HUMAN DEPRAVITY and OUR POLITICAL CHOICES.
I am not sure that many religious folks or political types understand the reason for the irreconcilable differences between a conservative and a liberal regarding what theologians refer to as “anthropology.”. It is not what most would conclude it to be. But it is my settled opinion that no issue has a greater influence on determining your political, social, and religious views than does how you view human nature. The question being, do you see human nature as basically good or inherently evil? Most of modern secular belief is grounded in the opinion that human beings at their core are basically good. The Barna Research Group found that nearly 90% of non-Christians agreed with the premise that “People are basically good.” More amazing is that the same study revealed that over 75% of self-described “born-again” Christians agreed with that sentiment. Additionally, another 90% of those who defined themselves as “mainline Protestant” also agreed that “All people are basically good.”
Nonetheless, the idea that “people are basically good” clearly is not a Christian one. I do not know of a single verse in all the Bible which teaches such a thing. I would challenge any denier of human depravity to show any text which affirms the goodness of our spiritual condition or of any spiritual ability of the “natural man.” The onetime British agnostic journalist and satirist, Malcolm Muggeridge, wrote that, “the depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.”
The doctrine of human depravity or total inability matters much. This teaching’s basic premise is that people are not by nature inclined to love God with their whole heart, mind, or strength as God requires. Nor do they love their neighbor as themselves. Rather, we are all inclined to serve our own interests and to reject the rule of God. It means that apart from God’s grace that none of us would be saved nor do we seek God until He first seeks us. It affirms that there in nothing that any of us can do to merit salvation or please God but that all our goodness or righteousness is as an unclean thing. It means that we are all spiritually dead in trespasses and sins. It means that any person is capable of unspeakable crimes and vile behavior. It was on these premises, that our founders insisted in our Constitution that we must be a nation ruled by law and not men.
Total depravity or total inability does not mean, however, that people are as evil or vile as they possibly could be. This is clearly not so. One of the problems of folks not understanding human depravity is that they often confuse such things as pleasantness or benevolence or niceness with biblical “goodness.” Jesus plainly taught that there is none good but God alone [Lk. 18:19.] By our standards we may know or even be one that is exemplary compared to other members of the human race. The fact is that anyone may feel benevolent or act kindly if nothing happens to be annoying a person at the moment.
However, true moral goodness isn’t merely being “nice.” Any act which is not motivated by a desire to honor and glorify God as God, is still an act of sin and a defiance of the Lord. Being a slave to sin does not mean that people always engage in reprehensible behavior. It does means that the unregenerate never desire to honor and glorify God, but are unreservedly committed to holding forth their own glory, interests, and honor. But it is God alone who sees and knows the hidden things of our heart. Though we may do nice deeds and benevolent acts on occasion or consistently, the fact remains that we are all filled with pride and self -love.
Those who deny total depravity claim that we have a choice. We may choose to do evil or we may choose to do the good. I believe that C.S. Lewis was correct when he observed that “we have used our free will to become very bad.” Many reject human depravity simply because they realize that this justifies God’s judgment. If we think we are sometimes “bad” but are actually basically good, then the “the wrath of God” seems a barbaric doctrine. It is only when we realize the depth of our depravity and potential for evil that we may see the justice and righteousness of God.
To deny this basic biblical assertion of human depravity destroys, or, at the very least, greatly diminishes Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary. But Jesus did not suffer a brutal, shameful, agonizing and torturous death because we are basically good. If we are good enough to earn salvation on our own, then Christ’s bleeding and dying are meaningless [Galatian 2:21. Many willingly diminish the unspeakable horrors of the Cross. The reason for this is quite simple. For us to recognize the awfulness of Calvary is to admit that it is our own horrendous evil which demanded a price so terrible. Charles Spurgeon often said, “Too many think lightly of their sin, and therefore think lightly of the Savior.”
And what does all this imply regarding the differences between political liberals and conservatives? There can be no middle ground. Either humanity is basically good or inherently bad. The fact is that the biblical teachings of original sin and human depravity are the only Christian doctrines that need not be accepted by faith. We need only look at our world and society. The terrible human evils in the world are indisputable testimony to man’s depravity and his spiritual alienation from God.
Christians are not surprised at the brutality, moral chaos, cruelty, and evil rampant in this world…we expect it. We know ourselves. We anticipate there are enemies without and within who will try to harm us. We trust in God but we also demand a strong military. We know that women will continue to abort babies. We only do what we can to stop the slaughter. We realize that self-pleasing has a home in our hearts. We have often observed that many politicians, our courts, and the new rules and regulations will defy God and call evil good and good to be evil. It is not irrational that we do not trust politicians, an all-powerful government, lawyers or a car salesman. It is why we will not surrender our guns. And mainly it is why we continue to anticipate the “Blessed Hope” and to look for our Redemption from on High. WEN
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