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Decide For Yourself: How Sinful is Man?**

As some look upon life, the most important issues for them are technological, intellectual, sensual, or the political. But the Holy Scriptures teach that the most crucial of all issues are moral and spiritual. “Out of the heart are the issues of life”. The central question that needs to be considered is this - is man at heart morally good, evil or neutral?

 

William Golding wrote “Lord of the Flies” in an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature.   Golding ex­plained, "We all saw a lot in the war that can't be ac­counted for except on the basis of original evil."   And the English philosopher C. E. M. Joad finally came to see that "evil is not merely a by-product of unfavorable circum­stances; it is too widespread and too deep-seated to admit of any such explanation; so widespread, so deep-seated that one can only conclude that what the religions have always taught is true, that evil is endemic in the heart of man."   Sheik Yusuf Hamza’s book “Purification of the Heart” delves into the psychological diseases that assail people and often control them and their remedy.  This work is based on Sheikh Muhammad Maulud’s poem 'Matharat al-Qulub'.  But not all have agreed with this analysis of man. What are some of the dominant views that have been held?

 

·         Human nature is originally good. Any evil in it results from the changes made upon it by external things. (Humanist)

 

·         Human nature is neither good nor bad; it is morally neutral, and can be influenced in either direction. (Muslims and Natural­ists)

 

·         Any evil in human nature remains from a prior animal state which is being progressively overcome by the inevitable progress of evolution. In spite of any temporary setbacks, we have every reason to be optimistic about man's ability to build a utopian society. (Modernists)

 

·         As a result of the first parent's sin, man who was origi­nally righteous became inherently inclined to sin. Therefore all men are sinners inwardly; they commit outward acts of sin. Original sin affects every aspect of human existence. It does not always appear evil; sin is worship and service of the creature more than the Creator. (Christians)

 

Which view of the inherent human moral and spiritual condition is true? Not all of the different religions or spiritual books say the same things about humans and their heart’s inclination to sin.  To understand what God has to say, we will take a look at what Scripture teaches under a variety of sub-headings below.  

 

 

Is sin merely the result of an evil environment, or is it more fundamentally a condition of the heart or core of person’s being?

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.  Prophets, Proverbs 4:23

"Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."  Injeel, Matthew 12:33-37

 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.'  After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. "Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")  He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'   Injeel, Mark 7:14-23

It is clear from these scriptures that fundamentally sin is a condition of the heart or core of person’s being and not something external that come into us.

 

 

Is the human heart, (I) morally neutral, (2) inclined predominantly to love God and neighbor or (3) inclined pre­dominantly to idolatry and selfishness?

 The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. Taurat, Genesis 6:5

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.  Zabur, Psalm 51:5

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Prophets, Jeremiah 17:9

Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  Injeel, John 3:6

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  Injeel, Romans 7:18

They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  Injeel, Ephesians 4:18

All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.  Injeel, Ephesians 2:3

You have neither heard nor understood; from of old your ear has not been open. Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth.  Prophets, Isaiah 48:8

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.  Prophets, Isaiah 64:6

 

It would be nice and also make us feel better about ourselves if we were basically good or at worst neutral.  But the testimony of God about us clearly states the opposite - we are rebellious, even from birth and our best actions and deeds are as considered by him as filthy rags.  Would a righteous God accept our filthy rags as acceptable?   

 

 

Does the sinfulness of the human heart affect every aspect of life or is it limited to simply actions?

1.  Does it affect the mind?

The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Injeel, Romans 8:7

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.  Injeel, 1 Corinthians 2:14

They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Injeel, Ephesians 4:18

And constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.  Injeel, 1 Timothy 6:5

To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.  Injeel, Titus 1:15

2.   How about the will – is it affected?

But the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate.  Prophets, Ezekiel 3:7

These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the LORD's instruction. Prophets, Isaiah 30:9

Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.  Injeel, Romans 6:16-17

When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.  Injeel, Romans 6:20

They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.  Injeel, 2 Peter 2:19

3.  What about the emotions and affections?

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Injeel, John 3:19

All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.  Injeel, Ephesians 2:3

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  Injeel, Colossians 3:5

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.  Injeel, Titus 3:3

Sadly, the more we understand what Scripture teaches about the fundamental nature and inclination of the human heart, it becomes clear that every aspect of human life is touched by sin.   Even our capacity to determine or feel or know Sin is obstructed because of it.

