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The Fundamental Option
(a) According to Delhaye, a real mortal sin occurs, not on the level of particular choices but on the level of the fundamental option. Explain this statement and its consequences and the implication.
As a premise, let it be noted that a mortal sin is an act done with full knowledge and consent as a formal refusal opposed to God’s call to love. It is a turning away from God and is so grave that it could affect the entirety of the person. By entirety, we mean personality and orientation which according to Delhaye are categorized into the good Fundamental Option and the bad Fundamental Option. And by orientation, we mean a tendency or a direction that leads a person to make certain decisions. Thus, we say that mortal sin occurs in the level of the Fundamental Option because commiting one objectively serious sin doesn’t automatically equate to a mortal sin if the person’s Fundamental Option is good. Let’s say a man kills 3 men that are trying to rape his wife. Indeed murder is a very grave sin yet taken in the context of the event that he was merely protecting his wife, in the level of the particular, it becomes difficult to say if the husband committed sin. However, the focus here shouldn’t be the technicalitites of the gray area that this incident is in. Rather the focus is what the act implies and how the act affects the husband’s relationship with God – a relationship founded on ones Fundamental Option.
If a person is deeply rooted in evil- hence, his Fundamental Option is to turn against the absolute good, God - when he commits a grave sin, it is relatively easier for him to plunge into mortal sin. Thus, the frequency of commiting a mortal sin is associated with the person’s Fundamental Option. And once a mortal sin is committed, because it has changed a person’s orientation and has affected a person’s relationship with God, it would take more than a “sorry” to get a person back in the right (loving) track.
(b) Why is it important to insist that there is a level beyond particular acts, why is it important to insist that mortal sin “occurs” on this level?
Man isn’t always consistent or 100% coherent. His decisions and corresponding actions often depend not on a strict set of principles but on the different situations that he faces that always call for an assessment of objective content. However, we cannot continue to believe that a person’s life is determined by acts that are independent from each other and that every slight mistake or bad decision already equates to mortal sin. God is very forgiving. He does not condemn or disown us for every slight misstep.
Being that our lives are not just about a series of separate particular acts, we believe that there is a much profound level beyond this – Fundamental Option. And because as is said previously, the Fundamental Option is determinant of our personality or “the person that we are,” it becomes but judicious that it is only in this level that mortal sin occurs. It is also important to insist that mortal sin occurs on the level of Fundamental Option so that our idea of mortal sin is not trivialized. Mortal sin is severe and it is not easily committed or forgiven, thus a person should be careful in dealing with such matters. It is only in the occasion of mortal sin that the-person-that-we-are continuously veers away from God by incessantly commiting acts that hurt other people and our relationship with God.
(c) Why would this be better than the tradidtional “sin in partiuclar acts” explanation? Expound on your answer.
Looking at mortal sin as occuring in the level of the Fundamental Option would be a better basis than the “sin in particular acts” explanation because it takes into account a larger picture of sin, particularly mortal sin. Our lives are not merely a series of random acts. People do have inconsistencies but these inconsistencies are part of being human. Regardless of the inconsistencies, people’s actions connote or indicate a certain unity that move toward certain goals. And as is said in Delhaye’s article, the goal of Fundamental Option is the absolute good
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Sin, Crime, Christian philosophy, Religious ethics, Mortal sin, Free will in theology, Good and evil, Veritatis splendor, Christian views on sin
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