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.

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Hullo Cris —


A lot to unpack there.

Not sure that "Lucifer" is the biblical name. "Satan" from the Hebrew "h'satan" meaning adversary is the term I think it's more common in the Bible. The reference to fallen angels meeting with women is actually a reference to "giants" from the book of Genesis. And given that I don't think society exists apart from human beings I can't see how society was corrupted before human beings. It's a kind of mutual corrupt ability thing going on there!

The writings of Paul are the earliest Christian writings we have. So if Paul is the one who introduces the notion of original sin it is original to Christianity as far as we can tell. I think the more original New Testament and Pauline notion is more of one of captivity to Babylon. Paul talks about "powers and principalities"as the forces that enslave us both socially and mentally. The Gospels [actually written after Paul] talk about "unclean spirits". Unclean is the word for nonkosher. In other words these are the spirits the Roman Empire brought with them when they conquered Israel.

So while it's entirely possible Paul subscribe to some kind of original sin doctrine I think the more immediate "cause" if you will was the province of Judea as a subject people to first the Greeks and then the Romans.

Cris Fugate said:

Another early Christian idea is that evil entered the world through the rebellion of Lucifer. That the fallen angels mated with women to produce evil offspring. These offspring corrupted society, and society corrupted mankind. I don't believe this myth, but it makes a statement that original sin was originally not a Christian concept. Judaism certainly does not have this. It was probably invented by Paul. In Buddhism beings are deluded, not corrupt. If we are corrupt then there is no hope in my opinion. We need the light of Christ/Buddha to guide us into the fullness.

A brief reply about Buddhism.  This is a vast topic, covering a huge number of sects, teachings, and doctrines.  The largest Buddhist teaching in East Asia is Pure Land Buddhism.  The teaching of this tradition is that human beings are so encrusted with greed, selfishness, and the other 'hindrances' (klesas) that it is impossible for an ordinary human being to become enlightened.  Given this, practitioners call upon Amitabha (Japanese: Amida) Buddha to save them so that they can be reborn in Amitabha's Pure Land, a paradise realm where the conditions are conducive to awakening.  This is a teaching that relies upon grace from a higher source and I think it maps onto Christian teachings about corruption fairly closely.  Not exactly, there are some differences, but the resemblance is strong.  Pure Land Buddhism is the dominant teaching in China, Korea, Vietnam, and Japan.  It far outnumbers traditions such as Zen, or other wisdom based approached.  In the West, Buddhist practitioners have tended to ignore Pure Land teachings because it does not fit in with their secular understanding.  In general westerners have carefully selected a tiny number of Buddhist teachings from the tradition and used these to construct their own interpretation.  Nothing wrong with that, but it is worth noting that the ideas of grace and corruption do have a large following in East Asian Buddhism.  Best wishes.



Cris Fugate said:

Another early Christian idea is that evil entered the world through the rebellion of Lucifer. That the fallen angels mated with women to produce evil offspring. These offspring corrupted society, and society corrupted mankind. I don't believe this myth, but it makes a statement that original sin was originally not a Christian concept. Judaism certainly does not have this. It was probably invented by Paul. In Buddhism beings are deluded, not corrupt. If we are corrupt then there is no hope in my opinion. We need the light of Christ/Buddha to guide us into the fullness.

The latter day of the Dharma is a theory of Mahayana Buddhism (including Pureland). It is not that it is impossible for people to become enlightened, just very difficult. Partly because the Dharma has decayed, and partly because people's capability has eroded. But, that does not mean that people are inherently depraved. Only the "orthadox" Christians seem to teach that. If you examine the Awakening of Faith it described the process of purification of the mind. A thing that would be impossible for "orthadox" Christianity given that depravity originates in the spirit/soul and cannot be overcome by mind. In comparison, for Buddhism there is no spirit/soul, just mind (and Buddhanature does not count either as it transcends the idea of individuality).

David McKay said:

Hullo Cris —


A lot to unpack there.

Not sure that "Lucifer" is the biblical name. "Satan" from the Hebrew "h'satan" meaning adversary is the term I think it's more common in the Bible. The reference to fallen angels meeting with women is actually a reference to "giants" from the book of Genesis. And given that I don't think society exists apart from human beings I can't see how society was corrupted before human beings. It's a kind of mutual corrupt ability thing going on there!

The writings of Paul are the earliest Christian writings we have. So if Paul is the one who introduces the notion of original sin it is original to Christianity as far as we can tell. I think the more original New Testament and Pauline notion is more of one of captivity to Babylon. Paul talks about "powers and principalities"as the forces that enslave us both socially and mentally. The Gospels [actually written after Paul] talk about "unclean spirits". Unclean is the word for nonkosher. In other words these are the spirits the Roman Empire brought with them when they conquered Israel.

So while it's entirely possible Paul subscribe to some kind of original sin doctrine I think the more immediate "cause" if you will was the province of Judea as a subject people to first the Greeks and then the Romans.

Cris Fugate said:

Another early Christian idea is that evil entered the world through the rebellion of Lucifer. That the fallen angels mated with women to produce evil offspring. These offspring corrupted society, and society corrupted mankind. I don't believe this myth, but it makes a statement that original sin was originally not a Christian concept. Judaism certainly does not have this. It was probably invented by Paul. In Buddhism beings are deluded, not corrupt. If we are corrupt then there is no hope in my opinion. We need the light of Christ/Buddha to guide us into the fullness.

