Thursday, March 11, 2010

What is Man's Basic Nature? Ontological Question #4


This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:22-24

The fourth ontological question is "What is man's basic nature?" I remember my professor introducing this question and wondering how it could give us problems. What does it matter what we believe about our basic makeup? Yet, I have noticed that we, as a country, spend enormous amounts of money addressing this issue. I see our school systems using educational models trying to fix this problem. The way in which we answer this question affects how we make sense of mankind and its struggle. Our belief shapes the solutions we propose to fix social issues. This is a very important ontological question.

Here are some assessment questions to help each of us determine what we believe about man's basic nature. Are some people by nature good and others bad? What makes a man good or bad, genetics? Parenting? Or societal pressures? Is man redeemable? If so, how? Is man by design different than animals and plants ? Or, is all life equally sacred?

Since the twentieth century Western culture has adopted a humanistic view of man's fundamental makeup. We generally accept that each individual is basically good and needs a healthy, supportive environment to achieve his or her personal potential. We see criminal behavior as an outcome of poverty, racism, or a dysfunctional family structure. As a result of this assumption, we try to re-habilitate criminals, hoping that earlier developmental failures can be overcome and new learning can occur. We have developed governmental and educational programs to address weaknesses in our current social support systems, such as daycare programs for teenage mothers trying to finish high school, school breakfasts and lunches for impoverished inner city children, and halfway houses for parolees. Many of these programs assume that if each recipient is encouraged, championed, and loved enough that they will leave the system a stronger individual, capable of better choices.

These programs are wonderful and I have been involved with several over the course of my career, but as a Christian, I believe the underlying ontological assumption is wrong. The Old Testament records that while we were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) we all are like sheep who have gone astray, each of us turning to our own ways (paraphrase of Isaiah 53:7). Paul's instruction to the church in Rome tells us that our only hope for a righteous life is found in our faith and belief in Jesus. Answering this ontological question biblically helps us to make sense of the world's injustices (humanity is sinful and in need of God)and directs us to look to Jesus as the solution to our problems. As a result of this belief, we are not surprised when others disappoint us and do not put our hopes in any government agenda or social program to solve our problems. We understand that every institutional solution has one major flaw, humanity. There is a answer to our dilemma and it is Christ's redemption, freely offered to every person.

Next week is the last ontological question, Where do we go when we die?


  1. Good thoughts here. Helped me see something clearer.I do believe not unlike St. Patrick and at least the outcome of him taking the good news of Christ to Ireland, that we have to go creation, fall, covenant, redemption and new creation. People need to see what they are by creation and what that involves, as we see in the early chapters of Genesis.

  2. well as their lostness (from that, as well as all that involves).