Sin, Shame, Redemption

(This was intended as a post to this comments thread, but I’m putting it in this blog post so that I appear more voluminous than I really am.)

Now that quote from the end of Nietzsche’s Gay Science, Book 3, is very interesting, that “the seal of liberation is to no longer be ashamed in front of oneself.” In the Christian context, it is precisely because of Christ that I am liberated and no longer ashamed.

For us, shame and sin refer to our inherent baseness as a fallen race; “Original Sin,” as many sects call it. All of us have gone astray from the goodness that God intended us for. We are enslaved to sin because of our fallenness, and unable to save ourselves from it for the same reason, as even our righteousness is tainted with unrighteousness. The only way by which we are saved is through the work of Christ, who sacrificed himself on the cross to pay for sin, rose from the grave in victory over death, then sent us his Spirit to work out within us the redemption which has been achieved. Because of the salvation we have gained through the work of Christ, we are no longer sinful before the Lord, but are instead washed clean of sin, and able to stand before Him, made righteous by virtue of his love and not by our own merit: Liberated and free of shame.

We perceive our own self-redemption to be futile, and I can see how that can be interpreted as self-loathing and shame; but then, self-loathing and self-pity are repeating attitudes which torment the soul unrelentingly without end. Not so with Christianity; it acknowledges the sinfulness of man, then rises above it and accepts the gift of salvation which frees us from that sinfulness. It gives us a life free from shame, free from the tyranny of believing that we must work and self-flagellate endlessly to be made worthy of God. That is our redemption; an imputed righteousness that makes us as sinless as newborn children.

Such a faith, which says that “he whom the Son sets free is free indeed,” is markedly different from other religions which would seek to keep followers in line through fear and punishment. If I were to build a religion as a tyrannical structure of power, I most definitely would not model it after Evangelical Christianity. (Although admittedly, there are Christian leaders across every denomination who have sought to foment such abuse.)

I’m well aware of how foolish much of this must sound to the atheist and the skeptic. There are many things which we accept solely by faith and/or based on the authority of Scripture, and none of this can be “proven” by empirical or scientific methods. But I believe that Scripture is a miraculous text which is reliable and unyieldingly convicting, and that Christian testimony through the ages can show the truth of the experience of God in Jesus Christ.