Table of Contents
Part I: The Fall Was Down
The Problem of the Will
IT HAS SEEMED
superficially at least, that while all men may have a potential
for wickedness, some have more than others. Is there any truth
in this? All men could be sinners, none being excepted, but is
it true that some have more of the disease than others do, so
that they are by comparison more wicked than their fellows?
According to Eysenck in his Presidential
Address to the Psychology Section of the British Association
Meeting in 1964, there is a "constitutional" (i.e.,
inherited, physiological) element in criminal behaviour. (45) This was a view held by
Hooten, (46) and
it has been held by others since. However, Eysenck suggested
a new "mode" of action. He argued that part of the
inherited structure of personality is the extrovert/introvert
element, and that strong extroverts do not succeed as successfully
as introverts in internalizing the constraints to good behaviour
which society imposes on the maturing individual. Thus when these
restraints are weakened, anti-social or criminal behaviour is
likely to find expression more readily among extrovert types.
In effect, introverts more easily
form socially conditioned reflexes and thus have a carry over
of good behaviour even when the normal restraints are removed.
This led Eysenck to the view that "goodness" (in this
sense) is not something that we inherit per se but rather
a conditioned reflex resulting in an internalized response to
society's demands for good conduct. It is goodness only in the
sense that not being bad is a good thing.
According to this theory, "the
new-born child's conduct is completely asocial or criminal,"
and must be restrained by society. Extroverts do not inwardly
adopt these restraints as securely, and therefore as effectively,
as introverts do, and they are accordingly more
45. Eysenck, H. J., "Biological Basis
of Criminal Behaviour," Nature, supplement, Aug.
29, 1964, pp.952-953.
1 of 15
46. Hooten, E. A., Why Men Behave Like Apes, and Vice Versa,
Princeton University Press, 1940.
likely, whenever the
external restraints to behaviour are weakened, to yield to the
bad side of nature which we all start off with. To this extent
every baby born, even today, is, as Zimmern put it, "a Stone
Age Baby," (47)
and apart from the channelling effect of culture, man has accumulated
no store of natural goodness over the millennia since Stone Age
times. We are not really more sinful or less sinful, but more
restrained or less restrained, i.e., more cultured or less so.
In short, the concept of the innocence of childhood requires
some careful re-definition, and if by such innocence is meant
innate goodness, it is a mistaken view of human nature. The innocence
of childhood results rather from lack of time and opportunity
to realize the inborn potential for wickedness than from some
natural tendency in the opposite direction. The potential for
rebellion is evidently there from the start, dormant though it
may be for a short while.
The difference between "good
people" and "bad people" is not therefore spiritual
at all but cultural, and depends in a secondary way upon certain
inherited factors in the structure of individual personality.
"Goodness" is thus an accident, an accident that is
in part circumstantial and in part genetic, part nurture and
part nature. Goodness in no way inheres in human nature as though
the process of growing up had the sad effect of destroying it;
the effect of growing up is to reveal human nature for what it
really is, not to destroy some supposed original sinlessness.
Any chance appearance of goodness exists only because circumstance
has contributed to the sublimation of its opposite. It is not
that some men are good and some bad, but rather that some men
are not so bad as others and by default of opportunity give the
appearance of being what they really are not.
Scripture simply says that there
are none righteous, that "there is none that doeth good"
(Romans 3:21). I do not think that we face up to this fundamental
truth when we acknowledge its truth only with reservations by
making it apply to some people but not to all -- least of all
While it is perhaps true that a
slum environment "breeds" crime, it does so because
it provides more opportunity for inherently sinful human nature
to express itself, social restraints being greatly reduced. The
slum-born crook is no different essentially from the most cultured
individual. In performance he may be very different, but not
in his basic nature. David was, by nature, no different from
Ahab. Both men coveted and ended up as murderers. Sin found expression
in both because, being kings, they had all the power they needed,
47. Zimmern, Sir Alfred, The Prospects
of Civilization, Oxford Pamphlets on World Affairs, Oxford
University Press, 1940, p.23.
another way of saying
that social restraint was almost entirely absent in their cases.
