Mankind is basically good. Yes, sure, we make mistakes, sometimes big ones, but deep down we’re all good people trying our best to live good lives. We have men who truly want to be good fathers, husbands, and neighbors. The women want to be good mothers, wives, and neighbors. We just happen to slip up from time to time.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this type of mentality about life (even in church settings) and sadly how many times I’ve believed it.
Man is inherently good.
While this is easy to affirm without thinking, it is an incredibly dangerous lie that ends up affecting a whole lot of our theology and doctrine.
Claiming that man is inherently good seems like a statement made from optimism and positivity. If we try hard enough to convince ourselves that that is true, then maybe we will begin to see the world around us with rose-colored glasses and not get so discouraged.
It works for a little bit. We look at the news and think oh that man was a ‘good’ guy, he just happened to make a mistake. We drive down the street in our community and interact with others and assume they are deep down good people. When I’ve felt this way towards others it has always come from a place of wanting to love them well. It seems hateful and mean to assume less than the best in people. What I’m trying to say in this blog is not that we should always assume the worst of others. Instead I’m trying to say that we should have a Biblically-centered view of mankind, not because we’re hateful pessimists, but instead because we are hopeful lovers of Jesus. So I plead with you to keep reading even if you disagree with me thus far.
It has been almost a month since I ventured back into the book of Romans, at least an in-depth study of it. This afternoon I had some down time and decided to get back into it. The next passage in my studies was Romans 1:28-31.
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; – Romans 1:28-31
This passage is situated in Romans 1 following Paul’s statement that the people had abandoned God, exchanging worship of Him with their own idolatry. So we see that God gives them up to those things which are not proper (this is a complicated and hard truth that you can find my opinions on at Given Up), and then Paul lists those things which are not proper.
So what can we conclude from Romans chapter one? Mankind is not inherently good. Rather, they choose apart from Christ to worship created things rather than the Creator. Because they choose allegiance to this world rather than King Jesus, God gives them over to the sins they desire to commit.
According to the Bible, mankind is not inherently good.
Rather, mankind is inherently sinful and wants to commit the sins we see in the above list.
Now, if you happen to be a theologian in the making like myself, you may have bells going off that I’m teaching total depravity right here and you may be trying to peg me as a Calvinist. If that happens to be you, I gotta say, I’m not. I’m not a five-pointer, the only tulips I’m super familiar with are in the garden down my street. There are three things I know for sure: I love Jesus, I love stuffed crust pizza from Pizza Hut, and God’s ways (including salvation) are above my own (Romans 11:33-34). Just felt I should be clear about what I believe.
Anywho, mankind is sinful, through and through.
Let’s talk about the list. Let’s talk clearly about the list. I have known those who will look at this list and others like it in the Bible and say ‘well, my sin struggle isn’t named here, so it must not be that bad, it must not be sin’. This is preposterous thinking and it’s missing the point. This list in this passage is not designed to be an exhaustive list of sins we could commit. What Paul is trying hard to emphasize in a thesaurus way is that our inherent sinfulness runs from the most abhorrent sins to even the smallest we can imagine. From murder to disobeying our parents.
The point of this passage in Romans 1 is to illustrate a few things I think I miss and forget:

  1. Mankind is sinful, saturated with unrighteousness
  2. Condemning sin may be old-fashioned, but it is necessary
  3. Sin MUST lead to remorse in the life of a Christian. We should never get to a point where we accept sinful lifestyles in our churches.

Now let me wrap it up by hopefully encouraging you or convincing you that for me to see man as sinful is not me being hateful and mean. I want to quickly and hopefully show that to do so is the most loving thing I could do.
I know the message of Scripture. I know that those who die apart from believing in Jesus’ sacrifice for their sins will spend eternity separated from Him, that is, hell. So when I say that I acknowledge that my community is full of inherently sinful people, it is not me seeking to believe the worst about people. God gives grace to the non-believer, some non-believers are amazing people in our community, but even the morally sound, servant-hearted non-believer is still apart from the saving love of God.
Believing that all of mankind is inherently good makes me passive.
Believing that all of mankind is inherently sinful makes me active, it makes me desire to share my faith.
I welcome dialogue and you can follow my blog below.
In His Name,
Nathan Roach