Monday, July 15, 2013

Human Depravity: A Lost Christian Doctrine

If the case be such indeed, that all mankind are by nature in a state of total ruin,…then, doubtless, the great salvation by Christ stands in direct relation to this ruin, as the remedy to the disease.”
—Jonathan Edwards—


Author and conservative talk show host Dennis Prager stated, “No issue has a greater influence on determining your social and political views than whether you view human nature as basically good or not.”[1]

I think Prager is correct. But even more important and foundational than your social and political views, your view of human nature has important ramifications with regard to your theology. Perhaps second only to what you believe about God, no issue has greater influence on determining your theological views than whether you view human nature as basically good or not. It is no coincidence that theological liberals who deny doctrines such as original sin and human depravity also, more often than not, end up rejecting other scriptural teachings such as justification by grace through faith, the necessity and exclusivity of Jesus Christ for salvation, penal substitutionary atonement, the biblical doctrine of hell, or just simply scratch their head and wonder inquisitively when reading scriptural passages concerning God’s judgment on sin (e.g., the flood, destruction of the Canaanites, etc.). They ask themselves, “Why is God mad all the time?? I don’t get it!!

Much of modern secular sensibility seems attracted to the idea that human beings at their core are basically good. In his book What Americans Believe, George Barna of Barna Research Group found that 87% of non-Christians agreed with the statement “People are basically good.” But this belief in the inherent goodness of humankind isn’t peculiar to non-Christians. It has found its way into the Church as well. In that same study, Barna also found that 77% of self-described born-again Christians agreed with the statement. Perhaps most shocking, of those self-described born-again Christians who identify themselves as mainline Protestant, 90% agreed with the statement “People are basically good.”[2]