Jesus Creed

Alan Jacobs makes some potent claims in chp 7 of Original Sin, this one perhaps the most provocative, and I’m keen on whether you agree or not.
“It is, I think, fair to say that the continued existence of a strong doctrine of original sin depends upon the evangelical movement” (129) — and he means an Augustinian understanding of original sin.
One of the theses of this book is that the rise of a strong proponent of original sin is met by or sometimes overmatched by (in long term impact) an opponent of original sin. So, Pelagius and Augustine and in the 18th Century, George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley with Jean Jacques Rousseau. This chp is worth the price of the book for one simple reason: our culture’s war over original sin finds its origins in many ways in these central figures.
Whitefield believed if you have never felt the weight of your original sin, and not just the guilt of your own sins, then you should not call yourself a Christian. Edwards is sketched in his modernistic proofs of original sin, but then Jacobs delves into Edwards’ theory of original sin was at work when God judged the pagans, including the harem warfare to destroy children and women. Here’s the quote that frames the chapter’s title: “As innocent as children seem to be to us, if they are out of Christ, they are not so in God’s sight, but are young vipers, and infinitely more hateful than vipers” (142). And Wesley’s theory of education was rooted in original sin: the goal of the parent was to break the will of the child so the child would learn to submit to authority, including God’s.
These major leaders were opposed by Rousseau, Emile. Rousseau’s famous book on education was rooted in his belief in the goodness of human nature, his disgust with Pascal’s belief in original sin, his belief that humans are born good but are corrupted by other humans, and his contention that the way to educate was to leave kids in nature. (Jacobs exploits the cracks in Rousseau’s theories and gives quite a powerful counter in the example of Josiah Wedgewood’s attempt to rear his son according to Rousseau’s model, which was at best a total failure.)

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