Are humans naturally good?
Many people think so, but does the evidence really point in that direction?
How can we account for the bad things we see and experience around us in daily life, in social media, around the world, if we’re by nature good? Wouldn’t goodness prevail over ill? Wouldn’t it be the norm vs. the exception?
Below are 8 non-Biblical arguments to suggest we’re not good to go:
[This is a much longer entry than normal given the subject nature]
The last century witnesses three famous genocides:
A genocide is a horrendous thing and is when one group seeks to exterminate another (litterally genos [people], cide [killing]), and this is often done because of hate, greed, land disputes, etc.
Then we turn to the Old Testament and find passages like this concerning Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land as part of God’s plan for Israel and the redemption of a lost world:
“16 But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, 17 but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded, 18 that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 20:16–18)
*Note v.18 is a clue to understanding this, to which we’ll return
Yikes! That sure looks like genocide to me; cased closed, I cannot believe in a God like that. But hold on, let’s take a closer look.
One of the largest stumbling blocks to the Christian faith, or rather seeing ones need of Christ, is the belief that one is too good for the Gospel. Why would I need Christianity when I live a decent life already? Maybe Christianity is okay for really bad people but it has nothing to offer me. I’m a firefighter, not an arsonist. I’m a nurse, not a chemical weapons specialist. I’m a farmer, not a cattle rustler. With the exception of maybe a few rough edges I’m basically a good person, too good to need Christ, too good for the Gospel to be good news to me.
How do we answer those who raise this point when we seek to share the Gospel with them? How can we help them see their need of Christ (I say help because conviction of sin is ultimately a work of the Holy Spirit, Jn 16:8).
We might start by freely acknowledging our own sinfulness before them, that the Gospel is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. But still, they might protest that neither of us are beggars, we’re both basically good people, and I have enough bread thank you.
Okay, Mr. Good, let’s turn to Ro 3:23, a very famous and helpful verse on this subject:
Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
But I’m not a sinner they may still exclaim. I’m not an Adolph Hitler or a Genghis Khan, nor a mafia boss nor an online fraudster. HERE is the problem. Here is the key to unlocking this stumbling block and excuse. Their standard for measuring goodness is either themselves or someone else. When we, rather subjectively, set the bar it is no wonder we measure up, we set it far too low!
But that is the complete opposite of what Ro 3:23 is saying. Why have we all, without exception, sinned? Because we fall short of the glory of God. God’s glory is His character, His reality, His person. He is holy, radiant, pure and good and He calls us to be “perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48). He is and sets the standard and not us or others. He makes this standard known through His Divine Laws, all that He has said in His Word as to that which is right and wrong. Take the 10 Commandments (Ex 20:1–17) or even the Great Commandment (Mk 12:28–31) as but an example. Find me someone who has kept those simple lists perfectly and I’ll make pigs fly!
WOW! That changes the weights and measurements doesn’t it? That revolutionizes our perspective on goodness. No longer is my goodness adequate, no longer do I measure up, now there is a great gulf between what goodness I may have and the goodness that God requires of me—perfection. Truly, now all of my “righteous deeds are as filthy rags” (Isa 64:6). Even any good we may have do is unacceptable because it wasn’t done in faith to love, honour and glorify God (Heb 11:6).
Once Mr. Good has grasped this by the Spirit, Mr. Bad is ready for Good News, the Gospel, for he sees his need of it. Ro 3 continues in vv. 24–25:
And are justified [declared right] by His grace [unmerited favour] as a gift [we cannot earn it for our deeds are imperfect], through the redemption [rescue] that is in Christ Jesus [what? Read on…], whom God put forward as a propitiation [a sacrifice that turns God’s wrath toward sin into favour] by his blood [dying on the cross], to be received by faith. [that believing this and asking, in trust, for God to forgive your sins according to the merits of Christ’s blood. That is how we can be saved from our sins and gain eternal life; that is how a relationship with our Maker can be restored].
God willing, your stumbling block removed, would you see your need for Christ and call on Him, asking Him to be Saviour and Lord of your life?
The other day, with the return of the snow, my son exclaimed to my wife, “God sent the deep, deep snow back!” She replied, “Yes, he did!” My son, who is always saying, “see it, see it,” if he has missed something (a horse and buggy on the road or a bird at the bird feeder), said to her, “You [meaning him] see Him [meaning God]?” Oh the profound things that come from the mouths of babes!
Many people don’t believe Christianity is true or come to doubt their faith by asking a similar type of question, “Why should I believe in God if I cannot see Him?”
This is a classic example of a statement or question pre-determining our response. Can or could we ever see God, was it His design? What might impinge this sight even if we could?
In multiple places the Bible affirms that God is spirit (Jn 4:24, “God is spirit”) and invisible (Col 1:15, “The Son is the image of the invisible God.”). Even before sin entered the world and humanity fell from a favoured state with God (Gen 3), the sense from the opening chapters of Genesis is that God was spiritually present in the Garden (Gen 3:8).
Since the Fall, sin has separated us from God. The only way in which we can “see Him” is to be restored to fellowship with Him through the Gospel (faith and repentance in Jesus Christ, Mt 5:8-“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”). Then we shall see God spiritually and one day see Him physically. And it is precisely this Jesus who offers salvation who is the means by which we can physically see God.
Through Jesus, as God’s Son, we can see God the Father.
The Christmas story celebrates God the Son taking on human flesh, incarnating as Jesus, “to save His people from their sin.” Through Jesus, as God, we can see God. This is what Jesus said to His disciple Phillip in John 14:9, “Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” Because God the Father and God the Son share one Divine essence, to see Jesus is to see the Father. (A very poor example is my likeness to my grandfather and father. Many people who have never met me but knew them have come up to me and said, “you must be Jack or Don’s grandson or son.” We share a genetic likeness). Now evidently, we cannot see Jesus today—He’s returned to heaven—however through Jesus’ witnesses, the Apostles, and through the record of God’s Word, we can “see” Jesus and believe (Jn 20:29, 30–31).
Jesus also told the story of a man who had a house, entrusted it to servants, and then went away on a long journey promising to come back (Mk 13:34). Jesus came and He is also returning to bring judgement upon the unbelievers and reward and blessing to his followers. Then we shall see God in Jesus. Then believers will see Him (“the lamb”) for eternity as He is with us in a new Creation (Rev 21:22).
In the meantime, we can know God through faith and repentance in Jesus and see God spiritually.