Yet David was the "best" king Israel ever had,
and Ahab the "worst." There was a difference. David
utterly repented, whereas Ahab did not really care. Yet this
difference was due entirely to the presence of the Spirit of
God in David's heart, not to any inherent goodness in David himself.
to overdo this theme, it nevertheless seems essential to establish
clearly what the real nature of man is. Only when this is done
can we see how inadequate mere reformation would be. Erich Fromm,
who at times has seen the hopelessness of the situation so clearly
that it has driven him literally to distraction, said: (49)
Freud has broken through the
fiction of the rational purposeful character of the human mind,
and opened a path that allows a view into the abyss of human
put the matter this way: (50)
Freud's investigation of the
contents of the submerged parts of the mind showed that these
were of a very primitive nature. . . . According to him,
we are whited sepulchers and are only outwardly decent and cultured.
We all carry about within us, locked in some dark cellar of the
mind, not a comparatively respectable skeleton, but a full-bodied
and lascivious savage. In spite of our efforts to isolate this
unwelcome guest in his cellar, he rules our thoughts and actions.
It appears that
in a sense the most cultured among us is only accidentally so.
Scrape off the veneer and underneath is the same basic material
in all of us. Moreover, it is a common experience to find ourselves
acting in shameful ways which we scarcely believed possible.
Such experiences mortify us, for they reveal to ourselves what
we really are. Those revelations are like the bubbles of marsh
gas which ooze up now and then from the murky deeps to disturb
the placid surface and remind us of what is hidden. Ernest White
draws these thoughts together with brevity and clarity:
Investigation of the unconscious
has brought to light evil and destructive forces which are held
down by repression, itself an unconscious mechanism. In it lurks
a shadow self, very different from the conscious educated ego
with which we are familiar.
It is clear
that these men are speaking fundamentally of the depravity of
man, and if virtually every impulse receives part of its drive
from this fearful root, then every action is to some extent
48. 2 Samuel 11:2--12:15, and 1 Kings 21:1--22:37
49. Fromm, Erich, Escape From Freedom, Rinehart, New York,
50. Walker, Kenneth, Meaning and Purpose, Pelican, London,
51. White, Ernest, ref.20, p.15.
infected, and man is
in this sense totally depraved. It is not that we cannot do any
good, but rather that in every good thing we do there exists
this taint of evil.
Napoleon, so it is said, observed
that man will believe almost anything -- so long as it is not
in the Bible. While scholarly dignity nods assent (albeit reluctantly)
to these insights into the nature of human nature, it has been
customary to overlook biblical statements on the same topic.
But the Lord far antedated Freud when He declared (Mark 7:21-23):
Out of the heart of men proceed
evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness,
wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride,
foolishness. All these evil things come from within. .
This is acknowledged
at times where one might least expect it. Thus David Lack, a
Fellow of the Royal Society, admitted it: (52)
The nature of the Fall has been
variously interpreted in different ages. . . . Whether a more
literal or more allegorical view is taken, the doctrine of the
Fall is basic to Christian belief. The statement by Darwinists
such as G. G. Simpson (The Meaning of Evolution, 1951)
that man has risen, not fallen, misses the point.
He then pointed
out that even so great an antagonist of Christianity as T. H.
Huxley acknowledged: (53)
. . . it is the secret of the superiority of the best theological
teachers to the majority of their opponents that they substantially
recognize these realities. . . .
