Why I Strongly Disagree with Micah Bales' article that all humans are "depraved"

To Micah in response to his claim in his new blog article that all humans are "depraved."

I often am renewed, uplifted, encouraged by your blog posts, Micah.

BUT not this time! No way.

I can't believe you actually said that--all humans are basically "depraved."

True, there is no way getting around the very real potential for evil in every human 'heart.' As the famous Russian writer stated, "...the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart -- and through all human hearts. ... And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained."
And
the noted atheist psychologist, and founder of Transactional Analysis, emphasized that within every human along side the good, exists a "little fascist" that we need to resist.

Granted. Just a quick look at history, even Quaker history shows this. Why did so many transformed Quakers slaughter in war? Why did the vast majority of Quakers, despite their witness to equality, actually own, transport, and defend slavery for hundreds of years?!
Etc.

BUT those facts are entirely different from Calvinism, from its (and Roman Catholicism's, etc.) that infants at conception are "depraved."

It isn't true what you wrote, "You and I are ourselves depraved. We are liars, self-seeking, potential murderers. We are dishonest with ourselves and others."

I spent 55 years battling against this Calvinistic horrific distortion, and am now devastated to find it making inroads into Quakerism:-(
Heck, at least one Friends meeting now is promoting Matt Chandler, the famous Calvinist who claims infants are on the way to hell, etc.

One of the central reasons I became a Quaker was my understanding that Friends completely rejected Calvinism.

On the other hand, I do agree with you that we need to realize that we are all capable of very bad behavior. And that we need to extend the "truth in love" to political and religious opponents.

All humans are "basically" good. HOWEVER, we do have conflicting temptations which seek to destroy, to take us down wrong paths.

That is why it is so important to seek God.

Notice, that many of the central Christian leaders supporting Trump are Calvinists, do think that all humans are "depraved," do think that God's loves saves us.

YET their being convinced that everyone is "depraved" didn't help them realize that Trump was totally contrary to all that is true.

Instead, famous Calvinist leaders such as Wayne Gruden, strongly supported Trump, wrote long articles explaining why Trump ought to be president.

Such Calvinist leaders are the very ones who emphasize that all humans are "basically" "depraved."

So on this, Micah, we very strongly disagree.

It is because "basically" humans are made in the image of the Light, that there is hope.

We are given free will to seek God, or not.

That has nothing to do with original "depravity" that makes everyone incapable of seeking God.

Views: 406

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

As I was hoping to clarify for Micah, we are not "depraved" but only children -- and children of God, at that. Overall we want to be good, but are too limited, lack the imagination to recognize the meaning of the harm we do, particularly in imagining that some of us are "good" while others are "bad".

---------------

You,
facing grotesque
seemingly arbitrary fate

may fail to recognize
how well it suits you.

Please do not libel God
with claims of innocence,
accusations of cruelty.

You've known this was coming;
only the beauty

is unexpected


and the clarity

for how will you know who you are
til justice arrives
on a red horse
to break your
perfect vanity?

When will you know
who you are?

Forrest Curo
(c)2009

Oops! I accidentally hit the "Like" button. (I don't "like" my own posts).

Forrest, thanks for posting this.

Why do you think it is that in the past and now so many humans claim that humans are by "nature" depraved?

And even more strangely it is often the very human leaders who claim this (not of course in Micah's particular case)--that all humans are "depraved"
who themselves carry out actions that are very depraved, even though they declare that they have been delivered from "depravity" by God.

There are so many past cases, besides the current crisis of at least 80% of Evangelical Christians who believe all humans are "depraved" contrarily supporting and voting for Trump and what seems to others has "depraved" polices and actions:-(

The Puritans, the Augustinians, the Lutherans, the French Jansenians, etc. all emphasized that all of us are "depraved."

In contrast, there is the ultimate hope of other human leaders. Here's one of my favorite quotes from my website:



Forrest Curo said:

As I was hoping to clarify for Micah, we are not "depraved" but only children -- and children of God, at that. Overall we want to be good, but are too limited, lack the imagination to recognize the meaning of the harm we do, particularly in imagining that some of us are "good" while others are "bad".

---------------

You,
facing grotesque
seemingly arbitrary fate

may fail to recognize
how well it suits you.

Please do not libel God
with claims of innocence,
accusations of cruelty.

You've known this was coming;
only the beauty

is unexpected


and the clarity

for how will you know who you are
til justice arrives
on a red horse
to break your
perfect vanity?

When will you know
who you are?

Forrest Curo
(c)2009

I really hate the words we use.  What is the basic underlying nature of being depraved?  Can you give me an example of a depraved act so I can understand what is at issue?

