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

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,316 ratings  ·  114 reviews
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 Pla
Paperback, 202 pages
Published February 6th 1996 by Eerdmans (first published January 1st 1995)
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Amy Ivey
Feb 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology, suffering
This book was recommended to me three years ago after my 17 year old nephew was killed by a drunk driver. I bought the book then, but I had not read it until this week after my pastor referenced it in his sermon on Sunday. What an outstanding book on the very difficult topic of sin: what it is morally and theologically; the contexts, motives, and causes of sin; how we as Christians react and respond to sin, both our own sin and the sin of others. He discusses specific sins of pride and envy, as ...more
Lance Crandall
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Insightful, convicting, culturally relevant. Considers sin’s nature and breadth, while also being a cultural commentary. This was a book for class at Covenant Seminary. Definitely recommend
May 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Thinking Christians
Neal Plantinga draws heavily from the Augustinian and Calvinistic streams of the Christian tradition to help contemporary readers see in our own world what previous generations called "sin".

It becomes clear a few pages in that Plantinga is not out to simply point fingers or to condemn; rather, he is attempting to convey a way of thinking and feeling that has been almost entirely lost in modern (more 'therapeutic') forms of thought. Like his literary hero CS Lewis, Plantinga's attention to meanin
Jason Custer
Mar 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is perhaps the definitive book on sin and how we should think about it (apart from John Owen, of course). Cornelius is the brother of Alvin Plantinga (one of the foremost Christian philosophers today), but leans more towards theology than philosophy. He defines sin as "the culpable vandalism of shalom." The Hebrew concept of shalom ("peace") is the idea of wholeness, harmony, and flourishing - how creation is supposed to be. Thus sin is ruining the harmony and peace that was originally inte ...more
Robert Turnage
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An incredible, in-depth look at sin: where it originates, how it grows (he describes it as a parasite), and how it destroys all that is good. He doesn’t just look at sin in the particular sense of the word, but sin in the broad sense of the word— that is, the fall of man, and why things aren’t “the way they’re supposed to be.”
Samuel Kassing
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a sobering look at the comprehensiveness of sin. I’d highly recommend the work.

My only qualms would be the way that Plantinga handles human responsibility to sin. And that I wish he would have written more on how sin is directly an offense to God’s character.

Other than those things this book is an excellent treatment on the doctrine of sin and a great place to start.
Anthony Locke
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
This was an accessible, soul-searching, and witty meditation on sin. Plantinga does not focus as much on rebellion against God (therefore limiting discussions on hell) or on subcategories of the doctrine of sin such as original sin or total depravity (at least he does not use the language). Instead, this is a helpful book on thinking about how sin vandalizes shalom, or the natural good in the created order and the imago dei. This was a helpful mirror for my own soul. I think it will also strengt ...more
Chris Cannady
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian
A must-read for anyone who desires to gain an introductory knowledge of the nature of Sin. Plantinga writes with ease and approachability on a subject that is easily side-stepped for its weight and condemnation. Highly rec.
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really loved this book. Concise explanations but still full of conviction and biblical truth!
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best Book on Sin

This books is illuminating, convicting, heart wrenching and mind expanding. Sin is common to man and this exposition of what it does and how it pervades, but will not prevail in the end... Is arresting and sobering.
Nov 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
It is not often that you hear about a book entirely devoted to the theology of sin. This is probably because if you were to think about what a book about sin might be like, you would probably imagine a book that would produce either depression, legalism or liberalism or some kind of a mixture of all three. Cornelius Plantinga Jr., however, treated the topic so well that it does not produce these results at all. Rather, his book is sobering, yet witty, convicting and inspiring. By the end of this ...more
Phil Aud
Jul 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2016
I came across this title while reading Volf's "Exclusion and Embrace" several years ago and had picked it up for some research on the distinction that Volf noted (light from dark, etc.). While that was a very small portion of the book, the rest of the book was also truly a pleasure to read. To read a book on sin and call it a pleasure shows that the author is not only a great academic, but a truly gifted writer. Plantinga delivers a thorough look at sin (it's progression, it's parasitic nature , ...more
Derron Ellis
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book tackles an important but not popular topic. "Not the way it's supposed to be." is a cornerstone statement of the Christian World View. Human and natural evil in the world is not "normal", not the way it once was and not the way it one day will be again. Plantinga's study of sin is part definition, part description, part consequences of. Published in 1995, some of the cultural allusions are out of date but Plantinga's analysis of where the culture is going is on target (based on the ben ...more
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’ve read this twice in the past 15 years, and life through the grace of God continues to help me understand that I desire something far more than I am willing to accept as “good,” (Shalom- much more than a passing “good” experience) and that sin, which is the cause of the damage to Shalom, is much deeper and damaging, and natural, than we realize. In this culture, the idea of sin is ignored, but the desire to understand why we don’t live in a world of Shalom continues. We don’t want to ask the ...more
Kessia Reyne
Mar 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: school
A concise and thoughtful articulation of sin. I haven't enjoyed a book so much as this one in quite some time. Plantinga is adept with language and communicates in an engaging way, making liberal use of metaphors and stories to illustrate his assertions (which themselves are carefully worded to illuminate the issues).

