Inclined Towards Evil
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. - Genesis 1:31
When we look around at creation we are forced to admit this isn’t the way that things are supposed to be. This isn’t how God created the world and everything in it. Scripture tells us that Adam and Eve were created good. They were made to love God and enjoy him forever (WCF Q1). But that’s not how it is today.
From Genesis 3 onward, we see a world populated by corrupt, sinful people who do whatever is right in their own eyes. Lord’s Day 2 established why we are guilty—namely because we do not and cannot keep the law of God. In fact, we are all inclined to hate God and our neighbor. Lord’s Day 3 asks how mankind wound up in this condition.
6. Q. Did God, then, create man so wicked and perverse?
A. No, on the contrary, God created man good and in his image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness, so that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love him, and live with him in eternal blessedness to praise and glorify him.
7. Q. From where, then, did man’s depraved nature come?
A. From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise, for there our nature became so corrupt that we are all conceived and born in sin.
8. Q. But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined to all evil?
A. Yes, unless we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.
Our problem is not rooted in our design. God created us good, holy and righteous. That is to say, we were created with a heart inclined towards him with no knowledge of sin or desire to rebel against God. We were all made to do what Adam did: walk with God.
Our problem started when the first people, Adam and Eve, believed a lie and believing a lie (a lie that has been repackaged down through the ages) has been man’s problem ever since. Paul puts it this way:
Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, and birds, and animals, and creeping things. - Romans 1: 22-23
When our first parents bought the lie, their nature became corrupt. Their heart was no longer inclined towards God but was turned away; meaning that now Adam and Eve were inclined to hate God and they were cursed to constantly jockey for authority over each other. This curse was passed down to their descendants and ultimately to us today: we are all born in sin, inclined to hate God and our neighbor. Paul says that mankind is “dead in our trespasses and sins.” The Bible’s use of “dead” makes the situation clear: man cannot do anything good. Like Lazarus, we need to be made alive or regenerated by the spirit of God.
Before we end this lesson, I want to point out something very import. When the catechism echoes Romans 3 in question 8 “unable to do any good”—this does not mean that unregenerate people cannot do morally good things; the pagan can still do a good deed but he cannot do anything truly good. Any good thing will always be tainted with the evil of his heart. Nothing he does will be pleasing to God because man’s nature is not pleasing to God. The natural man cannot even live consistently in this world—he is a creature of God and will always rely on God for all things even though he hates God. Imagine a child throwing a tantrum and then wondering what time dinner will be served. He will always borrow from God and then turn around and deny him.
What man needs is a change of nature, something he is incapable of doing on his own—just like a leopard cannot change its spots or a person cannot change their skin color so a person cannot change their nature (Jeremiah 13:23). What mankind needs is divine heart surgery. God must take out the heart of stone and put in a new heart of flesh that wants to love and serve him (Ezekiel 36:26). You must be born again.
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:3-5).
I want to make sure that we understand this: God must regenerate a person before they can come to him. Why? Because coming to Jesus in repentance and faith is an act that is pleasing to God. Without divine action first, man will never repent, indeed he cannot repent (Romans 8:7-8). Man will always freely choose his sin because man will always operate according to his nature. Jesus said that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44).
You’ve probably noticed by now that each question builds upon the last. Next time, we will look at God’s side of our sin and misery: His just response. We will also examine a question that might be brewing in your mind: how can God hold someone accountable for something they cannot do?