Well, this is interesting. On a blog called, "Creedal Christian," one Bryan Owen, a priest in the Episcopal Church, wrote about Full Permission Living in a piece called: "The Human Problem and Full Permission Living," in which the priest extensively quotes Paul the Apostle who bemoans his sinful nature, which he can't, of course, control. You can read the whole piece HERE.

Here's my response, which I posted on the Creedal Christian blog:

The inner struggle that Paul is describing could be characterized in modern psychiatric terms as an "obsessive compulsive disorder." The unwanted behavior that Paul keeps indulging in is typical of someone who harbors guilt, particularly around sexual feelings. Here's Paul: "I don't accomplish the good I set out to do, and the evil I don't really want to do I find I am always doing."
Paul even seems to be aware that the urges reside in his subconscious mind: "My conscious mind wholeheartedly endorses the Law, yet I observe an entirely different principle at work in my nature."
Where Paul, and Christian theology, falls short, and with dire consequences, is in abdicating responsibility for what lies in one's subconscious mind. Instead of true self-examination and self-work, Paul, like many "sinning" Christians, blithely blames "his nature" and "The Fall" for his behavior: "In my mind I am God's willing servant, but in my own nature I am bound fast, as I say, to the law of sin and death."
The unfortunate results of this kind of self-flagellating trickery can readily be scene in the rampant sexual acting out among religious people, especially Christians. It is guilt and the suppression of sexual feelings that leads to negative acting out, not our true nature. Jesus understood this. That is why he said these things: "Judge not lest Ye be judged," "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you." Jesus understood that it was the human ego's capacity to judge that was our "original sin," leading to our fall from paradise. God created us perfectly, and in His image, including with the free will to explore notions like ego, guilt and judgment, but pretending that we are the victims of our own nature is a distortion that has led many professed Christians to a lot of what Paul would describe as "evil" behavior.

Here's Father Owens' comeback:

Thanks for commenting, Peter. The portrait of the Apostle Paul you're offering is one whose validity I don't accept. It strikes me as, at best, a thin reading, and at worst, a form of psychological reductionism. (Nor, BTW, do I accept pitting Jesus against the Apostle Paul in radically oppositional ways.) By contrast, I think that the posting from Fr. Stephen I cite does justice to the Apostle Paul.

But generally speaking, what you're saying does seem to underscore the point that we tend to reject (even within many mainline denominations) the classical meanings of terms like "sin" and "the Fall," especially insofar as they point to an ontological problem we simply cannot will our way out of (which you characterize dismissively in a memorable phrase as "self-flagellating trickery"). And actually, taking Paul and the tradition (articulated via Fr. Stephen) seriously, we could say that religious people (or anyone else, for that matter) acting out in sexually destructive ways - in spite of knowing better and willing otherwise - actually makes the Apostle Paul's point, providing warrants for the diagnosis that there is, indeed, an ontological problem with human nature such that the credo of "Full Permission Living" looks like a peace treaty with sin and fallen human nature.

For me, all of this points to the radically counter-cultural character of the Christian faith.


A "peace treaty with sin," yes, I like that, Bryan. I do believe that is what Jesus was advocating. It is only by making peace with our inner struggles that we can cleanse ourselves of that which negates our highest nature.
Thanks for the dialogue.

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