Goodness

The New Thought movement of the late 19th century promoted, among other things, “the inherent goodness of man”, a belief that people are basically good at heart. While a comforting thought to embrace, it contradicts the words of Jesus who calls everyone basically evil (Matthew 7.11), and calls all persons of all kinds and all nations to repent. To many, this is a hard saying, but keep in mind that Jesus was not calling all persons monsters, or criminals, or social menaces. The social definition of evil has always been off the mark. People rarely consider themselves to be evil because they almost always reserve that classification for the most notorious examples of evil in history — the Hitlers, the Stalins, the Attilas and so forth — and for those contemporary examples of what has become most fashionable to hate: Child abusers, rapists, white-collar executive embezzlers, drunk drivers, racists.

In truth, evil is a basic inborn condition with many shades, and it’s one that we are all born into — all of us, excepting only Adam (made by God, later corrupted himself through the abuse of his free will) and Jesus (begotten of God, the perfect Man, tempted but never fell, never sinned). Evil is so basic, in fact, that most people never recognize its depth and breadth, which is to say, they’ve no knowledge of how it influences and colors every decision they make. So while the New Thought movement took a refreshing and optimistic, if naive, approach to the human condition in declaring that we are all basically good, it is more accurate to say that people, though basically evil by nature, still desire good things, good lives, and goodness in general. And there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Trouble occurs when we seek such things in ways, or to extents, that are contrary to God’s expressed will.

To express this in a few points:

1. The belief that men and women are basically good is false. Keeping abreast of national and world news for a period of three to six months will almost certainly dismantle such a belief.

2. To the contrary, it is true that men and women are basically evil, which is to say, self-oriented to the point of rebellion against one or more standards and expectations of perfection and holiness as expressed by God at various times over several millennia.

3. That men and women are basically evil is supported both by scripture and by countless examples throughout human history.

4. Notwithstanding this condition, men and women still desire good things and goodness in general, demonstrating an echo of that kingdom for which we were first designed, things such as peace, love, hope, prosperity (as opposed to poverty), contentment, joy, as well as self-confidence, work that is fulfilling, respect from one’s peers, a good and happy family, good health, long life, and many other things likewise good and intended for us by God.

5. However, that which is “good” is often distorted in the human perception, which is subject to the sin nature that has dominated the human race since the Fall, thus, a number of things desired by men and women which they consider to be good or meritorious are in fact wicked, either intrinsically or when taken to extremes.

6. Even so, and in spite of this perverse working of the adversary against humanity, the desire for goodness is persistent enough, and the wretched results of sin and corruption are often heartbreaking enough, to create within the human heart a certain and profound discontent for anything less than real goodness, a discontent that may be masked, ignored, or shouted down, but never fully silenced until the only One who may provide such a condition is reached and connected with. We must make contact with the Divine. We must make contact with God, and we must become reconciled to Him.

7. When we have done so and have truly made that perfect and spiritual contact with our Maker and Savior, we cease, in that moment of true repentance, to be evil and inherit a new nature, one which no longer desires that extreme self-orientation.

8. This is the conversion of a sinner into a saint. It is an event, not a process, and it occurs in an instant. It is in this moment that we are made “perfect”, which is to say “complete”, the infection of sin and a sinful nature that influenced us since birth now cleansed, removed, the spirit and soul made sinless, and it as at this point where the new saint, the new Christian, begins the lifelong process of sanctification, those changes which transform us more and more into the character of Jesus Christ, the son of God, who is our basis of design.