Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The remission is more than the forgiveness of sins

"In an initial approximation, one can very well say that God 'forgives' our sins.  But forgiveness is not yet remission.  Forgiveness is something human.  The remission of sins [(ἄθεσις ἁμαρτιῶν, remissio peccatorum)] can only come from God.  In truth, when someone forgives a wrong I have committed against him, he thus refuses to consider me as a wrong-doer and as definitely marked by my misdeed.  But he can do no more.  To be sure, he can turn his eyes away from what I did and attempt to forget it, and to look only to the future.  But he cannot change me, he cannot change my heart.  He cannot restore my liberty of not-sinning.  God alone is capable of that, and this is what he does by remitting my sins.  Remission is a liberation.
     "The remission that God alone is capable of granting transcends human forgiveness. . . ."

     "God forgives our sins, not in order to recuperate what we would have caused him to lose, but to allow us to recover our lost integrity.  Nor does he grant us this remission 'on condition,' for example, requiring us first of all to love him.  'What?  A God who loves men, on the condition that they believe in him. . . .'  As we saw, this sentiment comes from Nietzsche.  This is an absurd demand, for the simple reason that sin is precisely what deprives us of the ability to love, and hence, to  believe; the forgiveness of sin must first of all give us this capacity.  Thus, it is by her regained capacity to love that Jesus recognized that the sins of the woman who anointed his feet with oil were forgiven (Luke, 7, 47). . . .
     "God does not demand that we love him in return, as if, once it is assumed that we know how to love, we have to choose among different objects, all equally worthy of our love. . . . In reality, he invites us, quite simply, to love; or rather:  he allows us to do so.  And the love that he frees in us spontaneously orients itself in the direction where is can assume all its amplitude and live according to its proper logic.  This 'direction' is, precisely, God."

     Rémi Brague, On the God of the Christians (and on one or two others), trans. Paul Seaton (South Bend, IN:  St. Augustine's Press, 2013), 146-147, 153-154.

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