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White Horse Inn: Conversational Theology

What Happens When We Deny Original Sin?

In the early 1800s, a man by the name of Robert Owen began to challenge the concept of original sin. “None are or can be bad by nature,” he mused, “and it must be a gross error to make him responsible for what nature and his predecessors have compelled him to be.” As a result, Owen attempted to establish a utopian socialist community in New Harmony, Indiana. Even though his project utterly failed after only three years, his views would later greatly influence thinkers such as Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx, who in their Communist Manifesto, actually referred to Owen’s work as a kind of “new gospel.” On this episode, Shane Rosenthal continues his conversation with Dr. Michael McClymond, focusing this time on the social and political implications of denying original sin.

Show Quote:

Christians need to guard against the temptation of externalizing sin, like secular people do, where they see sin as part of society and not something in themselves. For Christians this might take the form of thinking that it’s the wicked people outside of the church who are the cause of all the world’s problems. But the doctrine of original sin asserts that “no one living is righteous in God’s sight” (Ps 143:2). Once, when G.K. Chesterton was presented with the question, “What is wrong with the world?”, he famously replied by saying, “I am!”

Michael McClymond


Paradise Now

Author: Chris Jennings

In Paradise Now, Chris Jennings tells the story of five interrelated utopian movements, revealing their relevance both to their time and to our own. Here is Mother Ann Lee, the prophet of the Shakers, who grew up in newly industrialized Manchester, England—and would come to build a quiet but fierce religious tradition on the opposite side of the Atlantic. Even as the society she founded spread across the United States, the Welsh industrialist Robert Owen came to the Indiana frontier to build an egalitarian, rationalist utopia he called the New Moral World.

Conflict of Visions

Author: Thomas Sowell

Controversies in politics arise from many sources, but the conflicts that endure for generations or centuries show a remarkably consistent pattern. In this classic work, Thomas Sowell analyzes this pattern. He describes the two competing visions that shape our debates about the nature of reason, justice, equality, and power: the “constrained” vision, which sees human nature as unchanging and selfish, and the “unconstrained” vision, in which human nature is malleable and perfectible. A Conflict of Visions offers a convincing case that ethical and policy disputes circle around the disparity between both outlooks.