Adolf Köberle on man’s denial of his own fallenness

“But if it be further asked what kind of an accidens original sin is, that is another question, of which no philosopher, no papist, no sophist, yea, no human reason, however acute it may be, can give the right explanation, but all understanding and every explanation of it must be derived solely from the Holy Scriptures, which testify that original sin is an unspeakable evil and such an entire corruption of human nature that in it and all its internal and external powers nothing pure or good remains, but everything is entirely corrupt, so that on account of original sin man is in God’s sight truly spiritually dead, with all his powers dead to that which is good”[(FC SD I.60].


The following is from the conclusion to Chapter 1 of Adolf Köberle’s The Quest for Holiness, entitled “Man’s Attempts to Sanctify Himself in God’s Sight”:

Countless are the altars at which humanity has brought its offerings to the “unknown” God in the hope of reconciling Him and earning a claim to fellowship with Him. It believes that access must at least be gained because the separating interval is not of a qualitative but merely of a quantitative nature, and it seems only a part of transitory weakness and imperfection, as something preliminary but never an absolute interruption in the personal voluntary relation of God and man. Such a “dynamic” deficiency must finally be overcome by a progressive increase of the energies of the will, by more extensive purification, by perfecting the spiritual endowments or by penetrating more deeply into the fields of knowledge. In its last analysis, that which always gives men renewed courage and strength to continue climbing these steep paths is the secret proud feeling of satisfaction in being able to develop and grow by a self-achieved or at least a co-operative process of sanctification.* No matter how hard and difficult the requirements may be it does not matter if only we can come to God with full hands and not with those that are quite empty, if only we may give something of ourselves out of the abundance of our own willing and knowing and being [original emphases] (Köberle, 17-18).

*Köberle speaks here of sanctification in the broad sense, i.e., as a synonym for salvation in toto. Sanctification in the narrow sense of ongoing renewal in the life of the believer does include the cooperation of man qua new creation with the Holy Spirit, “though still in great weakness” [FC SD II.65; cf. II Cor. vi, 1].


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