June 21, 2007


Caption: This man suffers from the sin of vanity. He's not very graceful either.

Welcome to Goat Rope. El Cabrero is on a theological tear this week, with a special focus on the great 20th century theologian Paul Tillich. You will also find items about current events here as well. If this is your first visit, please click on the earlier posts.

Hamlet has still got to be my favorite Shakespeare play. There are so many nuggets to mine in that rich seam. One of my favorites has to do with the theme of sin and grace.

When the troupe of players arrive at Elsinore, Hamlet asks Polonius, who is kind of a dork, to see to their hospitality. Here's the clip:

LORD POLONIUS My lord, I will use them according to their desert.

HAMLET God's bodykins, man, much better: use every man
after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?

In other words, if we all got what we deserved, we'd be in deep doo-doo (that would be the consequence of sin). Grace involves the hope that we might get off a little easier.

The ideas of both sin and grace have built up a lot of baggage over the years and have often been trivialized. Tillich had some interesting ideas about them. This is from his sermon "You are accepted":

There are few words more strange to most of us than "sin" and "grace". They are strange, just because they are so well-known. During the centuries they have received distorting connotations, and have lost so much of their genuine power that we must seriously ask ourselves whether we should use them at all, or whether we should discard them as useless tools. But there is a mysterious fact about the great words of our religious tradition: they cannot be replaced... But there is a way of rediscovering their meaning, the same way that leads us down into the depth of our human existence...

I should like to suggest another word to you, not as a substitute for the word "sin", but as a useful clue in the interpretation of the word "sin", "separation" . Separation is an aspect of the experience of everyone. Perhaps the word "sin" has the same root as the word "asunder". In any case, sin is separation.... And separation is threefold: there is separation among individual lives, separation of a man from himself, and separation of all men from the Ground of Being.... We know that the fate of separation is not merely a natural event like a flash of sudden lightning, but that it is an experience in which we actively participate, in which our whole personality is involved, and that, as fate, it is also guilt.... It is this which is the state of our entire existence, from its very beginning to its very end.... Existence is separation! Before sin is an act, it is a state.

We can say the same things about grace. For sin and grace are bound to each other. We do not even have a knowledge of sin unless we have already experienced the unity of life, which is grace. And conversely, we could not grasp the meaning of grace without having experienced the separation of life, which is sin. Grace is just as difficult to describe as sin... In grace something is overcome; grace occurs in spite of something; grace occurs in spite of separation and estrangement. Grace is the reunion of life with life, the reconciliation of the self with itself. Grace is the acceptance of that which is rejected. Grace transforms fate into a meaningful destiny; it changes guilt into confidence and courage. There is something triumphant in the word grace : in spite of the abounding of sin grace abounds much more.

(Note: if you think those paragraphs were long, you should have seen them before I cut them. Good thing he didn't write plays, huh? That would have been a sin.)

FIGHTING FIRE. Here's to the memory of nine South Carolina IAFF union firefighters who died in the line of duty this week.

ON A CHEERIER NOTE, here's a priceless WV cat rescue item fresh from the headlines:

PARKERSBURG, West Virginia (AP) - It took two fire trucks, five firefighters, several animal rescuers and about 250 gallons of water to rescue a kitten that refused to come out of a West Virginia storm sewer drain.

COAL. The Natural Resource Council has recommended increasing funding for coal research and devoting more of it to studying its environmental impact and worker safety, according to this Gazette item by Ken Ward.



thinkulous said...

It seems you and I have both veered toward the theological this week! Me with my novel about a minister and my history of the Jews, and you with your Tillich, et al! Fabulous! Maybe we should get together and create a site called, "Blogma"!

El Cabrero said...

That would be a great blog name!

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

I have read Tillich: those paragraphs are not long.

El Cabrero said...

What is it with these guys and paragraphs, anyway?

Juanuchis said...

Once again ... OWIE.

You're just gonna make me read Tillich, aren't'cha? (Note, I didn't say I'd re-read TBK.)

Sin is certainly a toughie, but like many, I truly struggle with the concept of Grace.

But then, of late, I've been rather apart from God. Things, you know. And I see Tillich's concept of "sin". I suppose it's a concept of hell also.

Alas, the Gazette article didn't open. I have an interest in Things Coal since the Sago disaster was very close to our home (I think we've even overtop the mine, or damn close.)

El Cabrero said...

OK, I'm drawing a blank. What's TBK?

When it comes to religion, I'm kinda like an old car on a curvy road with an AM radio. Sometimes I can pick up a station, other times I can't.

Sorry about the mine link.