What Children Show Us About Our Nature
Most non-believers will tell you that man is basically “good.” When he acts against that basic goodness, it’s the result of disease – such as alcoholism, drug addiction or some form of mental illness. These, in turn, stem from a failure of society to reach out and provide the right kind of assistance and services. If only we as a society could do more, spend more, provide more, we could eventually create the kind of utopia that “good” people populate.
Christianity, by contrast, teaches a much different worldview. Long ago, the first man and woman exercised their free will to rebel against God, and in so doing created a rift between man and God that continues to this day. Though man has a certain inherent goodness, because he bears the image of God, he is at present broken, corrupted, fallen – and he manifests that fallen nature in a way that we see quite starkly. Christians have a name of this manifestation – sin. It afflicts, and motivates, all of us, and no one can escape its pull. Not without divine help, anyway.
These contrasting worldviews cannot both be correct. And depending on which view you accept, your response to the good news of the Gospel will be different. “Good” people who simply need more education and more refinement don’t need a Savior; they can do just fine on their own – and with a little help from society. But fallen and corrupted people – even well-intentioned ones – are not going to be able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Their nature, constantly at war with the good that is within them, needs to be recast – remade in the image of the God who made them and left them here.
Is there a way to “prove” which view is correct? How can we reliably determine what man is like in his natural state? First, we need to get our minds around what we mean by terms like “good” or “evil.” I would suggest a simple definition: what we recognize as “good” in other people is the product of an intentional effort at selflessness. Whether its sacrificial love, working for charity or simply a random act of kindness – what we experience as “good” is an act directed to the benefit of the other. By contrast, what we see as evil is an act directed at satisfying within oneself a base or selfish end. The quests for power, for recognition, for material wealth, for dominance – all these things drive people to ignore the harm inflicted as they climb on the backs of those who stand in their way.
Now, with this basic concept in mind, what can we see from examining man in his most primitive state? I don’t mean primitive as in caveman, but as in newborn…
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