Why Good Theology Depends on Seeing Humanity as Evil
“Never stop being a good person because of bad people,” reads the meme. “This is true,” wrote the one who shared the meme. Is it true?
Biblical illiteracy, inside and outside the church, has given way to self-help psychology that always promotes self-esteem. It was the devil, who convinced Adam and Eve that they could be good without God. Humanity has succumbed to this lie ever since.
The Bible is very clear in its assessment of humanity. People are not good, nor righteous, nor useful, nor do they seek after God to rectify their plight (Rom 3:10–12). Based on this meme and multitudes of other “positive” expressions, it is unlikely that most people are even cognizant of this universal plight.
So, we propose that the devil, his world system, and natural man are all working together to glorify man. Their mantra is “Man is good.” In reality, of course, this is a clever ruse of the devil, known to him, but unknown to the natural man (1 Cor 2:14; 2 Cor 4:4).
The obvious is detected in this meme, however. There are good people and bad people, so although the penchant is to elevate self, wickedness is acknowledged…in others. It is rare to find one who self-deprecates, and even then, it is perceived he is a charlatan for doing so.
Let us establish who is good, if the Bible teaches that no one is good (Rom 3:11). Jesus Himself informed one audience, “No one is good except God alone (Mk 10:18).” Jesus is the Son of God (Mk 15:39) being the second Person in the Triune Godhead. Therefore, we affirm the Bible teaches that Jesus is good because He is God (Jn 1:1; 5:18; 10:30; Phil 2:6). He will continue to be good, even when everyone else is bad.
When someone suggests that someone other than God is good, he is elevating totally depraved man to the status of deity. This can only lead to pride in man. It sometimes leads to hero worship, which is idolatry.
The great chasm between God (who is good) and man (who is evil) must be acknowledged. The gap must also be presented, as far worse than we could ever think or imagine. The reason is that the whole world system is designed to elevate, even exalt man to the highest place. Man builds a tower, and then he puts his name above every other name. The implication is that the taller the tower, the closer to deity is the name (Gen 11).
Hear the rich man say, “God has blessed me with riches.” This always carries the implication, “God has blessed me because I am good and obedient, and therefore, I am rich.” The rich Christian will always justify his accumulation of wealth, from the Old Testament, not the New Testament. We acknowledge that God owns everything, and He distributes wealth in His wisdom and providence, which may mean either blessing or curse (see Ecclesiastes). Regardless, every Christian is accountable, as a steward of everything God entrusts to him or her (2 Cor 5:10).
God, making a person a Christian, does not make that person “good.” Christians remain in the fallen, sinful world, as ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20). Faithful servants are the product of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22), who gives gifts to God’s people (Eph 4:8), and who works God’s will (Phil 2:13), through good works (Jas 2:14–26), prepared for that person in Christ (Eph 2:10). It is Christ, living and working through the members of His body that give them identity and purpose, in alignment with God’s eternal decree.
The study of theology is a challenge. First, we must have God’s grace, in His revealing Himself to us (2 Cor 3:18). He does this through the Bible (2 Tim 3:16; Heb 4:12; 2 Pet 1:20–21). Knowing God is exclusive, to recipients of His grace, who learn Him from His Word. The Bible teaches about God’s attributes, His Law, His plan, and His purpose in Christ. It is wise to search the Scriptures, to learn God’s eternal plan for the salvation of His people. The Spirit of God is our Teacher (Jn 14:26).
How do we know that humanity is wicked and not righteous? The Spirit teaches us God’s Word, which tells us the truth about us and about our neighbors. One cannot stop being a good person, for the simple reason that none of us were ever good people. Our unregenerate hearts are not good (Jer 17:9). Our unregenerate minds are not good (Eph 4:17). Our sin nature and natural will only choose evil all the time (Gen 6:5; Eph 2:3).
Perverse knowledge of God is propagated by false prophets, who prophesy falsehood in God’s name (Jer 14:14). In other words, one great detriment to the church is those who “lead” the church with false visions, divination, futility, and the deception of their own minds. How do believers discern truth-tellers from liars?
The preacher who elevates man, from his totally depraved status in this world, is always subject to scrutiny for being a man-pleaser. Will a man rob God? Yes, this promoter of human prosperity and human pride is there to steal, kill and destroy. He does so with a twisted theology that meets man’s felt needs. Men feel the need to be gods (Gen 3:5), and they learned this from Adam, the deceived.
Do you desire right theology? Praise God who gave you that desire. Most people do not share your desire. Praise God for showing you inherited sin, your sin nature, your incessant sinning, and the God-man, who graciously delivers you from the wrath of God against you. This is the right view of hell-bound, hell-deserving humanity.
No view of God, in Christ, from the Bible can be too high. No view of man, in sin, from the Bible can be too low. Here is the key to good theology.
Spokane Valley, Washington
July 28, 2022