November 3, 2003

You Are Basically Good – Part 2

I have rarely received the kind of response as I have over what 
I wrote in the Truah message two weeks ago entitled, "You Are 
Basically Good."

It is easy to understand why many could conclude from the 
Scriptures that all original goodness in humans has been 
eradicated. Paul, for example, in Romans 3:12, quotes King 
David:

"All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; 
there is no one who does good, not even one" (Tehillim / 
Psalms 14:3).

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, our good 
relationship with God was broken. We were banished from paradise 
and a great chasm formed between ourselves and our Creator. God 
purposed from that moment to bridge that chasm.

God's provision of the Messiah in Yeshua's death and 
resurrection is that bridge. While there are differing opinions 
as to our part in the process, the Scriptures are clear that God 
and God alone can save us from our alienation from him.

The unfaithful actions of our first parents effected a profound 
change in our nature. Generation after generation has inherited, 
what we may call, a bent away from God and his ways. Without his 
intervention that bent would lead us far away from his presence 
forever.

But does this mean we no longer possess any remnants of our 
original goodness? Some people contend that we no longer possess 
the image of God in any way whatsoever. To them our being 
created in God's image would therefore be something that is only 
a part of our history, and thus has nothing to do with our 
present state.

Although I think I understand the logic behind this reasoning, I 
cannot find biblical warrant for it. On the contrary, the 
continued reality of God's image in human beings is clearly 
established by the Scriptures.

For example, after the flood, following God's severe judgment on 
the ancient world, he commanded that murderers be held mortally 
accountable for their actions. The reason? We are made in his 
image.

"Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be 
shed; for in the image of God has God made man" (Bereshit / 
Genesis 9:6).

Our complete inability to re-establish our previous relationship 
with God does not mean that all our God-given goodness is wiped 
out. While we now carry in our beings sin and its effects, men 
and women still in some way live out our original purpose. As 
King David also wrote:

"What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man 
that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the 
heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor" 
(Tehillim / Psalms 8:4,5).

David here is not referring only to humankind's pre-sinful 
state. He is in awe of our current place in God's creation. 
While there are many references throughout Scripture to our 
dismal sinful state, we are not less than worms, nor are we 
garbage. We are God's precious creatures made by him and for 
him.

Most people who took exception with ""You Are Basically Good" 
quoted a statement by Yeshua from his interaction with someone 
referred to as a "Rich Young Ruler." When this young man 
addressed Yeshua as "Good Teacher," Yeshua rejected this 
designation by saying, "Why do you call me good? No one is good 
- except God alone" (Mark 10:17,18).

One may think that if Yeshua himself would say such a thing, how 
dare anyone claim otherwise. But I don't think this is as simple 
as all that. Was Yeshua not good? If he was, why did he answer 
the way he did?

I don't think Yeshua was commenting on his own nature at all. He 
was correcting the young man's understanding of human goodness. 
He had thought that he had fully kept all of God's commandments. 
Thinking he was doing pretty well in life, he assumed that he 
could work his way to eternal life, a common concept in his day. 
When he referred to Yeshua as "good," he was relating to him 
from his own incorrect perspective. This is what Yeshua was 
undermining by his response. The young man's understanding of 
goodness needed to be corrected before he could understand how 
to inherit eternal life. Therefore this passage does not address 
the issue of whether or not we still carry the remains of our 
original goodness.

Theologians use a concept called common grace. This is a way to 
refer to all the good things of God that operate in the world. 
Even though the world is under God's judgement, there still is 
so much that displays God and his reality. David wrote,

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim 
the work of his hands" (Tehillim / Psalms 19:1)

If the world was absolutely and completely effected by our sin, 
how could it proclaim the work of God’s hands? If we can accept 
that it does, is it right to extend this understanding of this 
verse to the rest of creation including humans? I think we can 
and should.

To apply statements like, “all our righteous acts are like 
filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) to the loving care of a mother, or 
the sacrificial exploits of a courageous fire fighter, or even 
the unpaid overtime put in by a caring teacher, and so on, is 
not only bad biblical interpretation, but a mockery of the good 
God who is currently at work through his beloved creatures.

Remember this is not to say that we could ever do enough good to 
merit God’s favor. The effect of sin upon our nature is all 
encompassing. There is no part of our lives that is not tainted 
in some way.

However, as creatures of a good God, his fingerprints are still 
all over us. The remnants of our original design are still 
within us. Tragically, these good things of God are imprisoned 
by our ungodly nature. It is only when we experience the 
transforming power of God through faith in Yeshua the Messiah 
can we fulfil our original good purpose in life.