Is man inherently evil?
I recently had some questions on man's sinful nature. I have been through a worldview curriculum that taught this. They used the books Frankenstein (whose world view is that man is basically good), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (whose world view is that man is inherently evil and cannot change himself), Know What You Believe (by Paul E. Little), Know Why You Believe ( by Paul E. Little), and The Deadliest Monster (by J.F. Baldwin). Apparently, a lot of the curriculum used the theory that man has a sinful nature. When I came across the article on man's sin nature on your website though, it seems like there is a controversy on man's sin nature that I was not aware of previously.
Would you mind answering what some of the Bible verses below meant? They used some Bible verses, like Genesis 6:5 and Psalms 51:5 as evidence of the sinful nature of man. They also used Romans 8:21-22 for the evidence that Adam's sin ruined not just our holiness, but our intellect and our emotions, and also the whole Creation.
Sorry if this email is a bit rushed. Thank you for your time.
The idea that men are born inherently sinful is a part of the Calvinist teachings, which strongly influences the majority of the denominations of the world. Part of the reason for this is that the idea that man is inherently sinful was first proposed by Augustine and became a part of Roman Catholic teaching. During the Reformation, many of the Roman Catholic ideas were rejected, but this idea continued on.
The problem is that the idea is not consistent with the teachings of the Bible. For example, "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself" (Ezekiel 18:20). Ezekiel is clear that sin is not transferable. There is no way this statement in Ezekiel is true and the claim that we inherit the sin of Adam.
So, let's look at your examples:
"Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5).
First, notice what the verse does not say. It does not say how man became so wicked. It only states that mankind (barring Noah and his immediate family) were incredibly wicked. How sin became so severe is hinted at in the verse before. "There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown" (Genesis 6:4). The sons of God (the righteous in the world) married the daughters of men (the wicked in the world). As tends to happen the wicked have an easier time pulling righteous people away from God than the righteous have in pulling the wicked away from Satan. With each successive generation, more people became evil.
Now if this condition is due to a sinful nature in man, then the flood did nothing because man survived the flood. So why doesn't God destroy us all? Instead, we find that Noah was saved the from the wickedness of mankind by that flood that destroyed the world. "Who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water" (I Peter 3:20).
Psalms 51:5 is discussed in detail in: Could you explain the different translations of Psalm 51:5 in detail?
"For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now" (Romans 8:20-22).
Again, we take note that it says the world is in the bondage of corruption, but it does not say how it got into that state. The world longs for release from that corruption. While Adam and his sin are mentioned in Romans, it is not in these verses, nor in the entirety of Romans 8. There is a mention of the bondage (or slavery) of corruption, but it doesn't say that man's intellect or emotions were ruined.
But Peter says, "by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (II Peter 1:4). Now we know how the world has decayed into corruption -- it is due to lust. Paul tells us, "But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (II Corinthians 11:3). Thus, Satan's lies have deceived people, causing them to be corrupted. Finally, "Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits" " (I Corinthians 15:33). The influences of others can corrupt us. But what you don't find is a verse that says corruption was inherited or is innate in mankind. Instead, we find, "Truly, this only I have found: That God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes" (Ecclesiastes 7:29).
Just because someone makes a claim and lists verses, it does not mean the cited verses actually prove the claim. You have to ask yourself if the verse actually says what they claim it says or are they making an assumption based on something the verse does not say.
Hello Mr. Hamilton,
The fact that Noah survived the Flood can be proof that man has no sinful nature. I had asked my worldview teacher, who believes man has a sinful nature, several months before how Noah would survive the Flood if he had a sinful nature and always sinned. She replied that God looks at the heart more, so if Noah sinned and repented, God would say that Noah is still righteous. That was an explanation for how Noah with a sinful nature still could be righteous. Is there something wrong with my teacher's explanation? Feel free to correct any mistake I made or she made. Also, do you know how I should ask or approach my teacher about this topic in a respectful way?
Your answer that the sin nature doctrine is connected to Calvinism is correct in my case. Two of the books were written by an author who probably is a Calvinist. Also, here is something you should know that the curriculum teaches. One book (The Deadliest Monster) mentions that the main difference between Christianity and other religions is that Christians believe that man has a sinful nature, and other religions don't. So basically, the book is implying that Christians should believe man has a sinful nature, otherwise you are believing what the world believes.
When Christians disagree on a more important topic, such as Calvinism vs Arminianism, instead of a more minor topic, how should they approach the matter? I know my worldview teacher, said that Christians should put their differences aside and unite. Would this be a proper response to a disagreement?
Thank you very much for helping me with my questions.
Your teacher used the sinful condition of the world before the Flood as evidence that people were born sinful. I pointed out that the Bible says men were sinful at that time, but this passage does not say how the people became sinful. Noah proves that not everyone was sinful, which runs counter to your teacher's assertion. It is correct that all people sin (Romans 3:23) and that when a person turns from his sins, God will forgive (Ezekiel 18:30-32). But it still does not establish that people are born sinful.
It is interesting that your teacher acknowledges that people can choose to not be sinful. Then the opposite must also be true: that people can choose to be sinful. Therefore, the existence of sin doesn't prove that people are born sinful, it only proves that people chose to sin. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12). Notice that it doesn't say because all were born. Sin spreads because all sin.
A claim that some idea should be believed because everybody else believes it places the majority as the determiner of right and wrong, instead of God. "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14). Without an appeal to a greater authority (God and His Word), the argument doesn't have substance.
To teach contrary to what God teaches is sinful. People do learn and so they may be mistaken on some subjects, but when the Bible clearly teaches differently from what someone says and they refuse to change, then they cannot be accepted. For example, early on in Christianity, there were people running around claiming that Jesus did not really come physically into this world. "For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds" (II John 1:7-11). Therefore, any idea that places unity above following the truth is only going to lead to the further spread of corrupt ideas. Because people are people, there will always be people who will teach false doctrine. "For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you" (I Corinthians 11:19). It isn't what anyone wants, but unity can only come when the same truth is taught. "However, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained." (Philippians 3:16).
Therefore, the proper response is to put aside personal disagreements and examine more closely what God has said on a matter.