Guilty paralysis

The gospel is the engine of cultural creativity. But how?

“A certain sense of guilt is a corollary of any privilege even when the privilege is deserved,” observes Paul Tournier in Guilt & Grace a Psychological Study (37). He illustrates: “An employee of quality feels it towards his fellows when an appreciative chief entrusts him with the highest responsibilities. A girl who is asked to sing in church at Christmas has this feeling towards a friend who would have dearly liked to be invited instead. Any envy or jealousy of other people arouses some guilty conscience in us.”

The guilt that is a reflex of others’ envy is stifling: “in all fields, even those of culture and art, other people’s judgment exercises a paralyzing effect . . . . it prevents men from expressing themselves freely, as they are. Much courage is needed to paint a picture, write a book, to erect a building designed along new architectural lines, or to formulate an independent opinion or an original idea. Any new concept, any creation falls foul of a host of critics. Those who criticize the most are the ones who create nothing. But they form a powerful wall which we fear to run into more than we admit” (98).

By delivering us from false (and genuine) guilt, by declaring that we stand in the favorable judgment of God in Christ, the gospel frees us to create without fear. It releases cultural energy because it relieves guilt; it has cultural power because it liberates us from fearing the envy of others.

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