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The inherent nature of human beings
In Discussion
The inherent nature of human beings
In Discussion
Tommy Killackey
Aug 29, 2018
I'm a humble philosophy minor but, well, here I go. :) The first thing to say to lay groundwork is this is a loaded question and one that involves theology just as much as it does philosophy. I probably have plenty of holes theologically here but I think this should help. The short answer is yes, humans are inherently good, because we are created by God in His Image and Likeness. There is a fine line between what we do that is evil and who we inherently are. What is crucial here is that our essential (a word derived from essence) identity is beloved sons/daughters of God. Believing that we are inherently evil is a very protestant mindset, and this is actually one of the greatest distinctions between protestants and Catholics. There is a misunderstanding and mix of what we are versus what we do. Since we literally inevitably sin and basically everything good we do is through Grace and God's workings through our lives, and any evil is only caused by us, it's obviously easy to assume then that our identity is merely a sinning thing. If evil and sin is all we authentically contribute, then that is what we are. Martin Luther was a man obsessed with his sin and felt the weight of it heavily, going to confession over and over unable to reconcile with himself and cope with the guilt he felt. He ended up concluding that being a sinner must be who he is. He concluded that works (what we do) don't have an essential role in salvation: that salvation is at its core only dependent on faith. That through faith alone (<-- wrong) Christ will save us (<-- correct, but we need to receive and willingly accept His salvation). Thus Catholics separate the individual (who is a beloved son/daughter of God) from the sin. "Love the sinner hate the sin." My mom always told me that it is bad parenting to tell a child "You are a BAD kid, Bobby!" because through a bad action the parent gives the child an inherently bad identity. And once we accept that identity, we simply go further into the pit of despair and no longer strive for greatness: "If nothing I do counts, why bother?" Because how we view ourselves is most often a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is why it is so crucial to view ourselves properly as sons and daughters of God so we will chase Him (and simultaneously run away from sin) rather than see ourselves as sinning machines and see the only silver lining as minimizing the problem that is our very existence as sinning things. How else could the prodigal father love his son so radically? It's because he knows those actions aren't the essence of his son. The son was lost, but now he is found. Or, the son [had] lost [his identity], but now he [has remembered it as a beloved son]. Last point: evil doesn't technically exist; rather it is a privation of good. Just like darkness not existing but rather being a word we use to refer to the privation of light, just so with evil. That being said, on a super duper nerdy philosophical level, it's impossible for us to be essentially evil since we cannot be something that is not. Even Satin is good insofar that he exists. He is just super duper minimally good. On the seventh day God saw that it was good. We are good. We just do evil things, but the most crucial point here is to distinguish action from identity.
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Tommy Killackey

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