Frank McIntyre says “I am only responsible for that part of me that is eternally me.” Adam Greenwood agrees and wonders how to makes sense of that claim in light of the teaching that God oversees everything and brings about his purposes. Kristine Haglund implicitly assumes, I think, that despair, acedia, etc. are really individual psychological disorders because, like Frank and Adam, she assumes that individuals are the basic units, the units at which responsibility occurs.
Of course that assumption is the norm. But why should we believe it is true?
Doesn’t the Atonement suggest a counterexample: if Christ can take responsibility for my sins, why should we believe that responsibility is always an individual matter? Why believe that I am not in some sense responsible for the sins of my ancestors? If I am who I am only as part of a family (ultimately the human family rather than my nuclear family) and not merely as an individual, then it doesn’t make sense to believe that my responsibility is only to and for myself.
I don’t think it is obvious that the second Article of Faith—”We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression”—requires the notion of individual responsibility that we assume. Indeed, I believe that understanding of responsibility is a rather late development in human history, one initially peculiar to Western philosophy. Its lateness and its locale doesn’t make it false, but it does suggest that there have been and are other ways to understand responsibility. The idea of individual responsibility is neither necessarily nor naturally true; it requires an argument.