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Is Man Basically Good Or Evil?
by Carlton Pruitt 
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The question of man's natural propensity to do good or evil or whether man is basically good or evil is answered with many proofs thus establishing the doctrine of man's depravity. This can be established throughout the Bible but particularly early on as here in Genesis 6:5 which is one of the very first verses that establishes this teaching.

"And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."


Let those who flatter themselves that their natural condition coming into this world is not that bad take note of this verse and the many others that follow. God says every and not some imaginations were evil and this evil was continually not occasionally. I take it that God left man in this condition after his fall in Adam so that he grew worse and worse until God brought judgment to the human race. Man ran after the course of his own will and desires rather than the revealed will of God.

Now that man is depraved many evangelical Christians will not deny but whether man is totally or partially depraved is the subject of much debate. Let me define what I believe scripture teaches on this subject once a proper definition is put into place it will not be apt to meet with so much resistance.

Man's wickedness is said to be great meaning extensive or enormous so that man is not just a little sinner but a big sinner capable of great evil.

And to put it into the modern vernacular man did not merely break his little finger but man broke his neck as it were and suffered a fatal blow.

 That man is totally depraved does not mean that man is as bad as he can be but rather that man is full of sin in all his faculties, heart, mind, soul, reason, memory, affections, conscience and will. Sin runs throughout the entire person of his character and it is totally affected with sin. This being the case man is said to be totally depraved rather than partially depraved. This depravity has also been called total inability, that is, man is unable apart from divine and sovereign grace to do anything good. Man is a sinner as Romans 3:23 states "For all have sinned and come short of the glory ofGod."

"The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9

 Sin runs through man's entire person and his character is totally affected with sin. This teaching does not mean that all men are equally as bad for not everyone is a Hitler or a Stalin but many if left to themselves could and would become such if God left man to himself. "From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed , neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment." Isaiah 1:6

 Man's total depravity does not mean that man does not or cannot do things that seem to be good when viewed from man's perspective. Man often measures himself against other men that are considered good. But this is relativism and God doesn't measure on a curve. God measures man by a Divine and absolute standard of perfection and holiness because it pleased him to do so. The Bible tells us man does things for the wrong reasons and instead of aiming at God's glory man aims at his own glory. Man wants to define goodness on his own terms rather than in God's terms. While there are things man does that seem to be good and acceptable before a holy and righteous God and seen from the human perspective these things seems to conform to the perfect standard of God yet man misses the mark if these acts or so called good works or deeds are not done with a pure heart out of a love to God "for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." Romans 14:23

King David said he acknowledged his transgression and his sin was ever before him and that he was shaped in iniquity and in sin did his mother conceived him. Psalm 51:3 says, "The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies."

This is not a pretty picture is it? No, man is wicked from the womb and doesn't want to please God because he is selfish and loves the darkness rather than the light because his deeds are evil. John 3:19 The natural man in his fallen and unregenerate state is "dead in trespasses and sins." Ephesians 2:1,5. This death is a spiritual death whereby man is separated from God in his soul. Man when he ate the forbidden fruit lost his communion and fellowship with God. Adam lost the Holy Spirit and so died spiritually although it took him 930 years to experience physical death. This spiritual death means than natural man "does not understand the things of the Spirit of God neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned." 1 Cor 2:14

Every man born into this world is under the penalty of the same transgression that Adam was under, namely death. "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned." Romans 5:12 Man is also said to be in bondage to Satan and taken captive by him at his will. "And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will." 2 Timothy 2:26

We are told that men suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18) and continue to willfully live in sin. Because they are totally depraved, this sinful lifestyle seems right to men (Proverbs 14:12) so they reject the gospel of Christ as foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18) and their mind is “hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is unable to do so” (Romans 8:7).

Look at how the Apostle Paul describes the total depravity of man in Romans 3:9-18. He begins this passage by saying that “both Jews and Greeks are all under sin.” Simply put, this means that man is under the control of sin or is controlled by his sin nature (his natural tendency to sin).

The following is some very ugly language describing natural fallen man. Does this look like man has some ability of himself to discover God or to find salvation on his own terms? Certainly not!

9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; 10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17 And the way of peace have they not known: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Modern liberalism and humanistic thought ascribes a natural or innate goodness to man. Under this perspective man becomes sinful or bad because of his following a bad example or through his environment. The problem with this idea is that man was put into a perfect environment in the Garden of Eden and given liberty to eat from any tree except one "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." The sentence of death was pronounced upon man for the violation of this commandment. "The day ye eat thereof ye shall surely die." Genesis

The fact that unregenerate people are controlled by their sinful and selfish desires shouldn't come as a surprise to any parent. Parents do not have to teach their child to be selfish, to covet what someone else has or to lie because those kinds of behavior come naturally from the child’s sinful disposition. To do what is right parents must teach their children how to act and what is proper behavior and what is not.

This then is what is meant by man's total depravity. Man could be much worse if left to himself but God restrains man's sin and this is a mercy. Man is incapable of pleasing God apart from faith for "without faith it is impossible to please God."  Hebrews 11:6  To be without faith is to be in the flesh and scripture says "So then they that are in the flesh can not please God.  Romans 8:8

Man hid himself when he sinned against God in the Garden and so do men today because they are void of that love which makes them desire God's presence. This lack of love is because men are totally depraved and sin runs the gamut of their thoughts and emotions.  If men were not totally depraved they would out of a love for God seek to honor and glorify God in all their thoughts, words and actions.  But ask yourself is this the case? 

From the testimony of scripture we have seen that it is not and so the implications of this doctrine are important when it comes to preaching the true gospel and evangelizing lost sinners.

Rather than preaching to men who are perceived to have some innate ability to accept God and secure their own salvation by their free will they are left at the mercy of a sovereign omnipotent God who must have mercy on them or they will most certainly perish.  Romans 9:15-16


Carlton Pruitt ministers the gospel to the Los Angeles area. Formerly a Hollywood actor (SAG member)and junk removal expert he now spends most of his time studying the scriptures, writing articles, hymns and poems and doing street preaching.

See his videos on http://www.youtube.com Type LAStreetPreacher in the search bar. CONTACT at Carlton2061@gmail.

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