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Are We Naturally Good?

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

In "Is Racism in Our DNA?", I gave a resounding no to that question. Implicit is the idea that there ain't nothing in our DNA but our DNA; no spiritual values and so on. I don't reckon any goodness we have can be physically inherited in any way.

We see and hear about unspeakable evil among men, but there are also people who do heroic efforts to save others, even strangers. Sometimes these acts cost them their lives.

People who have been exposed to God and seen his goodness have rejected him and gone about their own way. After Eve's deception and Adam's agreement in taking the fruit (Gen. 3:6), their firstborn son murdered their second son (Gen. 4:8). It's safe to assume that they knew about the Garden of Eden, and how Adam and Eve walked with God for a short time (Gen. 3:8), and how their parents were disinvited from it (Gen. 3:24-25). They probably knew right where Eden was. I can imagine them looking at the angel guarding the entrance and wanting to see what was inside.

Let's ride down the trail. The Israelites had seen the power of God when they were delivered from Egypt. You'd think crossing the Red Sea would make a lasting impression (Exodus 14:21-22) as well as manna and water from the rock, but when Moses went up the mountain, the Israelites went wild and made themselves a new god (Exodus 32:4-7). That didn't set well with Yahweh and Moses (Exodus 32:30).

Are people basically good? No. In fact, people who had direct encounters with God still rebelled. And yet, people still do good deeds. What's the story?
Passage of the Jews through the Red Sea / Ivan Aivazovsky, 1891

After God judged the world and only eight people survived the Flood, (1 Peter 3:20), there was further rebellion. Noah lived a very long time, as did his sons. Their descendants most likely heard about the Flood, and why it happened. They also saw the results of the Flood all around them, but that didn't seem to make no nevermind to them (Gen. 11:4).

Further down the trail, read the book of Judges and you'll see that Israel sinned, got in trouble with the Philistines and other pagan nations, and God would deliver them. Then they'd go back to wicked ways and start the cycle again. Once they had kings to rule over them, the kings often followed Baal and other demons, and God would punish them. When they repented, God delivered them. Eventually, the sin was so great that they were captives of Babylon, and eventually Rome.

This is just a small sampling from portions of the Old Testament where people saw God's glory and rebelled. The New Testament is loaded with examples of people who saw Jesus fact to face, saw his miracles, heard his teachings, received food and healings — and rejected him.

People today encounter God in various ways, and turn their backs on the one who gives them life.

It's the nature of man to do evil (Gen. 8:21, Eph. 2:3, Psalm 14:2-3, John 8:44). We are dead (Eph. 2:1-3). Because of God's mercy, those who humble themselves and submit to God can receive salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:4-10, John 1:12, Rom. 3:23, Rom. 6:23). Then we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5, 1 Cor. 6:19, Eph. 4:30, 2 Tim. 1:14, Heb. 10:15-17, 1 John 2:27). The Holy Spirit and the written Word of God empower us to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).

"Sure, Cowboy Bob, God helps Christians life a good life. What about those other folks?"

God has mercy on all (Matt. 5:45, Luke 11:11-12), so even though we are evil by nature, there is some amount of goodness by his providence. People may think they are good and compare themselves to each other (2 Cor. 10:12). I remember someone saying how good she was, saying how she didn't do this and that, she was good. I said, "Neither do dead people. Not doing things doesn't make anyone good" (or something like that, it was years ago). We may think we're good, even deserving of Heaven. Not hardly!

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