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Posts tagged "Original Sin"


Something Major Has Gone Wrong Here: Why Alain de Botton Loves the Concept of Original Sin

A quick excerpt from a recent interview with School of Life founder Alain de Botton in the current Believer. Here, de Botton defends the concept of original sin as the starting point for functional relationships:

BLVR: Did you grow up atheist?

ADB: I grew up totally atheist… Christians were a naive lot who had sort of fallen for Jesus. They were sentimental, they were too emotional… It was all very tribal and just ridiculous in a way. But that was the ideology I grew up with. And now I’m very interested in Christian vulnerability, the taboo. So I spend quite a lot of time discussing that, you know… I love the concept of original sin, the idea that we’re all fundamentally broken and fundamentally incomplete. 

BLVR: Why do you love that idea?

ADB: Because it seems to be such a useful starting point. You know, if you imagine a relationship in which two people think they’re great—you know, perfect—that’s going to lead to intolerance and terrible disappointment when they realize that they’re not great, they’re not perfect. Whereas imagine a relationship that begins under the idea that two people are quite broken and therefore they need forgiveness from the other and they need to apply charity to the other and they need to forgive the other, and so that seems a much better starting point. I like these descriptions of human beings as being really quite flawed and crazy and out of control and you find that in Buddhism and Judaism and Christianity. The human being is presented as a very fragile, sort of broken creature. And I like that. It’s a good starting point and also it feels true to my experience.

BLVR: How are you defining broken?

ADB: By broken I mean “not quite right.” And that could mean so many different things but it could mean “with a great tendency to anxiety,” say, or “with a great tendency toward despair,” say, or “with a tendency to panic.” Any of these fundamental dispositions toward low self-esteem or whatever it is; many of us have a background of ways in which we’re not quite right.

BLVR: That’s all of us.

ADB: Yes, all of us. So that’s why the concept of original sin seems so plausible and applicable and also kind, because it basically says, Look, when you meet someone new, don’t just look for the positives; just assume that something major has gone wrong here. Treat everybody you meet as though they were laboring under some really big problem, basically. That’s the starting point of any encounter. Rather than how great are they, it’s more like, OK, where’s the broken bit of them? That’s a much kinder and more interesting way of getting to know someone. And also to say, That’s the bit of you I’m actually interested in. Like, I don’t really want to hear—that’s fantastic that you’ve been promoted, and you know that’s great, but, like, I don’t think that’s where your real self is.

Kinda reminds me of a line from Grace in Practice“Once the grievous nuance and unplumbable depth of the psyche were named, the power of the absolution could rise to the occasion. Once the total depravity of original sin was out of the closet, then the magnificent response latent within the grace of God in the cross of Christ could be portrayed. It could be displayed for people to see.”

With Humanity Comes Flaws: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

With Humanity Comes Flaws: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Everything you’ve heard about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is true. The movie is visually stunning, it’s exciting from start to finish, the special effects are some of the best I have ever seen, and…the movie is an amazing commentary on the flaws of humanity. According to a recent article over at the New York […]

The Drunken Downfall (and Death) of Thomas Kinkade

The Drunken Downfall (and Death) of Thomas Kinkade

Update: Given the level of interest and feeling this post has garnered since it was initially published, readers are encouraged to take a look at the two follow-up pieces. Click here for the first, and here for the second. To be honest, I didn’t even know Thomas Kinkade was dead. That was until I read […]

Original Sin – Wendell Berry

frontWell, anyhow, it preserves us from the pride
of thinking we invented sin ourselves
by our originality, that famous modern power.
In fact, we have it from the beginning
of the world by the errors of being born,
being young, being old, causing pain
to ourselves, to others, to the world, to God
by ignorance, by knowledge, by intention,
by accident. Something is bad the matter
here, informing us of itself, handing down
its old instruction. We know it
when we see it, don’t we? Innocence
would never recognize it. We need it
too, for without it we would not know
forgiveness, goodness, gratitude,
that fund of grace by which alone we live.

Dostoevsky Talks Romans 7, Original Caprice, and Performancism

Dostoevsky Talks Romans 7, Original Caprice, and Performancism

From his Notes from Underground, in which the great Russian author’s disturbed protagonist questions ideals of human progress, enlightenment, secular humanism, and other naïvetés of the nineteenth century – but timeless, too: But these are all golden dreams. Oh, tell me, who first announced, who was the first to proclaim that man does dirty only because […]

The Subtle Horror of Mad Men

The Subtle Horror of Mad Men

Mad Men is a horror series. There… I said it. I didn’t believe this until recently. My impression was that it was a dark and brooding drama about the desperate and horny realities of life. This was until I had a conversation with a woman who could not watch the show. “Not watch Mad Men?” I thought… […]

Why Then the Law? The Persistence of Original Unbelief

Why Then the Law? The Persistence of Original Unbelief

One of the great tragedies of the Christian life is captured in Article 9 of the 39 Articles of Religion in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. Article 9 is entitled “Of Original or Birth-Sin,” and argues that “Original Sin,” Is not found merely in the following of Adam’s example (as the Pelagians foolishly say). […]

Southern Comfort(able) Words and Faulkner's <i>Go Down, Moses</i>

Southern Comfort(able) Words and Faulkner’s Go Down, Moses

Of all the wonderful things Paul Walker said at the recent Birmingham Conference, this in particular stands out in my mind. Please forgive me as I paraphrase from memory: I know people who are just beside themselves over trying to get their kids into just the right preschool, because getting into just the right preschool […]

Why Aren't There More Murderers? Louis C.K. on Original Sin

Why Aren’t There More Murderers? Louis C.K. on Original Sin

Louis C.K. is obviously speaking in hyperbole for comedic effect, but he’s really on to something here. He expects the worst of people, believing that – at heart – people act according to what’s best for them. This is the Christian doctrine of original sin, which undermines all notions of progress. Or as St. Paul […]

The Theology of Centralia, Pennsylvania

The Theology of Centralia, Pennsylvania

Centralia, Pennsylvania. Never heard of it? I hadn’t either, until I borrowed a copy of Weird Pennsylvania, a new book which explores the bizarre stuff that happens in our beloved Commonwealth. Recently, Centralia has created quite a buzz. In fact, the recent horror flic, Silent Hill (roughly based on the same-titled video game), was inspired […]

Book Review - Original Sin: A Cultural History

Book Review – Original Sin: A Cultural History

The best book I read in 2008 was Original Sin: A Cultural History by Alan Jacobs. Jacobs, who teaches English at Wheaton College, begins by pointing out that throughout history (and in almost every culture) humankind has always pondered the question, “if we are basically good, or at best morally neutral, then why is the […]