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Original Sin: A Cultural History

Alan Jacobs.
Publisher HarperOne  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.25 x 6.25 x 1 inches
ISBN 9780060783402
Pages/Publication Date 286/2008
Daedalus Item Code 38300
This item is not available.
Ever since Augustine, the Church has taught the doctrine of original sin, which is the idea that we are not born innocent, but as babes we are corrupt, guilty, and worthy of condemnation. Thus started a debate that has raged at the heart of Western civilization for centuries. As G.K. Chesterton explained, "Only with original sin can we at once pity the beggar and distrust the king." The author of The Narnian, Alan Jacobs takes readers on a sweeping tour of the idea of original sin, its origins, its history, its proponents and opponents. And he leaves us better prepared to answer one of the most important questions of all: are we really, all of us, bad to the bone?

"One wouldn't expect a book about original sin to be entertaining, but Jacobs makes it so with deft prose and a touch of humor."—Christian Century

"In this brilliant account, Wheaton College literature professor Jacobs traces the idea of original sin from the Bible to the present day. The doctrine has inspired fierce debate for the last two millennia. In every generation, it seems, someone defends the doctrine, pointing to all manner of evidence ... [while] their opponents in turn ridicule the notion, noting the unfettered greatness of human potential. Thus Augustine tangles with Julian of Eclanum, and John Wesley clashes with Rousseau. It is a compliment to Jacobs that in his hands these abstruse theological disputes are utterly engrossing. Jacobs makes clear that he has a dog in this fight—he thinks original sin is the most persuasive explanation of the world he lives in (though he dissents, ironically and charitably, from some classic Christian formulations, such as Augustine's view on infant damnation). Jacobs hazards some quirky and intriguing ideas, such as the notion that the kind of kinship created by a universal doctrine of original sin is perhaps as good a basis as any for a brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity, in which no one lords it over anyone else. This book is truly sui generis."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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