Pontiff: Christian Concept of Sin Veils Happy Fact

Notes Doctrine on Goodness of Creator

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 3, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Christian explanation of evil and original sin is a happy proclamation, since it affirms that life and living is good, says Benedict XVI.



The Pope offered an explanation of original sin today during the general audience in St. Peter's Square, in which he reflected on St. Paul's teaching about Adam and Christ as found in the Letter to the Romans.

As "men of today," the Holy Father said, "we must ask ourselves: What is this original sin? […] Is this doctrine still tenable today? Many think that, in the light of the history of evolution, there is no longer a place for the doctrine of a first sin, which then spread to the whole history of humanity. And, consequently, the question of the Resurrection and of the Redeemer would also lose its foundation."

In answering if original sin exists, the Pontiff said that we must "distinguish two aspects of the doctrine on original sin. There is an empirical aspect, namely, a concrete, visible, I would say tangible reality for all, and a mysterious aspect, regarding the ontological foundation of this fact."

The empirical fact, he said, is clear: There is a contradiction within man, who wants to do good, but feels the impulse toward the contrary.

"This interior contradiction of our being is not a theory," Benedict XVI said. "Each one of us experiences it every day. […] Suffice it to think of the daily news on injustice, violence, falsehood, lust. We see it every day: It is a fact. […]

"Hence, the fact of the power of evil in the human heart and in human history is undeniable. The question is: How is this evil explained?"

Unique understanding

The Pope said that Christianity stands alone in the history of human thought with the explanation it offers.

In all other proposals, "there is a principal model of explanation, with several variations," he explained. "This model says: Being itself is contradictory, it bears within it good and evil. In ancient times this idea implied the opinion that two equally original principles existed: a good principle and an evil principle. […]

"In the evolutionist, atheist version of the world the same vision returns in a new way. Even if, in such a concession, the vision of being is monistic, it is implied that being as such from the beginning bears in itself evil and good. […] Evil is equally original as good, and human history would develop only the model already present in the whole of the preceding evolution."

"Deep down," the Holy Father affirmed, "it is a despairing vision: If it is so, evil is invincible. In the end, only self-interest matters."

But faith, he said, has a different proposal: "As a first point, it confirms the fact of the competition between the two natures, the fact of this evil whose shadow weighs on the whole of creation. […] Evil simply exists."

"As explanation, in contrast with the dualisms and monisms that we considered briefly and found desolating, faith tells us: There are two mysteries of light and one mystery of night, which is, however, shrouded by the mysteries of light. The first mystery of light is this: Faith tells us that there are not two principles, one good and one evil, but only one principle, the creator God, and this principle is good, only good, without a shadow of evil.

"As well, being is not a mixture of good and evil; being as such is good and because of this it is good to be, it is good to live. This is the happy proclamation of faith: there is only one good source, the Creator. And because of this, to live is good, it is a good thing to be a man, a woman, life is good."

The mystery of darkness follows, he said, "Evil does not come from the source of being itself, it is not equally original. Evil comes from a created liberty, from an abused liberty."

Still mysterious

How this happened, the Bishop of Rome contended, "remains obscure."

Images have offered explanation, like those of Chapter 3 of Genesis, but "it cannot explain how much in itself is illogical. We can guess, not explain. […] It remains a mystery of darkness, of night," he said.

"However, a mystery of light is immediately added," Benedict XVI affirmed. "Evil comes from a subordinate source. With his light, God is stronger and, because of this, evil can be overcome. Therefore, the creature, man, is curable; […] man is not only curable, he is in fact cured. God has introduced healing. He entered in person into history. To the permanent source of evil he has opposed a source of pure good. Christ crucified and risen, the new Adam."

The Pope concluded with an Advent reflection: "In the language of the Church the word Advent has two meanings: presence and expectation. Presence: The light is present, Christ is the new Adam, he is with us and in our midst. The light already shines and we must open the eyes of the heart to see the light and to enter the river of light. […]

"But Advent also means expectation. The dark night of evil is still strong. […] And we pray with insistence: Come Jesus; come, give force to light and goodness; come where falsehood, ignorance of God, violence and injustice dominate; come, Lord Jesus, give force to the good of the world and help us to be bearers of your light, agents of peace, witnesses of truth. Come Lord Jesus!"