I recently picked up a Stanley Hauerwas anthology (click here to view).
As i was thumbing through its pages, a footnote at the end of an entry caught my eye. I thought i would post it to see what everyone thought about it.
The footnote (on page 220) is a quote from Reinhold Niebuhr’s (anyone know much about him? Haven’t read up on him yet.) book entitled The nature and Destiny of Man:
“Man loves himself inordinately. Since his determinate existence does not deserve the devotion lavished upon it, it is obviously necessary to practice some deception in order to justify such excessive devotion. While such deception is constantly directed against competing wills,seeking to secure their acceptance and validation of the self’s too generous opinion of itself, its primary purpose is to deceive, not others, but the self. The self must at any rate deceive itself first. Its deception of others is partly an effort to convince itself against itself. The fact that this necessity exists is an important indication of the vestige of truth which abides with the self in all its confusion and which it must placate before it can act. The dishonesty of man is thus an interesting refutation of the doctrine of man’s total depravity (emphasis mine).”
Niebuhr’s point is basically that man’s attempt to deceive himself of being sinful presupposes that somewhere in his soul he knows that he isn’t living out who he was created to be and that he disobeying God. Such an understanding, even it if is subconscious/intuitive shows that he is not totally depraved in the Calvinistic sense.
I think that Niebuhr is on to something, especially if one considers this to be the way a person operates who never receives Christ, as this would require that either God’s call isn’t irresistible. However, having a natural inclination to strongly resist deterministic theology, i freely admit that i might be jumping the gun here.
Any thoughts on this? Hopefully the more philosophically precise can help me out here.