As Bad as We Could Be? H.C. Lord's Day 3

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 3

Q6. Did God create people so wicked and perverse?
A6. No. God created them good and in his own image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness, so that they might truly know God their creator, love him with all their heart, and live with God in eternal happiness, to praise and glorify him.

Q7. Then where does this corrupt human nature come from?
A7. The fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise. This fall has so poisoned our nature that we are all conceived and born in a sinful condition.

Q8. But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?
A8. Yes, unless we are born again by the Spirit of God.

Are we really that bad?  This question is asked a lot by optimists and non-believers who desire to make a case for themselves and their perceived “inherent goodness.”  All people, culture would tell us, are inherently good; Scripture says otherwise.  Our reality is, as humans, we are born in sin and it infects us to our very core from the moment that we are conceived.

Does this mean that God created us this way?  That would seem to be a convenient out for us, but the answer to that question is also a resounding “NO.”  God created humankind perfectly in His image with the what we know as free will.  We have the ability to follow God’s will and God’s Law but, because of the Fall, we are infected by sin, a terminal infection that taints every aspect of our being.  In theological terms, this is called “total depravity.”

This does not mean that we are as bad as we could possibly be.  It does, however, mean that we are totally incapable of doing good on our own.  Ever aspect of who we are is bent toward evil; we desire rebellion against God.

Some have taken this theological tenant and called it “total inability;” that certainly has aspects of truth to it but perhaps slightly misses the mark.  As we will see next week, we are created with the ability to follow God’s Law, yet the sin that is in us causes us to turn away.  If we did not have the ability to keep the law it would put the fault back on God where it does not belong.

There is good news at the end of this week, though, and that is the Good News of the Gospel.  In Jesus Christ we are born again, our old sinful self is put to death and we are washed clean in Jesus’ blood.  In this moment, something changes.  Even though we are still sinful, those sins are washed away and we are made righteous in the sight of God.  More that this, though, as we experience this New Life, having Jesus enthroned in the very center of our heart, we also experience a new desire to follow God, to live in grateful response to the grace that He has shown us.  Through the Holy Spirit in us, our direction changes and we find ourselves desiring to live for God, not ourselves.


2 Responses to “As Bad as We Could Be? H.C. Lord's Day 3”

  1. staci says:

    how do you approach the argument with an atheist who just doesn’t believe in God, only himself? and they arent horrible people? i have a very intelligent friend who grew up baptist, knows the stories and the Good News but decided it wasnt for him. talking with him about the reason for a savior gets so draining and challenging. his basis is science. to your one message’s point, it almost requires your flexibility in how we define time and events rather than in absolutes bc our God decides on His own how we were to evolve and when. i guess its just about the true definition of faith.

    • Jon VanderWall says:

      The first thing that comes to mind here is Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:18-19 – For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

      Scripture also warns us, in both 1 John 1:8 and Galatians 6:3, against fooling ourselves. If we claim to be without sin, or if we claim to be inherently good (Jesus says there is only one who is good), we are fooling ourselves.

      Now, neither of those answers helps the question of “how to approach the argument with an atheist,” but it does help us to understand the situation that we are dealing with. Certainly, there are many people that are great people by the world’s standards who don’t know God. They want to help people; they work hard; they give back to their community. But even if their motives are completely pure and selfless, even they know the times and places when they have screwed up… It’s hard to be honest with ourselves in that, especially if we are looking for reasons not to believe.

      The argument for science is also one that is somewhat skewed because many of the greatest scientists of our day will just as readily say that there are questions that science cannot answer, things that have happened that cannot be explained through concrete, mathematical equations or empirical evidence.

      Again, though, I think that there is a mix of a need for honesty and approach. When we don’t want to believe that we are broken and when we look for reasons why we don’t need a savior, the world has plenty of seemingly viable options for that and you can pick and choose what you want to listen to and what you feel you can ignore. At the same time, there are a number of professing Christians that seem to have taken the same approach of “salad bar theology” within the ‘faith’ to benefit themselves as well…

      It really does reveal, in us, the need for a Savior. These first couple weeks of the Heidelberg really lay that out: we NEED a Jesus. The amazingness of God’s grace is amplified by our desperate situation. Faith is a work of the Holy Spirit; and for those that are lost, we are called to love and pray and witness to God’s grace, trusting the Holy Spirit to do that work.

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