« Don't Teach Creationism, Says ABC | Main | Prayers-for-Healing Studies Due Out Soon »

March 22, 2006


Alec Brady

I'm very excited by this idea. It resonates with something I've thought for a long time, which is that sin relates to a feature of human psychology called 'irrational belief' (http://www.rebt.org/WhatisREBT.htm) but which I prefer to call 'absolute evaluation'.

We are constantly making value judgements. Value judgements may be relative ("I like this" "I hate that" "This is preferable" "that is inconvenient") or absolute ("I need this" "That is dreadful" "I can't bear not to have this" "that must not happen"). Absolute evaluations tend to be associated with neurotic responses. We all do this, just some people are crippled by it while others manage to control it to some degree.

The literature describes a number of effects of such 'irrational beliefs' (to revert to the usual terminology) which - I believe - tally remarkably well with the features of original sin as described by Aquinas.

The originator of this psychological theory is Albert Ellis, and he argues that we are biologically predisposed to irrationality. It could be that the evolutionary reason for this is exactly as you suggest - it promotes single-mindedness.

In my practice as a psychotherapist I use Ellis' ideas all the time, and am often impressed by how well they work. In my life as a Christian I am aware that my attachment to sin seems to have this neurotic, absolutist quality.

I suggest we identify original sin with this biological predisposition - it's not immoral to be this way, but it causes immorality. The only permanent cure for it is resurrection.

The next question (for me as a Catholic) would have to be: what does this mean about how we understand baptism, or indeed any of the sacraments?

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Favorite Posts

Your email address:

Powered by FeedBlitz


Episcopal Church

  • Come and Grow