A United Methodist pastor with over thirty-six years of pastoral experience, Rev. Wayne Plumstead describes what he has learned about the aesthetics of religion from the philosophy of Aesthetic Realism, founded by Eli Siegel.

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Location: Bloomfield, New Jersey, United States

The Rev. Wayne Jack Plumstead holds a BA from Drake University and an MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary. Ordained a minister in the United Methodist Church in 1973, he has served since 1991 as Senior Pastor at the Park United Methodist Church in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Prior to that time he served pastorates in Lower Berkshire Valley, Bayonne, Arlington and Jersey City, all in New Jersey. Rev. Plumstead credits the philosophy of Aesthetic Realism, founded by Eli Siegel, with having an invaluable influence on his theological formation. He has given many public seminars at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York City. In 1994, the Board of Global Ministries invited him to give a presentation at a consultation on Developing Multicultural Congregations in San Antonio, Texas to assist national church staff in developing strategies for congregations in transitional communities. In 2000, he was invited to give the opening sermon at the first meeting of clergy in the newly formed Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. And, in 2002, the United Methodist Publishing House printed an article he authored in its national magazine for United Methodist clergy, Circuit Rider.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

On Original Sin and Martin Luther

This summer I have been studying a religion lecture which Eli Siegel gave on March 31, 1967. It is titled "There Are God and Man." At one point in the lecture, Mr. Siegel discusses a number of the 95 thesis that Luther nailed to the doors of Wittenburg Cathedral, which sparked the Protestant Reformation. Here is what he says about the first thesis, which includes an important explanation of the idea of original sin:

"Some of the best German writing is Luther’s, including his translations and his songs. There are 95 thesis and all 95 could be read. The first is theoretical.

1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ in saying “Repent ye,” (“Penitentiam agite”) has intended that the whole life of believers should be penitent (“penitentia”).

This is deep in the unconscious and it goes along with the notion of sin had by Aesthetic Realism: that in being born you don’t love enough and there’s a greater tendency to care for yourself than for what is not yourself. This tendency is equivalent to original sin. And it’s not something that you get rid of in a hurry. While you can see the outside world better, love it more, be more just to it, there is something to be penitent about.

Luther would talk about this differently, but he would say essentially--and this is the idea in accepting Christ--that you love something outside of yourself as a means of fighting the narrowness you were born with. To say there is original sin is to say there is organic narrowness. There is no other meaning. It should be seen that way and something of that is in Luther’s writing."