It shouldn't surprise anyone if someone who's 'no better than he ought to be' would have a dim view of human nature. That's a self-perpetuating condition, which makes it all the more likely.

Metaphorically, a tendency to suspect the worst [and do it first] -- to accuse oneself-&-others and to be tempted to evil could be called a 'satanic' mode of thinking --

as in the ancient Persian term 'satan' == 'an agent of the Persian Empire's secret police, charged with punishing and seeking out disloyalty (by entrapment if need be.)' That's the sort of thinking which leads to Job's afflictions: knowing he's been righteous but suffering from suspicions that his love of God might be opportunistic. So it's not at all something seen only in 'bad' people; Jesus himself gets tested by this 'spirit'.

Why should God make-us/leave-us subjected to temptations, guilt, and a drive to raise accusations and self-doubts? Jesus himself (if I remember this rightly) says that "the Devil always was a liar", ie Not only are the temptations misleading, featuring short-sighted pleasures at best, but the accusations themselves are slanders so far as they apply to our actual nature.

Yes, crimes have been committed and our alibis, excuses, efforts to rat out our fellow-criminals are utterly worthless. If we didn't do it, somebody just like us did.

It's like the story of the man who consulted the Zen teacher about how to deal with his horrible temper:

"All right, show me this temper and I'll see what I can do."

"Right now I'm simply not angry."

"Well, then, it must not be part of your essential nature."

This doesn't say the man doesn't get angry, or behave badly when that happens. But that isn't who he is.

-----------

Back on-subject: We're talking about a misleading way of thinking that causes considerable havoc; why does it exist?

I think it simply fits into our way of development. We start out without much experience to tell us who we are and what we're capable of; but people tell us things about that, bad things we hope aren't true and good things we seriously doubt. We test these out in our imaginations; we hear, read (and now watch) stories about how people are supposed to (or supposed not-to) behave; and we identify with the hero/heroine (or for some people, with the villain -- if they've been sufficiently traumatized, demoralized, alienated.)

But we really aren't those heroic figures (or those demented ones, either.) At a certain stage of growing up one needs must see ourselves as-is, and learn to live with that.

If you remember Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov in the story imagines himself a heroic villain, who can (and feels he owes it to the world) save his career by murdering an old woman, a grasping money-lender with no redeeming social value whatsoever. Despite his reluctance, the opportunities almost miraculously fall into place; he does the deed, finds himself shattered by it. He isn't really Napoleon after all, just another deluded young Russian intellectual. It takes intense guilt and suffering (and the unmerited love of a young female holy fool) to bring him out of this, but by the end of the book you see that starting to happen...

And the flip side might be: Someone is led to do a marvelous series of Good Works, only to realize that he's in danger of impersonating a Good Person. Beyond that, each such work promises to be just as inconvenient and onerous as all the others; and yet, if he stops, what will he say to a question like "What have you done for Me lately?" Furthermore, while he'd managed to be helpful to quite a few people, the situation he set out to fix remains entirely beyond repair, at least by the methods he's been using.

What is to be done, except to seek to know God better, accept the blessing of those small good deeds that are given to us, realize simply that "It's not about me."

I think you are pretty much on target as to how it works.  The nicer we are raised the nicer we can become and vice-versa but even then God's power can change even the worst of us.  I believe life is designed to bring out the best in us even in the worse of situations and at some point if we show just the slightest love towards another God pours grace on us to help us become more like Him.  Depraved is just the wrong word in my opinion to use for our starting point.  Furthermore as an ex-Catholic I was never taught that I was depraved.  Fallen, yes.  Depraved, never.

Forrest Curo said:

It shouldn't surprise anyone if someone who's 'no better than he ought to be' would have a dim view of human nature. That's a self-perpetuating condition, which makes it all the more likely.

Metaphorically, a tendency to suspect the worst [and do it first] -- to accuse oneself-&-others and to be tempted to evil could be called a 'satanic' mode of thinking --

as in the ancient Persian term 'satan' == 'an agent of the Persian Empire's secret police, charged with punishing and seeking out disloyalty (by entrapment if need be.)' That's the sort of thinking which leads to Job's afflictions: knowing he's been righteous but suffering from suspicions that his love of God might be opportunistic. So it's not at all something seen only in 'bad' people; Jesus himself gets tested by this 'spirit'.

Why should God make-us/leave-us subjected to temptations, guilt, and a drive to raise accusations and self-doubts? Jesus himself (if I remember this rightly) says that "the Devil always was a liar", ie Not only are the temptations misleading, featuring short-sighted pleasures at best, but the accusations themselves are slanders so far as they apply to our actual nature.

