[PDF / Epub] ★ Original Sin: A Cultural History ✪ Alan Jacobs – Tshirtforums.co.uk

Original Sin: A Cultural History chapter 1 Original Sin: A Cultural History, meaning Original Sin: A Cultural History, genre Original Sin: A Cultural History, book cover Original Sin: A Cultural History, flies Original Sin: A Cultural History, Original Sin: A Cultural History dab8b9e65e88d 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 CivilizationPerhaps No Christian Doctrine Is Controversial Perhaps None Is 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


10 thoughts on “Original Sin: A Cultural History

  1. says:

    Three guys lay sun blistered on the shore of a desert island Something shiny washes up and one of the guys notices it glinting in the waves He rubs the sand from it and out bursts a genie, to much sensory fanfare As reward for releasing me from centuries of captivity, I grant each of you a wish, booms the genie but the genie probably communicates this in their heads, telepathic like, because I don t think anyone or anything, magical or otherwise, that has been isolated from humanity for centuries would speak in the modern vernacular this goes for Jesus too.The three guys stare slack jawed and the genie quickly apprehends that it isn t dealing with the sharpest knives in the drawer, so it doesn t go into the rules of wish granting, like one can t wish for wishes, or wish oneself a genie, that sort of thing.The first guy thinks a minute and says, My greatest wish is to be back home with my family POOF He disappears in a cloud of B movie smoke.The second guy looks to where the first guy had been, thinks a minute longer and says, I don t have a family, so I wish to be the wealthiest man in the world POOF He likewise disappears in a cloud of B movie smoke, presumably to Santa Barbara or Hong Kong.The third guy averts his eyes from the genie and cries out, Oh wicked spirit God was punishing us for our sins My wish from thee is that the other two were back here with me Of their own free will And in accordance with the Law of Moses Also, if you ve got a minute, I d like to talk to you about accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal savior Can you guess which of these three individuals is the author of Original Sin, Alan Jacobs Does it come as a great surprise to you that you re an asshole I don t mean to be judgmental here, because I m an asshole too So are your loved ones, neighbors, therapist, everyone that has anything to do with delivering books to your doorstep, your favorite musician, Gandhi, the casts and crews of every sitcom you ve watched, the president of the United States, whoever discovered the wheel, that woman you saw drop money in some panhandler s jar, the panhandler himself, your favorite teacher, and any and everybody you, I, or anyone else have ever known or will ever know as well as everyone they ve ever known, or ever will know to time immemorial, so on and so forth, ad infinitum Assholes, one and all Sure, there are varying degrees of assholism and we can argue its origins, but let s leave it to the philosophers to tease out the nuances For now, it s only necessary to accept and understand the basic premise that our species is victim to this unfortunate and immutable condition.Fine Alan Jacobs agrees, but he is fixated He must have thought himself quite special at some time or other because assholism is a fetish for him And what does he do Well, he does what every fetishist who wishes to gain acceptance in larger society does he rationalizes himself blue in the face He tells us that it s liberating to discover you re an asshole because it s democratizing Thieving bureaucrats who condemn innocents to prison Assholes Corporatists who swindle us and can t think past a 90 day financial quarter Assholes But so is everybody, so what s the big deal We all suffer the same fate Alpha assholes are no worse than us middling assholes, when you take the Jacobs long view let them store up riches where moth and rust decay, render unto Caesar what is Caesar s, all that rot No need to worry about the here and now because the problem is too big for any of us to get our pathetic asshole arms around Let it be Don t buy into that social progress kerfluffle, because it s just dressed up as scientific progress, itself code for LIBERAL Besides, anything humanity proposes to improve things is doomed to failure because, well, we re all assholes Better to trust in tradition Unquestioningly Original sin is the filthy and gnarled thread of redemption, suitable for self flagellation.At this point, things get existential, and Mr Jacobs refers his readers to the nearest altar call, lest they go insane like poor Jonathan Swift who, sadly, went nuts because he recognized the Fall but couldn t bring himself to accept the Grace It s not nearly as sad, but sad nevertheless, that Mr Jacobs could stand a little of the secular crazy himself because his prose is guilty of the sin of plodding So Where does this leave us Still assholes, certainly Just some of us have trouble accepting the fact we can t take a hit, psychologically speaking These are the scariest assholes of all They take the germ of a disease and magnify it to monstrous proportions, until it s bigger than us all and we forget that we re than just assholes, we re human beings trying to extricate ourselves from the medieval morass of a history guided largely by people like Alan Jacobs.


