At David Perrin, OMI’S recent retreat, I was somewhat shocked to hear him quote the mystic Julian of Norwich who said sin is nothing i.e., no thing. I thought this could be a dangerous proposition.
Julian of Norwich was an English anchoress (religious hermit) who lived from about 1342 to 1416. When she was about 30, she suffered a severe illness. While on her deathbed, Julian had a series of intense visions of Jesus Christ. She recovered and in 1395 wrote about her visions in a book entitled Revelations of Divine Love. It is the first book in English known to have been written by a woman.
Her view of sin was unique. Julian believed that sin was necessary because it brings one to self knowledge. This leads to acceptance of the role of God in one’s lfe. We sin because we are ignorant or naive, not because we are evil. Julian believed that to learn we must fail, and to fail we must sin. She saw no wrath in God. Wrath exists in we humans and God forgives us for this. She wrote that committing sin was not wrong – it is part of the learning process of life, not a malice needing God’s forgiveness. God sees us as perfect and waits for our soul to mature zo that evil and sin will no longer hinder us.
The Ranters were one of a number of nonconformist dissenting groups that emerged in England in the first half of the 17th century. They held the desire to surpass the human condition and become God like. The believer is free from all traditional restraints and sin is a product only of the imagination. The Ranters were often associated with nudity, sexual immorality, profanity, fanaticism and antimonianism. An antinomian is one who takes the salvation by faith and divine grace to the point of asserting that the saved are not bound to follow moral laws.
Is there a link between the theology of Julian of Norwich and the Ranters? Hard to say. I think to say that sin is nothing can lead to trouble and I think I found an example.