It is possible to be highly educated and at the same time morally depraved. There is, in fact, a certain kind of moral depravity that only the highly educated can attain, because it requires sophisticated skills of rationalization and self-deception.” – Iain W. Proven –
Human depravity has been a subject of debate among philosophers and theologians ever since…well…ever since two of them wound up in the same room together in a conversation. In the simplest of terms, the basis of their doctrinal disagreements rest upon this question: Are people basically good or bad? Stay tuned kiddies – among these doctors of dogma, who populate philosophical ivory towers, the debate continues…
Meanwhile, on the streets of modern Sodom (where we live) with its pervasive humanistic “new age” culture, there is this generally accepted assumption that people are essentially good. Of course it is allowable to admit that “no one is perfect”. After all, it is only human to “err.” Sure, there are some really bad people who exhibit very “evil” tendencies but in spite of all the wickedness in the world, there is a “basic goodness” in every human life. In other words, evil does not penetrate to the core of the human spirit. We are all capable of “self-improvements” and “higher planes of consciousness.” This will lead to our greater goodness.
My theological term for these widely held beliefs is: Bovine Poopie
The Bible (perhaps the best book ever written on human nature) teaches that mankind is depraved (or corrupt) to the very core of our existence. Wickedness affects our mind, and our soul (will & emotions); even our physical body can suffer the consequences of human immorality. By nature, every man, woman and child is predisposed to depravity.
While Hitler, Stalin, Castro, Saddam Hussein, Jeffery Dahmer, Jack the Ripper, Ted Bundy, and John Wayne Gacy, are all extreme examples of unbridled human depravity, racial and ethnic tensions, riots and looting in our streets, rape and murder in our communities, drug and alcohol addictions, sexual perverts, lying and cheating politicians, and corrupt and immoral clergy are also rooted in the human depravity problem.
Does this mean that humanity is incapable of producing good people? No, it does not. The capacity to do something virtuous and the condition of a depraved inner being (the human spirit) are two entirely different things. Mankind is certainly capable of decent behavior, good deeds, and even outwardly upholding some portion of the “Divine Law”. Nevertheless, we are all born with a flawed (depraved) human nature that can never meet the standard necessary to be truly pleasing to the faultless and Divine Creator of human life. Depravity is first a spiritual problem.
The Biblical writer Paul put it this way in the Newer Testament of the Bible:
10 “As the Scriptures say, No one is good” no one in all the world is innocent. 11 No one has ever really followed God’s paths or even truly wanted to. 12 Every one has turned away; all have gone wrong. No one anywhere has kept on doing what is right; not one.” (Romans 3:10-12 – Living Bible)
Mankind has been weighed in the balance scales of a perfect God and we are all found malevolent. We are the walking dead – in trespasses and depravities (Ephesians 2:1); and our very nature predestines us to be the children of (God’s) wrath. (Ephesians 2:3). For my theologically minded friends, this is also known as the condition of spiritual death. Depravity goes part and parcel with human nature. We are all born with a “spiritual gene” that makes us bad to the bone.
I know what you’re thinking; “compared to some, I am a good person.” I understand. You’ve never killed anyone. You consider yourself to be kind and compassionate. “Live and let live”, that’s your motto. I believe you. That was my mindset heretofore as well. But, human depravity is not relative – it is absolute. Your behavior is irrelevant. Even one evil thought; one malignant intention, – acted upon or not – is proof of corruption’s seed in your very nature. 23 “Yes, all have transgressed; all have fallen short of God’s perfect ideal.” (Romans 3:23)
We lived depravity and called it truth, silencing our dreaming, and our love, discarding things holy.” – John Daniel Thieme
Charles H. Spurgeon was a gifted orator and prolific author. His sermons were said to hold his listeners spellbound at the New Park Street Chapel (later the Metropolitan Tabernacle) in London where he was the Pastor for 38 years. He was also known for his outspoken opposition to the open-minded and matter-of-fact theological tendencies in the Church of his day. (Hello?) Here is an excerpt from one of his great discourses:
“There are some professing Christians who can speak of themselves in terms of admiration; but, from my inmost heart, I loathe such speeches more and more every day that I live. Those who talk in such a boastful fashion must be constituted very differently from me. While they are congratulating themselves, I have to lie humbly at the foot of Christ’s Cross, and marvel that I am saved at all, for I know that I am saved. I have to wonder that I do not believe Christ more, and equally wonder that I am privileged to believe in Him at all” to wonder that I do not love Him more, and equally to wonder that I love Him at all” to wonder that I am not holier, and equally to wonder that I have any desire to be holy at all considering what a polluted debased, depraved nature I find still within my soul, notwithstanding all that divine grace has done in me.”
“In the very best of men there is an infernal and well-nigh infinite depth of depravity. Some Christians never seem to find this out. I almost wish that they might not do so, for it is a painful discovery for anyone to make; but it has the beneficial effect of making us cease from trusting in ourselves, and causing us to glory only in the Lord.” – Charles H. Spurgeon (1834 – 1892)
Spurgeon did not mince words when it came to his disdain for self-centered Christianity or as he put it, “professing Christians who can speak of themselves in terms of admiration.”
