Someone once remarked that the doctrine of original sin doesn’t need any proof. The flawed nature of humanity is just too painfully obvious.
And yet, strangely, there is this very common misconception that human beings are inherently good. If we just make sure that we have the right environment in which to live and if only we remove the negative stresses from our surroundings all will turn out okay. A hundred years ago there was much optimism about humankind. It seemed unshakeably sure that we could create our own Utopia here on earth.
We wish! Two World Wars later we’re not so confident anymore. Our optimism about mankind has been dealt some pretty serious blows. The Nazi death camps and the Russian Gulags cast a lasting shadow over the idea of man’s perfectibility. Since then we’ve had the horrors of the Cambodian Killing Fields and the terror of Rwanda. And more recently there has been the destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York, the Bali bombings and the rise of ISIS with its carnage in Paris.
Isn’t it painfully obvious that humanity is deeply flawed? Evolutionists who want to argue that man is basically good and that we’re continuing to evolve in a positive direction really need to carry a bucket of sand around with them to bury their head into.
I reflected on this as I listened to some of the rhetoric from world leaders about the tragedy that unfolded in Paris. There was much talk about solidarity, standing together against the darkness of ISIS. There was much soul searching about national security and why didn’t the agencies in charge see this coming? No one mentioned that these things happen because human nature is deeply flawed. No one dared to speak the uncomfortable truth that terrorism is merely the extreme but very natural outworking of the sin that runs in our genes.
So why does our culture not admit the obvious and recognise that humanity is fundamentally corrupt? Doesn’t every theft, rape and murder… doesn’t every injustice and every relationship breakdown, daily scream out to us the obvious? The problem is that for many people that would be seen as an overly pessimistic view of humankind and a denial of the reality that there is still so much good that happens all around us.
No! Christians are not being pessimistic when they speak of original sin. And we Reformies are not being pessimistic when we speak of our predicament as one of total depravity. It would be a very sad picture indeed if that was all that there was to be said. The realism of our flawed human character has an optimistic counterpoint in the gospel. We are again moving into that season of the year when we remember that God sent into this broken world His only begotten Son to deal with that flawed nature of ours.
It’s precisely our flawed nature that made the coming of God’s Son into this world so desperately necessary. The wonderful good news is that God still changes and transforms lives through the saving work of Jesus Christ, who died to renew a flawed and fallen humanity.
I trust that Paris is able to return to some sense of normality. However, what Paris needs more than anything else is what every city, town and village needs: the transforming work of the gospel of Jesus. He takes our flawed characters and begins already in this life, the process of making us into something beautiful for His glory.
And He will one day return to restore all things. That’s worth celebrating again in these coming weeks of Advent.