Friday, November 30, 2007

Spe Salvi - Random Observation No. 3

There's a passage at the end of paragraph 33 which expresses very clearly the demand that the encounter with God places on the Christian conscience:
We must learn to purify our desires and our hopes. We must free ourselves from the hidden lies with which we deceive ourselves. God sees through them, and when we come before God, we too are forced to recognize them. “But who can discern his errors? Clear me from hidden faults” prays the Psalmist (Ps 19:12 [18:13]). Failure to recognize my guilt, the illusion of my innocence, does not justify me and does not save me, because I am culpable for the numbness of my conscience and my incapacity to recognize the evil in me for what it is. If God does not exist, perhaps I have to seek refuge in these lies, because there is no one who can forgive me; no one who is the true criterion. Yet my encounter with God awakens my conscience in such a way that it no longer aims at self-justification, and is no longer a mere reflection of me and those of my contemporaries who shape my thinking, but it becomes a capacity for listening to the Good itself.
Certainly, ignorance does mitigate personal responsibility and culpability, but one sees in some circles the idea that 'being pastoral' means not pointing out some of the sinfulness present in this world. The theory is that if the faithful are not presented with the fullness of Christian morality, then God will not hold them responsible for sins committed in ignorance.
I've never been happy with that horribly nominalistic argument as it presents a misleading view of God and of the Christian life. Cultivating a dulled conscience amongst the faithful is depriving them of an encounter with the living God who wants only what is good for them. Living according to a distorted picture of 'the good' will inevitably obscure the vision of the God who is Good. Denying the existence of sin is a denial of the God who redeems us from sin. A lively conscience is the sine qua non of the adult Christian life.

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