Sin In The Light Of To-Day -- By: Olive M. Winchester

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 076:302 (Apr 1919)
Article: Sin In The Light Of To-Day
Author: Olive M. Winchester

Sin In The Light Of To-Day

Miss Olive M. Winchester

With the progress along scientific lines, the developing of philosophical thought and speculation, and the remolding of religious beliefs and theological dogma, many of the doctrines of the old ecclesiasticisms have undergone material change. Sometimes the alteration has been quite a radical one; for instance, in the view of deity as immanent in contradistinction to the belief in the transcendence of the Godhead. At other times the variation appears to be rather in the method of approach than in the change of the fundamental conception itself. This is apparent in the doctrine of the Incarnation. The fact of an incarnation remains the same, whether it is approached by the dogmatic method of the more conservative advocates or the philosophical method of the liberal theologians, although the latter view raises grave textual problems. As long as the modifications in dogma were confined to the more speculative issues, the immediate effect was not so great; but when these began to touch the ethical and practical problems, naturally there would be certain corresponding results. In the consideration of the question of sin, we touch a decidedly ethical and practical issue. If the conception of sin is so modified that it becomes a necessary concomitant of man’s development, — in fact, if it is no more than good in the making, — then, necessarily, the gravity and heinousness of sin disappears; and man’s responsibility and guilt for sin is thereby lessened, if not eradicated altogether. Thus, in a case like this, it is the part of wisdom to alter fundamental conceptions with caution, and to look well to the outcome of any change before the modification is made.

Before turning directly to the subject, however, it is necessary, since the question of sin is such a ramified one, to institute a process of elimination, that it may be clearly

understood just which phase of the issue is to be treated. Together with sin conies the query of origin, — both metaphysical and non-temporal and also temporal. Then also theodicy would become a part of a full discussion of the subject. Moreover, the relation of sin to human destiny would be a consideration to be taken into account. But these will be dismissed for the time being, and simply the nature and essence of sin will be discussed, together with some closely allied features which are sometimes confused with sin.

With this view of the subject in mind, we will consider some of the modern definitions and analyses of sin. First, we shall take up the scientific exposition of natural science, the evolutionary solution of the problem. From the point of view of pan-evolution there would be no discontinuit...

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