Every person is a literal child of God and loved by God. Every person is of value. We are scripturally mandated to love, and to be kind towards, every individual. I have yet to find any exemptions to this godly commandment. This is because God loves all of his children…
Ever since I was in my late teens, Christmastime has been bitter-sweet. The reasons are many, and I may address them in my future works. For now, just know that for me, as it is for many others, Christmastime magnifies my pains and sorrows, and also magnifies eternal spiritual truths of joy and comfort that stem from the love of our Savior.
I’ve been contemplating the question, “Is mankind inherently good?” off and on for several years. I’ve spent many hours studying spiritual philosophers, scholars, and holy scripture. It is normal for the Christmas season to prompt spiritual and eternal thoughts, and this Christmas has been no different for me. Thanks to these contemplations prompted by the season, and thanks to an event that I will not share publicly, I now have an answer to that question with which I’ve been wrestling.
Before you read on, please know that if you fail to read all my words in this post, you may make false assumptions about me and my conclusions. And for some, if you fail to read all my written thoughts, you may become discouraged. I do not want this. Please read my points, and I encourage you to study holy scripture as I have, as they are the word of God and have led me to my conclusions of hope, comfort, rest, and joy.
Is mankind inherently good?
Feel free to change my mind, but please read the rest of my writing beforehand.
My answer of “no” is not based on pessimism, cynicism, hatred, or depression, nor is it solely based on my personal experiences. It is based on scripture. My points, based on scripture, are not meant to bring you down, nor to get you to surrender to temptation and evil. It is meant to bring a better understanding of human nature and the need for Christ, and the joy that comes from repentance, and turning our will to God’s will.
Without question, mankind is capable of doing good, but that doesn’t counter my argument. The question I posed was not “Can people do good things?” It was not, “Can people become good?” It was not, “Does Christ love us.” It was not “Can we repent?” I know we can repent, I know God loves each of us, I know we have and can develop spiritual gifts. The question posed is about basic human nature, nothing else.
Mankind is not inherently good, in other words, mankind is not naturally good, mankind is not in a constant state of good. Mankind is not basically good. Left to themselves, left to their own devices, left alone without a moral compass, left alone without using the redemptive power of Christ’s Atonement, mankind would eventually slip into total depravity. Please remember this point, because my answer and subsequent points are all based on the premise of mankind without submitting to the influence of divine goodness (whether they recognize it as divine or not).
So, why would mankind slip into total depravity without divine goodness?
Because we are naturally bad.
The previous sentence may come as a shock, and may make you squirm in your seat as if you had a slice of bologna in your underwear. After all, who likes to think of themselves as naturally bad? But realize this, I did not say that we are always bad, nor did I say that everything we say and do is bad. Nor did I say that we are not of worth, nor did I say that we do not deserve mercy. I merely stated that we are naturally bad. It is human nature. Without the continual redemptive power of Christ’s Atonement, and without the influence of the Holy Spirit, we will do bad, selfish, and sometimes evil things. According to scripture, naturally, our hearts are evil.
Jeremiah 17:9 – The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…
Matthew 15:19 – For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies…
For my readers who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints:
Mosiah 3:19 – For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam…
Ether 3:2 – …because of the fall our natures have become evil continually…
Due to the events in the Garden of Eden, we live in a fallen state. As a result of this fall, mankind became naturally carnal, sensual, devilish, and evil. This natural state of corruption is the antithesis of what God desires us to be. The natural man is an enemy to God. Without seeking God, without yielding to the quiet promptings of the Holy Spirit, without utilizing Christ’s Atonement, we will fail to rid ourselves of our natural and bad impulses.
After accepting the name of Christ and his sacrifice, we will have righteous desires, but we will also fall short, because we are mortal, and our carnal desires under temptation, when we fail to live righteously, will seduce us to sin once again. This is an ongoing struggle that all mortals live. We must not give up the fight however. There is the hope of redemption.
Why do so many christians with righteous desires fall short, and yield to the seductive call of pornography? Because everyone’s natural being is carnal, selfish, and (according to scripture) evil. They choose to yield to temptation rather than to continue to seek God. If you fall in this category, please know that you are not alone with your godly desire to beat the battle of porn addiction. There is hope. And please read on.
Fighting the natural wickedness in ourselves is an ongoing wrestle throughout mortality. Through the power of prayer, and the power of Christ’s Atonement, we can win each of these battles, but there will be battle, after battle, after battle. The natural state of wicked desires in us will not go away in mortality. We can keep it at bay, we can learn to bridle it, and this will be easier with time and practice, and with the aid of Christ’s Atonement, but it will always exist in mortality. Satan will always try to get us to yield to our natural state, because he knows the seductive call of our natural mortal minds and bodies. Absent of Christ’s Atonement and the Holy Spirit, we will always return to sin, like a dog to its vomit.
We should never allow ourselves to put our spiritual shields down, because our natural impulses are tremendously seductive.
If Mankind Was Naturally Good…
If mankind was inherently good, or naturally good, there would be no need for religion because there would be no need for a moral compass. We would have no need for scripture. We would have no need for a savior. We would eventually progress to a state of total perfection without sin. We could be our own saviors and spiritually clean ourselves. We would not return to sin. The philosophy that mankind is basically good is a secular, evolutionary, and progressive philosophy. The philosophy that mankind is basically good does not require a savior.
