This morning, Tony La Russa’s daughter is likely reeling from her unfortunate choice of tweet language.  Her efforts to explain away her intentions is perhaps as unsettling as the tweet itself.

Alan Jacobs--Original Sin: A Cultural History

As I was hopelessly stuck in pre-Game 5 traffic trying to get home yesterday, I queued up again a conversation between Ken Myers, editor of the Mars Hill audio journal, and Alan Jacobs, a professor or literature at Wheaton, and author of the 2008 book, Original Sin: A Cultural History. The hour long conversation does plenty to whet your whistle for his accessible and pleasurable read about an otherwise foul subject. I heartily commend the $5 mp3 download.

While Jacobs’ book isn’t an explicit defense of the doctrine of original sin (as we sought to make from the perspective of the Westminster Assembly last Sunday), it nevertheless deftly wades through the morass of competing explanations of human nature that history and recent anthropology have sought to offer, and discovers that alternative theories only leave us with the same question: why does evil persist in us?

Even Steven Pinker’s work in the area of evolutionary biology and psychology seems to, Jacobs argues, corroborate rather than invalidate the idea of a universal inheritance of certain undesirable–to put it mildly–traits of human nature that genuinely undermine human flourishing.  Pinker calls that an unfortunate feature of humanity, yet one that possesses some sort of adaptive usefulness.  In juxtaposing the regrettable and the useful, Pinker unwittingly succumbs to the proverbial putting a bow on a pig.

The lecture last Sunday may have left you with as many questions as answers.  How does the notion of an original human pair square with some evolutionary theories of human descent?  If what we presently see in nature is the result of a long and laborious process of development, rife with death and destruction making way for new life, how do scientific inferences from the observational data fit with the idea of an original state that God characterized as “good?”  These are important questions.  Imposing questions upon the Genesis text it did not intend to answer is just as inappropriate as making metaphysical conclusions based only on scientific observations.

But as far as our nature is concerned–whether we are indeed merely the serendipitous result of unguided processes or the product of an astoundingly mysterious and glorious Hand–who would deny there is a part of us that laments something we long for in us that has yet never been true of us?

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