The controversial history of how the world’s most repugnant idea became the cornerstone for how we understand ourselves.
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Essayist and biographer Alan Jacobs introduces us into 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.”
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.
Perhaps no Christian doctrine is more controversial; perhaps none is more consequential. For 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, 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?
Alan Jacobs is professor of English at Wheaton College in Illinois. He is the author of several books, including most recently The Narnian, a biography of C. S. Lewis. His literary and cultural criticism has appeared in a wide range of periodicals, including the Boston Globe, The American Scholar, First Things, Books & Culture, and The Oxford American.
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