This is a great homiletical resource, but preacher beware: the book may leave you with a heightened sense of your own sinfulness! That was the biggest blessing of all.
Sep 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Probably the best treatment of sin I've ever read. It's accessible, thought-provoking and definitely convicting. And not completely about sin, either -- it's about our need for redemption, yes, but overwhelmingly God's grace is shown through that need. Definitely you should read it. ...more
Aug 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
I liked this book much better than i thought i would. It was a book assigned for class, but I still managed to get a lot out of the reading.
Trevor Lee
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
The best book I've ever read on sin. ...more
Jun 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christianity
I'm a Christian who might reasonably be described as anti-evangelical, so I picked up this book with some trepidation, but something about it struck me as intriguing. I'm glad that I strayed from my comfort zone to read it, because it's a solid piece of writing with wide-ranging appeal.

Plantinga approaches the subject of sin with a calm and sophisticated analytical mind, but the book doesn't read at all like typical academic theology. The author selects from a grab-bag of literature, film, psych
Jon Pentecost
Hard to give a star rating to.
Elegantly written. And addressing a gap in the attention of modern evangelicalism. Plantinga is useful in pointing out and elaborating on the ways that sin ruins the world. He is a great example of someone writing theology with an eye towards writing literarily.

But for all the good, I was frustrated by the relative absence of God and our relationship with/standing before God. For all his descriptions of the way that sin ruins the world, there is little said about th
Kasey Channita
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Cynical, but not to the point of hopelessness, biting, but only rarely drawing blood, Plantiga Jr. skillfully produces a study on sin that is paradoxically both motivating and discouraging. Identifying the modern world’s disregard, and oftentimes total rejection, of the reality of sin, Plantiga Jr. demonstrates the essential need for the follower of Christ to rediscover the parasitic, debilitating, and artful nature of sin.

“For the Christian church to ignore, euphemize, or otherwise mute the let
Teri Pardue
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Was encouraged to read this one by my husband. A few chapters in I complained to him that it was all just about sin. He told me that was the point.
As I began reflecting on the importance of understanding what is sin-and read further, I saw the importance and helpfulness of a book like this. And even though this book was written over twenty years ago, it is so relevant (which, I suppose, makes sense considering the timelessness of sin).

Plantinga is an impressive writer: coupling difficult theolog
J. Alfred
Mar 25, 2020 rated it liked it
An interesting look at the phenomenon of sin which blends scholarship and the events in the newspaper in the service of making things clearer. (Why is sin bad? In what ways is it bad? What classes of sin can we distinguish? Why is all this important?)
This is definitely not a devotional, and not even a manual on fighting sin. There's not a lot of practicality in here, but it might help its readers to think more clearly, and there's a lot to be said for that in its own right. I find the introduct
Leslie Fanchon
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Wow! What a wonderful and insightful work. I'm so glad I read it and have a greater understanding of the depth of my sin and a heart full of appreciation for my wonderful Savior!

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
He taketh my burden away;
He holdeth me up and I shall not be moved,
He giveth me strength as my day.

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life in the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His
Dennis Thurman
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This book captured my attention from the outset and sustained it until the end. Dealing with sin in such a detailed and forthright manner would not lend to such expectation of a captivating read that it turned out to be. The illustrations were poignant. The word pictures Plantinga painted were gripping. I wish everyone would read this book. It would be enormously helpful for every pastor. It bores down into the reality of human depravity as no other book I have read, save the Bible.
Mar 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’ll save my detailed review for the assignment for which I was reading this book, but the four stars I have given it are an indication of how much I enjoyed it. A strange topic, but comprehensively and positively written, it not only delved deeply into a serious issue, it did so with clarity and at times great wit. Lots of illustrations made it easy to read and access some heavy topics. Highly recommended.
Paul Stuart
Apr 22, 2021 rated it liked it
After Hoekema's work on the doctrine of Man and its related hamartiology, Plantinga's more narrative-driven, whimsical writing was a nice break. Plantinga doesn't even exposit Scripture much in this book (if at all) - his goal here is simply to share some musings on sin, spanning across 10 chapters. Whereas I would have enjoyed to see him exposit some verses so as to better articulate how he comes to his conclusions, I still enjoyed his intentional let's-just-sit-back-in-our-armchairs-together-a ...more
Samuel Sexton
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It is a suburb study of the nature of sin in its multifaceted nature. If you are looking to understand the nature of sin within your own life, I would highly recommend this text to you! It is a great way to become more self aware of sinful patterns and actions that disturb shalom.
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not a popular view anymore, but Plantinga tackles the concept of sin in this book. He keeps it in understandable language as he explains that popular euphemisms which downgrade humanity's sinfulness do not negate what is actually happening. While sin separates humans from God and from each other, Plantinga also stresses the hope found in forgiveness. ...more
April Thrush
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I feel like I have highlighted like 50% of this book because I loved it so much. The author quoted C.S. Lewis a lot, and I know why he liked him so much, because I would compare this work to being almost along the same plane as those of Lewis, it was that good.
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Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. is an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church and has served as a pastor in Webster, NY and supply preacher in Cliffwood Beach, NJ. Before joining the faculty at Calvin Theological Seminary, Cornelius Plantinga Jr. taught at Princeton Theological Seminary (1976 - 78), Fuller Theological Seminary (1985, 1987) and Regent College (1997). From 1996 to 2002 he served ...more

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Oh hey, we're nearly halfway through 2021! We can't really believe it either... Traditionally, this is the time when the Goodreads editorial...
80 likes · 11 comments
“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. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.” 11 likes
“Recalling and confessing our sin is like taking out the garbage: once is not enough.” 4 likes
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