The Common Thread

By Ben Swift

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil from your perspective;

So that you are right in accusing me and justified in passing sentence.

True, I was born guilty, was a sinner from the moment my mother conceived me.

Still, you want truth in the inner person;

So make me know wisdom in my inmost heart. (Psalm 51:3-6)

 It is often said that most people are basically good people. Well at least that’s the delusion that many of us chose to live in. Donald Trump for one has never held back in letting us know of his goodness. When most people contemplate the association of sin with humanity, they connect sin with behaviour rather than inherent nature. Descriptions such as those found in Jon Ronson’s book, ‘The Psychopath Test’, probably fit with more commonly accepted ideas about who should wear the sin label. Ronson suggests that most psychiatrists regard psychopaths as inhuman, relentlessly evil forces that are forever harming society. Surely in comparison the average person can’t be regarded as sinful?

In the year 1987, Mikhail Gorbachev released his book, ‘Perestroika’, which proposed in detail, ‘New Thinking for Our Country and the World’. Gorbachev, with seemingly the best intentions for his Soviet comrades and the human race in mind, proposed the following: ‘Perestroika is giving socialism the most progressive forms of social organisation; it is the fullest exposure of the humanist nature of our social system in its crucial aspects – economic, social, political and moral’.

With this part of history now in the review mirror, the question can be asked, “Why didn’t Perestroika succeed in creating a peaceful, thriving utopia for the masses?”

While many might suggest the answer to be complex, I suggest it failed due to its inability to account for the common thread of sin that can never be revolutionised from the human condition.

The atheist view on sin has to be that it is non-existent in that it is subjective and I decide what is right and wrong. Atheist Richard Dawkins in his book, ‘The God Delusion’, asks, ‘What kind of ethical philosophy is it that condemns every child, even before it is born, to inherit the sin of a remote ancestor [Adam]?’ Atheists and people with many varying worldviews alike, struggle with the notion that human beings are born with sin at the core of their nature.

Songwriters and brothers, Jon and Tim Forman, cleverly explain through the lyrics of their song ‘Mess of Me’, the true nature of sin. Their lyrics accept that sin cannot be shifted from ourselves, it is inescapable. Consider the following lines from the song:

I am my own affliction, I am my own disease, there ain’t no drug that they could sell, there ain’t no drug to make me well, the sickness is myself.

So how did the human heart become this way? Could it be that the Sunday school stories about what went on in Eden were really profound lessons concerning the origins of inherent human sin?

The theologian Martin Luther confessed that it is evident in Scripture that all human beings come originally from one man, Adam, and from this individual, by means of birth, the fall, guilt and sin come along with it and are inherited.

As described by Louis Berkhof in his book, ‘Systematic Theology’, the essence of Adam’s sin lay in the fact that he placed himself in opposition to God, refusing to subject his will to the will of God and to have God determine the course of his life. To put it another way, Adam desired to be like God and so in pride, defied his creator.

Many years have passed since the writings of Genesis but as the saying goes, “There’s no such thing as the evolution of the human spirit”. Blinded by the pride at the heart of our sinful nature, Jesus clearly lays before us some harsh truths about our inability to recognise the man in the mirror.

Why do you look at the speck of dust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3)

We must by the work of the Holy Spirit, come to know and accept the truth about the sinful nature that is inherent in all of us and to be transformed by the knowledge that although we are dead in sin, we are made alive in Christ.

Dr Leon Morris recognised this when he wrote in his book ‘The Cross in the NT’, “To put it bluntly and plainly, if Christ is not my Substitute, I still occupy the place of a condemned sinner. If my sins and my guilt are not transferred to Him, if He did not take them upon Himself, then surely they remain with me. If He did not deal with my sins, I must face their consequences. If my penalty was not borne by Him, it still hangs over me. There is no other possibility.”

Create in me a clean heart, God;

Renew in me a resolute spirit.

Don’t thrust me away from your presence,

Don’t take your Ruach Kodesh [Holy Spirit] away from me.

Restore my joy in your salvation,

And let a willing spirit uphold me.

Then I will teach the wicked your ways,

And sinners will return to you. (Psalm 51:10-13)

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