An analysis of the relationship between personal and social sin within the development of Gregory Baum's theology

Margaret Lorelle Causey, Marquette University

Abstract

While there has been a renewed awareness of the social dimensions of sin in theological discourse, Gregory Baum is one of the few theologians who has explored the relationship between personal and social sin from within clearly articulated foundations. Baum's analyses of sin range over the course of his theological development which shifts from an emphasis on existential concerns to a dialogue with sociology and concentration on societal transformation. It is the context of the former that Baum develops his notion of personal sin; it is in context of the latter that he proposes an understanding of social sin and a dialectical relationship between personal and social sin. Baum concludes that personal and social sin must be viewed as equally essential in a comprehensive understanding of sin and must be defined from the perspective of their interdependence. The chief problematic that emerges in Baum's analyses is whether in the transition from viewing sin from a personal to a societal context, the reality of personal sin and the ontological roots of sin are reduced to socio-political factors with a concurrent secularization of sin, conversion, and salvation. This problematic is addressed by first situating Baum's theology within the context of the traditional and contemporary discussion of sin, then by summarizing, analyzing, and assessing Baum's foundations for and definitions of personal and social sin within the development of his theology and continually evolving methodology. It is found that Baum's theological foundations, especially his doctrine of God and understanding of the transcendent dimension of sin, lead to an unacceptable secularization of sin and inadequate understanding of the personal dimensions of sin. However, Baum successfully corrects the distortions of privatized notions of sin that underrate the social dimensions of sin. His concept of social sin and proposal of the dialectical relationship between personal and social sin provide a sound theoretical framework that could be developed into a comprehensive theology of sin that neglects neither the transcendent nor the personal dimensions of sin.

Recommended Citation

Margaret Lorelle Causey, "An analysis of the relationship between personal and social sin within the development of Gregory Baum's theology" (January 1, 1995). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI9626932.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI9626932

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