The doctrines of . . . original
sin, of the innate depravity of man . . . of the primacy of Satan
in this world . . . of a malevolent Demiurgus subordinate to
a benevolent Almighty who has only lately revealed Himself, faulty
as they are, appear to me to be vastly nearer the truth than
the liberal, popular illusions that babies are all born good,
and that the example of a corrupt society is responsible for
their failure to remain so; that it is given to everybody to
reach the ethic ideal if he will only try . . . and other optimistic
So David Lack
concluded, "Darwinism can never give an adequate account
of man's nature." (54) Even Bertrand Russell was willing to acknowledge
that the problem with human nature is not going to be solved
merely by education. Indeed, although he was probably speaking
with more emotion than precise logic, he said, "There is
no limit to the horrors that can be inflicted by a combination
of scientific intelligence with the malevolence of Satan. Human
imagination long ago
52. Lack, David, ref.14, p.107.
53. Huxley, T. H., quoted by Lack, ref.14, p.108.
54. Lack, David, ref.14, p.109.
pictured hell, but it
is only through recent skill that men have been able to give
reality to what they imagined. (55)
The real problem
is in the will, not in the mind. It would be a simple matter
to account for wickedness if it were merely lack of knowledge.
But experience shows that it is very often the clever people
who make the worst criminals. In fact, a good case can be made
out against educating people who in their teens show evidences
of a disposition towards rejecting authority. We are constantly
being told by every means of communication -- newspaper, radio,
and television -- that this social evil or that can be corrected
by educating the public. But when all is said and done, I think
it must really be admitted, if we are to be completely honest
and if we are to be guided by fact rather than ideal, that the
only way to improve a situation in the long run is by providing
adequate and appropriate restraints. By such means the way may
be left open for something better to emerge. But the fundamental
problem is not how to encourage the good, rather how to restrain
the evil. Indeed, virtually all legislation intended to regulate
social behaviour is stated negatively, Thou shalt not. . . .
I believe it is only within the context of Christian experience
where the law of God has been written in the heart anew that
positive commands have much meaning. The great command that a
man should love his neighbour as himself was really directed
toward the people of God. Yet there is a sense in which it was
also directed to the world, because God had in mind to state
clearly what He required of man so that, having set before the
world the only standard of behaviour which He would accept, He
might justifiably bring judgment upon the world for failing to
meet His standard. In this sense the law was a schoolmaster to
bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24).
Meanwhile, culture is an artificial
restraint of natural conduct and it distinguishes the civilized
from the uncivilized. It was one of Freud's useful "discoveries"
that "man's basic nature is primarily made up of instincts
which would, if permitted expression, result in incest, murder,
and other crimes." (56) The theological view has been stated with remarkable
insight by Karl Barth: "Sin is man as we now know him."
Augustine held that until the Fall man was free to be righteous
or wicked as he chose; but that after the Fall he had only free
will to sin. Some men have opportunity to sin more than others,
but wickedness is the natural outcome of human nature as it is,
whether people are viciously or only, as an Anglican Bishop said
of modern youth,
55. Russell, Bertrand, "Human Society
in Ethics and Politics," quoted in Nature, Dec. 25,
56. Freud: quoted by M. S. Viteles, "The New Utopia,"
Science, vol.122, 1955, p.1170.
Dostoevsky said, "Man commits sin simply to remind himself
that he is free." (57)
point to be grasped is that human nature is naturally bad, not
good. There are some who attribute this to the artificiality
of our existence and who argue, again like Rousseau, that if
man were only free of all these restraints he wouldn't be nearly
as wicked as he is. It is the psychiatric argument that repressions
are bad for the soul; that it is the constant denials of self
that we demand of ourselves or that society imposes upon us that
lead to rebellion of spirit. There is no doubt that a tremendous
sense of relief is for a while experienced by any man who can
throw off these restraints. Alcohol may make men merry who were
previously depressed, uninhibited who were previously inhibited,
or out-going who were formerly reserved and suspicious. Drugs
may have a similar liberating effect. And mass hysteria, in which
society lifts its own restraints, can have the same effect. People
gain a sense of freedom which, for a time, is wonderful. Unfortunately,
the terminal result is virtually always a greater bondage.
The fact is, as Scripture has stated
(2 Peter 2:19), that men promise themselves freedom by yielding.
