Human Depravity

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Position on Human Depravity

In humanity's constant search for understanding, one of the core issues concerns our very nature. Knowledge of our true nature would provide an insight into many of the questions that go unanswered in our world. Whether deep down inside we are good or evil decides what situation we are in, and has implications about what we can do about it. Two famous figures in Christian history have taken opposing views on this subject. Augustine believed that humans have been corrupted at the core ever since the fall of man back in Genesis, while Pelagius believed that humans have complete freedom to choose good or evil, and human depravity is only a direct result of choosing evil.

Augustine had the conviction that man is naturally good, since man was created by God, and that our nature has not been altered completely by the "original sin", but that our nature has simply been distorted or perverted from its original "good" state. He would say that, because of our corrupted nature, we do things selfishly, or, we do things to benefit ourselves instead of God and our neighbors. We tend to be unable of choosing good over evil in every situation. We have an inability to do what is right, while at the same time, we are completely responsible for what we do. This is not to say, however, that we never do what is right, or that we are pure evil, because evil is simply a corruption of the good. Instead, it means that our every action, when analyzed at the root, has the wrong motive, and ultimately we serve ourselves. Saying that human nature is not at least based on something good would imply that God created evil. Everything that is good is created by God, and there is nothing besides that. This ties into Augustine's belief that evil itself is not a thing, but is simply an absence of good.

Augustine would also say that without the divine intervention of God's grace, we would not be able to take even the first step towards him, which is supported by verses like John 6:44a: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." This means that until we are saved, or under the influence of this divine grace, we are unable to even choose to follow him.

A contrasting point of view is given by Pelagius, who would argue that it is not necessary for God to enable us with divine grace in order to follow him.

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