It does not take long to look at the secular world and find total depravity. This is because mankind, without divine goodness, will naturally choose wickedness. As God is rejected by more people, compasses of morality will weaken and the spread of darkness and evil will increase. Pornography is staunchly defended by many in the secular world. In recent weeks, there have been suggestions that we as a nation do something about the pervasive accessibility of pornography, since it is destructive to homes, marriages, children, and to our souls. As predicted, secular humanists and capital “L” libertarians have rushed to defend pornography. What has been surprising though, have been the great number of so called “conservative Christians” who have loudly defended the “right” to pornography. This didn’t make any sense to me, until I remembered that mankind is naturally selfish, carnal, and wicked. These Christians naturally desire their sin of porn, and want to continue to have access to it. And for the record, porn is not speech, it is not press, therefore not protected by the First Amendment. Porn is a product. And a product of evil. Defending it on the premise of choice and liberty is not virtuous. As Christians, we are scripturally mandated to reprove evil and to stand up against it.
Once I realized this biblical truth, that mankind is not inherently good, I did not become fed-up with humanity. My conclusion is not a judgement of every individual. I do not look at a person and think, “Yep, there’s another evil demon.” I do not feel pessimistic about life. Nor have I wanted to toss up my hands in defeat, saying “Well, I’m naturally evil, so there’s no point in trying to repent, no need to be good and to do good.” It just helped me to better understand human nature, and brought me a better understanding of Christ’s Atonement. It gives me something tangible to fight.
Another way to look at it is that we are dual beings. There is a part of us that desires to be good, godly, an to live a moral and virtuous life. But there is also a natural part of us that is carnal and wicked. Without divine goodness or submitting to divine influence, the natural part of us will supersede the part of us that desires godliness. We will yield not to God’s will, but to our natural and carnal will. We will be at risk of becoming subject to demonic influence and being deceived.
Although I understand that every person is not inherently good, I still recognize that every person is a literal child of God and loved by God. Every person is of value. I am scripturally mandated to love, and to be kind towards, every individual. I have yet to find any exemptions to that godly commandment. This is because God loves all of his children, and He desires that all repent, to bridle the natural person within, and to return to Him. Love and kindness are attributes of Christ that will lead to the triumph of good over the naturally occurring evil that is within us all. And ultimately, we can be totally perfected through Christ.
I’ve discussed my scriptural conclusions with close friends and family. Some balked at my conclusion. But this is just their initial reaction. I think that there are many reasons for this initial reaction. Some don’t like the idea of being naturally bad, especially when they make a righteous and earnest effort to always do good. Some are positive people who know the cleansing power of Christ’s sacrifice, and know the eternal value of every child of God . Others have witnessed tremendous acts of charity and goodness. Those reasons are all justifiable, and I wrestled with those points while I studied the question… at first.
What has motivated these people to do great acts of charity and mercy? Christ’s goodness and forgiveness. Their moral compass. Divine goodness, whether they recognize it as divine or not. It did not spring forth from their natural base selves, it did not come from their nature, because from scripture we learn that our nature is evil. Good cannot come from evil. When people strive to be more like Christ and to emulate Christ’s attributes and goodness, it becomes easier to control the natural wicked impulses. These people who do many great acts of charity and kindness still have battles within. These battles may become more easily won, the more they become Christ-like, but the battles will never stop in mortality. Our natural selves will always be tempted to sin in one way or another, in one degree or another.
If you believe that mankind is basically good and if you also follow the tenets of Christ, what is preventing you from reaching total continual sinless perfection right now? Why are you continually tempted?
It is because in mortality, we will always need to fight the part of us that always wants to be wicked, the natural part of us. We will always have to fight to be more godly, so we can bridle the naturally wicked person within. Being godly does not come naturally. If it came naturally, why did Christ give us so many instructions and encouragements to be good and to do good? He wants us to learn to control and bridle our nature, because our nature goes against God.
The Promise: Christ’s Atonement Equals Redemption And Liberty
I don’t like having the constant internal battles between my righteous desires and the naturally wicked and selfish person within. This battle is, in a form, bondage. As I utilize Christ’s Atonement, asking for forgiveness, and repenting, continually praying and continually striving to be Christ-like, I experience redemption and then true liberty. Bridling the naturally wicked man within me is work, because it does not come naturally. But it is also freedom. It is joyous, it is restful.
For everyone reading this who is struggling with the natural carnal desires and tendencies, such as slothfulness, fearfulness, idolatry, anger, immorality, contentiousness, pornography, etc., I promise that there is hope and rest in Christ. Seek Him, call upon God. Continually ask Him for help. Ask Him to open your spiritual eyes to recognize blessings and answers to prayer. Ask Him to help you cast off the natural person within and to become more Christ-like. God loves you, he is merciful to his children, despite our sinful nature. He wants you to repent and to return to Him.
Don’t agree with me that mankind is NOT inherently good? Okay, please change my mind.
Just remember what the question is NOT. It is not, “Can mankind do good?” It is not, “Can mankind be good?” It is not “With some form of divine goodness, can mankind be and do good?”
The question is: “Is mankind inherently good?” In other words, left to their own devices, left without a moral compass, left without some form of divine goodness, is mankind basically good, naturally good?
Thanks for reading and taking time to ponder.