We believe in human worth.
We believe humanity was made in the image of God and is the crown of creation. Human beings are now, by reason of the fall, spiritually depraved and alienated from their Creator. Apart from God’s grace, we have no ability to attain our high calling.
Many Christian groups begin their theological description of human beings with depravity. We choose to begin elsewhere because God did not create human beings as fallen creatures. He created them purposefully and said they were good. Even when we had sinned and become subject to evil and death, God did not abandon us. He did not discard His original purpose for creating us. Human beings were created “in the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:27), which is the first thing we believe should be said about human beings as spiritual creatures.
The Bible does not say of any other creatures that they are made “in the image and likeness of God.” David says it even more boldly, “You have made human beings a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor” (Psalm 8). God did not create us as mere animals “red in tooth and claw,” as the poet Tennyson wrote. We were meant to be the highest order of creation. By becoming a man, God emphasized His view of humanity by sharing our human nature. He became one of us. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible tells us that human beings are God’s special treasure, created to be God’s eternal friends.
Of course a Christian cannot leave it at that, and so we join other Christians in affirming that we are fallen creatures. Although human beings bear God’s image and likeness, something has gone dreadfully wrong. We are not as we should be. We have wandered away from God’s design.
The Bible teaches us how that happened in the first three chapters of Genesis. We learn in these passages that there is a fundamental flaw in our character called sin. This defect is not merely something we do; it is something we are. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, human nature became spiritually depraved and alienated from the Creator. That means our spiritual life is flawed and cannot be fully trusted. We have a soul sickness that perverts our best intentions.
We use the word alienation to describe how we often view nature, other people, and even our own selves as something alien, something strange. In modern life we have become increasingly aware of how we are alienated from our natural environment. God and holy things also seem alien to us. We are like orphans who have forgotten the face of our Father. We have attempted to reconstruct God’s image in things we have made from wood and stone. Weary from our search for God, many of us have convinced ourselves that there is no God. As a result of this depravity, we have become increasingly addicted, sad, and purposeless.
This sense of alienation from God, nature, others, and from ourselves causes great suffering. We do all we can to alleviate that suffering, but no permanent solution ever comes from human effort. All those who try to help us have the same spiritual illness.
We realize then that we are fallen creatures and thus spiritually depraved. However, we long to be better than we are. We often feel perplexed about why we remain so dissatisfied with life, even when we are apparently healthy, clothed, and well fed. We sometimes search through philosophy, religion, and even the occult because of our insatiable hunger for life and meaning. We only discover at deeper levels that we are lost and cannot find our way home.
Without help from outside the human system, we cannot discover our eternal purpose.
Christians describe the human condition as created for glory but nonetheless broken and alienated from all that would allow human beings to fully express that glory.
Christians call this doctrine depravity, which simply means that we cannot save ourselves. This is one of Christianity’s most important doctrines. For if we are naturally good, we should be able to find our own way to God. We should be trusted to do what is good. However, if we are naturally sinful, even the best human being will tend to do wrong rather than good and thus requires a Savior.
Experience teaches us that this is precisely our condition. That is why most of us gradually acquire a healthy distrust of human nature, including our own. Far from provoking us to bitterness, knowledge of our depravity leads to humility, one of the most essential components of spiritual growth.
Without Christ, awareness of human depravity leads to despair. In Christ, awareness of human depravity leads to transformation.
When we realize we are lost and there is nothing we can do to help ourselves, we turn to the God who always responds to godly sorrow that leads to repentance. As we trust in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, grace begins the work of transformation in us. God promises to complete this work He has begun in us.
We trust in God to keep His word, and so we submit ourselves to His work in us.
We cooperate with Him in the renewal of our being. That is what it means to be a believer.
God is continually at work through His Word, His Spirit, and His Church to transform us. However, as long as we live, the circumstance of life will continually remind us that “all have sinned and come short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23). We have been declared righteous by trusting in Christ, and this new reality only becomes visible as we live in harmony with God and with His people, applying our hearts and minds to understand and apply the Word of God to life. As God told Cain, “Sin is crouching at the door and desires you; you must rule over it” (2 Genesis 4:7).
Both the Bible and everyday life teach us that sin infects all of life. Furthermore, sin takes on many forms.
Families and groups of people tend to develop tendencies toward specific sins that we call iniquity. Entire cultures tend to pass down certain sinful tendencies from generation to generation. For this reason, personal transformation in Christ must lead to ways of identifying and renouncing not only our personal sins but also the cultural iniquities we have unthinkingly adopted from our families and other groups.
Enmity is an often quiet but deadly hostility we feel toward God, toward others, and even toward ourselves.
Dread is our fear of death and coming judgment.
All of these are fruit of human depravity and the result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Thankfully, as we will soon see, we have another Ancestor from Whom we have received a much greater inheritance. Whatever specific form sin may have taken in our particular life or our culture, Christ is the Great Physician who comes to heal us of our sin.
The Bible assures us that some day all traces of sin and evil will disappear throughout the entire universe.