Old Disharmony

Original Sin: A Cultural History
by Alan Jacobs
HarperOne, 2008
(304 pages, $24.95, hardcover)

reviewed by Amanda Shaw

Original Sin is “an exemplary history,” its author says, “so-called not because it embodies excellence that other historians would do well to imitate, but because it makes its case through examples.” Scholarly tomes, staggering under the metaphysics and theology of original sin, often ignore the lived reality of fallenness and its result in despair or denial.

Alan Jacobs, professor of literature at Wheaton College, attempts to convey that reality through a series of cultural anecdotes. In doing so, he makes the paradoxical case that recognition of our innate sinfulness is a prerequisite for Christian . . .

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Amanda Shaw is a graduate of the Catholic University of America, is a junior fellow at First Things (www.firstthings.com). She attends the Church of Our Savior in Manhattan.

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