Yes, crimes have been committed and our alibis, excuses, efforts to rat out our fellow-criminals are utterly worthless. If we didn't do it, somebody just like us did.

It's like the story of the man who consulted the Zen teacher about how to deal with his horrible temper:

"All right, show me this temper and I'll see what I can do."

"Right now I'm simply not angry."

"Well, then, it must not be part of your essential nature."

This doesn't say the man doesn't get angry, or behave badly when that happens. But that isn't who he is.

-----------

Back on-subject: We're talking about a misleading way of thinking that causes considerable havoc; why does it exist?

I think it simply fits into our way of development. We start out without much experience to tell us who we are and what we're capable of; but people tell us things about that, bad things we hope aren't true and good things we seriously doubt. We test these out in our imaginations; we hear, read (and now watch) stories about how people are supposed to (or supposed not-to) behave; and we identify with the hero/heroine (or for some people, with the villain -- if they've been sufficiently traumatized, demoralized, alienated.)

But we really aren't those heroic figures (or those demented ones, either.) At a certain stage of growing up one needs must see ourselves as-is, and learn to live with that.

If you remember Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov in the story imagines himself a heroic villain, who can (and feels he owes it to the world) save his career by murdering an old woman, a grasping money-lender with no redeeming social value whatsoever. Despite his reluctance, the opportunities almost miraculously fall into place; he does the deed, finds himself shattered by it. He isn't really Napoleon after all, just another deluded young Russian intellectual. It takes intense guilt and suffering (and the unmerited love of a young female holy fool) to bring him out of this, but by the end of the book you see that starting to happen...

And the flip side might be: Someone is led to do a marvelous series of Good Works, only to realize that he's in danger of impersonating a Good Person. Beyond that, each such work promises to be just as inconvenient and onerous as all the others; and yet, if he stops, what will he say to a question like "What have you done for Me lately?" Furthermore, while he'd managed to be helpful to quite a few people, the situation he set out to fix remains entirely beyond repair, at least by the methods he's been using.

What is to be done, except to seek to know God better, accept the blessing of those small good deeds that are given to us, realize simply that "It's not about me."

It is easy, in a world where the conscious is anchored in and the conscience is informed by outward political and religious forms, to demonize other people to gain political and religious advantage over against your enemy. Demonization is used by the minister and politician to capture the conscious and conscience of their listeners and hold their minds in bondage to gaining meaning and purpose through idenitifcation with the outward words and ideological constructs they profess and use to personalize demonization. Once an outward demon is fashioned through profession of outward ideological constructs and the conscious and conscience of other people become guided by and idenitfied with these outward intellectual constructs, it is okay to treat the _demon_ any way we wish to treat them. Politicians are good at such conjurations. Ministers, Pastors, and Priests, are also good at such conjurations. There is another way.

I posted Robert Barclay's Proposition 4 in the comments to Micah Bale's blog post but no one is taken me up on it.

I think it is a mistake to assume simply because the early Quaker's made use of the terminology of the Calvinists that the terms as they used it were essentially the same. As Barclay makes clear in his proposition, the sin of Adam is only imputed to human beings after they actually commit the sin of Adam. In other words Barclay — and I'm assuming he assumed — most early Friends — denied the Calvinist doctrine of infant depravity.

We are talking about theological hairsplitting over issues that are mostly dead dogs in our modern era. Which makes it all too easy for us to read our own agendas into what they were trying to say. One reminder: George Fox (and others) contended that the salvation history (they use the term "dispensations") that Calvinists detected in scripture applied typologically to the individual as well as to humanity as a whole. Consequently there is a time when each of us is innocent as Adam and Eve were. One implication that I take from this is that our "depravity" isn't intrinsic to us as individuals but he is at least in part socially constructed. That is to say we are enmeshed in network of relations with others and with groups which distorts our thinking our feeling our perceptions. That is our depravity that is our sin. It is natural to our condition that at certain points in our lives it will be no good solution only the least evil ones. In that situation has been caused by the previous choices made by us and others leading up to it.

I think this may be why Barclay continued to insist that the outward death of Christ on the outward cross continues to have a role in our salvation — even as he gave primacy to our giving ourselves over to the Light/Seed/Word within.

David, Thanks for posting the stuff by Barclay. And for your comments. I agree with your important point "it is a mistake to assume simply because the early Quaker's made use of the terminology of the Calvinists that the terms as they used it were essentially the same."

While it is historically true that Quakers came to exist in the midst of the Puritan revolution, and some of them may have been former Puritans, their lifestance, view of reality, view of theology, and ethics were very different.

