Depraved or redeemed?

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

Whether one listens to or reads the international or local news, there often appears to be at least one report daily of exceptional cruelty or depravity.

Because some acts are so brutal and some criminals so unmindful of their wickedness, there's a debate among academics, psychologists, legal workers, and religious leaders over whether some people are simply evil.

Psychology has usually avoided calling people evil because the word "evil" has often had a moral rather than a clinical definition. A search on the Internet shows that there are any number of websites that bear witness to this debate and the struggle to deal with the subject of depravity.

If one asks religious thinkers if anyone be inherently evil, the answers will be mixed. There will be firm yeses and noes.

Lodged in the heart of Christianity is the promise of redemption. The eternal Christ, or divine Truth, which reveals divine law and love in human life, stands for the triumph of good over evil. Jesus, whose life exemplified the activity and purpose of Christ to reveal the true nature of God and man as good, triumphed over evil. Despite the brutality of the Crucifixion, evil could not prevent the Resurrection, the restoration, of this divinely good man. The effort of evil to destroy good failed.

This is important, because the Bible declares in the first chapter of Genesis that God created man - that is, each of us, male and female - in His own image and likeness. The Apostle Paul wrote that God "did predestinate [us] to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29).

For this reason, Christianity holds to the hope and possibility of redemption, of the reform and restoration to goodness of all men and women, no matter what their history, no matter what level of depravity they may have sunk to.

The Gospels report frankly the gruesome deaths of Herod and Judas. Christianity, though, combats the notion that evil triumphs over man and can permanently alter God's design. There are people who embrace evil or depravity to such a degree that their very names become synonymous with evil. Christian Science brings out the teaching, emphasized in the Bible, that these individuals will encounter suffering beyond our imagination. They will suffer for each of their sins to such a degree that they will eventually turn from their evil with revulsion and finally begin their long, long road to redemption.

Redemption is a key word when we ask whether some men and women are inherently evil. If the answer is yes, then redemption would be impossible. There would be no good in these people to be restored.

In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," a book that explores these issues in depth, Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "In divine Science, man is the true image of God. The divine nature was best expressed in Christ Jesus, who threw upon mortals the truer reflection of God and lifted their lives higher than their poor thought-models would allow, - thoughts which presented man as fallen, sick, sinning, and dying. The Christlike understanding of scientific being and divine healing includes a perfect Principle and idea, - perfect God and perfect man, - as the basis of thought and demonstration" (page 259).

Taking Christ Jesus as guide provides a basis from which to resurrect man's God-defined nature. Because the hope of this exists, we cannot consign anyone to the trash heap as simply evil.

People commit heinous crimes, and not one of these will go unpunished. But the holy purpose of punishment is to awaken individuals from moral idiocy or to destroy their pleasure in or justification of evil. Punishment exists to make their companionship with evil so intolerable that they strive to be free of its grasp.

Jesus said that he came into the world to bring sinners to repentance. This repentance and redemption signify that evil can never destroy the God-given identity of man.

Men and women will be compelled to divorce themselves from evil and atone for their wickedness. Because Christianity teaches that this process is inevitable, whether here or hereafter, we can never yield to the argument that anyone is inherently evil.

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