Monday, February 12, 2007

Kierkegaard on the origin of sin

The unexplainability of evil

Sin came into the world by a sin. Were this not so, sin would have come into the world as something accidental, which one would do well not to explain. The difficulty for the understanding is precisely the triumph of the explanation and its profound consequence, namely, that sin presupposes itself, that sin comes into the world in such a way that by the fact that it is, it is presupposed. Thus sin comes into the world as the sudden, i.e., by a leap; but this leap also posits the quality, and since the quality is posited, the leap in that very moment is turned into the quality and is presupposed by the quality and the quality by the leap. To the understanding, this is an offense; ergo it is a myth. As a compensation, the understanding invents its own myth, which denies the leap and explains the circle as a straight line, and now everything proceeds quite naturally. ...To want to give a logical explanation of the coming of sin into the world is a stupidity that can occur only to people who are comically worried about finding an explanation.

-Søren Kierkegaard (Vigilius Haufniensis),
The Concept of Anxiety, 32, 49-50.

I have posted on this idea a number of times before (see especially this whole series): we must not find an explanation for sin and evil. It is always a sad and shocking interruption, an alien intrusion into God's good world. Its existence is a puzzle, since it apparently pulls itself into being* by its own bootstraps. This is what Haufniensis seems to be getting at with his talk about the quality and the leap - it is a closed circle with no natural entrance: sin presupposes its own existence. To explain it, to find a natural line of development from non-sin to sin, is to change its character as sin, to make it logical, even necessary and useful and thus - good!**
*Or into non-being, if we take Augustine's view of sin as privation - as lack of being.
**Of course, the Bible affirms that God can bring good out of evil, but this is a secondary move and must not become a justification for evil.
Ten points for guessing what kind of structure this picture is of.

12 comments:

::aaron g:: said...

“sin posits itself” (Reinhold Niebuhr)

andrew said...

Looks a lot like a brick bell tower to me!

Nice arches - Romanesque?

Michael Canaris said...

A ziggurat? A belfry? A vault? A dumb waiter? A mining-shaft?

duncan a said...

I heard someone recently saying that Christian suffering isn't futile because it always brings blessing. But would you say that suffering, in any form and to anyone, is always futile and a tragedy? That the fact that God by his grace wrenches good out of suffering is wonderfully true, but should be spoken of only after an aknowledgement of the real evil and absolute futility of that suffering?

The Miner said...

A KILN?

cyberpastor said...

Here here!

Sin has no existence of its own. It relies entirely upon being a distortion of the good.

michael jensen said...

Sin as jack in the box...

It is surprising, I suppose, sin, but also, very boring. Boring to still be a sinner, after all.

byron said...

Yes, sin is boring.

byron said...

And ten points to Andrew - it is the bell tower of the original cathedral in Venice, on a distant island in the lagoon that was eventually abandoned in favour of the present location. Had some great views from the top.

Five points to Michael Canaris for suggesting a ziggurat (and his other wonderful suggestions)!

byron said...

Duncan A - precisely.

andrew said...

That's not the island of Torcello by any chance? If so, I've climbed it too!

I had a sneaking suspicion I'd seen those metal support brackets before (I joke not).

byron said...

Torcello it is! Five extra points for the bonus information and to show you that foreign pictures are not all bad... :-)

You move into second place. Look out Pete J!