by Chris Schroeder, S.J., Saint Louis University

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Contemporary religious thinking contains a variety of elements that are inimical to the idea of divine judgment and the condemnation of humanity because of sin. Given this conflict, Christian apologetics must find some way to mediate between its own teachings and contemporary values. Dialectic between Christian theology and conflicting cultural values can occur in one of two manners: Either Christianity can critique the cultural ethos and offer an alternative valuation, or Christianity can attempt to show that its teachings and values, when properly understood, are not in conflict with the broader culture. The modern emphasis on autonomy as a component of moral dignity poses strong enough challenge to Christian ideas of divine judgment to require this second method of apologetic. How can God make rules about something as arbitrary as eating from a tree and implement punishment for their trespass without this being anything but a heteronomous imposition onto individual human freedom? A sufficiently sophisticated formulation of these teachings about divine condemnation is necessary in order to show that they do not deprive humanity of the dignity proper to a legitimate autonomy. Toward this end, this paper will identify the mechanisms of condemnation present in Athanasius’ On the Incarnation and demonstrate that his position on condemnation because of trespass of divine law need not be understood as an example of heteronomy.[1]

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