  2. says:

    In the introduction, Jacob notes that of all religious beliefs, none provokes criticism and repulsion than the doctrine of original sin Original sin is irreparable, irreversible, and unpredictable x xi It is the belief that every human being is born with sin already in them That we all inherit sin, and are culpable The history of original sin is a history of resistance to it So why, over the centuries, have so many stubbornly believed it Well, as Chesterton noted, original sin has enormous empirical evidence it is the only doctrine of the Christian faith that is empirically provable x But the main reason it has been adopted by some of the greatest thinkers in the history of the world is its vast explanatory power All other explanations for human evil and selfishness fall short Original Sin is, in Jacob s words, an exemplary history as opposed to an exhaustive one , and a specifically cultural history as opposed to a theological history Thus Jacobs mines the literature of centuries and turns up story after story of people who either fought or defended the doctrine of original sin The stories range from the ancient past King David and Bathsheba to the recent dawn of eugenics and genetics Those who are resistant to belief in a divided self will need to overcome a barrage of fire to maintain their skepticism by the final page.One thing that stands out in Jacob s brilliant treatment is the theme of original sin s positive contributions to history and life He introduces us to Pascal, who realized that only the fear of God that comes from being corrupt sinners in the sight of God enables us to have proper wonder at God s love 116 The power of original sin to bind humans together in a confraternity is seen throughout the book, but especially in the chapter on American slavery Original sin is a brake that can slow and restrain the course of evil 209 10.Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Soviet prisoner who was brought to faith by being persuaded of the truthfulness of original sin How he was persuaded of original sin is most interesting As he watched a habitually brutal prison guard, he realized over time thatgiven the same power in the same circumstances, he himself would surely have behaved with equal cruelty In the intoxication of youthful successes he had believed himself infallible it was the Gulag that taught him that he was a murderer, and an oppressor It was the Gulag that taught him that everyone has the capacity to become a Stalin and that therefore the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either but through every human heart 224 Jacobs mines Rebecca West s work, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon which he believes to be the greatest book of the twentieth century 283 , to provide us a vivid illustration of the human heart West visited a biological museum and sees a two headed calf One head was lovely, the other hideous The owners had fed the beautiful head milk, but the ugly head would spit the milk out, preventing the food from reaching the calf s stomach According to the custodian, the calf would have been alive today had it not been for its nature 223.I found the stories where original sin intersected with science to be very interesting The final chapter features this intersection the most because it deals with genetics But it also appears in the chapter on American slavery Interestingly, it is science, not the religious belief of original sin, which gets the bad rap Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz wasa progenitor of scientific racism the view that, setting aside any biblical narratives or doctrines that support the unity and common origin of human beings, there is no such thing as the human race rather, there are several races that, carelessly and unscientifically, have been lumped in a single category It was the task of science to disentangle the confused strands, to establish clear distinctions among races, to rank them according to intellectual capacity, and to insist that those rankings be reflected in law and public policy And so the superstitions of biblical literalism would be set aside in the name of scientific progress, which is also, of course, social progress 203 Few questions can be important than what is wrong with us An incredible journey awaits anyone willing to pick up this book I highly recommend it.


  3. says:

    I would call this pop theology, not cultural history Still, it is engaging and persuasive pop theology The Western imagination, as Jacobs illustrates, has been preoccupied for millennia with the suspicion that we humans have somehow inherited a condition of pervasive moral corruption Christian theologians are only one part of this tradition The theologians uniqueness, Jacobs insinuates, is in suggesting a way out of the corruption without denying that it is an essential part of our nature The most interesting part of Jacobs narrative is his claim that the doctrine of original sin has a strong democratic tendency The doctrine holds that no one can claim exemption from the evil within us all that there is no moral or spiritual elite, at least among the living Thus, we must bear with each other, pray for each other, support each other in our common weakness Ultimately, therefore, the doctrine of original sin can be a source of inner peace If we recognize that we can never be perfect, then it will be easier to go about the business of being tolerable with God s help and each other s.


  4. says:

    Enjoyed Alan s episodic tour of original sin if that s actually allowed His readable and oft insightful work wanders among various players who have pondered this great question of humanity s flawed moral character or at least it wandered with me while I bounced between Moscow, Nashville, Cookeville, Chattanooga and back again last week I found his treatment of Rousseau and the radical romantics, who keep hoping against irrational hope that we are essentially innocent from birth, particularly helpful What he reveals is the tragic irony that those who promote human native innocence such as the enlightened French Revolutionaries, racially pure Nazis, classless Marxists, et al almost always end up being those who take top honors for perpetrating the greatest evils in history For those looking for a theological treatment of the question, they ll need to look elsewhere For those wanting a fine guided cultural history tour, Alan is your man, your adam.


