If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:1; cf. Luke 11:13).
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. (Mark 10:18; cf Luke 18:19)
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. (Romans 3:9-12, ESV)
Many labor under the delusion that man is basically good, and that it is environmental factors such as poverty, an abusive home or other bad influences, that turn people toward evil. For this reason, many reason that to be acceptable to God (if indeed He truly exists and there will be a time of reckoning wherein this God will judge all things) one simply must be found at the positive end of the scale, when a lifetime of good deeds are weighed against bad. Surely on this basis God will accept us and we’ll make it into heaven, for our good deeds must count for more than our bad deeds, and comparatively speaking, we are not as bad as some others! Perhaps we think to ourselves, “I love my kids, don’t cheat on my wife or girlfriend, pay my taxes, do a little volunteer work, and I’d gladly give up my seat on the bus (if an old lady happened by); plus, I’m not a serial killer!” Are these all good things? Of course. Everyone knows right and wrong. No one need go to church to live a moral life. There are fine, decent, upstanding men and women, both in and out of the church, who live their lives doing right by their neighbor and being kind and loving to their families.
Why then does Scripture teach us (see passages above) that no one is good, and moreover, that we are all evil! This is exactly what Jesus Christ, the one whom Christians believe was God-in-the-flesh, affirmed. Why does it say “no one is seeking for God?” Why does it put unbelievers in the category of disobedient, followers of Satan, destined for wrath due to innate wickedness? This doesn’t sound right, it doesn’t sit well. One protests, “Hey, don’t call me evil. I’m a good, decent guy. I know I’m certainly not perfect, but I’m far, far from evil!” By human and worldly standards, one may very well be an outstanding citizen. But God’s standard of righteousness derives from who He is, a holy God in whom there is no sin, no moral imperfection, no blemish of character. Now we have never encountered a sinless person, and if we saw one probably wouldn’t know what to make of them. Such a person would be strange and foreign. Yet there was One who walked among us who was without sin. He is the same One who said we are all evil. But why does He say this? He says it simply because it is the truth about us humans: we’re sinners by nature, and sin has corrupted us to the very depths of our being. In reformed teaching this is known as the doctrine of “total depravity”. This doctrine doesn’t signify that any of us are as evil as we might be (after all, most of us are not serial killers). It means though that every part of human nature has been entirely corrupted by the effects of sin– our thought life, our emotions, even our bodies (which will someday die– due to the curse of sin). It wasn’t supposed to be this way. And Jesus Christ has come to undo this terrible fall– as it’s written, He “takes away the sin of the world”(John 1:29). By His death on the Cross, Jesus destroyed the power of death, power the devil had over us (Heb 2:14). Does this sound like science fiction? Perhaps. But as the saying goes, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
When we think about someone such as James Holmes, the suspect accused of opening fire on people in a crowded Colorado movie theater, killing 12 and wounding 58 others, we naturally ask, why did he do it? The specific impetus for this particular man’s actions are likely quite complex. The science of human behavior may someday be advanced enough to be able to explain, or even predict, the actions of such a person, in terms of a number of contributing variables. But this still would not give us the answer we’re really looking for, the ultimate “why”. Why does evil exist? Why did an all-powerful and good God create a universe in which evil is an everyday occurrence? Does the Bible give us a fully satisfying answer to these questions?
The Bible does give us at least the beginning of answer to these important questions. In Genesis the Bible story of the creation of the world relates how evil came to be a part of this present world. Evil is the result of a bad human choice, one that was made under the influence of an evil, fallen angel. So particular evils happen since then because a principle of evil exists in this fallen world we are born into. If sin had never entered the world, there would be no death; there would be no evil acts. But sin did come into the world; and apparently, a good God allowed this to happen. Since God is not only good but holy, wise, all-powerful and loving, it seems He uses sin and all its evil fallout, while abhoring it and intending to someday completely rid the world of it. His aim is to accomplish a redemptive purpose that perhaps could not have been accomplished otherwise, one that brings about the most good and blessing for mankind while bringing the most glory to Himself. And though we too have fallen under the influence of sin, a mighty Savior has come to break its power, if we have faith to believe and put our trust in Him.