human action change the world?

Every action is an event on its own, that is, an objective actuality independent of the mediator.  Every action occurs in circumstances and changes circumstances.  These changes may be labeled “objective”.

How does human action change the actor?

The person is distinct from circumstances, even as the person operates in circumstances.  The change in the person during human action is correspondingly “subjective”.

The terms “objective” and “subjective” thus become difficult to comprehend.  They depend on where one stands.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 1.5P

Summary of text [comment] pages 32 and 33

Schoonenberg then wrote about will and an ascending series of venial sins, mortal sins, and final impenitence.

The will has to do with an intuition in this life about a future life.  The will makes choices in this life … and there comes a moment … a moment in dying … when the will and the choice become one  …

Free will works with the sensual appetites. The appetites spontaneously tend to partial goods.  They are able, like the sense knowledge to which they correspond, to push deeper decisions into the background.

[In terms of the intersecting nested forms, consciencespecified corresponds to free will and dispositions corresponds to appetite.

The dispositions focus the attention of the conscience onto partial goods (subjective knowledge) while pushing the deeper decisions (objective knowledge; thinkgroup_or_divine) into the background.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 1.5O

Summary of text [comment] page 31

[So let me add the concept of “free will” to both examples.

In the first, the surgeon knows that something is wrong, but avoids corrective actions.

In the second, the medical professional knew that it was the wrong patient and still performed the operation.

Are both cases equivalent to mortal sin?

Here, we must confront the notion of “freedom”.  Freedom reflects the professional’s relation to thinkdivine (noting, here, that for medical practitioners, thinkgroup was formulated explicitly to complement and reinforce thinkdivine).

A surgeon may avoid corrective action in order to solve an even more critical issue.  Similarly, the “wrong patient” may need the operation but not have insurance.

In both cases, the surgeon breaks the rules in order to achieve a goal.  So these are not sins at all.  Are they?

Thus, the will must be added to knowledge of circumstances in the consideration of venial and mortal sins.

To me, it seems that free will and knowledge, not the objective results, constitute “gravity”.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 1.5N

Summary of text [comment] page 31

First, let us consider an example of the Dutch logic tree of sin.

Here is my analogy.

Professionals, people trained to perform within a certain discipline, perform tasks.  Here are two examples where tasks go awry:

First, on the subjective pole, a routine action may suddenly not feel right.  The reason becomes apparent.  Corrections follow.

Second, on the objective pole, a routine action may go completely smoothly then, later, the professional finds something horribly wrong.  This is the nightmare of every medical professional.  Guess who operated on the wrong patient.

[This example resonates with the scholastic view that a venial sin is a disorder concerning the means and a mortal sin is a disorder concerning the end.

Now let us apply this to the Dutch logic tree.

Both types mirror “transgression of God’s law”.

Both types relate to “important matters”.

Neither was committed with “full knowledge”.

Consequently, neither type was “committed freely”.

But clearly, one type is objectively worse than the other.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 1.5M2

[There is an ontological split in the moral order.  This split leads to “tension”.  “Gravity” relates to this “tension”.

The tension contains a polarity with respect to knowledge.  On one hand, there is universal knowledge, immaterial, tautological, honed by both natural and cultural evolution, and revealed in freak moments of divine what-if-ness.  On the other hand, there is sensual knowledge, carnal, ambiguous, stimulated by natural and cultural events, and habituated in freak moments of “wow that felt good” or “wow that felt bad”.

Now, step back.  Does the term “tension” sound similar to the “tension” between “objective” and “subjective” knowledge?  Even more, does “subjective’ knowledge become “objective” knowledge when one steps back?

Sensual knowledge is fragmentary.  Universal knowledge is unitary.  Sensual knowledge is subjective.  Universal knowledge is objective.

[To me, Schoonenberg started with personal decision (which I associate with consciencespecified).  He then noted a tension relating to sensual knowledge (which I associate to dispositions, which is not in the moral order) and universal knowledge (which I associate to thinkdivine_or_group, which is in the moral order).

Schoonenberg highlighted three of the elements of the intersecting nested form.  Let us see how it plays out.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 1.5M1

Summary of text [comment] pages 30 and 31

Sin is subjectively a personal decision and utterance against God.

[In terms of the intersecting nested forms, I associate “personal decision” with “consciencelacking” and “utterance” with “thinkgroup”.]

Can these personal decisions and utterances be classified as venial or mortal?

Yes, the gravity for mortal decisions is greater than venial decisions.

What does the term “gravity” imply?]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 1.5L

Summary of text [comment] page 30

Why don’t humans act on the basis of logic trees?

Logic trees are “objective”.

Human action arises from a “subjective” point of view.  The logic tree approach omits the subjective aspect to sin.  Sin is subjectively a personal decision and utterance against God.


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 1.5K

Summary of text [comment] page 29

[I return to the text.]

How does Schoonenberg see the difference between venial and mortal sins?

The Dutch Catechism of 1910 set up a logic tree:

Is a human act a transgression of God’s law?  Yes (continue) No (not sin)

Is the act an important matter?  Yes (possibly mortal, continue) No (venial)

Was the act committed with full knowledge? Yes (possibly mortal, continue) No (venial)

Was the act committed freely (with free will)? Yes (mortal) No (venial)

Schoonenberg then pointed out – in a roundabout way – that humans do not act on the basis of logic trees.