Awhile back while I was observing a class at my work, a lady (who happened to be the daughter of a Baptist Minister) expressed during a conversation how she thought that people in general were inherently good but oftentimes swayed from this goodness and did evil things. She was articulating a very popular ideology that most people adhere to which makes them feel good about the world in which they live. What she meant by her statement was when people do something that is evil then they are merely acting outside of what they are. I obviously disagreed with her understanding of human nature and morality but I quickly realized there wasn’t room to discuss these items any further.
The bible teaches something different than what this nice lady was telling me. The bible teaches that men and women are by nature fallen and that doing good deeds essentially goes against their nature as humans. This doesn’t mean that men can’t do good or that they are as evil as they can be but that the fall of Adam (keeping in mind Adam’s headship as federal head of mankind) has corrupted all of man both extensively (all men are corrupt) and intensively (all of man has been corrupted). Men have a sin nature and while they can produce good thoughts, emotions and deeds, this is going against their natural tendency in God’s eyes. There are many texts that could be utilized to prove my assertion that men are born in sin (Psalm 51:5) that they naturally have a tendency to do the opposite of what is pleasing to God ( Romans 8:7-8; 1 Corinthians 2:14) and that they cannot change on their own (Jeremiah 13:23; Job 14:4; John 6:37-44). This is nothing new to Christianity and while there are some deviations from the doctrine of human depravity, most people who take the scripture with any seriousness recognized this biblical teaching. When Adam fell, sin entered into the world and as men multiply the sin nature is passed down.
I would like to concentrate today however on a couple of texts from the book of Genesis which I believe illustrates for us the reality of the depravity of human kind after the fall of Adam and the passing down of this corrupt nature. I want to look at two texts that exemplify the reality of this natural corruption from the very beginning. This is not some new phenomenon that occurred in the last century but from the very start of human existence, men have been morally affected by sin. The first text we will examine is Genesis 6:5 and the second is Genesis 8:21. The first text is prior to the flood and the second text directly after the flood in the days of Noah. I chose these two texts since it demonstrates that the line of men, even after an apocalyptic event such as the flood, continued to be corrupted. Not only this but that the ultimate and logical conclusion that the sin nature that is passed down through the descendants of men is not a different nature but ultimately the same corrupt one.
Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them… 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 6:1,5)
After the fall in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve began to bare children and Genesis chapter 5 gives us a list of the descendants of our federal head Adam. When we arrive at chapter 6, we see the beginning of the spread of humanity whereas the daughters of these descendants of Adam & Eve began to multiply on the face of the land (Gen. 6:1). The daughters of the children of Adam were “beautiful” and the sons of God[i] took them as their wives. My desire is not to get into the identity of the sons of God but merely to demonstrate that the taking of the daughters of the descendants of Adam in marriage. I’m not convinced that the mingling of the sons of God and the daughters of Adam’s descendants was the only act of sin that God saw in v. 5 but certainly it may have played a large part in Yahweh being lead to anger. What we must remember in these texts is that the multiplication of the descendants of Adam didn’t provide perfect people but that the sin nature of Adam’s prosperity was passed down.
Yahweh saw two things that give us an understanding of the sin of human kind. He saw (a) the wickedness of man was great on the earth and (b) He saw that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. What God saw was both the extensiveness of sin and the intensiveness of sin[ii]. This is a far contrast from what Yahweh saw after He had created where He could say God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good (Genesis 1:31). The extent of the sin was not secluded and rampant among a few individuals but was widespread. The language of section A is used to demonstrate the universality of the sin that existed and still exists today. There are none on this earth whether in the days of Noah or in our present age who have not felt the reality of the sin nature. The Psalmist made it clear that all are guilty and none seeks good (Psalm 14:1-3) and most importantly that this occurs at the time of birth (Psalm 51:5). While all creation has been affected by the fall (Romans 8:20-22), the text is explicitly referring to man’s wickedness.
The intensity of the sin is not focused upon in section B where we see that man’s outward demonstration of sin and it extensive portrayal is even more fully intensified by the fact that even the inner man is corrupted by sin. The very depth of his affections that the mind ponders have been perverted by sin. Whenever men create thoughts from their hearts they are continuously evil. This is the natural outpouring of the heart which Jeremiah tells us the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick… (Jeremiah 17:9). The idea of continuity here is that human beings never cease to sin nor are they able to do so. So long as men create thoughts from their hearts, sin affects those thoughts! We are still today born as the descendants of Adam and until we become the descendants of the 2nd Adam, we remain in this sin condition.
Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. (Genesis 8:20-21)
The judgment of God through flood occurred and its catastrophic repercussions were felt by all of creation except for Noah and his family were spared by Yahweh. The rest of the wicked world was destroyed in the flood which lasted 40 days. Once the waters had subsided, God commanded Noah to go out of the ark along with the animals and to breed abundantly on the earth and be fruitful and multiply on the earth (Genesis 8:17). Noah then built an altar to Yahweh as a means of worship and sacrificed every clean animal and bird. This act of worship signified a sacrifice and hence a life for a life sacrifice that we see throughout the scriptures. God is pleased with Noah’s sacrifice and swears that He will never curse the ground again on account of man.
What we must notice again is that even after the flood and God’s covenanting with Noah is that men are still born in sin and nothing has changed in their nature. Even from the days where a man is young until he is old his heart is focused upon evil. We see man’s heart again mentioned since from the heart are all these evils generated. It is the prime example that man is in need of a new heart (Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26) and without this regeneration that men remain as fallen creatures even when the mass of the world is destroyed.
Passing It Down
While I appreciate that men are not as evil as they can be and that there are instances when we read that men were called “righteous” or they had kept the law, we can be certain that these individuals have fallen into the depth of sin that is reiterated in these verses. The expression of the sin nature varies and some act it out in a far more radical way than others. Unlike this very nice lady I discussed the nature of human morality with, I believe that we can rest assured that when unregenerate men act in accordance with God’s law, that they are merely expressing another biblical truth and that is that they still have the image of God within them. Their acts of goodness are not in accordance with their nature but the activity of a small spark that is within them due to their origins as creatures of Yahweh. While the regenerate man possesses the new birth, he is still flesh and until that glorious day that he receives his new resurrected body (1 Corinthians 15) he will remain in a struggle between the Spirit Nature and the Fleshly Nature.
[i] While I can’t be dogmatic about the identity of these individuals, I must side with the understanding that they were probably angelic beings that were on the earth. I believe that texts such as Jude 6-7 certainly tend to move me to say that this was “probably” what was meant by the text.
[ii] The Book of Genesis, Volume 1, NICOT, Victor Hamilton, Eerdman Publishing Company, Page 273