Note: this will be my last post until May.
This last week I was in Toronto with Mark where we had a great conversation about the "total depravity of man." Many would assert that, though man was created in the image and likeness of God, through Adam's sin the human race fell and became intuitively sinful in nature which resulted in an alienation and separationn from God. This man, our race, is totally depraved and utterly unable to remedy this lost/alienated condition; we are in much need of God's grace.
But depraved of what? Could it be that there is some good in man? Could it be that we are more aware of God then we realize? Could it be that "total depravity" has been a clever little trick to make Christians feel superior and exclusive to other obviously depraved people?
Think through it in the following context of John Stienbeck's classic novel East of Eden.
Monsters are variations from the accepted normal to a greater or lesser degree. As a child may be born without an arm, so one may be born without kindness or the potential for conscience. A man who loses his arms in an accident has a great struggle to adjust himself to the lack, but one born without arms suffers only from people who find him strange. Having never had arms, he can not miss them. Sometimes when we are little we imagine what it would be like to have wings, but there is no reason to suppose it is the same feelings that birds have. No, to a monster the norm must seem monstrous, since everyone is normal to himself. To the inner monster it must be even more obscure, since he has no visible thing to compare to others. To a man born without conscious, a sole-stricken man must seem ridiculous. To a criminal, honesty is foolishness. You must remember that a monster is only a variation, and that to a monster the norm is monstrous.
Maybe the very idea that there is this constant tension between good and evil suggests that there is some intrinsic good in people? Hmmm. Maybe your not as bad as you've been led to believe? Maybe there is some optimism that we could attatch to humanity? Hmmm.