It is very popular today in many churches to say that man (and his soul) is basically good. The notion that man is basically good is perpetrated in the church by a psychologized gospel that exalts man.
Martha Peace says, “Self” is at the center of our lusts—our supposed needs for significance, worth, security, identity, or esteem. A psychologized, man-centered view of God and of man appeals to our natural sense of loving ourselves and thus deceives us
Do you think that man is basically good? One popular poll asked professing evangelicals if man was basically good or bad. The astounding results showed that 77% believed man was basically good. Perhaps we should not be surprised by this as many preachers are preaching messages that are based on making people “feel good” about themselves. Man was created by God in His image. The Scripture teaches that man was created sin-free and has a rational nature, intelligence, a will, and moral responsibility (Gen. 1:26-28). But being created in the image of God does not mean that man is basically good by nature.
Adam and Eve disobeyed God and lost their innocence (Rom. 5:12). Man was guilty of sin and incurred the penalty of spiritual and physical death becoming subject to God’s wrath because God cannot tolerate sin. Man then became inherently corrupt and totally incapable of choosing or doing that which is acceptable to God apart from divine grace (Rom. 5:19). Man, thereby, has no power within himself to recover and is hopelessly lost. Historically, this radical corruption of the soul has been called “total inability.”
It is important to understand that total inability does not mean that every person is as bad as he or she might be, for God’s common grace restrains unredeemed sinners from fully realizing their sinful potential. Every person has the potential for even the worst of sins, since every aspect of a person was affected by the fall (will, emotions, thoughts, etc.). Scripture (see Romans 12:16) indicates we are inclined to think too highly of ourselves and our “goodness.” We are more prideful than we want to believe!
Note the condition of the unredeemed heart in these Scriptures:
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Genesis 6:5 (NASB)
This is one of the strongest and clearest statements about man’s sinful nature. The people of Noah’s day were exceedingly wicked from the inside out. Why? Because the fall affected every aspect of the heart.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV)
The prophet Jeremiah declares the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. At the very least it means our hearts cannot be trusted. Yet, in our culture we constantly hear from psychology that we are to follow our hearts, make the right heart choice, or are told your heart can be trusted to guide you.
When these things are said, they are, in fact, equating feelings with the heart. Clearly, that notion is contradicted directly by what God says – do not trust your heart emotions because they are deceitful and cannot be trusted to lead you.
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, … Mark 7:21 (NASB)
Jesus Himself reveals the true condition of men’s hearts. The inner man is not “basically good” but seriously flawed and utterly corrupt, and without the grace of God, will remain so. Since Adam all men and women are sinners by nature and by choice, so it would be accurate to describe ourselves as basically depraved and not basically good (See Romans 3:9-18, 23; 5:10-12).
Proverbs indicates it is folly to trust in one own’s heart:
He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered. Proverbs. 28:26 (NASB)
Instead, we are to trust in the Lord (and His Word) and not rely on our hearts.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding… Proverbs 3:5 (NASB)
Adapted from The Process of Biblical Change Workbook by Bruce Roeder and Julie Ganschow