A Rational Faith Section 3.3 The Nature of Man
Despite what the Bible has to say about God’s great love for human beings, the Bible
does not have a large number of positive things to say about humanity. From extreme
denunciations of unbelievers in the book of Romans, to stern warnings and rebukes directed at Christian and Jewish believers in virtually every other book of the Bible the
message is clear. Human beings in this world are vile reprobate sinners that must
constantly be on our guard against temptations to do that which is not pleasing to God.
Believer and unbeliever, man and woman, Jew and gentile are all in the same boat when
it comes to needing the free gift of the righteousness of Christ.
Despite the clear understanding of the nature of fallen man, however, many Christians
have misunderstood the nature of man before the fall. The Christian view of mankind
before the fall seems to be that Adam and Eve were good in the Garden of Eden until
they were deceived by Satan. At that time, according to this view, God cursed Adam and
Eve and their children and made us sinners like we are today. Though there is some truth
to this view, it is false in an important way.
The vital error that Christians are making when they assume that Adam and Eve were
good in the Garden of Eden is that they are forgetting what the Bible tells us about God’s
unique goodness. If, as Jesus says in Matthew 19:7, God alone is good then how are
Adam and Eve good in the Garden of Eden? If even the “holy angels” cover their faces
and cry out that the Lord is “holy, holy, holy” as we are told in Isaiah 46:9, then how are
Adam and Eve good like God before the fall? The fact of the matter is that Adam and
Eve were not good in the Garden of Eden. Humanity is inherently evil and we were evil
from the very beginning. (see also a later post where this case is improved)
The fact of mankind’s inherent evil is clear when you examine the account of the fall in
Genesis closely. How does mankind fall? By eating of the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil. The tree doesn’t “make” us evil. When we ate of the tree, we became
aware that we were evil and we were ashamed. Another clue that we were evil before the
fall is the sequence of events. Adam and Eve decided to eat before they ate. In deciding
to eat of the fruit of the tree, they were disobedient to God and this was an evil act that
was committed before the fall.
As we have seen, the Bible is absolutely and emphatically clear that God is uniquely
good and that human beings and angels are not like him. Only through the blood of Jesus
Christ can human beings be acceptable to God. Only through the indwelling of God’s
Holy Spirit can we live in eternity with him. Even before the fall, human beings were
inherently selfish and self-centered. What started in the Garden of Eden was the process
by which human beings become aware of (or have knowledge of) our own evil and
selfish natures. This process of becoming aware of good and evil continues to this very
day in children. They are selfish and self-centered from the beginning, but only after a
certain period of development do they become aware of the evil of their ways. Once they
become aware of their evil, they have the choice of turning from it or embracing it. The
fall of mankind, therefore, was a fall from the state of grace that we had when we did not
know we were evil. This is the nature of the fall of mankind and it is going to be vital in
establishing a rational faith.
3.3.1 The Necessary Evil of Man?
Examining the issue from a different angle, it may not have been possible from a
philosophical perspective for God to have created beings that weren’t inherently evil. Let
us imagine for a moment that God’s goodness was not essential to his self-existence. In
this case, would there be other uncreated beings who were not good? If so, did mankind
just happen to get lucky to be created by a good and self-existent being?
To me, it seems rather obvious that self-existence and good must be related. We did not
just get lucky and have a good God, God must be good because goodness and self-
existence are essential to each other. Any self-existent being must be good and any good
being must be self-existent. If this is the case, then human beings could only be evil. If
we were not evil, we would be good and, therefore, self-existent. If we were self-
existent, then we would not need to be created. However the abstract philosophy works
out, mankind is clearly evil in the Bible.
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matthew 7:11)