The idea that the letters of Paul are the earliest Christian writings is rather controversial. It could be that the epistle of James is older. James the Just was a cousin of Jesus, and thus very close to the teachings of Jesus. He was one of the early followers of Jesus when it is still largely a Jewish sect. The epistle has a very different flavor of Christianity than that of Paul. To me, it seems to reflect some ideas of the Essenes. And the Essenes did not hold the idea of the original sin. I know, conjecture, but it does fit a pattern. It may not have been Paul who created the theory of original sin but to me it seems that this was not a universal held belief.

Your idea of captivity to Babylon I think was there from the beginning. It was a struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness. Although, I am not quite certain what the coming kingdom was. Jesus did say that his kingdom was not of this world. Seems to reflect the Gospel of Thomas. (but that is another bag of worms) :) 

David McKay said:

Hullo Cris —


A lot to unpack there.

Not sure that "Lucifer" is the biblical name. "Satan" from the Hebrew "h'satan" meaning adversary is the term I think it's more common in the Bible. The reference to fallen angels meeting with women is actually a reference to "giants" from the book of Genesis. And given that I don't think society exists apart from human beings I can't see how society was corrupted before human beings. It's a kind of mutual corrupt ability thing going on there!

The writings of Paul are the earliest Christian writings we have. So if Paul is the one who introduces the notion of original sin it is original to Christianity as far as we can tell. I think the more original New Testament and Pauline notion is more of one of captivity to Babylon. Paul talks about "powers and principalities"as the forces that enslave us both socially and mentally. The Gospels [actually written after Paul] talk about "unclean spirits". Unclean is the word for nonkosher. In other words these are the spirits the Roman Empire brought with them when they conquered Israel.

So while it's entirely possible Paul subscribe to some kind of original sin doctrine I think the more immediate "cause" if you will was the province of Judea as a subject people to first the Greeks and then the Romans.

Cris Fugate said:

Another early Christian idea is that evil entered the world through the rebellion of Lucifer. That the fallen angels mated with women to produce evil offspring. These offspring corrupted society, and society corrupted mankind. I don't believe this myth, but it makes a statement that original sin was originally not a Christian concept. Judaism certainly does not have this. It was probably invented by Paul. In Buddhism beings are deluded, not corrupt. If we are corrupt then there is no hope in my opinion. We need the light of Christ/Buddha to guide us into the fullness.

I take the term "brother of the Lord" to be quite literal — so I'm quite comfortable with James being the brother of the Lord and not the cousin/kinsman. I had not heard the notion that the letter of James predates any of Paul's writings before — but then again it's been a while since I've taken a course in Biblical studies and so most of my old textbooks are old.

I would love to hear who you've been reading that suggests that the letter is earlier — because when I was studying theology the assumption was that the letter was written by James' disciples not James and I rather hoped that it would be an authentic writing. Because I actually like that letter. It feels Quakerly to me.

Cris Fugate said:

The idea that the letters of Paul are the earliest Christian writings is rather controversial. It could be that the epistle of James is older. James the Just was a cousin of Jesus, and thus very close to the teachings of Jesus. David McKay said:

Hullo Cris —


A lot to unpack there.

Not sure that "Lucifer" is the biblical name. "Satan" from the Hebrew "h'satan" meaning adversary is the term I think it's more common in the Bible. The reference to fallen angels meeting with women is actually a reference to "giants" from the book of Genesis. And given that I don't think society exists apart from human beings I can't see how society was corrupted before human beings. It's a kind of mutual corrupt ability thing going on there!

The writings of Paul are the earliest Christian writings we have. So if Paul is the one who introduces the notion of original sin it is original to Christianity as far as we can tell. I think the more original New Testament and Pauline notion is more of one of captivity to Babylon. Paul talks about "powers and principalities"as the forces that enslave us both socially and mentally. The Gospels [actually written after Paul] talk about "unclean spirits". Unclean is the word for nonkosher. In other words these are the spirits the Roman Empire brought with them when they conquered Israel.

So while it's entirely possible Paul subscribe to some kind of original sin doctrine I think the more immediate "cause" if you will was the province of Judea as a subject people to first the Greeks and then the Romans.

Cris Fugate said:

Another early Christian idea is that evil entered the world through the rebellion of Lucifer. That the fallen angels mated with women to produce evil offspring. These offspring corrupted society, and society corrupted mankind. I don't believe this myth, but it makes a statement that original sin was originally not a Christian concept. Judaism certainly does not have this. It was probably invented by Paul. In Buddhism beings are deluded, not corrupt. If we are corrupt then there is no hope in my opinion. We need the light of Christ/Buddha to guide us into the fullness.


Chris, In Judaism it is even stranger than that, and much worse.

According to some Jewish leaders, G-d created "evil"!

Such a horrific view seems to align with the Augustinian/Calvinistic view that God planned/foreordained/willed "evil":-(.

That seems really gross.
Cris Fugate said:

Another early Christian idea is that evil entered the world through the rebellion of Lucifer. That the fallen angels mated with women to produce evil offspring. These offspring corrupted society, and society corrupted mankind. I don't believe this myth, but it makes a statement that original sin was originally not a Christian concept. Judaism certainly does not have this. It was probably invented by Paul. In Buddhism beings are deluded, not corrupt. If we are corrupt then there is no hope in my opinion. We need the light of Christ/Buddha to guide us into the fullness.

Daniel Wilcox, you talk as though God made a big faulty machine with something called "evil" one of its moving parts.

Think more in terms of a vast Sentience growing souls and flowering a world from them in which, as Raymond Smullyan's dialogue "Is God a Taoist?" had it, 'free will' and thus the potential for evil was simply a property necessary to them being sentient in the first place; doesn't that make more sense? Or (not necessarily exclusively) a Sentience who writes this world as an ongoing story, inhabiting (and respecting the personalities of) Her characters.

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