This week I received three emails regarding my article. I will post one of the emails as well as my response to it. Feel free to share your feelings about the article, the response and/or my response to the response.
Letters to the Editor
P. O. Box 12790
Ogden, Utah 84412 – 2790
4 January 2016
I agree with Faith columnist Teresa Hislop (2 January) that ‘Am I good enough?’ is a flawed question, but for the opposite reason. God is love (1 John 4.8 – 10), and his mercy is not dependent on any merit he perceives in us. While we were still his enemies, Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5.6 – 10). The way Hislop uses biblical references to argue for humanity’s inherent goodness is misleading.
Scripture regards human beings as fallen creatures, members of a race created good (Genesis 1) but since gone bad (Genesis 3). ‘I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me’ says Psalm 51.5, and according to Ephesians 2.3 we are ‘by nature children of wrath’. Jesus insists that ‘no one is good but God alone’ (Luke 18.19), and he evidently takes human wickedness for granted in Matthew 7.11 (‘If you then, who are evil, …’). G. K. Chesterton calls original sin ‘the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved’, and reading the daily newspaper – or simply examining our own hearts honestly – is enough to confirm that.
Each person is created ‘in the image of God’ (Genesis 1.26 – 27), but not all are ‘children of God’ (see, e.g., John 1.12 – 13, 8.41 – 47) as Hislop claims. Quoting Romans 8.16, she fails to clarify that Paul is writing not to everyone, but specifically to the Christians in Rome, and that they are God’s children not by nature but by adoption (ui9oqesi/a in verses 8.15 and 8.23; likewise in Galatians 4.5 and Ephesians 1.5).
If human beings really were ‘basically, fundamentally, intrinsically good’, as Hislop contends, the Incarnation would have been unnecessary, and Christ’s atoning death would have been both pointless and barbaric. The Christmas angel tells Joseph, ‘You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’ (Matthew 1.21), not ‘he will boost their flagging self-esteem’.
The Christian doctrine of total depravity does not mean that we are as evil as we possibly could be. By God’s grace, there may be enough good in us to recognize that we are bad.
John Doe (name changed because I did not ask him if I could post his letter on my blog.)
Dear John Doe,
Let me begin by thanking you for responding to my “Am I good enough?” column. Your thoughtful response evoked thoughts of my own, a process that has been enlightening and clarifying for me.
As I mentioned earlier I believe that we are looking at the issues from different sides of the same coin. I also believe that our commonalities are more abundant than our differences.
You correctly surmised that I am LDS. We accept and embrace the scriptures that you quoted and have many additional scriptures that support the truth that fallen man is evil and wicked.
- “…if you should serve him [God] with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.” (Mosiah 2:21)
- “..can ye say ought of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth” (Mosiah 2:25)
- “For the natural man is an enemy to God and has been since the fall of Adam and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and putting off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord” (Mosiah 3:19)
- “For they are carnal and devilish, and the devil has power over them; yea even that old serpent with did beguile our first parents, which was the cause of their fall; which was the cause of all mankind becoming carnal, sensual, devilish” (Mosiah 16:3)
- “…we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually” (Ether 3:2)
We agree that man is fallen and that fallen man is a wicked and evil creature, rebellious by nature. This is the dark side of the figurative coin to which I refer.
We also agree that it is only in and through Jesus Christ that man is redeemed. The Bible clearly states this, as demonstrated by the scriptures you referenced. So does the Book of Mormon. The scripture in Mosiah 3 (quoted above) identifies Christ as the only way to put off the natural man. There is a passage in Mosiah 16 is even more specific.
- “Thus all mankind were lost; and behold they would have been endlessly lost were it not that God redeemed his people from their lost and fallen state…… remember that only in and through Christ can ye be saved…..redemption cometh through Christ the Lord.” (vs 4,13,15)
Additionally we agree that man was “created good” (quoting your letter, Genesis 1).
In summary, the points upon which we agree are that man was created good, that mankind is fallen, and that only in and through Jesus Christ can fallen man be saved. As I see it, the perceived discrepancy comes how we view the figurative coin.
I disagree with your statement that “If human beings are really ‘basically, fundamentally, intrinsically good’, the Incarnation would have been unnecessary, and Christ’s atoning death would have been both pointless and barbaric.”
I contend that it is because human beings are basically, fundamentally, intrinsically good that Christ was willing to suffer and die for us. “His precious blood he freely spilt, His life he freely gave.” (“How Great the Wisdom and the Love”; hymn) Why? Why would Christ, perfect and innocent in every conceivable way, suffer and bleed and die in such an ignominious manner?
I believe He did so because the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 18:10). In my view it would be “pointless and barbaric” if He died for something worthless. While it is true that fallen man is wicked, carnal, sensual and devilish, it is also true that mankind, as originally created, is basically, fundamentally, and intrinsically good. I believe that Christ died for us because He values us; He recognizes our worth, He loves us, and He wants us to return to Him. His sacrifice verifies, rather than contests, our fundamental goodness.
I share the hope with you that, “by God’s grace, there may be enough [may I add “residual”?] good in us recognizes that we are bad [I would substitute “fallen”..]” . I am confident that you share with me the hope that such recognition compels us to seek Christ that we may be redeemed.