"...the Bible sees humans as sinful, warped and twisted. Nice middle-class liberal moderns may not like it, but we are all broken and in need of repair."
I like a lot of what the blogger who wrote that statement says. He strikes me as an honest and reflective theologian, not afraid to tack into the wind from time to time. There's a good deal that I find jarring too; but that's not to knock him personally. He faithfully adheres to - admittedly with a degree of nuance and sophistication well beyond the capacities of a poor, common clod like myself - the traditional dogmas.
One of these traditional dogmas is the belief that humanity is flawed, twisted, wrecked, derailed, "broken and in need of repair."
Looking carefully at the language used in the introductory quote, this scholar - in common with most conservative Christians - understands the consequences of this tragic situation in an individualistic sense: "we are all [you, me, our neighbours, kids and role models alike] broken..."
If that's true, who dropped us, smashed us, caused us to be broken and in need of repair. How did it happen? Who or what was (and is) responsible?
Being a 'fact fundamentalist', or so I've been told, I'm no longer happy to accept a mythological story as sufficient cause. I do understand the role of aetiology in providing an insightful metaphor, and that's okay as far as it goes. But if we're going to slag off our entire species as corrupted, warped and twisted, I want much more than an ancient campfire tale togged out as "a privileged text." It's not that I want to purge the world of Genesis, or (God forbid!) the Epic of Gilgamesh, but at the end of the day, as profound as these tales might be, they are incapable of providing any kind of normative foundation for a sensible worldview.
If we are broken, as the writer asserts, then it's logical that there was a time before we were broken. Brokenness follows an unbroken state. So when was that? In an age of animal innocence perhaps? I'm not sure anyone even faintly familiar with non-human 'creatureliness' would agree with that.
But then, maybe Paul hit the nail on the head when he talked about the whole creation - including dogs, pigs, scorpions and sharks - being caught up in this whole warping and twisting.
But that hardly settles matters. In fact it complicates things further. The whole framework is just bizarre.
Can we escape by pleading poetry?
"Faithfulness too can be truth. In fiction when a character acts in ways which ring true to their nature (as built up elsewhere in the story or the corpus) and to the relevant aspects of the world as we know it (remembering that willing suspension of disbelief plays a role in all poetics) we say the story is “true”. Likewise when the other things all good fictions communicate, the attitudes and elements of worldview “fit” with (i.e. are faithful to) what we believe, we say the story is true."But there's the rub. If we're talking about the Bible (or certain parts of the Bible), there has to be a good deal of massaging and apologetic shoehorning in order to make things "fit". Poetry may reflect our deepest understanding of reality, but it can't create it out of whole cloth. Gilgamesh is powerful poetry, saturated with deep insights, but would you cherry-pick it for a dish of take-home dogma?
Life is as it is. Species compete. Individuals within species compete. Nature is red in tooth and claw. Was there ever a time when this wasn't true? Self aware and sentient we may be, but this is our backstory too. What's sin got to do with it?
Is 'sin' even a useful category in trying to make sense of the human condition?
Evil deeds, along with the predictable temptations to rampant self interest certainly exist, as they also do among troops of chimpanzees. But let's not forget about altruism, compassion and our unique human willingness to preserve and sustain our planet, even at considerable cost.
Talk of sin just avoids hard thinking, pasting a label on an observed condition and pretending it amounts to an explanation. This way lies madness, self-loathing, and the vilest forms of Calvinism.
If you want to break, shatter, derail and wreck that warped and twisted paradigm (or even just give it a gentle exploratory poke), Steven Pinker's very readable The Better Angels of Our Nature might be just the thing to whack it with. It's one of those books that not only pushes the reader up the learning curve at a fairly gentle incline, but arguably makes you smarter with each page turn.