There is an element of truth in this, for when man does by choice
what God has appointed him to do by divine decree, that act,
though it is inevitable and cannot be escaped, nevertheless becomes
a free one. When we choose to do what we cannot refuse to do,
we give to the compulsion a sense of complete freedom. The only
trouble is that with man as he is now constituted the only choice
he can make with complete freedom, that is to say, as
a full expression of his real self, is to do something that is
wicked. Sometimes, perhaps rather frequently, such acts have
the appearance of being good because the end result may turn
out to benefit others. Nevertheless, if the act itself is motivated
out of an evil heart, then from God's point of view it is judged
for what it really is. In the great day of reckoning many will
say, "Lord, Lord, have we not . . . in thy name done many
wonderful works? Then shall the Lord say, Depart from me, ye
that work iniquity" (Matthew 7:22,23).
There is really only one way in
which a man may be truly free and that is by being perfectly
obedient to perfect law. Thus freedom is possible only to those
who are enabled to render absolute obedience to the law of God,
summed up in terms of love towards God and man. This kind of
love the world pays lip service to, without recognizing that
57. Dostoevsky, F. M., "Letters from
the Underworld," quoted by D. R. Davies, ref.31, p.10.
apart from the indwelling
presence of God Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ the heart
of man -- which is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9) -- is quite
incapable of fulfilling the conditions. When man relaxes restraint
and proposes a "return to nature," he is apt to forget
that he is not returning to a pattern of behaviour such as characterizes
the rest of Nature, but to the unrestrained expression of a fallen
There is a beautiful
passage in Martin Lings' Ancient Beliefs and Modern Superstitions.
He was speaking of the modern trend towards a rejection of all
the older traditional restraints upon human behaviour. He spoke
of these restraints as being more often than not honoured in
the breach. They were recognized and most people felt it necessary
to excuse themselves for failing to obey them: (58)
Such until very recently was
the orientation of men all over the world: the "boats"
were all, as it were, at least pointing upstream, whether the
force of the current was in fact carrying them downstream or
But a time came, within the last
two hundred years or less when for want of the minimum effort
required to keep the prows in the right direction, a number of
boats that had been drifting downstream backwards were deflected
to meet the current broadside on and thus to be as it were with
no orientation at all; and from this untenable position of doubt,
uncertainty and hopelessness, it was not difficult for the current
to turn them right round to face the way they were drifting.
With shouts of triumph that they
were "at last making some headway," they called on
those who were still struggling upstream to "throw off the
fetters of superstition" and "to move with the times."
A new creed was quickly invented,
and though its implications have seldom been looked full in the
face they are, clearly enough, that all man's past millennial
upstream efforts, that is "reactionary" or "retrograde"
efforts, were completely wasted, having been utterly pointless
This is part
of the fruit of Darwinism, that natural philosophy which gave
a supposedly scientific validation to the idea that progress,
in spite of occasional setbacks, is linear, automatic, and upward.
It is this philosophy, unfortunately, which has encouraged so
many people to believe that there is a virtue in novelty, and
that any change is bound to be for the better in the end. In
the life of an individual there may come times of great stress
in which resisting evil seems so painful that it appears less
painful to yield and take the consequences. But yielding proves
only a momentary freedom that is accompanied by a greater facility
to surrender to an even worse bondage in the end.
We come, therefore, in a complete
circle to find once more how truly Dostoevsky was speaking when
he said that man sins to prove
58. Lings, Martin, Ancient Beliefs and
Modern Superstitions, Perennial Books, London, 1964, p.64.
himself free. It is important
to realize the profound significance of the fact that man only
feels free when he is doing something which in retrospect inevitably
turns out to have a sinister aspect to it, even though at the
time the true character of his act may not be apparent. Though
it is indeed a dismal doctrine, I think that Calvin is fundamentally
right when he speaks of the total depravity of man. Not that
everything that he does is totally bad, but rather that nothing
that he does is wholly good. Perhaps if we are completely
honest with ourselves, we shall have to say that in every act
the good aspect is not merely tainted by the bad but well-nigh
overwhelmed. When we are young it is only proper that we should
have ideals, and that among those whose lives we have observed
and admired, we should here and there have the feeling that they
were noble. But it is sad as one grows up to find how little
that appears to be noble is really what it appears. However you
personally may feel about this, I myself know one thing and I
know it with increasing certainty as the years go by, that in
me, the natural part of me which still reflects the old Adam
and is not yet possessed by the Lord, there dwelleth no good
thing whatever (Romans 7:18). The heart of man is deceitful and
desperately wicked indeed.
