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Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin

, 1995
ISBN: 9780802842183
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This timely book retrieves an old awareness that has slipped and changed in recent decades. The awareness of sin used to be our shadow. Christians hated sin, feared it, fled from it—and grieved over it. But the shadow of sin has now dimmed in our consciousness. Even preachers, who once got visibly angry over a congregation’s sin, now speak of sin in a mumble.

Cornelius Plantinga pulls the ancient doctrine of sin out of mothballs and presents it to contemporary readers in clear language, drawing from a wide range of books, films, and other cultural resources. In smoothly flowing prose Plantinga describes how sin corrupts what is good and how such corruption spreads. He discusses the parasitic quality of sin and the ironies and pretenses generated by this quality. He examines the relation of sin to folly and addiction. He describes two classic “postures” or movements of sin—attack and flight, and in an epilogue he reminds us that whatever we say about sin also sharpens our eye for the beauty of grace.

Resource Experts

Key Features

  • Presents the doctrine of sin to a contemporary audience
  • Analyzes the nature of sin
  • Examines two movements of sin–attack and flight


  • Vandalism of Shalom
  • Spiritual Hygiene and Corruption
  • Perversion, Pollution, and Disintegration
  • The Progress of Corruption
  • Parasite
  • Masquerade
  • Sin and Folly
  • The Tragedy of Addiction
  • Attack
  • Flight

Top Highlights

“The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights.5 Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.” (Page 10)

“In sum, shalom is God’s design for creation and redemption; sin is blamable human vandalism of these great realities and therefore an affront to their architect and builder.” (Page 16)

“God hates sin not just because it violates his law but, more substantively, because it violates shalom, because it breaks the peace, because it interferes with the way things are supposed to be.” (Page 14)

“All sin has first and finally a Godward force. Let us say that a sin is any act—any thought, desire, emotion, word, or deed—or its particular absence, that displeases God and deserves blame.9 Let us add that the disposition to commit sins also displeases God and deserves blame, and let us therefore use the word sin to refer to such instances of both act and disposition.10 Sin is a culpable and personal affront to a personal God.” (Page 13)

“What drives addiction is longing—a longing not just of brain, belly, or loins but finally of the heart.5” (Page 131)

Praise for the Print Edition

A coherent, substantive theological treatise with a wealth of homiletical insights and real-life connections.

Princeton Seminary Bulletin

The book is almost always interesting, often provocative, and sometimes infuriating. . . Plantinga’s insistence that sin is a theologically and philosophically relevant category deserves serious consideration.


Highly recommended reading and a must for church libraries.

Librarian’s World

His patient dissection, clear writing style, and ease with metaphor make this book a valuable catalog of sin’s various mutations . . . Pastors and counselors will find this book especially valuable.

CBA Bookstore Journal

  • Title: Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin
  • Author: Cornelius Plantinga
  • Publisher: Eerdmans
  • Print Publication Date: 1995
  • Logos Release Date: 2015
  • Pages: 216
  • Language: English
  • Resources: 1
  • Format: Digital › Logos Research Edition
  • Subjects: Sin; Christian life › Reformed (Reformed Church) authors
  • ISBNs: 9780802842183, 0802842186
  • Resource Type: Monograph
  • Metadata Last Updated: 2022-09-30T01:59:27Z

In the Logos edition, this volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Cornelius Plantinga is a Christian theologian and is President and Charles W. Colson Professor of Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary. Plantinga has an AB from Calvin College (1967), a BD from Calvin Theological Seminary (1971), and a PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary (1982). His dissertation was The Hodgson-Welch Debate and the Social Analogy of the Trinity. Plantinga is an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church, and is the brother of the Christian philosopher, Alvin Plantinga. Cornelius is also an avid defender of social trinitarianism.

(From Theopedia.com. Freely redistributable under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.)

Sample Pages from the Print Edition


3 ratings

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  1. Paul R. de Boer, Jr.
    There are a few books that are Christian should read. This is one of them. Ideas are communicated very clearly and with passion. I have the print edition.
  2. Markus Watson

    Markus Watson


    This is one of the best explanations of sin and it's effects I've ever read. Thoughtful and profound!
  3. Jose Santiago


Print list price: $22.00
Save $5.01 (22%)