 

 

How does the sinful human heart reveal itself in life?  What are its actions, thoughts, deeds that make it evident?

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.  Injeel, 1 John 3:4

He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.  A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.  Prophets, Proverbs 14:21

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Injeel, Galatians 5:19-21

Sin is not only limited to what we may consider evil actions or evil intentions, but also thoughts.  In addition, not performing something that would be a good act is considered Sin.  

 

Does Sin always appear wicked to human observation?

Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin!  Prophets, Proverbs 21:4

"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me”;  Injeel, Matthew 10:37

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”  Injeel, Matthew 23:14-15

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.  Injeel, Matthew 23:23

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. Injeel, Matthew 23:29

"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'  But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'  "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."  Injeel, Luke 18:9-14

They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.  Injeel, Romans 1:25

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.  Injeel, James 4:17

According to the teachings of Jesus, even the most learned and devout Jewish men who thought they were being very righteous were far from it.  Hence so much of what we may consider “good” turns out to be sinful.  So who can be truly free from Sin?

 

 

Are there any responsible human beings who are not sinners?

"When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to his own land, far away or near;  Prophets, 1 Kings 8:46

As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.  Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit."  "The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.  Injeel, Romans 3:10-20

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  Injeel, Romans 3:23

Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.  Zabur, Psalm 143:2

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  Injeel, 1 John 1:8

There is no man that can truly be free from sin, even though that is the standard of God for us.   Hence we conclude with God that we all fall short of his acceptance.  If we cannot even reach a point of being free from sin, can we even change our heart?

 

Is man by himself able to change the sinful inclination of his heart?

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.  Injeel, Romans 7:14-25

Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?  Injeel, Romans 6:16

When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.  Injeel, Romans 6:20

Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil. Prophets, Jeremiah 13:23

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Injeel, Romans 5:6

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.  Injeel, John 6:44

Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Injeel, John 8:34

These are very sobering scriptures that truly reflect on the true state of humanity.  Scripture is clear that our hearts are evil and that no matter how hard we try, we within ourselves cannot change our hearts.   We are slaves to sin and no matter how much we try, we are still in bondage!   Did God make us this way? If so he cannot judge us for making us this way.  But if not what happened to humankind?  How did we get in such a position?  When did it happen?  

What were the effects of the entrance of sin into the human race?

So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.  And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."  To the woman he said,  "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."  To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,'  "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your brow   you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."   Taurat, Genesis 3:14-19

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.  Injeel, Romans 5:12-14

So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.  Taurat, Genesis 3:23

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.  Injeel, Romans 1:21-32

"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.  Injeel, John 5:24

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.  Injeel, Romans 5:15-18

They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  Injeel, Ephesians 4:18

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Injeel, Romans 6:23

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.  Injeel, 1 Corinthians 15:22

In Conclusion 

 

Based on your reading of the Holy Scriptures, what view of Sin do the Prophets teach?  Can we conclude that humans are morally good or even neutral based on the testimony of the Holy Scriptures?  We need the humility and courage to accept the verdict of Scripture - all men and women are all inclined to evil. Furthermore, the sin nature, the propensity or being slave to sin, is passed from the father to the child and continues to this day.  Have you noticed we never have to teach a child to be disobedient?  They do that naturally.   

 

God is serious about Sin and has revealed what He considers a fundamental problem with humans.  He is a just God and must deal with every act of disobedience, which is sin. God cannot simply let it go because He is merciful.  Yes that is true, but the question remains what about His justice?  He is just, if not, then God could not be called the Most Just.  Some may choose to call sin a disease and look for a cure within them – but how can the diseased heart cure itself?  It needs outside help.   That is why scripture teaches that in Adam all die, that is all of his descendents experience physical and spiritual death which is separation from God and the penalty of Sin.   But the incredible ending to this sad reality is that in Christ all are made alive – reconciled with God, if we only believe God’s revelation.  We need God’s help from the outside – there is no cure within ourselves.  The details of this Good News will have to wait until a later discussion of “Decide For Yourself”  

 

** This article is based on Chapter 12 - “How Sinful is Man?”  From “Decide For Yourself: A Theological Workbook” by Dr. Gordon Lewis.   InterVarsity Press, 1970.   Adapted and posted here by permission of copyright holder – Dr. Gordon Lewis.  For comments or feedback, please contact The Abraham Connection.

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