reason why man does not respond to better education by being
a basically and permanently better person is because the real
problem lies in the will. When we have by the study of history
or by some other educational means established for ourselves
a goal of better things only to find in due course that we simply
cannot achieve them, our critics may say, "You don't succeed
in overcoming temptation, because you don't really want to. You
have a will: exercise it." We do not have a will. I do not
have a will, I am a will. That is what I am. Ninety-nine
percent of our failure to achieve some goal which we have been
inspired to aim for by some eloquent speaker or writer stems
from the fact that we fail to recognize the difference between
having and being a will. It is perfectly true that Christian
experience complicates the situation for us, because a new will
in the Person of the Lord Jesus is introduced within us before
the old will has been eradicated. So we have a conflict of wills.
But speaking of the world, of natural man, of man not yet having
the law of God written within, we can only postulate one will,
even when that will may appear to be uncertain of itself. This
will cannot will its own decease. The man who wills to be humble
is obviously going to be proud of his success, if he has any.
This is the "involuntary" humility which Scripture
condemns (Colossians 2:18).
In commenting on the philosophy
of Carl Jung, the British Medical Journal observed: (59)
59. Jung, Carl G., in British Medical Journal,
Feb. 9, 1952, p.315.
of mental life outside consciousness, i.e., the "unconscious,"
was of course well known before Jung's time. Jung examined the
hypothesis of the unconscious critically, and he proved by methods
which others could repeat that the unconscious was a reality
and that it acted autonomously. . . .
When we are in the grip of a complex,
the limitations of "willpower" soon become evident.
It is exactly as though another person interferred to prevent
us from carrying out our intentions.
But does this
not imply that it is not only the child of God who has two wills,
but that these two wills exist in everyone, the one will striving
towards good intentions and the other defeating those intentions?
It would certainly look this way, and yet in the final analysis
at the very bottom or root of man's soul is this evil something
which Freud also explored. This is the real man. Here are the
ultimate springs of human nature. All else is learned. Those
who have been brought up in an environment where the noble things
in life are constantly set forth as the true goal may appear
to be different from those who were brought up in the slum where
everything is filthy, rotten, and degrading. But if we are to
be guided by Scripture, we are forced to the conclusion that
the real human nature of both individuals is the same, any differences
being entirely the result of historical accident. It is still
true that there is none righteous, none that doeth good (Romans
This has been borne out in history
time and time again, when to the surprise of everyone those who
had stood out in their own community with the stature of saints
have suddenly been brought face to face with genuine holiness.
Their response has not infrequently been far more vicious in
opposition than the response of those who seemed in the eyes
of the community to be hopelessly wicked. We may suppose that
the Lord's worst enemies, the Pharisees, were a wicked bunch.
But if we had lived in those days we would probably have thought
of them -- or at least many of them -- as cultured people with
high ideals. The Lord called them "whited sepulchres,"
that is, visibly clean. There was nothing dirty about them. But
they were dead inside. Charles Wesley was often most strongly
opposed by those who seemed to their own generation to be models
of Christian virtue. This is a very hard lesson to learn, yet
every so often in ordinary life one may experience the sudden
shock of discovering that someone whom one felt was a truly godly
person nevertheless has violently anti-Christian feelings. In
fact it seems that many of the "best" people are
anti-Christian when it comes to basic issues. For example,
the English Public School system derived most of its highest
ideals from a Christian philosophy so that the products of that
system for a period of comparatively recent history were respected
and honoured as men with very high ideals and a strong
sense of honour and
integrity. But those who came through this system know that the
whole drive behind this code was pride, not love.
