In addition to the letters published in this week’s issue of the The Tablet you can find more correspondence here, available free.
Fr Jack Mahoney's evolutionary theology (Humanity's Destiny, The Tablet, 14 January) breaks the logjam of past thinking and opens the way to a creative understanding of sin and salvation. He observes that prior to Christ the human species was "prone to self-concern and even self-obsession to the disregard of their fellows"; but this fails to take into account that at some point as creation evolved into consciousness of itself in humankind, the amoral behaviours inherited from its animal ancestors became subject to the self-aware critical reflection that "my self-interest is harming the interest of my fellows: shall I just disregard them?"
The decision "Yes!" was the original sin if not Original Sin, and gave rise to the human sense of guilt. Through a process of contamination and growth, sin entered human history and burdened humankind's consciousness, as abundantly attested to in the Old Testament. With this evolutionary step humanity worked itself into a situation of hopelessness: it hated itself for its sin but was powerless to stop itself from repeating it.
Concomitant with this evolutionary process, humanity became aware of itself experiencing pain and the suffering associated with death. In its attempts to understand this phenomenon it created such myths as that of "the fruit of the tree of good and evil" that spelled the end of the animal innocence of non-self-awareness and the "death" of the spiritual "paradise" of peace of conscience. The next step in the evolutionary process of human consciousness was, as Fr Mahoney so cogently argues, Jesus' recognition of the role of altruism in salvation.
But the key to understanding Jesus' redemption of humanity lies in the fact that he became human to restore humanity to its pre-Fall innocence and freedom from the fear of suffering and death; to enable it, furthermore, to "evolve" into knowing and experiencing for itself how it enters eternal life (in the eternal now that begins on earth) by giving itself in love for the life of others.
And this he did, not by offering himself, humanity's representative, as an expiatory holocaust to a jealous God (a key point well made by Mahoney), but as God offering himself in love to humanity, without fear but with absolute trust in the Father, in the role of Shepherd leading his flock through the gates of hellish suffering and death - unwaveringly confident in the indestructibility of his own loving life - to the new and everlasting life that love is.Les Leach, Bedford
If, as Fr Jack Mahoney SJ so rightly points out, the Garden of Eden. the Fall and Original Sin are a myth, then there was no need for God to take on human nature and be sacrificed as a man in expiation. So why did Christ come? I would like to suggest that he came, as he said, to complete the Law and not to change it.
The Decalogue in the Old Testament sought to ensure the successful development of the Israelites - acknowledge the authority of the lawgiver, cherish the family and do not perform acts that disrupt society such as killing, stealing etc, all the "Thou shalt nots". These might be called the laws for evolution. Christ proclaimed the complementary "Thou shalts": love God and your neighbour, love one another as I have loved you, and so on. These might be called the laws for involution and they do indeed complete the Law, not change it.
Why did Christ die? Perhaps it was the inevitable result of authenticating his authority as the new lawgiver by claiming divinity. The Jews tried to stone him when he said, "Before Abraham was, I am". The last straw was when he portrayed himself to the Sanhedrin as the one in Daniel's vision "And I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven, one like a son of man" (Daniel 7:13).Michael Forrest, Bridport, Dorset
One good reason for revealing the defective case for the inherited guilt element in original sin (as Jack Mahoney has) as I found years ago when I did so to the limited circle that I was in, is illustrated by the relief of a parent whose child had died without baptism to find that he had died entirely in God's love. The doctrine that we understood then (and probably many do now) was that the merits of Jesus, through his death, to cancel the debt of this guilt, was only available to people validly baptised as Christians. The present Pope has, by implication, accepted that that doctrine was wrong when he declared that limbo is not a valid doctrine. Limbo was of course the second-class salvation to which un-baptised children were consigned in order to avoid the scandal of saying they had gone to hell.
The difficulty that the Church has in being more overt in the matter is illustrated by the following argument for inherited guilt put to me once: that since Jesus' Mother had been declared as having the privilege of immunity from the guilt of original sin by the authority of papal infallibility it must therefore exist!Richard Green, New Barnet, Herts
The truly depressing thing about Emma Klein's report on Jewish settlers on occupied Palestinian land (The Tablet, 7 January) is their warped moral perspective. In international law this land belongs to the Palestinian people through the principle of self-determination. Since the International Court of Justice's Advisory Opinion of 2004, there is no wiggle room left on this point.
For non-Palestinians to settle there under the auspices of the occupying power is thus not just illegal, but objectively wrong. It constitutes a form of theft: "You shall not steal" (Exodus 20:15). If Jews wish to live there, they can do so with Palestinian consent, but the settlers Ms Klein interviewed show no interest in requesting this.John McHugo, Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine and member of the Executive of CAABU, London
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