Does Adam and Eve’s historical or archetypal original sin remove or infect humanity’s inherent goodness? Total depravity – the complete removal view – potentially (I think usually) influences the Christian and non-religious alike to incorrectly conclude Christian tradition unapologetically endorses a dehumanizing perspective: the being – not current condition – of humanity is sinful, imperfect, or broken; God (Creator) is good, humans (creation) are evil. But in light of Jesus’ incarnation, I propose a counterbalance to offset the unintentional application (and possible overreach in principle) of total depravity.
Millard Erickson writes, “We should define humanity, not by integrating our present empirical observations, but by examining the human nature of Jesus, for he most fully reveals the true nature of humanity.” Jesus, perfect in his humanity, teaches, “To flourish is human.” To be human is to be good, and goodness is defined by the God who is good, i.e., following the divine ethic embedded in the fabric of reality while in relationship with God, others, and self – God (Creator) is good, thus humans (creation) is good. Yes, the Fall (original or ancestral sin) infects or inhibits the full expression of human goodness – all sin and therefore all need God’s grace lovingly offered through the gift of faith in Jesus to receive salvation – but it did not eliminate human goodness. People, despite the Fall, continue to (however imperfectly) bear the imago Dei, and if the image of God is the image of goodness, then it enables human goodness to a certain degree.
The development of a sanctified humanism – affirming humanity’s originally perfect (pre-Fall), currently partial (due to sin), and future glorified (through faith alone in Christ alone) goodness utterly depends on God’s omnibenevolence – is necessary to correct the unintentional application of total depravity. For the Christian, a sanctified humanism guards against self-loathing or falsely believing the physical is evil. For the non-religious (specifically secular humanist – believing humanity is capable of morality and self-fulfillment without God – which, in my opinion, defines the views of most “nones”), a sanctified humanism offers an engaging apologetic by establishing common ground (humans are capable of good) with, and presenting a challenge (human goodness is impossible separate from God)to, his or her view.
What are your thoughts?