There is a contributing
reason why man is not really improved by education, because
the will itself remains unchanged. It remains unchanged because
sin has in important ways crippled man's intellect. The effect
is to make it impossible for a man to be completely aware of
his own true nature, and as a consequence he can neither properly
assess the motives which govern his actions nor be aware of the
fact that his assessment is at fault. The mind operates within
a mist of which it is itself entirely ignorant. This is called
the noetic effect of sin. Although all personal experience and
all of history screams a negative to the philosophy of the perfectibility
of man, man simply cannot believe the evidence. It is not merely
that he will not believe; for some reason he cannot
believe the evidence. So these are two separate effects of
sin, the one upon the will, the other upon the intellect. It
is not only that man is a rebel at heart, he is also blind --
blind because he cannot recognize his rebellion for what it is.
Before he can do this, he must have a "change of mind"
-- the Greek word for "repentance." And part of the
Christian experience of the new birth is a renewing of the mind
(Romans 12:2). Butterfield observed: (60)
Amongst historians, as in other
fields, the blindest of all the blind are those who are unable
to examine their own presuppositions, and blithely imagine therefore
that they do not possess any. It must be emphasized that we create
tragedy after tragedy for ourselves by a lazy unexamined doctrine
of man which is current amongst us and which the study of
history does not support [my emphasis].
sometimes observed to an unbelievable degree even in otherwise
most intelligent people, leads to extraordinary inconsistency
and lack of wisdom. It also leads to a faith in mankind which
is completely without foundation. I remember a debate between
a professor of social anthropology and a medical man who was
well known in the field of child education. There were quite
a number of students present, and the social anthropologist was
particularly popular with them. At one point the medical man
proposed that education was not perhaps, after all, improving
our young people. The professor jumped on this at once and said,
"Oh, I wouldn't want to believe that." Then the medical
man replied, rather quietly, "Even if it were true?"
Surprisingly enough this quiet answer seemed to change the roles
of the two men and the social anthropologist never quite recovered
from the clapping and laughter which had accompanied his own
embarrassment at the question. As Butterfield put it: "It
is essential not to have
60. Butterfield, Herbert, ref.18, p.46.
faith in human nature.
Such faith is a recent heresy and a very dangerous one."
(61) And Daniel
Lamont observed: "Sin, as we have seen, is a mist which
keeps us from seeing anything as it is; and when we accept the
mist as our appropriate atmosphere, we are oblivious to the tragedy
of the mist itself." (62)
is one of the most thoughtful of recent writers and, though not
a Christian, is nevertheless very spiritually perceptive. He
is a British medical doctor of some renown. In his book Meaning
and Purpose he spoke of the days when he was younger and
had little or no use for talk about spiritual matters: (63)
Looking back I have seen clearly
that at different periods of my life my mind became incarcerated
within the narrow confines of some doctrine such as the scientific
materialism of the last century. . . .
What is particularly apparent to
me now that I have escaped from these mental prisons is that
while confined in them, I was completely satisfied with my surroundings.
It is thus quite
clear that man's mind can unwittingly accept as a true premise
something which all the evidence stands against, and will then
logically construct upon it what will appear to him as a completely
valid philosophy. And although it is constantly being challenged
by the facts, and although he may constantly be misled by it
in his judgment, and although he may in the end come to see its
total inadequacy, he will still hold on to it, defend it against
all comers, and make it his guide though it leads him astray.
Yet in all else he may be a man of intelligence and integrity.
Such people by pen or word of mouth
mold public opinion, cheerfully assuring the world that the present
evils of society will vanish in time as man grows wiser. They
point to such things as progress in slum clearance, the rise
in general health, the emergence of the affluent society, the
organization of man on a world scale for peace, and ever increasing
dominion of man over the forces of Nature, and so forth; and
all the while they overlook the fact that man's heart remains
unimproved. And while man remains thus unimproved, he uses his
increased leisure, improved health, greater resources, and enlarged
powers over natural forces to give greater breadth to the range
of his own wicked devices. Hopefully, it is always assumed that
the world's problems are ultimately external to the heart of
man, and if only all men are brought to the same standard of
living and to enjoy the same benefits of civilization, all will
be peaceful and everyone will be content.
61. Ibid., p.47.
62. Lamont, Daniel, Anchorage of Life, InterVarsity Fellowship,
London, 1946, p.173.
