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Sunday, April 03, 2005

So We Think We're Good?

[This is an interesting little discussion between Donald Miller and his friend Tony about the 2.5 million people who have been killed in the Congo over the past 3 years...]
"Do you think you could do something like that, Don?" Tony looked at me pretty seriously. I honestly couldn't believe he was asking the question.

"What are you talking about?" I asked.

"Are you capable of murder or rape or any of that stuff that is taking place over there?"


"So you are not capable of any of those things?" he asked again? He packed his pipe and looked at me to confirm my answer.

"No, I couldn't," I told him. "What are you getting at?"

"I just want to know what makes those guys over there different from you and me. They are human. We are human. Why are we any better than them, you know?"

Tony had me on this one. If I answered his question by saying yes, I could commit those atrocities, that would make me evil, but if I answered no, it would suggest I am better evolved than some of the men in the Congo. And then I would have some explaining to do.

"You believe we are capable of those things, don't you, Tony?"

He lit his pipe and breathed in until the tobacco glowed orang and let out a cloud of smoke. "I think so, Don. I don't know how else to answer the question."

"What you are really saying is that we have a sin nature, like the fundamentalist Christians say."

Tony took the pipe from his lips. "Pretty much, Don. It just explains a lot, you know. ... We have to be taught to be good. It doesn't come completely natural. In my mind, that's a flaw in the human condition."

"Here's one," I said, agreeing with him. "Why do we need cops?"

"We would have chaos without cops," Tony said matter of factly. "Just look at those countries with corrupt police. It's anarchy!"
"Sometimes I think, you know, if there were not cops, I would be fine, and I probably would. I was taught right from wrong when I was a kid. But the truth is, I drive completely different when there is a copy behind me than when there isn't."

What Tony and I were talking about is true. It is hard for us to admit we have a sin nature because we live in this system of checks and balances. If we get caught, we will be punished. But that doesn't make us good people; it only makes us subdued. Just think about the Congress and Senate and even the president. The genius of the American system is not freedom; the genius of the American system is checks and balances. Nobody gets all the power. Is is as if the founding fathers knew, intrinsically, that the soul of man, unwatched, is perverse.

- Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz (p16-18).
Scripture agrees: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jer 17:9). Jesus says every sin ultimately springs from a sinful heart (Mk 7:20-23).

If these assessments are true, we face some troubling questions: How can we be trusted to decide for ourselves what is right and wrong? How can man ever be the measure of morality if his heart is fundamentally bent in his own favor? When will he EVER condemn himself? Is it any surprise that so few do?


At 3:14 PM, April 04, 2005, Blogger Anne said...

As we study the founding of our country in homeschool, I have once again been amazed at the wisdom of our founding fathers. My kids think I'm nuts because I get so excited over the wisdom that they had in setting up the separation of powers & checks and balances. They understood the corrupt nature of man. Thanks for sharing this reminder.

And the more I know my own heart, the less I trust it! It's fickle and "prone to wander".


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