Blessed by design

“He did not hold to original sin by a single couple and instead opted for the notion of the primacy of Christ formed by the Franciscan theologian Duns Scotus. Scotus held that God’s love could not be undermined by a defect in creation such as original sin. Rather, from all eternity, God willed a creature to grace and glory so that whether or not sin ever entered into creation, Christ would have come. God is love and Christ is first in God’s intention to love; the whole creation is structured on the incarnation.”

— A Hunger for Wholeness, A: Soul, Space, and Transcendence by Delio, Ilia, OSF

I’m enjoying another book by Ilia Delio and the quote which was about Teilhard de Chardin, succinctly explains something I heard Fr. Lou McCormick, OFM say in a homily nearly twenty years ago. I remember sitting in the chapel at Mt. Irenaeus at the time I heard it. It just made sense. The idea that God would create a universe with an intentional flaw that would require the death of his son to redeem never made any sense as an adult. Many years later I learned that the doctrine of original sin was a creation of St. Augustine. How many times have you heard well meaning religious folks tell you that you were damned if you didn’t accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior. I remember a discussion with a local pastor about that topic. I said to the guy, “What about the apostles? What about the unborn?” The chap made an exception for the unborn and infants and that’s when I knew that the doctrine was flawed.

Most of my adult life I’ve thought that the reason for the incarnation was to show us how to live. Love your neighbor. Do good to those who harm you. Take care of the poor and the rest of the gospel message should be the real focus. Reducing Jesus to merely a sacrificial atonement for sin is a disservice to his earthly ministry. The Sermon on the Mount, The Beatitudes and Matthew 25:31-46 are the most meaningful for me and always have been.

The Primacy of Christ

The Pope’s homily which I have written about earlier today has come at a time when I have been reading a lot from writers within the Franciscan Intellectual tradition. When I read Pope Francis’ homily earlier today I was reminded of this “paper” that I read a number of years ago on the internet. Its author, Seamus Mulholland, OFM, is a Franciscan friar who authored this piece in 2001. The Incarnation in Franciscan Spirituality came along at a time after I had heard a talk by Fr. Lou McCormick, OFM at Mt. Irenaeus. I was intrigued by Fr. Lou’s talk about the Primacy of Christ. Though I had been raised a Roman Catholic and even attended Catholic primary and secondary schooling I don’t remember ever hearing about anything other than a sin-centered universe. The Incarnation in Franciscan spirituality is centered on love and not sin. Lately I’ve been reading a number of books by Ilia Delio, OSF who also references the approach of Scotus to soteriology. I love this quote from Seamus Mulholland’s article:

“God is love and that love is our redemption and redemption is not primarily being saved from sin, but is rather the gift of the possibility of openness to the experience of the divine Other in our life.” — Seamus Mulholland, OFM

A way forward

My sister sent me a Youtube video which reminded me of the work and writings of John Duns Scotus. I like to remind myself that all theology is theory and that no one really knows what is going on. But, first as a person and then later a person being formed in the Franciscan tradition the idea of a sin centered universe was counter intuitive to me.  I have many reasons for saying that, but most of all my own experience dictates that God is love and that love surrounds me and us at all times and does not have to be earned.

Franciscan Spirituality sees the Incarnation as the guarantee of union with God. It is not something to be hoped for or to be looked forward to – it is something, which is happening NOW. God is Love and that Love is our redemption and redemption is not primarily being saved from sin, but is rather the gift of the possibility of openness to the experience of the divine Other in our life. How can it be otherwise when we posit the notion of the divine and human in Jesus? Scotus’s doctrine of the absolute centrality of Love is both timely and profoundly needed by our world. Men and women cry out for an experience of hope in a world which has lost direction – in the teaching of Duns Scotus, Franciscan Spirituality has within its hand that hope-filled experience and the end of that longing. For if God willed the Incarnation from all eternity, then it was always his intention to become part of sinful creation – sin determines the manner of that becoming, but it does not determine the fact that it was going to be….Br. Seamus Mulholland