63. Walker, Kenneth, ref.50, p.7.
With extraordinary ingenuity, man resolves one external
problem after another, having devised for himself a technique,
the scientific method, which appears to have unlimited possibilities.
But we do not yet know how to prevent one delinquent child from
corrupting a neighbourhood, or an apparently sincere public servant
from accepting a bribe, or the ordinary citizen from slandering
his neighbour. The ordinary, everyday commonplace examples of
human sinfulness in small things meet us at every turn, and there
seems no way in which we can control them and leave man free.
There is not the slightest doubt that for an ever increasing
number of people things are better than they ever were.
But we cannot honestly say that people are.
People point to
such great documents as the Atlantic Charter as evidence that
the world is a better place, that man has achieved a measure
of genuine international stature by recognizing the rights of
nations to self-determination and of individuals to personal
freedom in certain essential respects. It is quite true that
at no period in history was such a universal vision even dimly
discerned -- except to some extent by the Hebrew prophets. The
great powers of previous ages never foresaw the kind of world
charter that we now recognize as an obvious ideal. At the lowest
level of social responsibility, duties were confined within a
family; then within a tribe; finally within the nation. But beyond
this it was not recognized by people that they owed anything
to one another. Not even within the boundaries of the older empires
were such rights recognized as we now feel must ultimately prevail
among all nations. Perhaps the nearest approach was Roman citizenship,
but slaves among them had virtually no personal rights. So to
this extent, man has indeed clarified his ideals.
But the achievement of such ideals
seems to be about as far away as it ever was. Recognition has
not led to realization. Indeed, one wonders sometimes whether
even the ideal may not yet be abandoned entirely as totally unrealistic,
as unrealistic as the ideals which gave birth to the League of
Nations. And in any case, such ideals are not the result of cultural
evolution but are rooted ultimately within the Judeo-Christian
religious philosophy: they originated as the result of divinely
inspired thinking. Without the sustaining inspiration there seems
little hope of their remaining viable. It seems highly unlikely
that they would ever have arisen merely by the process of historic
development, because they are manifestly so unrealistic and unworkable
as human nature is presently constituted.
So long as a substantial number
of subscribing nations at least pay lip service to the religious
philosophy that underlies these ideals, there is a real possibility
that they will remain on the statute books. But
system of ideals is like a plant without a root, bound to die
in the nature of things. For one of its main principles is that
all men who apply for membership in the "club" must
be admitted merely on the basis of the fact that they applied.
We are ourselves so far short of living up to the ideal which
we proclaim that we dare not interrogate new applicants about
their particular philosophy. And so as the "club" grows,
we are bound to reach the point where the majority do not at
heart accept the Judeo-Christian value system which inspired
the ideal, thus outnumbering in voting power those who do. We
have almost reached that point already. An "unconverted"
world being asked to accept ideals as interpreted by a "converted"
minority is not likely to submit to the minority interpretation,
and the very idealism which inspired the "club" will
bring about its demise. So ultimately all human institutions
fail this way in the end. Even though each succeeding generation
may have captured for a fleeting moment a clearer vision of the
ideal, its realization is as far away as ever. Perhaps, in the
light of recent debates over the Israeli-Arab war which revealed
such totally different concepts of what truth is, it is further
away than ever as the influence of the carry-over of a Christian
One of the critical
points I have tried to underscore in this Paper is that culture,
in the sense of learned behaviour, is what man needs to restrain
his natural bent towards wickedness. Whatever else may be said
about the snobbery of the "cultured," the fact remains
that civilized man is normally less overtly wicked than the uncultured
and that when he acts wickedly it is by distorting, denying,
or escaping from the accumulated cultural heritage of the past.
The restraint of learned behaviour is all that stands
between man and sheer savagery. Man is not by nature a well-bred
creature, but a barbarian. Culture does not make man acceptable
in the sight of God, for in this sense God is no respecter of
persons at all, but it does tend to soften and reduce the effect
of his fallen nature by restraining him.
