I’ve noticed a certain tendency in our language of God and people. We often talk about how broken we are and in need of saving. Some theological circles dive even deeper into this idea and use phrases that explain how we are ‘totally depraved.’ Basically, our conversations dwell on how God is good but we are not.
While I’m not suggesting we don’t need God, I do want to suggest there’s something a bit off in how we talk about this.
Stop for a moment and think this through with me. According to Christianity, who made people? The answer is God made us. Okay, that seems easy enough. But how did God make us? The answer is that God made us in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27, 5:1). This creates an issue for our current conversation.
If humans are bad, what does this say about the Creator? Especially one who created us in the Creator’s own image? If even half or a third of humanity was bad, we’d still have to acknowledge that God isn’t very good at making people. But what kind of problem do we have if one hundred percent of people are broken (obviously excluding Jesus as unique)?
Let’s say I made my own wine (which I’d love to do someday with Communion Wine Co.). If every bottle of wine I made was badâ€”totally depravingly badâ€”at what point would you attribute that to me versus abstractly blaming the wine itself? Is the wine to blame for its own existence? That wine wouldn’t be a thing unless I made it. And if every single bottle of it is bad, I’m not a good winemaker. This analogy starts to break down a bit in that perhaps the grapes themselves are bad. But what if I had the ability to control more aspects of the process? Would the blame not shift even more to me if I could create any grapes I wanted, plant them anywhere in the world, control the environmental conditions… and I still made a bad wine?
If all people are bad, God isn’t a very good Creator.
The practical problem with this way of thinking is that it’s hard to love yourself (let alone have much self-esteem) when you are constantly told how much you suck. Continually tearing someone down is what we refer to as abuse. Is this the best Jesus has to offer us? “Sorry you’re so pathetic but at least I’m good enough for all of us.” God is not an abuser and never intended Christians to be either.
I’d like to point out we seem to be overlooking something obvious in the creation narrative. Immediately following the creation of humans, we see God’s reaction to what now existed.
“Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!” (Genesis 1:31).
God wasn’t disappointed, or frustrated, or having an off-day when God made humans. Rather, the infinite God was impressed with a finite creation. Our goodness is fully realized as we learn to submit to the goodness of Jesus. The Apostle Paul takes the idea even further. “For we are Godâ€™s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10).
Yes, the journey of humans went horribly awry. But I’d suggest that has far more to do with the nature of evil and the profound ingredient of love that is free will. We tend to deemphasize both evil and free will as we overemphasize our own brokenness.
As atonement theories like the Christus Victor (Latin for “Christ is victorious”) view suggest, God’s good creation was hijacked by evil but returned back by the goodness of God (see: Christus Victor). We can therefore delight in our existence as God’s masterpiece as we learn to allow God’s goodness to navigate us forward. Evil and the consequences of sin tear us down, not God. God created us just the way God wanted us to be. And according to God, it is very good.If all people are bad, God isn't a very good Creator. Click To Tweet