The Ill-Made Knight and the Stain on the Soul
Keywords:atonement, stain on the soul, narrative, self
One of the main tasks for an account of the Christian doctrine of the atonement is to explain how and in what ways the salvifically relevant work of Christ heals the damage wrought by human sin on our souls, our relationships with one another, and our relationship with God. One kind of damage often neglected in philosophical treatments of the atonement, but discussed at some length in Eleonore Stump’s forthcoming At-one-ment, is what she, following St. Thomas Aquinas, calls the stain on the soul. The stain on the soul comprises the “moral leftovers” of serious evil, damage to the soul that goes beyond the guilt, shame, and separation from God brought about by sin and that lingers in a person even after she has repented and been forgiven. In this paper, I critically examine Stump’s account of how the work of Christ deals with the problem of the stain on the soul. I offer reasons for thinking that if the stain is exactly as she describes it, then it is indelible; and then I explore possible ways forward for her account of the atonement.
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