Anima Course on Romans starts tonight!

For those of you in Melbourne who would like to join us, we are starting a new course on “Reading Paul: Romans” tonight at Mary Glowrey House at 6:30pm. $15 a night, the course will run through to the end of the year. Full details here.

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2 Responses to Anima Course on Romans starts tonight!

  1. I’d be interested in how you handle Romans 6:12, David. In light of Trent and all that.

    • Schütz says:

      Yeah, OK, I’ll bite. Just briefly.

      The issue is whether sin remains in the Christian after baptism, or, more technically, whether concupiscence may (properly speaking) be called “sin”.

      In short, it hinges on what you mean when you use the word “sin”.

      Council of Trent, Session Five, Section Five said:

      “This concupiscence, which the Apostle sometimes calls sin, the holy council declares the Catholic Church has never understood to be called sin in the sense that it is truly and properly sin in those born again, but in the sense that it is of sin and inclines to sin.”

      This is a little like the argument about what is a “Church” in the proper sense (and look at where that got us!), but is dealt with fairly well by Chris Burgwald in his thesis “Sin in the Justified” (I did send you a copy of that, didn’t I?). Chris’s final conclusion is that Trent works with a narrow definition of “sin in the proper sense”, as acts of ommission or commission done willfully and knowingly in disobedience to God’s express command.

      As Chris points out, in this sense, even “original sin” is not “sin in the proper sense”, and the Church shows that in her attitude toward children who are below the age of reason. Yes, they are born affected by original sin, that’s why we baptise them. But no, they don’t have to go to Confession after baptism until they reach the age of reason, because without the faculty of reason they cannot actually commit sin “in the proper sense”.

      So the word we use instead is “concupiscence”, which Lutherans call “sin” and Catholics (following Trent) do not. But really the point is not that we disagree about what concupiscence is, but rather we are using the word “sin” differently. Using a broader sense of the word “sin”, yes, it is conceivable that (as Trent acknowledges the Apostle does in Romans 6), concupiscence CAN be called “sin” – but since it is not ACTUAL sin, it is not culpable unless one gives in to it. (Just as it is NOT sin to be tempted, but rather to GIVE IN to temptation).

      Looking beyond both Trent, the Apologia, and Augustine, to what Paul actually says, he uses “sin” in Romans 6:12 in a particular way. He is not talking about actual sinful acts, but rather he is talking of “sin” as if it were a personified power at work in the world – rather akin to the way he uses the word “the flesh”.

      Paul is using Exodus imagery in this passage (as 6:15ff shows). The issue is slavery, and the question is: Who is your Master? In Romans 1:1 he introduced himself as a “slave” of Jesus Christ. Christ is King and Lord. Christ reigns in him. The alternative to letting Christ be your Master is to let sin be your master, to return to Egypt after crossing the Red Sea of Baptism (Rom 6:2ff). (Nb. No one can serve two Masters at the same time!). Using this analogy, the one who is baptised has been entirely freed from the “Egyptian bondage” – they have crossed the Red Sea and are now bonded to the Lord. Nevertheless, even the Israelites in the desert were tempted to look back to the flesh-pots of Egypt!

      To warn his readers not to let “sin reign in your mortal body, unto the obedience of its desires” is to warn them not to go back to what they have left behind. In this context, it is interesting to note that the Catechism cites Romans 6:12 only once, and that is when it quotes St Cyril of Jerusalem at p. 2819:

      “Only a pure soul can boldly say: “Thy kingdom come.” One who has heard Paul say, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies,” and has purified himself in action, thought and word will say to God: “Thy kingdom come!” [St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catech. myst. 5, 13: PG 33, 1120A; cf. Rom 6:12]”

      You might well ask, why would anyone who had been completely freed from original by baptism even be tempted to return to the slavery of sin? Indeed Augustine and the theologians who followed him DID ask this question, and their answer was that

      “there remains this concupiscence of the flesh in the body of this death. Now we are admonished not to obey its sinful desires to do evil: “Let not sin reign in your mortal body” (Romans 6:12).” [Marriage and Concupiscence, 1:28].

      You might like to take a look at this comment on a post on the “Called to Communion” Blog by Bryan Cross. Very interesting stuff from Augustine.

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