  5. says:

    Alan Jacobs is one of the most erudite, yet accessible, Christian scholars writing at the moment This enormously enjoyable cultural and intellectual history tracing Augustine s emphasis on original sin reveals a wealth and breadth of knowledge and insight The central thesis is a probing examination of why humans seem to struggle with such an innate desire to do evil, even though thinkers throughout history have urgently sought to downplay and otherwise dismiss these tendencies Jacobs is just as comfortable exploring the tension between Whitefield, Wesley, and Bunyan s views of innate, universal sin as he is in referencing Guillermo del Toro s Hellboy or the blues music of Robert and Tommy Johnson I remember first encountering the fascinating history of modern Europe s rejection of the idea of original sin throughout the Enlightenment and Romantic eras in Jacobs fine essay, The Only Honest Man, in which he focused on the eccentric viewpoints of Jean Jacques Rousseau What a pleasure to be gifted with a book length study of the subject Each chapter reads like a self contained essay, and you ll find yourself compulsively researching some of the names and titles Jacobs presents Robert Owen and his social experiment at New Lanark, the bizarre metaphor of the two headed calf in Rebecca West s monumental Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, and the tragic, nearly Oedipal, conflict between Augustine and Julian of Eclanum One of Jacobs interesting and provocative arguments is that, contrary to expectation, an emphasis on the universal scope of original sin has actually served to repudiate dehumanizing practices In his chapter on the Confraternity of the Human Type, it was original sin, not the doctrine of the imago dei that served in the American South at least, as a brake of a different kind a restraint on those who wished to see black people as utterly alien, as having nothing to do with the rest of us For it pointed to the biblical insistence on common origins and not the racially inflected pseudo science of polygeny Overall, very highly recommended


  6. says:

    Really excellent This has been on my shelves for years, and I don t know why i haven t read it sooner Jacobs is very widely read, but not at the cost of depth.


  7. says:

    Excellent As usual, Jacobs has what Douglas Wilson calls copiousness He displays depth and breadth of insight into the history of this deeply offensive idea that we all unavoidably inherit moral evil He s a good missiologist as well in the way that he avoids in house language and winsomely invites skeptics to doubt their own doubts on this idea.


  8. says:

    How can we explain ourselves to ourselves This book explores the history of one of humanity s most surprising but compelling answers Original sin.I first came across Alan Jacobs through his recent book How to Think which is actually far better than the title suggests What I mean is, it isn t a How To book at all Anyways, I picked this up not long ago as I was interested to read Jacobs deal with this fascinating topic This is not a technical, Biblical, theological treatise of the subject It is, as he calls it, a cultural history What is a cultural history you may ask Jacobs presents his book in the introduction as an exemplary history, it traces the history of the idea of original sin through specific historical examples He also presents it as a cultural history as opposed to a history of theology Basically this means that the book is a somewhat loosely but legitimately connected series of essays historical anecdotes and stories He delves deeper into a few key thinkers along the way I personally enjoy this kind of format and in general enjoy Jacobs writing so the book was only made better by the fact that I enjoyed learning about well known Augustine and lesser known historical figures Some made it into the book for their thinking and teaching on the subject, and others because their lives served as manifestations of the various ways we understand ourselves I had a hard time putting it down, and learned a lot, so there 5 stars.


  9. says:

    Wide ranging, erudite and compelling even funny at times, which is surprising considering the topic at hand Jacob s takes the reader through an impressive scope of history, pulling on threads in the writings of philosophers, theologians, playwrights, novelists, psychologist, scientists and others AT the core of all their work is the question, Are humans, essentially, good Or evil The implications of how all these thinkers answer these questions are teased out, and Jacobs does a wonderful job of contextualizing every argument he summarizes and one definitely gets a sense of a pendulum swing throughout history, for every influential writer who asserted the core evil of humanity, an influential writer would inevitably respond arguing for our core goodness Overall, it s a fascinating read, which gave me a greater appreciation for the scope at which we humans have wrestled with the notion of our inherited sinfulness through the generations This is an easy recommendation for anyone who loves history, theology, philosophy, or some combination of the 3 I m impressed by Jacob s wide range of sources, and his clear, funny writing style Oh, how I wish there were voices like his in the academy.


  10. says:

    Read on Kindle, started about two years ago, finished on a plane I had forgotten most everything that went on in the first half when I picked it up again, but the book was impressive enough to hook me again Jacobs writes with a scholarly but friendly voice that is immediately appealing The resources he has marshaled here with interesting studies of such fascinating people as Robert Owen and Rebecca West make for a surprisingly wide ranging survey of original sin in Christianity, in other religions, and in secular thought.


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