Are people basically good? Or evil?
This is an important question. If we get this wrong, our plumb line for evaluating all of human experience is off, and our views on everything will be warped.
I used to think “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) meant all people are basically evil. But now, I don’t think it’s quite that simple.
Let me suggest the following for you to consider:
1. Humanity as a whole: evil. (Genesis 6:5-6, Matthew 7:13-14, Revelation 9:20-21, etc.)
2. Any human compared side by side with God: evil. (Luke 18:19, Matthew 7:11)
3. Any human apart from God’s work in their lives: evil. (John 15:5, Romans 10:3)
4. Could I point to any human at random and say, “You are basically evil?” No. (Psalm 1, Genesis 18:23, Proverbs 10:16, etc.)
5. Is any person redeemable? Does everyone have the potential for good? Probably. (2 Peter 3:9)
6. Are the children of God basically evil or basically good? Good. (1 John 3:9, etc.)
7. Do the children of God have a sin nature? Are they sinners? Not any more. (Romans 6:6, etc.) This is important because we act out of our identity. If our identity is “sinner,” then we will sin. We might try to fight that sin, but we will ultimately fail because “sinner” is who we are. If we are sinners, then the only cure for our practice of sinning is to die and go to heaven. For us, fighting sin will always be a losing battle, and there’s not a thing we can do about it. But, thank God, “sinner” is not our identity. Our sin nature was put to death. If it’s dead, it cannot be alive. It can’t be simultaneously dead and alive. It’s dead. It’s gone. Goodbye. I know what I’m saying contradicts the standard evangelical mindset, but after careful study of scripture, I believe I am correct.
8. Can and do God’s children sin? Yes, but not because they are evil, and not because they have a sin nature. (1 John 1:8) They sin, I believe, because they are deceived. They’re trying to solve a problem with sin, and that problem can be resolved with the truth that sets us free. (John 8:32)
9. Is evil a choice? Yes, but a qualified yes. This is an enormously complex question that deserves a book-length answer. Bottom line: God has a right to judge, but He doesn’t judge using the same information we would use to judge.
10. So, are humans basically good or basically evil? Both. Are we made in the image of God, or are we children of the Fall of Man? Both. We live in a broken world populated entirely by people who have sinned. Most of the world lives in some level of misery because of not only their own sins, but also because of the sins of others. Most of us aren’t even aware of the true depth of depravity that exists in this world. Some people are deeply, deeply evil. But God sees the good that can be awakened in each of us, and God is here to activate that good inside us, if we’re willing to allow Him to do so. Eventually, we all gotta make a decision: God or evil, which do we prefer?
PS. I plan to go into more detail on this and discuss remedies for sin for Inner Wealth subscribers on Saturday 6/15/2019.