In Adam's Fall: A Meditation on the Christian Doctrine of Original Sin

In Adam's Fall: A Meditation on the Christian Doctrine of Original Sin

In Adam's Fall: A Meditation on the Christian Doctrine of Original Sin

In Adam's Fall: A Meditation on the Christian Doctrine of Original Sin

Synopsis

This engaging and scholarly book offers refreshingly original insights into the contemporary relevance of the Christian doctrine of original sin - one that has inspired fierce debate for the last two millennia.
  • Challenges the many prevailing opinions about the Christian doctrine of original sin, arguing that it is not only theological defensible, but stimulating and productive for a life of faith
  • Shows how it is possible to affirm the universality of sin without losing sight of the distinct ways in which individuals both participate in and suffer the consequences of sinful behavior
  • Balances historic and contemporary criticism with original theological arguments; combining the substance of a traditional Augustinian doctrine of sin with the pastoral and social concerns of contemporary contextual theologies
  • Provides a depth and range of engagement with contemporary criticism of traditional doctrine that is lacking in other recent treatments of the topic

Excerpt

First published in Boston in around 1690, the New England Primer shaped the education of generations of children throughout North America, with total sales over the nearly two hundred years it remained in print estimated in the millions. Its most famous feature was its alphabet pages: a series of rhyming couplets, accompanied by woodcut illustrations, used to teach the letters. The first of these (and the only one never changed in any of the Primer’s many editions) gave a concise summary of the Western Christian doctrine of original sin: “In Adam’s Fall / We Sinned all.” Because once upon a time Adam sinned, all of us in the present are sinners.

In contemporary North America, this doctrine has none of the resonance with popular culture that once made it a natural reference point for teaching basic literacy. Its key terms are little used outside of churches and often little valued even within them. At the same time, few doctrines continue to excite as much passion among believers and non-believers alike. While traditional beliefs about the Trinity or justification are easily passed over as bits of theological esoterica, talk of original sin invariably elicits a strong – and overwhelmingly negative – response even among those who identify themselves as Christian. The idea that we are all guilty because of an ancestor’s misdeed is viewed as morally outrageous and historically incredible, summing up for many everything that is wrong with Christianity.

It is the aim of this book to challenge that perception. In my previous work on the doctrine of the human person (“theological anthropology” in the technical jargon of systematic theology), one of my central aims was to overcome what appears to me a Hobson’s choice latent in the . . .

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