People Are Basically Good?

One of the statements that can be frequently heard is the notion that everyone is essentially good. This is not meant to deny that individuals do bad things. It is just to assert that when everything is taken into account, and the scales are evaluated, humans have more good than evil in them.

While such a notion is surprisingly popular, like Santa Claus, it is based on a mythological view of the human experience. If one simply thinks on a statistical level, it is apparent that such an optimistic notion faces some big hurdles. For example, out of 6 billion people in the world, is it really probable that everyone one of them is more good than evil? Isn’t it more likely that at least one is more evil than good? What about taking history into account? Was Hitler really someone containing more good than evil? What about Adolf Eichmann? Himler? Stalin? Pol Pot? Idi Amin? Were all these individuals simply misunderstood? Or were they just victims of an incredibly vicious media and historical smear campaign?

Even if my aforementioned argument dispels the notion that everyone has more good in them than evil, most would fall back to a more modest position and say, well the people I know are more good than evil. Or they would put it more generically, most people are more good than evil.

This position is more difficult to debunk. Its strength rests on a weak understanding of goodness and evil. It relies on the idea that evil can be compartmentalized like a city’s Red Light district. As long as the Red Light District occupies few acres than the “good” or family friendly parts of the city, then the city must be more good than evil. Unfortunately, evil, like yeast, never stays in its little corner. Instead it fills the whole loaf of bread or in our case, us. The evil may not be grotesque and take the form of mass murder. It may be smothered by charity work, smiles, and a good disposition. But it is there nevertheless for the person has pride in his own self-achievement. He will think he has earned his recognition as a good person because through his own effort he has put more marks in the good column versus the bad column. The problem is that this pride is itself a negative. You see the fallacy of this view is that it assumes that God only requires us to be more good than evil to gain His favor. From His perspective, we can’t do more good than evil because our good is tainted by self-satisfaction and pride because we don’t credit Him with the honor of our goodness. Perfect training academic service the organization for universal teenagers.

But the problem goes deeper than just insulting God by not giving Him the credit. (The reason He deserves the credit is because without his power enabling us to live in the first place we wouldn’t be alive to do anything good). God requires perfection, 100% perfection, every day. We mistakenly think that if we make a mistake on one day we can do more good the next and somehow “make up for it”. But that isn’t how it works. When the string of our lives has been cut in the wrong spot, we can’t undo it. The scar remains.

Hopefully, more Christians will understand this truth about the plight of the human condition. For too many people who take the name of Christ, have a remarkably unchristian view of the human state. It is because we are in this state that we need a savior who saves us by His unfailing Grace, not because we “earned it”.

©Stephen Vantassel 2006

  1. Ever heard the remark, “It’s all relative”? Meaning it depends who is drawing the line between pass and fail. Pass marks range between 45% and 70%. Below 45% is a fail above 70% is a distinction, anywhere in between is a pass. Many would view Hitler as being below the 45% line but such folk as Mother Teresa above the 70%. The rest of us fall somewhere in-between. Unfortunately when God created us He installed two extra elements. One was free will; the other was a self destruct mechanism which was activated as soon as we let the free will take us into forbidden territory. Our parents crossed the line and their’s add infinitum therefore the clock was ticking when we were born and cutting the red yellow or blue wire may clear the screen and fool us but the clock is still ticking. Only the manufacturer can reset the self destruct mechanism after we have entered the code which is “Christ in you the hope of glory.”

  2. Logos makes some interesting points, and the remark that “it’s all relative” is spot on: my belief exactly. God requires 100% perfection but through our Saviour, Jesus Christ, he accepts less as we have recourse through him. God – not man – judges the world and therefore everyone is guilty if s/he falls below the 100% mark. Thank God that as none of us is perfect (we will ALL fall below that number), we will still be with him for eternity when judgment comes: it saddens me that not all can say the same, including most of my family. Our challenge is to keep believing what God’s word says (judgment etc.), despite what society attempts to impart through it’s rhetoric and empty beliefs.

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