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McCabe on Sin

Life in Christ…is a seeking into the meaning of human behaviour which involves a constant reaching out beyond the values of the world. Sin consists in ceasing to reach out, refusing to respond to the Father’s summons, and settling for this present world. What makes it possible for us to reach out, to hear and respond to the summons, is that through the resurrection of Christ the future world is already with us as a disruptive force disturbing the order of the world. We are able to some extent to live into the mode of communication that belongs to the future world, the mode we call charity or the presence of the Spirit. Of course trying to live in the present world a life in accordance with the future is a dangerous business, as Jesus found out. The christian may expect to be crucified with him.”

Herbert McCabe, What Ethics is all About: A Re-Evaluation of Law, Love, and Language, p.153


  1. Great quote Halden.
    I find this line at the beginning a bit puzzling:
    “seeking into the meaning of human behavior.” What does McCabe mean by this?

    Tuesday, August 14, 2007 at 1:59 pm | Permalink
  2. Halden wrote:

    He says this in the context of his discussion of the sacraments where he argues that “the sacramental life of the church makes the presence of the risen Christ articulate as a revolutionary interpretation of the world, an interpretation of the world in terms of its future destiny.”

    So, when he states the Christian life is a seeking into the meaning of human behaviour, he’s saying that the Christian life is an attempt to understand the fullness of human life and action in the context of the Christian sacramental-eschatological interpretation of the world. I think what he’s doing is holding together the presence of God and eschatological future of the world with the daily life of the church in the world now. If the church’s radical interpretation of the world in terms of its future in Christ is the essence of life in Christ in the present age, then that means that fleshing out that life involves constantly exploring our human patterns of living and seeking to avoid “settling for this present world.”

    For McCabe, much of this has to do with his Marxist critique of capitalism. He’s trying to say that life in Christ subjects “how things are” to scrutiny and radical critique in light of the eschatological destiny of the world which is proleptically experienced in the reality of the church’s sacramental life.

    Tuesday, August 14, 2007 at 2:37 pm | Permalink
  3. Thanks Halden.

    I’m not so sure that “the church’s radical interpretation of the world in terms of its future in Christ” = “the essence of life in Christ in the present age.” That’s being missional to the extreme, I think. Surely there must be more to life in Christ than the sheer act of interpretation of the world. Perhaps this interpretation is part and parcel of the church’s worship, which I would be fine with.

    Furthermore, doesn’t this sort of radical viewpoint lead to immanentism within the church, so that only the Church’s interpretation of the world is legit? Does sacramentality allow for the extra nos of revelation? I guess I’d like to know how McCabe views God’s sustaining and accompanying of the world outside the church by the Holy Spirit. Hope this makes sense. Much appreciated,

    Tuesday, August 14, 2007 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

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