There are times when a culture
may be disrupted and a whole society goes bad, authority being
everywhere undermined to such an extent that lawlessness, destruction,
violence, rape, murder, theft, and cruelty know no effective
curbs and chaos results. This may happen even in a fragment of
some particular social group such as a crowd. When a crowd throws
off all recognition of established authority its spirit changes
rapidly from bad to worse, no longer constrained towards any
good, but self-reinforced and self-reinforcing towards wickedness.
Human behaviour becomes "liberated" and equated with
sin. People are swept away by the compulsive mood of the crowd,
and individuals find themselves suddenly free to express the
very worst side
of their nature -- often
to their own genuine amazement in retrospect.
The roar of unified
voices bent on evil is absolutely terrifying. There is something
demonic about it. Crowds become vicious in ways totally foreign
to the behaviour of the individuals who make up the crowd. Men
in groups will become vicious murderers and violent in the extreme,
even the gentlest of them. And history shows, sadly, that in
times of great violence (as in the French Revolution) women are
equally capable of cruelty. Even in watching violent sports,
this unexpected side of woman's nature may be suddenly revealed.
Afterwards, the individual may sort herself out and ask in amazement,
What got into me? Nothing got in. It is not what gets in at all,
but what comes out that reveals the truth of human nature, even
as Christ said it would (Matthew 15:18,19).
A supreme example of this is to
be found in the New Testament as the Lord's ministry of healing,
mercy, and goodness drew to a climax. The temper of the crowd,
a crowd only a few hours before zealously hailing Him as the
Messiah, now found itself united in its determination to destroy
Him in the cruelest manner possible. Why? Were these really different
people? Probably not, though many of them were acting differently.
It was clear that authority -- (the ultimate source of restraint)
-- had now shifted openly to an antagonistic position toward
the Lord, and in doing so momentarily changed the balance of
restraint for the whole community, setting men free to give expression
to the very lowest impulses of their nature. Many of these, perhaps
most of them, a few days before had not been "bad"
people but people perhaps kindly disposed towards the aged, mindful
of common courtesies, caring for the well-being of their families,
and even concerned for neighbours, not given to violence unless
personally angered, and quite likely opposed to any blatant injustice
to individuals whom they thought well of. But now, suddenly,
they change. They scream for His blood. Stirred up with frightening
ease by the religious authorities, they find release for past
repressions in a wave of violent animosity against an apparently
defenseless man whom they had previously admired or even defended
before His enemies. Here, then, was the ultimate revelation of
man. Faced with absolute goodness, purity, and honesty, faced
with true humanness, they suddenly hated what they saw.
The Lord's crucifixion was an expression
of man's wickedness in hating Him because He was kind, gentle,
altogether good, healing where there was sickness, bringing comfort
where there was distress. He was condemned because He was innocent
-- not because He was guilty. He was treated with violence because
He was gentle, not because
He was violent. He was
judged immoral (a friend of harlots) because He was utterly undefiled.
He was accused of malefaction simply because He was completely
innocent of wrongdoing.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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I had occasion
to rebuild a house once. A neighbour caught our zeal to work
and planned great alterations to his house, too! We completed
ours, though it took nearly five years. But in seven years he
had scarcely taken up hammer and saw. One day he visited us and
as he turned to go, he said good-naturedly, "I think you've
done a wonderful job. I am afraid I didn't, and I hate you for
it." How true this is to human nature, and what a pity we
cannot all be as forthrightly honest as our friend and neighbour
was about it. . . . In a way he got rid of his "hate"
by expressing it. In a way, mankind found some peace when the
Lord was crucified. This, too, was part of His death for us.
He came to die, but also to reveal certain things, three things
at least: what God was really like and how He felt toward us;
what man was actually like when exposed in the white light of
His perfection, and finally what the potential of true manhood
really was as revealed in His own Person.
Until society regains a correct
picture of human nature, no real progress can ever be made toward
the building of the Great Society: but by its very nature science
will never recognize this fact even from its own findings, for
it cannot accept what God has revealed nor discover the truth
by its own methods of inquiry.