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We live in a world shot through with evil. The twentieth century has witnessed suffering and human cruelty on a scale never before imagined. Yet, paradoxically, in recent years the doctrine of original sin has suffered neglect and ridicule.
Henri Blocher offers a robust response in this philosophically sophisticated treatment of the biblical evidence for original sin. Interacting with the best theological thinking on the subject, he shows that while the nature of original sin is a mystery—even a riddle—only belief in it makes sense of evil and wrongdoing. After a general survey of the biblical evidence, he moves on to discuss the two key texts. First, he considers the relation of the Eden story of Genesis 2 and 3 to modern scientific, literary, and theological thinking. Then, he offers a new and groundbreaking interpretation of Romans 5, where Paul discusses Christ and Adam. From this exegetical foundation, he goes on to show how the doctrine of original sin makes sense of the paradoxes of human existence. In the final chapter, he discusses the intellectual difficulties that some feel remain with the doctrine itself.
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“Calvin’s definition offers as good a starting-point as any. Original sin, he writes in the Institutes, is that ‘hereditary depravity and corruption of our nature, diffused into all parts of the soul, which first makes us liable to God’s wrath, then also brings forth in us those works which Scripture calls ‘works of the flesh’ (Gal. 5:19)’ (II.i.8).” (Page 18)
“Sinfulness has become our quasi-nature while remaining truly our anti-nature.” (Page 30)
“When actual sins (at least) are taken together with the propensity to sin, the Bible speaks plainly of bondage and of the impossibility of change.” (Page 23)
“The Devil is wildly optimistic if he thinks he can make human beings worse than they are.’” (Page 11)
“‘Nothing is so easy to denounce, nothing is so difficult to understand.’ So wrote Augustine on original sin.1” (Page 15)
Henri Blocher . . . is able to think through the interlocking contributions of historical theology, biblical theology, and systematic theology, and come to fresh conclusions in the light of Scripture, without overturning all that is valuable from the past. . . . This is a book to be read and thought through with great care.
—D.A. Carson, research professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Blocher’s short and pungent book addresses the central issues [of original sin] in an imaginative and constructive way. . . . Much wisdom is compressed into these pages along with a gentleness of touch that belies the weightiness of the subject.
—The Expository Times
In October 2003, Henri Blocher was appointed to the Guenther H. Knoedler Chair of Theology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. Since 1965 he has served as professor of systematic theology at the Faculté Libre de Théologie Evangélique in Vaux-sur-Seine near Paris, France. A leading evangelical theologian and statesman, Blocher was a member of the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization (1975-1980), served the World Evangelical Fellowship/Alliance in a number of capacities, and taught in schools in Europe, Australia, Africa, Canada and the US. He is currently president of the Fellowship of European Evangelical Theologians. Blocher studied at a number of institutions including the Sorbonne, London Bible College, Gordon Divinity School, and Faculté Libre de Théologie Protestant of Paris. He has written six books, four of which have appeared in English, and several dozen articles. His English publications include Original Sin: Illuminating the Riddle, Evil and the Cross: Christian Thought and the Problem of Evil and In the Beginning: The Opening chapters of Genesis.