Richard McBrien on Sin and Grace

Richard McBrien reflects on limbo, baptism, sin and solidarity.

What if we are all born permeated with the presence of God, which is grace, and which is ours to lose only later in life by sin? Why is such “good news” so disturbing for some? Why does it make them angry toward anyone who even suggests the possibility? Why is our solidarity with Adam in sin a more important value for such Christians than our solidarity with Christ in redemption?

What if? What if we started with Scripture? We’d see that we do have solidarity with Adam in sin and death, but, by grace through faith, solidarity with Jesus in justification and life. The good news is not that we are “permeated with the presence of God” from birth; it is that, despite the fact that we are born separated from God, we have redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: … But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. … For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Romans 5, passim.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Romans 3:23ff.