Far from being smug, Charles marveled at the wonder of his own rescue from depravity. I like his contrasts:
- I have to wonder that I do not believe Christ more, and equally wonder that I am privileged to believe in Him at all
- I have to wonder that I do not love Him more, and equally to wonder that I love Him at all
- I have to wonder that I am not holier, and equally to wonder that I have any desire to be holy at all
Me too, Charles, me too. Spurgeon laments that, “In the very best of men there is an infernal and well-nigh infinite depth of depravity. “Some Christians never seem”, he said “to find this out”. My God, my God, how true. Could we all let that sink in for a moment? From the gutter-most to the uttermost – we are all depraved.
True gospel preaching always changes the heart. It either awakens it or hardens it.” – Chan Kilgore
For me, life has been salted with generous amounts of affirmation (sometimes admiration) and peppered with many a flattering word. I have regularly experienced the milk of human kindness. To be honest, I’ve really enjoyed it. Who wouldn’t? But the longer I live, the more necessary I find it to explore the ugliness of my own depravity. I recognize the treachery in my heart (human nature) and my propensity for mischief. The duplicity inside of me exposes not only my appetite for self-indulgence but my ability to excuse it. Openly acknowledging that I will always struggle with this sin-nature is liberating. It reminds me that I am at the mercy of my Liberator (Jesus) every day and it makes me grateful for the grace that Almighty God has shown to me.
The Newer Testament writer Paul understood this very well. He said,
12-16 “I am deeply grateful to our Lord Jesus Christ (to whom I owe all that I have accomplished) for trusting me enough to appoint me his minister, despite the fact that I had previously blasphemed his name, persecuted his Church and damaged his cause. I believe he was merciful to me because what I did was done in the ignorance of a man without faith, and then he poured out his grace upon me, giving me tremendous faith in, and love for, himself. This statement is completely reliable and should be universally accepted:” “Christ Jesus entered the world to rescue sinners”. I realize that I was the worst of them all, and that because of this very fact God was particularly merciful to me. It was a kind of demonstration of the extent of Christ’s patience towards the worst of men; to serve as an example to all whom in the future should trust him for eternal life”. (1 Timothy 1:12-16 – Phillips)
How is that for transparency? Here is the author of over half of the New Testament letters admitting that he looks at himself as being among the worst of men. He attributes his reformation to the mercy, grace, faith and love of God. In essence Paul says that the Liberator Jesus entered this world to rescue bad people like him. Where does that leave us? At best, we are all bad people in need of reclamation.
Paul also observed that it is human nature to know what is right and yet still do what is wrong.
21-25 “When I come up against the Law I want to do what is good, but in practice I do evil. My conscious mind whole-heartedly endorses the Law, yet I observe an entirely different principle at work in my nature. This is in continual conflict with my conscious attitude, and makes me an unwilling prisoner to the law of sin and death. In my mind I am God’s willing servant, but in my own nature I am bound fast, as I say, to the law of sin and death. It is an agonizing situation, and who on earth can set me free from the clutches of my sinful nature? I thank God there is a way out through Jesus Christ our Lord”. (Romans 7:21-25 -Phillips)
In this never ending tug of war between right and wrong within us, here’s the million dollar question: who or what on this earth can set me free from the control of my corrupt (depraved) nature? Can Religion? Not a chance. A popular preacher? Sorry. Self-help gurus? Please. The Government? Yea right, I know you’re not that stupid. Freedom at the very core level of our human nature comes only through the Liberator Jesus who said that He alone was the way, the truth, and the life. Listen to what the Newer Testament writer Peter said,
3-4 “He gives us everything we need for life and for holy living. He gives it through His great power. As we come to know Him better, we learn that He called us to share His own shining-greatness and perfect life. 4 Through His shining-greatness and perfect life, He has given us promises. These promises are of great worth and no amount of money can buy them. Through these promises you can have God’s own life in you now that you have gotten away from the sinful things of the world which came from wrong desires of the flesh (corrupt human nature).” (2 Peter 1:3-4 – NLV)
Herein rests the key: only when we share in the perfect nature of our Creator (his Spirit living within us) through our surrender to and trust in the Liberator Jesus can we experience true freedom. This is how we escape the depravity of our fallen nature and the corruption that is at work in this world.
On his brief visit to the earth, Jesus offered liberty to all who would choose to follow him. Without that freedom, we are merely drifting toward the rocks of inevitable destruction. Jesus is still reaching out to us pathetic humans. Today he is extending a great opportunity to you. Call it a gift of hope.
Hope? That’s right. According to the scriptures, HOPE is the anchor of the human soul, fixed in the very certainty of the promises that Jesus made to all who believe in him. Promises like this one:
“You must not let yourselves be distressed” you must hold on to your faith in God and to your faith in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s House. If there were not, should I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? It is true that I am going away (from the earth) to prepare a place for you, but it is just as true that I am coming back again to welcome you into my own home, so that you may be where I am. You know where I am going and you know the road I am going to take.” (John 14-1-4)
Now, remember, that same Jesus who said that He is the way, the truth and the life, also said that He is the road (pathway) that we must follow!
Can anyone say ROAD TRIP? Let’s get going!!!
Great God of this universe, you alone know us for who we really are. Your great love for mankind was demonstrated when you sent the Liberator Jesus to implement your plan of rescue for the lost human population of this slowly dying planet. Please help my friends who seek a better way to be drawn to the hope that you offer today – the Liberator Jesus – one way, one truth, one life. I ask this in his name. Amen
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabbid Coastal Junkie ®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656