Original Sin by Alan Jacobs
A Cultural History

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Synopsis

Essayist and biographer Alan Jacobs introduces us to the world of original sin, which he describes as not only a profound idea but a necessary one. As G. K. Chesterton explains, "Only with original sin can we at once pity the beggar and distrust the king."

Do we arrive in this world predisposed to evil? St. Augustine passionately argued that we do; his opponents thought the notion was an insult to a good God. 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 for centuries and done much to shape Western civilization.

Perhaps no Christian doctrine is more controversial; perhaps none is more consequential. Blaise Pascal claimed that "but for this mystery, the most incomprehensible of all, we remain incomprehensible to ourselves." Chesterton affirmed it as the only provable Christian doctrine. Modern scholars assail the idea as baleful and pernicious. But whether or not we believe in original sin, the idea has shaped our most fundamental institutions—our political structures, how we teach and raise our young, and, perhaps most pervasively of all, how we understand ourselves. In Original Sin, Alan Jacobs takes readers on a sweeping tour of the idea of original sin, its origins, its history, and 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?

 

About Alan Jacobs

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Alan Jacobs is Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University. He is the author of several books, including "The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction" (Oxford) and "Original Sin: A Cultural History" (HarperOne), and he has edited W. H. Auden's long poems "For the Time Being" and "The Age of Anxiety" (both Princeton).
 
Published October 13, 2009 by HarperCollins e-books. 306 pages
Genres: Religion & Spirituality, Education & Reference, History, Literature & Fiction, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Original Sin

Publishers Weekly

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In this brilliant account, Wheaton College literature professor Jacobs (The Narnian ) traces the idea of original sin from the Bible to the present day. The doctr

Feb 25 2008 | Read Full Review of Original Sin: A Cultural History

Publishers Weekly

See more reviews from this publication

In this brilliant account, Wheaton College literature professor Jacobs (The Narnian ) traces the idea of original sin from the Bible to the present day.

Feb 25 2008 | Read Full Review of Original Sin: A Cultural History

Review (Barnes & Noble)

(Edwards himself explicitly wrote of the Native Americans he witnessed to, and the new theologians who rejected the doctrine, as subject to "universal declension.") "In general it is easier for most of us to condescend, " Jacobs writes, "in the etymological sense of the word -- to see ourselves a...

Jun 27 2008 | Read Full Review of Original Sin: A Cultural History

The Gospel Coalition

Being an Orthodox Christian, Dostoevsky would have rejected original sin (ironic that you review a book about this topic here with Dostoevsky) and embraced the essential goodness of man as created in the image of God.

Jan 04 2010 | Read Full Review of Original Sin: A Cultural History

The Mockingbird

Music"," - 03 Soundtrack of My Summer"," - 04 Down In The Churchyard"," - 05 Total Destruction to Your Mind"," - 06 Soul Coaxing (Ame Caline)"," - 07 Every Day As We Grow Closer (original mix)"," - 08 She Might Look My Way"," - 09 Lazarus"," - 10 Good"," - 11 Wouldn’t It Be Good"," - 12 Jon...

Jan 06 2009 | Read Full Review of Original Sin: A Cultural History

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