Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Which half do we have?

[Why BlogSpot has decided to get all hinky with its formatting for this post, I've no clue.]
So what's the deal?

In another blog -- again, I shan't out the blogger unless said blogger does so or gives me explicit permission to do so -- a discussion has risen on whether man's inherent nature is Good or Bad.

It is my assumption, bolstered by Catholic teaching, that man is inherently good. I stated as much in the blog's combox. However, I have a hunch this blogger sensed that the discussion might get a bit, um, heated and wisely decided to issue a cease and desist on further comments.

Although I believe it was wise, it runs against my very poor personality trait of wanting to get the last word in any discussion.

Y'see, there was some sentiment expressed in said combox discussion that man's fallen nature changed his nature. Therefore, humanity needed a Messiah to redeem it because the Fall had rendered humanity inherently wicked. Much Scriptural citation ensued, to bolster the commenter's viewpoint. Furthermore, said commented stated -- pretty explicitly, methinks -- that any effort to undergird the opposing opinion which didn't rely sola scriptura was well nigh inadmissible.

If one is a semi-attentive Catholic, the temptation is to paddle down the tributary of discussing the revelatory validity of Sacred Tradition. I suspect even the most glowing efforts on this front would not have proven satisfactory to the commenter in question. "If it's not in Holy Writ, it simply doesn't count" was my interpretation of the comments posted by this person. One of the things I learned very early on in my education was that one ought seek out refuting evidence, with which to test one's opinions and assumptions. (A person unwilling or incapable to do this is reachable only by prayer.)

Scripture provides such refuting evidence. To counter all those "the heart of man is wicked" citations we can find things such as:

Ecclesiastes 2:26 "God hath given to a man who is good in His sight, wisdom and knowledge and joy: but to the sinner He hath given vexation, and superfluous care, to heap up and to gather together, and to give it to him that hath pleased God: but this also is vanity, and a fruitless solicitude of the mind."

St. Matthew 26:41 "Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak."

Psalms 111:4* To the righteous a light is risen up in darkness: he is merciful, and compassionate and just.

Proverbs 11:6 The justice of the righteous shall deliver them: and the unjust shall be caught in their own snares.

Isaiah 44:2 Thus saith the Lord that made and formed thee, thy helper from the womb: Fear not, O my servant Jacob, and thou most righteous whom I have chosen

Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Hus, whose name was Job, and that man was simple and upright, and fearing God, and avoiding evil.

Psalms 10:3** For, lo, the wicked have bent their bow; they have prepared their arrows in the quiver; to shoot in the dark the upright of heart.

St. Luke 2:25 And behold there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was in him.

Acts Of Apostles 2:5 Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

Acts Of Apostles 10:28 And he said to them: You know how abominable it is for a man that is a Jew, to keep company or to come unto one of another nation: but God hath shewed to me, to call no man common*** or unclean.

You will notice two things:

a) There is refuting evidence in Scripture for the assertion that man is inherently bad.
b) That there is favorable and refuting evidence for a given assertion doesn't merely damage the assertion, it severely loosens the underpinnings of the sola Scriptura position.

Now, this doesn't mean that man is peachy-keen fine after the Fall. Man didn't just get up, dust off his fig leaf and say "Sorry, Lord. My bad." and go traipsing through Eden looking for less dangerous fruit to bite and less treacherous reptiles with whom to converse. Nononononono. The Catechism says very clearly that, as a result of this apple business our "nature was corrupted [not changed - J.] by the sin of our first parents, which darkened our understanding, weakened our will, and left us a strong inclination to evil."

Because I'm a terrific guy, here is some Scripture to back this up:

Genesis 8:21 "And the Lord smelled a sweet savour, and said: I will no more curse the earth for the sake of man: for the imagination and thought of man's heart are prone to evil from his youth: therefore I will no more destroy every living soul as I have done."

What does this all mean?

1) As we have been created in God's image and likeness, we are inherently good.

2) The Fall has left that goodness in a very precarious state

3) We need a Savior through Whom we can:

a- Reinforce that now-too-fragile goodness (by knowing, loving and serving God in this life, that we may be happy with Him forever in the next), and

b- Receive forgiveness for the times we (too easily) act counter to our (good) nature and fall into sinfulness.

4) Our nature was not altered by the Fall. Just like an egg that goes SPLAT is still an egg, or an apple that rots doesn't become a grapefruit. We are created in His image and likeness and there is NOTHING in Scripture -- correct me if I am wrong -- which even hints that our nature has undergone a substantial change.

We need the redemptive sacrifice of the Messiah because our nature has been corrupted, because our intellect has been darkened, because our willpower is weakened and have an inclination to sinfulness.

But what IS sin? Sin is when we freely and willfully do (or fail to do) something that causes us to separate ourselves from God. But wait. If we do (or fail to do...yeah yeah yeah) something that separates us from God that means that if we DON'T do (or fail to do) anything along those lines then we are not separated from God. Right? That means our nature, our "default setting" if you will, is to be UNseparated from God, right? So, if we are inherently evil and wicked why is it that we must DO something to be separated from Him?

Our inherent goodness remains, but now is wildly compromised. Without the Christ, that compromised nature will, inevitably, fail with fatal consequences for the soul.



*or 112:4, depending how your Bible numbers them

**or 11:2, depending how your Bible numbers them

*** that is, "profane"


  • At 10:56 AM, July 31, 2007 , Blogger ~m2~ said...

    wow -- this was great!!! why didn't you add all this after the comments were closed and then reopened!

    i am printing because i can't sit at my computer all day without getting numb (in many areas, tyvm)....thanks for your contributions. you're awesome.

  • At 11:02 AM, July 31, 2007 , Blogger Joe said...

    At the time, I thought the comments were closed. Only when I went chugging by today that I went "Hey! Waitaminnit! The number's changed!"

    By that time, my feet were propped up at my bloggy Home Base and I was all comfy and this entry was posted.

    Thanks for your kind words. Now I must go and do something stupid to make sure I'm not prey to the sin of pride.


  • At 11:31 PM, July 31, 2007 , Blogger Moonshadow said...

    I came here by accident ... I'm not tracking anyone down ...

    I would merely suggest that Ecc. 2:26 in the Douay is misleading in its use of the word "good," as other translations use "pleasing to God". Cf. the latter portion of the same verse ... Ecc. 2:26 isn't making a declaration about human nature.

    For baptized Catholics, our former nature is of little significance:

    Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. - 1 John 3:2.

    For that reason, myself, I am less particular about the nature of fallen man than I am about the nature of the redeemed in Christ.

  • At 12:09 AM, August 01, 2007 , Blogger joe said...


    I'm fairly confident you're not stalking. But if you boil my rabbit...

    Seriously, the purpose of my mentioning that passage from Ecclesiastes, was not to use it as categorical proof of anything but rather to bring refuting evidence to the assertion man is inherently wicked.

    If a man is pleasing to God, it seems to me that man cannot be wicked.

    I agree that the state of our nature pre-baptism is nowhere near as relevant as post-baptism. In the larger scheme it's probably not all that important but my point was that it's not our former nature. A small point, perhaps...but there ya go.

    However, this was borne of a discussion in which I considered the viewpoint I hold to have been underrepresented and so I gave voice to the reasons why I believe what I do.



  • At 12:27 AM, August 01, 2007 , Blogger Moonshadow said...

    it's not our former nature.

    I misspoke ... or, rather, was wanting for a word.

    Anyway, I agree with you that the fall corrupted our nature without changing it.

  • At 12:36 AM, August 01, 2007 , Blogger joe said...

    Good! Glad that's all squared away and we can all relax with a soothing beverage.



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