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Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Lessons for Transforming Evil in Soul and Society Paperback – June 27, 2000
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Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh, by Matthew Fox, is a big, exuberant, difficult book. It's a new theology that re-evaluates fundamental Christian methods of perceiving spirit and flesh by denying any hard and fast distinction between the two. Even more radically, Fox denies that goodness and sinfulness can be cleanly distinguished. Following to its logical conclusion Thomas Aquinas's belief that sin is misdirected love, Fox describes parallels between the Seven Deadly Sins of Christianity and the seven chakras of Eastern traditions--how, for example, even the ugliest expressions of lust are, at their root, corrupt expressions of a God-given desire for union with another. In this regard, Fox quotes the German mystic Meister Eckhart: "Everything praises God. Darkness, privations, defects, and evil praise God and bless God." Sins of the Spirit is so complex and ambitious that its structure and language often become knotty and abstruse; however, Fox always returns to his central goal, "to ground our sense of sinfulness--and of awe--in the body." For this reason, Sins of the Spirit is a landmark of popular contemporary writing about Christian theology. It points the way to a time when we might learn to live out our confession that God's incarnation is the reason for our faith. --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
In the early 1970s, psychiatrist Karl Menninger wondered, Whatever became of sin? At the end of the millennium, mystical theologian Fox (Original Blessing) declares that sin is such an overwhelming part of our cultural context that it is imperative to decide how we are going to talk about it. In spirited and engaging prose, Fox presents his thesis: that we have focused far too long on the sins of the fleshthe titillating sexual peccadilloes of our politicians, for exampleto the exclusion of the sins of the spirit. Quoting medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas, Fox defines sin as misdirected love. He contends that thinking of sin in this way enables us to think anew about what the Catholic Church called the seven cardinal sins: sloth, pride, lust, wrath, envy, avarice, gluttony. Believing that we are not in a position to consider sin unless we first understand our capacity for goodness, Fox argues in the first part of the book that our flesh is good. He does not restrict the term flesh simply to the traditional sense of human weakness; he also affirms the fleshiness of the earth and the universe and demonstrates our human connectedness to the cosmos. In the second part, Fox examines the many definitions that Eastern and Western mystics, theologians and biologists have given to sin. In the third section, he combines the chakra tradition of the East with Aquinass idea of misdirected love to offer a rethinking of the concept of sin: Is sin not a love energy (chakra) that is misdirected? In a final section, the author asserts that the chakras teach us to direct the love-energies we all possess and proposes seven positive precepts for living a full and spirited life, including Live with moral outrage and stand up to injustice. Fox tries to take a hard look at the magnitude of evil in the world, yet his focus on directing our love in more positive directions offers little more than sweetness and light.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
We might assume that the Protestant Reformation rose for the sake of religious freedom. But as Fox points out, most early Protestant leaders actually championed a full return to Augustine's doctrine against free will. John Wyclif (1320-84) contradicted his Catholic Church by teaching that only Adam and Eve ever possessed freedom -- which they lost, both for themselves and all their posterity, as their punishment for disobedience. From that time forward no one alive had any real freedom, but all were slaves to inborn sin. The people of the world should therefore realize that nothing they did or said could be ever acceptable to the Father. No matter what, they would remain hopelessly unworthy of salvation, and deserve only eternal punishment. The good news of Christ was simply that God had overlooked the faults of some people, choosing them for predestined salvation through no merit or choice of their own.
Martin Luther agreed, proclaiming that God's omnipotence rendered each human "unfree as a block of wood, a rock, a lump of clay or a pillar of salt". With such belief he supported slavery, feudal dues, and forced labor as seen in the Bible: "Sheep, cattle, men-servants, and maid-servants were all possessions to be sold as it pleased their masters. It were a good thing it were still so. For else no man may compel nor tame the servile folk".
John Calvin made humanity's fallen nature seem obvious as the gap between heaven and earth:
"The mind of man is so completely alienated from the righteousness of God ... His heart is so thoroughly infected by the poison of sin that it cannot produce anything but what is corrupt, and if at any time men do anything apparently good, yet the mind always remains involved in hypocrisy and deceit, and the heart enslaved by its inward perversity. ...
If God had formed us of the stuff of the sun or the stars, or if he had created any other celestial matter out of which men could have been made, then we might have said that our beginning was honorable. ... But when someone is made of clay, who pays any attention to him? ... [So] who are we? We are all made of mud, and this mud is not just on the hem of our gown, or on the sole of our boots, or in our shoes. We are full of it, we are nothing but mud and filth both inside and out."
Fox goes on to discuss the implications of modern knowledge that we are made of stellar, celestial matter. It's a book that helps us rethink our whole set of assumptions about what holiness is.
--author of Correcting Jesus