Often extremely so. That is why the Puritans wrote such negative booklets against the Quakers, claiming that the Children of Light were not Christians.

The very fact that George Fox (mistakenly) thought humans could become perfect quickly shows how drastically different early Friends were from Puritans-Calvinists, who emphasized that humans must by nature sin, even after they are saved.

Later the Calvinists would attack John Wesley and the Methodists for the same offense.

But I strongly disagree with your statement, "We are talking about theological hairsplitting over issues that are mostly dead dogs in our modern era."

This horrible theology of the Reformed isn't "mostly dead dogs" out here or even in some Quaker meetings. On the contrary, most of the churches and denominations here emphasize Calvinist belief in the "sinfulness" "in essence, evil" of all infants at conception:-(  Heck, notice, that at least one Calvinist has been chosen by Trump for his cabinet! Betty DeVos who belongs to the Dutch Reformed of Michigan.

And leading Calvinists such as Wayne Gruden wrote long articles championing Trump for president. Of course, that sound contradictory. But Calvinists have often chosen 'strong men' as their leaders.

I agree with you that the key point (the key difference) is that "depravity isn't intrinsic" in us.

And that is a HUGE, cosmos wide difference between Quakers and Calvinists.

Also, of course, that God loves the whole universe, not a "limited" number, and that God would never predestine billions to eternal damnation.

As a person living with a disability the word "perfect" is a trigger word for me. But I allowed George Fox and Berkeley to own their own language here. I am not ready to say George Fox was "mistaken" — only that I am not yet able to witness a fulfilment of that particular promise he makes. I do think some the bite of the word "perfect" is taken away when we see it as process and not end-state. But I do not think that solves all the problems with the particular notion.

Daniel Wilcox said:

The very fact that George Fox (mistakenly) thought humans could become perfect quickly shows how drastically different early Friends were from Puritans-Calvinists, who emphasized that humans must by nature sin, even after they are saved.

And Wesley stole his doctrine from Barclay.
I guess I just haven't been fortunate enough to run into any real hard-core Calvinists — well a few — and at least one of them was quite ecumenical and quite charitable and a pacifist to boot. Most the Calvinists I've run into a been Presbyterians and they're fairly soft on all this double-predestination born in iniquity kinds of stuff.

Daniel Wilcox said:

Later the Calvinists would attack John Wesley and the Methodists for the same offense.

But I strongly disagree with your statement, "We are talking about theological hairsplitting over issues that are mostly dead dogs in our modern era."

I think becoming "perfect" spiritually is at least a two step process.  The first step is the perfection of the Soul which depends on the time you spend in uplifting spiritual practices - it is in this step that we see the transforming of the mind from one focused on "carnal" pursuits to one focused on becoming a better person as we have become to understand that to be; the second is the slow evolution of our soul's ability to conform our outward behavior to our newly regenerated soul's standards.  The letters written by Paul, Peter and James give particular instructions on this such as James' admonition to let patience have it's way in you that you may become perfect and entire.

Reply to Discussion

RSS

Support Us

Did you know that QuakerQuaker is 100% reader supported? If you think this kind of outreach and conversation is important, please support it with a monthly subscription or one-time gift.


You can also make a one-time donation.

Latest Activity

Kirby Urner replied to Sarah Kirby's discussion '"A Good Quaker is Hard To Find"'
"I see Quakers collectively as mostly bumbling, well-intentioned, but somewhat clueless. What…"
3 hours ago
Kirby Urner commented on Earlham School of Religion's blog post 'Preparing for war: Are we ready?'
"One reason Quakers are no longer strong in business, compared to late 1700s (a time of peak…"
3 hours ago
Forrest Curo left a comment for C.W.Baldwin
"Might I suggest a transcendent Subject who makes up those three partners so we'll have…"
7th day (Sat)
C.W.Baldwin updated their profile
7th day (Sat)
Bob Runyan posted a discussion

Survey on Quaker Meeting for Worship

What do you do in meeting for worship? What are you looking for there? Are you finding it? Take the…See More
6th day (Fri)
Bob Runyan posted an event

Daily Online Meeting for Worship at Your computer!

7th mo. 21, 2017 at 7:30am to 12th mo. 31, 2017 at 8am
Ben Lomond Quaker Center hosts a daily online meeting for worship 7:30-8:00 AM Pacific Time at …See More
6th day (Fri)
huw meredydd owen updated their profile
6th day (Fri)
Mac Broussard updated their profile
6th day (Fri)

© 2017   Created by QuakerQuaker.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service