by Jeremy Walker/
Read all the posts published to date in this 16-part series.
We continue to review our condition as fallen creatures. Last time, we examined the testimony of God’s Word as it pertains to our innate spiritual condition. Now we will examine the evidence of the world around us.
WHO NEEDS TO BE SAVED? – PART 2
Evidence: The Testimony of Daily Life
While the testimony of the Word of God should be sufficient for the Christian, we may also expect experience to bear out what we read there. In truth, if we survey the world with the same honesty with which we face the Bible, we do find this to be the case.
1: Children. We can see evidence of man’s innate spiritual poverty, for example, in the behavior of children. As any candid parent will tell you, no one needs to teach a toddler selfishness or greed or anger. No one must school a child in deceit or pride. But there cannot be many parents who set out to develop sin in their children. Nevertheless, in the face of the best human efforts, the blithest little baby allowed to develop in the most neutral or positive environment will soon enough produce the fruit of a fallen nature.
2: The world. Or consider, more generally, the state of the world. As I write there are wars being fought out in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and countless other places around the world. By the time you read these words, those wars may well have been won and lost by respective sides, with all the resultant misery. Other conflicts will be simmering or boiling over in other parts of the planet, and you will be able to list them for yourselves. But you need not look so far afield. Walk the streets of your village, town, or city with your eyes and ears open. Do you see some rural idyll or scenes of metropolitan bliss? Or do you not find, more or less evidently, the marks of man’s iniquity scorched into countless lives? Do the sins and sorrows of this world contradict or illustrate the truth of God’s Word?
3: Your heart. Then think of your own heart. Has God given you any accurate and honest insight into the state of your own soul? If he has, then you will confess that the portrait of the suspect sketched by the Word of God matches your inner man. The Bible has delineated with painful accuracy the modes and moods of your soul. By nature, apart from God, you think the way a fallen man thinks, you speak the way a fallen man speaks, you feel the way a fallen man feels, you act the way a fallen man acts. You lift your eyes and look into the mirror of the Scriptures, and you see yourself as you really are. It is not a pretty sight.
4: Gospel resistance. Consider, too, the characteristic resistance to the gospel that lies in our hearts. It is played out in the antagonism sinners have to the good news. It manifests itself in denials of the principles the gospel lays out and derision for the responses the gospel demands. The message of the cross—that Jesus of Nazareth, who was God’s Son and God’s Christ, suffered and died according to the Scriptures, being crucified in the place of the ungodly, rising again on the third day, and that only through faith in him can we be made right with God—is foolishness to every unenlightened heart. The notion that such a despicable or deluded individual (if we acknowledge his historical validity) dying such a disgusting death (if we permit that it was no fraud or inaccuracy of record) is somehow required in order for a sinner (if we acknowledge ourselves to be such) to stand acquitted of his guilt (on the assumption that there is some standard by which we are judged) before a holy God (if we allow the idea of his existence to stand) offends the natural mind. It is foolishness to those who have made human reason their idol and a stumbling block to those who imagine themselves good enough for anything that may be required of them. For many, despite the most careful explanations and the most earnest entreaties, they are swift to despise it, ready to dismiss it, and remain utterly inert in the face of it.
A Universal Condition
When we face these strands of evidence, we are obliged to use the language of universality and totality:
What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.”…Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. (Romans 3:9–19 NKJV)
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6 NKJV)
The whole humanity of all humanity is subject to the taint of sin. To put it another way, every part of the whole life and every element of the whole person of every human being demonstrates our true natural condition as alienated from and antagonistic to God. All the faculties and capacities of every human creature are under the same condemnation. Our fundamental and pervasive character is one of moral evil. We are morally and ethically disordered at every point of our being. Our minds and hearts are darkened. Our affections and emotions are twisted. Our wills and desires are perverted. Our consciences are dull and inaccurate. Our bodies themselves lead us astray.
This is not to suggest that no one can be saved from such a state. We shall come in due course to consider the remedy provided for mankind dead in trespasses and sins.
Neither is everyone is as bad as they could be. That would be to suggest a sort of absolute depravity. In the middle film of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight (2008), we are faced with the profoundly unsettling portrayal of a villain named the Joker. When the film first came out, many Christian critics were quite happy to turn to the Joker as a portrayal of what is sometimes called total depravity. But the Joker portrays something closer to this absolute depravity, described by the actor who played him as a “psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.”i That may be a potential manifestation of depravity, but it is not a common or “normal” one, nor is it what the Bible has primarily in mind when it speaks of the corruption of the whole nature. The little old lady with the blue rinse who may live next door is as much subject to this corruption as the most violent criminal imaginable. What differs is the expression of the condition.
Simply put, we are all sinners through and through. We are all sinners by nature and deed. Every human being is thoroughly corrupt, that corruption being total in its extent if not in its degree. Every one of us is naturally subject to a comprehensive spiritual deadness that afflicts the whole human race.
Having surveyed the evidence of Scripture and the world around us, in the next post we shall draw out some particular inferences and conclusions.
i “In Stetson or Wig, He’s Hard to Pin Down,” by Sarah Lyall, New York Times, November 4, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/movies/moviesspecial/04lyal.html, accessed 5/11/2015.
Part 3 of a 16-part series drawn from Anchored in Grace: Fixed Points for Humble Faith, by Jeremy Walker.
Jeremy Walker serves as a pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church, Crawley, England, and is married to Alissa, with whom he enjoys the blessing of three children. He has written several books and has blogged at Reformation21 and The Wanderer.