The Dogmatic and Mystical Theology of John Donne

By Itrat Husain | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV JOHN DONNE AND THE DOCTRINE OF THE "FALL" AND SIN

THE first beginning of the speculation on the nature of "Fall" and "original sin" is to be found in the different views taken as to the origin of the human soul. The Eastern Fathers and Jerome and Hilary in the West held that God created each soul out of nothing and then joined it to a body derived from its parents. According to this theory, which is called "creationism," original sin would lie in the body and not in the soul. The speculations of the Western Fathers and Gregory of Nyssa in the East led them to the view that the human soul was derived from its parents. Thus all mankind sinned "in Adam." With Origen in the East and Tertullian in the West, the two classical types of the Fall doctrine begin to distinguish themselves. Origen in his Alexandrine period elaborated the theory of a pre-natal "Fall" of individual souls borrowed from Plato's " Phædrus." "Original Righteousness" is thus affirmed, but referred to a transcendental mode of existence, whilst "original sin" becomes a weakness rather than a disease, a privatio rather than a depravatio. In his later period at Cæsarea, he took a more pessimistic view of human nature and held that a "sense of guilt" is inherent in the conception of "original sin." The fundamental element in Tertullian's elaboration of the "Fall" doctrine is the belief in the corporeity of the human soul, which is based on the theory of the "seminal identity." Thus according to Tertullian "vitium originis" affects all those who are born of the common stock. He strongly asserts that "original sin" is a positive corruption and not a mere infirmity. But we must remember that the early Fathers, like Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria, took an optimistic view of human nature. They held that the "Fall" deprived man of his supernatural bias towards righteousness, but left him a fundamentally sound nature. Thus "original sin" was taken to mean a loss of higher goodness, a "privatio naturæ." This mild conception of original sin in the Early

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The Dogmatic and Mystical Theology of John Donne
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction xiii
  • Chapter I John Donne and the Anglican Church 1
  • Chapter II 23
  • Chapter III John Donne and Revealed Theology 43
  • Chapter IV John Donne and the Doctrine of the "Fall" and Sin 77
  • Chapter V John Donne and Soteriology 94
  • Chapter VI 112
  • Chapter VII John Donne and Mystical Theology 120
  • Appendix to Chapter II 144
  • Bibliography 148
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